Retro Review examines episodes of short-lived, forgotten, or obscure television shows. Each column includes both a summary and a review.
Salvage 1 – “Dark Island”
Aired January 29, 1979 on ABC
Written by Ruel Fischmann
Directed by Gene Nelson
Andy Griffith starred in this short-lived drama as junk man Harry Broderick. Harry had a simple plan: “I wanna build a spaceship, go to the Moon, salvage all the junk that’s up there, bring it back, sell it.” Together with a former astronaut and an expert on rocket fuel, he flew to the Moon on a homemade rocket called the Vulture and returned safely to Earth. A mid-season replacement on ABC, Salvage 1 was renewed for a second season but only two episodes aired before the network cancelled it. An additional four episodes remained unaired.
Andy Griffith as Harry Broderick
Joel Higgins as Addison “Skip” Carmichael
and Trish Stewart as Melanie Slozar
Richard Jaeckel as Jack Klinger
Henry Jones as Goodwin
And J. Jay Saunders as Mack
Richard Eastman as Brinks
Howard Mann as Kramer
John Mooney as Husband
Jeanne Kallan as Wife
As the episode opens, viewers learn the U.S. government impounded the Vulture after buying the entire shipment of salvage. The government then returned the ship to Harry Broderick at the Jettison Salvage Yard. A test flight supervised by the Federal Aviation Administration sees the Vulture classified as Experimental Hover-Machine Salvage 1 and certified for launch only with regular fuel and cement launch pads. Harry has to ask FBI agent Jack Klinger for a quarter to come up with enough money to pay the $8.50 certification fee.
Harry already has a flight plan ready to file for an aerial study of the South Pole. His task? To figure out whether or not icebergs can be moved to the coast of California in case of another drought. But Harry has another job in mind: a quick stop at Bantu Lorova, a small island off the west coast of Africa and the only place where dwarf spider monkeys live. The San Diego Zoo contacted Harry and offered to pay him $30,000 per monkey. Mel and Skip aren’t initially thrilled but agree to the not-so-slight detour.
After a five hour trip to the South Pole, taking some picture and readings, Harry flies to Bantu Lorova and lands the Vulture. He promises Mel and Skip there are only little monkeys on the island. The three set out to capture as many as they can. They soon meet Professor John Goodwin, who has been marooned on the island for 15 years. He takes them to his camp and shares his story. He developed a theory that he could predict the civilization of the future by communicating with primates. He built a device, a Primavox, to communicate with primates.
Harry and the others are given a tour and enjoy a jungle feast. Mel goes off to take a bath but is interrupted by some sort of big foot. Harry is apologetic and decides to leave but John is excited. He first spotted the creature 12 years earlier but it’s afraid of him. Maybe now it wants to communicate. Right on cue, the creature approaches the camp. John grabs his Primovox and starts trying to communicating with it.
John lets the creature play with the Primovox but it only seems to upset it. When the creature attacks John, Skip shoots it with a tranquilizer dart which has no effect. The creature then destroys Professor Goodwin’s camp.
The four rush back to the Vulture only to find a leak in the pressure lines to the turbos. While Skip and Mel try to repair the damage, Goodwin tells Harry to get a bright light to scare the creature. Skip and Mel work furiously to overclock a dim emergency light and finish just in time to drive the creature off.
The next morning, repairs are nearly complete. Goodwin’s monkey Sylvester shows up outside the Vulture, momentarily alarming the group until they realize it isn’t the creature. Skip tells Harry to get to the capsule while he finishes a few final connections. As Harry and Mel start the countdown sequence, the creature approaches the Vulture. When Skip stops responding over radio, Harry heads back outside and discovers Skip is missing.
While searching for Skip, Mel is able to contact him with a handheld radio. The creature dragged him to a cave. He tells Harry and Mel they only have 30 minutes before the Vulture’s engines overheat. Harry won’t leave without Skip. Mel uses her radio and Goodwin’s belt buckle to craft a crude homing device to locate Skip’s radio. It works.
Outside the creature’s cave, Harry uses Goodwin’s Primavox to send out a feeding call. The creature is distracted and Skip is able to escape. The four rush back to the Vulture. As they prepare for liftoff, Sylvester scrambles up into the capsule. The creature tries to follow, climbing up the external ladder and outside the capsule hatch. Harry pushes for full power and the Vulture lifts off. The creature climbs down the ladder and jumps off.
As they fly off, Harry promises the others he’s coming back. He doesn’t know when but he’s going to get the money the San Diego Zoo offered him. During their return trip to the United States, Harry is able to get Goodwin a job at the San Diego Zoo. When the Vulture sets down at the Jettison Salvage Yard, Klinger demands to know where Harry and his crew have been.
“Dark Island” was the first hour-long episode of Salvage 1, airing the week after the pilot telefilm. It picks up shortly after the events in the pilot. The certification scene sets up the ongoing adventures of Harry and the crew of the Vulture. It also continues the antagonistic relationship between Jack Klinger and Harry. Jack doesn’t trust Harry and with good reason.
The episode suffers from the constraints of a television budget. Although some scenes appear to have been filmed outdoors, you never get the feeling Harry and the others are actually on an island. Most of the scenes of Goodwin’s camp and the clearing where the Vulture lands look like they were filmed on a sound stage. They’re cramped and everyone is crammed together in closeups. I did enjoy a scene in which the creature stands outside its cave tossing rocks at Harry.
As for the creature, the costume and makeup are adequate but overall both the creature and the Vulture are largely underwhelming. However, viewers in 1979 were likely more forgiving than I am watching the episode in 2023. An exception is the full size model of the Vulture seen when the creature tries to get inside the capsule.
Andy Griffith does his best to play Harry as an exuberant businessman with a mischievous streak. Unfortunately, he can’t quite shake off the kindly Andy Taylor role he played on The Andy Griffith Show. Professor Goodwin is remarkably sane for someone who has spent 15 years alone on an island with just a monkey for company but his odd personality matches the tone of the episode.
Where to Watch
Aside from a pair of two-part episodes released on DVD in 2013, Salvage 1 is not available on DVD nor is the show streaming anywhere. Until recently, select episodes were streaming on Crackle and at one point it was streaming on CTV Throwback in Canada.
Do you remember watching Salvage 1 on ABC in 1979? Did you watch this episode? Hit the comments with your thoughts.