Shrewdly, the first episode of Flipper debuted on NBC less than three months after Flippers New Adventures premiered. Brian Kelly reprised his role as widowed Porter Ricks, and Luke Halpin returned as his son, fifteen-year-old Sandy. However, producers made some changes in adapting the material for television, giving him a second, younger son, ten-year-old Bud (Tommy Norden), whose ability to communicate with Flipper is unmatched. Ricks, a widower, is raising the two boys while working as Chief Warden and Park Ranger at the Park and Marine Reserve. Veteran character actor Andy Devine (A Star is Born, 1937) appears in five episodes during the first season as Hap Gorman, a salty marine carpenter regularly gets on Porter’s last nerve, and confuses Bud with tall tales.
Season one of Flipper consists of thirty episodes. As with Lassie and other animal based family series of the era, the stories revolve around the title characters–in this case Flipper, played by five different dolphins–intelligence in coming to the aid of Bud, Sandy, and Porter Ricks in their efforts to help animals and humans in distress. The pilot, “300 Feet Below” is uncharacteristically serious. Our heroes help to rescue the victim of a shark bite, and his distraught wife, a young Jessica Walter, Flipper battles the shark and retrieves a box of blood plasma from the ocean floor just in time.
The remaining episodes are decidedly lighthearted. Even when there’s a robbery or a “bad guy of the week,” the easy-going tone of the show means everything will be hunky dory again by episodes end. Often, danger isn’t a central theme. “The Gulf Between” finds Diana Van Der Vlis, fresh from Roger Corman’s X, as a potential girlfriend for Dad who foolishly thinks she can compete with Flipper. “Not Necessarily Gospel” has Michael Conrad (Hill Street Blues) as a poacher who abandons Sandy in deep water. A pre-Get Smart! Barbara Feldon appears in the two-part “Lady and the Dolphin.”
In lieu of a guest star, several episodes simply focus on Flipper and the boy’s shenanigans. While the show never got overly political, a few thought provoking things pop up. An interesting mini-sub turns up in one episode. Admittedly, looking at the “sub” today, I couldn’t help but giggle; it looks like it was made by Fisher Price! In the mid-sixties, environmental awareness wasn’t yet a major issue in the media, but Flipper addressed a toxic chemical spill in “Teamwork.”
Even as a longtime fan of the series, I readily admit that Flipper is simplistic, and recycles story lines around every fourth episode, but there’s something appealing about that simplicity. Like Lassie or Gentle Ben (also an Ivan Tors production), at a time when the world is moving so fast, occasionally it’s nice to go back to an earlier time when a show like Flipper, about the adventures of a chatty dolphin and his human friends was entertaining enough to be a hit.
The actors deserve some credit for the shows appeal. As the dad, Brian Kelly cuts an impressive figure. He’s Stern when necessary, but caring. A capable enough actor, rewatching the show as an adult (I watched it on cable as a kid), I was struck by his movie star looks, and wondered why he never really got a shot at movie stardom. As it turns out, in 1970, he was cast as Robin Stone in in The Love Machine, based on the novel by Jacqueline Susann. Just prior to filming, he was involved in a motorcycle accident that left his right arm and leg paralyzed; his acting career effectively over. Predictably, Luke Halpin became a teen heartthrob during the shows run, since he ran around in cutoff jeans, and rarely wore a shirt. Tommy Norden has an expressive face, always a plus.
Flipper looks great on Blu-ray. Shot in color, on location in Miami, Key Biscayne and, occasionally, Nassau, Bahamas, the sunny, lush, surroundings, and underwater photography come off very well. The colors really pop throughout, and the image is free of any real noticeable issues or debris. The presentation is framed in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
The DTS-HD Master Audio mono is solid, providing clean, clear, and concise dialogue throughout and a fine balance of ambient effects.
English subtitles are included.
The Blu-ray set includes all thirty season one episodes spread across three discs, ten episodes per disc. Unfortunately, Olive Films hasn’t provided a written episode guide or insert as part of the package. I’ve listed the episode names below:
- 300 Feet Below
- The Red Hot Car
- S.O.S. Dolphin
- The Gulf Between
- City Boy
- Dolphin for Sale
- Not Necessarily Gospel
- Countdown for Flipper
- Mr. Marvello
- My Brother Flipper
- The Second Time Around
- Lady and the Dolphin Part One
- Lady and the Dolphin Part Two
- The Misanthrope
- Flipper’s Bank Account
- The Lifeguard
- The Day of the Shark
- Love and Sandy
- Money to Blow
- Flipper’s Treasure
- The White Dolphin
- Flipper and the Elephant Part One
- Flipper and the Elephant Part Two
- Flipper and the Elephant Part Three
- Bud Minds Baby
- Sailor Bud
- The Call of the Dolphin
- Flipper’s Monster
There are no extras available on the set.
Movie title: Flipper - Season One (1964)
Director(s): Ricou Browning
Actor(s): Luke Halpin , Tommy Norden , John Kerr , John Abbott
Genre: Adventure , Family