Friends, thanks to the success of 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark – there was a mad dash to produce similar entertainment, which is why Film and Television shows were made like Tales of the Gold Monkey, Romancing the Stone, The Perils of Gwendoline, High Road to China, and of course Bring ‘Em Back Alive. The latter was a short lived television series that began airing on CBS back on September 24th of ’82 and lasted until May 31st of the following year. The series obviously attempted to capture that feeling of Raiders of the Lost Ark – naturally I’m talking about the pulp feel to it all. Starring both Bruce Boxleitner as well as Cindy Morgan from TRON which hit theaters just three months earlier – in fact I’ve read online that the chemistry they displayed in that classic film is why they were both hired for Bring ‘Em Back Alive.
Bring ‘Em Back Alive focused on the exploits of Frank Buck (Boxleitner) who specialized in trapping big game animals and selling them to zoos across the World. Here is the thing though… I didn’t know that the 1982 show was based on the 1930 book also entitled Bring ‘Em Back Alive. In addition I wasn’t aware that the Frank Buck that Bruce Boxleitner played was based on a real life adventurer – the real Buck was in fact a celebrated animal collector as well as an author, actor, director, and film producer. Beyond his popular Bring ‘Em Back Alive he would go on to co-write seven more books from 1932 until 1945. He also managed to star in eight motion pictures as well as serials – to say nothing of having an RKO old time radio show dramatizing his exploits!
It appears that Frank Buck did safely capture a variety of animals, to bring them back and sell them to zoos and even circuses. Frank was actually invested in the animals well being and briefly, VERY briefly was the Director of the San Diego Zoo. As I understand it from reading about Buck online, he and the head of the board of Directors did not get along. While Frank apparently was very excited about the prospect, he was sacked three months after he took the job in 1923. If you want to get into some disturbing details you can check out this link to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
I’m still stunned I didn’t know Frank Buck was an actual person – I have mentioned this in the past on the site and podcasts that while growing up I spent a lot of time at my Grandparents. This is how I became a fan of old time radio and television shows and films – it seems odd that while watching Bring ‘Em Back Alive on CBS that my Grandparents wouldn’t have mentioned it was based on a real person. Considering the popularity of the radio show, books, and serials I find it very hard to believe they wouldn’t have known about Frank Buck and his exploits. Having said all of that, I mentioned those thrilling serials featuring Frank – how would you like to watch one right this minute? Of course remember Jungle Menace was originally released in 1937… so prepare yourself for some unfortunate stereotypes that were common during that time.