whiz-kids-01

The Whiz Kid and the Carnival Caper

Did you ever see something as a kid in the pre internet world and not be able to trace it or identify it, until decades later and have it feel as though a piece of a puzzle just solidly locked in within your brain? Well, that is exactly what happened to me this past weekend!
For years, and I mean YEARS, I have been unable to place a glimpse of television I caught as a little monster of 5 or 6 years old. I never saw the whole program. Just some blips. Fast forward to the present ,as I was perusing eBay, I stumbled onto a new piece of vintage goodness that ultimately led me to the television show that I would wonder over for so long. I know, I need to get a life, right? It’s trivial, but as a monster enthusiast, it means a ton.

What I saw way back then, was a glimpse of a Frankenstein monster of some type, a few kids, a carnival and bulkhead or storm cellar doors. Not much to go on, right? I puzzled over it now and then, for the last nearly forty years. If the possibility of such programming was ever brought up by me, it was always dismissed in a huff as some daydream or other silly idea. But, it was important to my piece of mind.

What I found this past weekend, was an auction for a Wonderful World of Disney paperback book titled “Frankenstein and the Whiz Kid” by Vic Crume. I don’t usually put Frankenstein and Disney in the same equation, so I wasn’t holding my breath. I read the description of the story and it got me wondering if I might be onto something. A search and some armchair sleuthing led me to the tv show. I dove right into it online. Sure enough, this was it!!

whiz-kids-frankenstein

This TV movie is called “The Whiz Kid and the Carnival Caper” and it’s based on Mr. Crume’s work. The movie had everything fun about the 1970’s, like Jaclyn Smith, super child actor Kim Richards and other 70’s character actors that you would recognize. The Whiz Kid along with his sister and friend, uncover a bank heist plan that is forming among some of the new carnival workers in town. The Whiz Kid goes head over heels for Ms. Smith. They go on a “date.” Oh, we feel your pain!

The carnival(sound familiar?) has a run-down hokey monster show, and its star attraction is a life-sized dummy done up as Frankenstein’s monster!! Hey, I’m a life-sized dummy, too! I mean, cool! Anyway, that’s a huge piece of the memory puzzle. The monster breaks down during a performance and the Whiz Kid comes to the rescue. He has a robot he’s been working on in his basement… with bulkhead/ storm cellar doors!! There’s another piece of the puzzle. He puts the monster’s head on his robot and after some fairly bad malfunctioning, his remote-controlled creation is the last line of defense against the bank heist crew at the end of the show.

whiz-kids-02

This program was a huge win for me, because it was entertaining and did I mention Jaclyn Smith?! She was a villain by association, with a heart of gold. It was entertaining and my kids watched it with me. Well, someone had to hold my hand during the scary parts, like the remote-controlled monster stomping around or the bank robbers trying to kidnap the Whiz Kid and his sister and friend in the sewer system under the bank. Oops! I kind of leaked a bit of the bank heist plan. Oh, I hope Jaclyn doesn’t hunt me down. Ok, where was I? We gotta wrap this up!
Finding that there is concrete evidence that this program does indeed exist is a huge relief! I feel kind of vindicated and almost compelled to spike the TV set! The only thing that didn’t truly match up is the color of the program for the pieces that I could remember. I can only attribute this to the Zenith wood console TV set we had at the time. I don’t know if the color was correct while we had it. It might have been out of adjustment from the giant antenna on the roof. Other than that, I’m so thrilled to put this mystery to rest.

If you are interested in the book, it can be found online for a reasonable price. I would suggest it as “young adult” reading. If you are interested in the program it is online and usually broken into ten minute segments. I hope you enjoy it either way!

Until next time…

Subscribe to the Retroist Newsletter

* indicates required