By Chaz Lipp
Article first published as DVD Review: Korg: 70,000 B.C. on Blogcritics.
A relatively rare foray into live-action television for the famed Hanna-Barbera Productions, Korg: 70,000 B.C. has been billed as the company’s “other stone-age family.” The first was, of course, The Flintstones, but Korg is a different kettle of fish altogether. Produced with the assistance of consultants from New York’s American Museum of Natural History and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the aim of this 1974 series was to depict Neanderthals in a relatively realistic manner. The Warner Archive Collection has resurrected this unusual obscurity and issued it as a two-DVD, manufactured-on-demand set.
“Realistic” is a loose term here, as the Korg family speaks English (albeit somewhat haltingly) with American accents. But Hanna-Barbera scores points for good intentions. After all, this was a Saturday morning show aimed at children. The idea was to create something entertaining, but with educational overtones. Still, those voices are a little jarring and take some getting used to, even to appreciate the show for what it is. Each 21-minute episode features a simple story, often with Korg (Jim Melinda) and wife Mara (Naomi Pollack), along with their children, learning some kind of lesson. Due to the overall focus on family dynamics rather than all-out adventure, the series is kind of dry for kid-oriented programming. Maybe that’s why it only lasted one season.
In one episode, Korg and Mara’s children—Tane (Christopher Man), Ree (Janelle Pransky), and Tor (Charles Morteo)—inadvertently invent the teeter-totter. After an earthquake seals off the opening to the family’s cave dwelling, the concept of using a similar lever to move heavy debris comes into play. Progress has been made as the family now has a new and valuable tool at their disposal. Later in the season, Korg and company discover the ocean and the ability to marinate meat in its salty waters. “Best meat I ever ate,” proclaims one of the adults. I believe it was Korg’s brother Bok (Bill Ewing), who also travels with the family.
This sense of discovery is the theme carried throughout the season. In some episodes, the Korg family encounters other Neanderthals. In “The Picture Maker,” Korg and his family encounter a wounded young wimp, a coward who is the shame of his family. They nurse him to health only to discover he exhibits artistic talent. It’s a speculative look at the earliest attempts at thinking outside of a “survival of the fittest” mentality. Younger viewers may, in fact, be inspired to learn a bit more about modern humankind’s predecessors. Older viewers won’t likely be too thrilled with Korg, unless they saw it as children and are now reveling in nostalgia.
Burgess Meredith provides narration for each of the 16 episodes. His authoritative delivery helps counterbalance the cheeseball acting universally displayed by the cast. Each episode concludes with Meredith’s disclaimer that the preceding story was based on assumptions and theories made about Neanderthals based only on sparse, prehistoric clues. Like many Warner Archive releases, Korg: 70,000 B.C. is presented simply, with a static menu and (in this case) a list of eight episodes per disc. There is a play-all function for those seeking a Korg-athon. No special features are included. The visual quality of the transfers is also typical of Warner Archive’s releases of TV from this period. By no means perfect (the image is occasionally marred by specs and dirt), the picture is easily acceptable.