Episode Title: Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua
Original Airdate: December 18, 1976
If King Kong taught us anything it’s that gorillas are drawn to beautiful women! So what better way for the Nazis to try and finally get rid of Wonder Woman, than to train a gorilla to attack her! No we’re not getting an appearance by Gorilla Grodd…dream on DC fanboys. It’s an ultimate case of beauty against beast in Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua.
A Nazi agent named Erica Belgard (Gretchen Corbett) has trained a gorilla called Gargantua to obey her every command and has smuggled him into the US under the guise of a circus act. Another German agent called Hans (Robert Loggia) plans to use the gorilla recover a Nazi defector named Stigler (Magnum P.I.’s John Hillerman) who is turning over important intelligence to Steve Trevor. The gorilla successfully breaks into the safe house, grabbing Stigler and escaping. When the MP’s on guard are questioned Steve and Diana can hardly believe the report that a gorilla attacked them.
Having recovered Stigler, Hans is content to return to Berlin. However, Erica wants to go a step further. She knows that Stigler is very important and Wonder Woman will come looking for him. When she does, Erica will unleash Gargantua and destroy Wonder Woman once and for all. Meanwhile, Steve and Diana pay a visit to animal behavior specialist Dr. Osmond. He discovers Gorilla hairs at the scene of the crime. Not only that, the hairs have oil on them. This leads our heroes to the abandoned oil refinery where the Nazi agents are hiding.
Wonder Woman shows up on the scene, but Erica and her goons are expecting that. They force her to do battle with Gargantua. When Steve and his men show up, one of the soldiers shoots the ape in the arm. Meanwhile, the Nazis get away. When Wonder Woman shows compassion to Gargantua, his conditioning to kill her begins to subside. They then take the gorilla back to Dr. Osmond’s lab to totally deprogram him. But Erica isn’t done yet. She and her men plot to get the ape back and reprogram him to kill Wonder Woman. When she shows up to face the bad guys again, Gargantua attacks again. But a swift over-the-shoulder flip knocks some sense back into him. All the Nazis are captured and the great ape is returned to the jungle.
I make no bones about it, this episode is kind of silly. Of course, we get a lot of that on this series. It’s not exactly high drama. Yet, as silly as it is, this is an entertaining episode that flows nicely. We have some pretty good villains this time which helps things along. Gretchen Corbett is good as the slightly obsessed Erica. You get the sense that she sees Gargantua as an extension of herself. If he were to kill Wonder Woman it would be like she did. There’s a nice evil glint to her eye as she talks about what her monster will do to Wonder Woman. It’s also good to see Robert Loggia. He’s always a treat, though he’s not giving us the full-Loggia this time. He ends up being a bit of a lackey to Erica, which does give him as much chance to spit and mutter in true Loggia fashion.
Now then, about the gorilla. If you’re envisioning Andy Serkis style stuff then think again whipper snappers. This is a man in a suit, slightly crouched over, swinging his arms like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. Those with keen eyes will recognize that the gorilla mask was clearly made from the same mold used for the gorillas in the original Planet of the Apes movies. By today’s standards it looks very cheap. And yet, the actor playing Gargantua, Mickey Morton, manages to do a lot with the eyes of the character that actually makes it feel just the slightest bit believable. The tender moments between Wonder Woman and the ape are actually somewhat sweet.
I do wish there had been a bit more action for Wonder Woman in this installment. The two fights with Gargantua are a bit similar and could’ve used some spicing up to make them stand out from each other. The final showdown also resolves itself a bit too easily. In the heat of Wonder Woman and Gargantuas final fight, Loggia and another Nazi make a run for it. I figured Wonder Woman would chase them down for a big conclusion. Nope, Steve Trevor shows up and says that he and his men caught them on the way in. Kinda boring there, Steve-o. Other than that, I enjoyed this campy little episode. Guess I’m a sucker for gorilla suits. Know what else I’m a sucker for…The Brady Bunch. I always loved that show as a kid. Well next time the dad from The Brady Bunch plays the bad guy! Robert Reed guest stars in The Pluto File.