Growing up, my favorite book series was that of The Hardy Boys and I was shocked and intrigued when I learned of the Disney serials adapted for the original Mickey Mouse Club. This year, I revived a collection of The Hardy Boys serials that were aired Mickey Mouse Club as a Christmas present and I have decided to review the first story arc. Now I could have just done an individual serial but I feel that this is the better route to go as not each serial is important to the story being told but when put together they all add up to a great story. Just a sidenote, I may come across a bit nitpicky but that is only because of how much I love this book series and I will be pointing out some of the changes made. Now one of the first changes to address is that Disney changed the title as you see the first book is titled The Tower Treasure. At first, I didn’t care for this change but looking at more and more, The Mystery of The Applegate Treasure is the better title as there is more intrigue and mystery with that title. I think it can peak one’s interest more then the original title. As a Hardy Boys fan, it feels a little wrong to say this but it wasn’t a good title for their first book. However, the book’s title was used as a title for one of the episodes in the serial. Now if you want an example of a book title that does have mystery and intrigue around it, While The Clock Ticked is great. (Of course, that’s my favorite book in the series.)
As stated above, this serial is an adaption of the first Hardy Boys book, The Tower Treasure. Now their were some liberties taken from the book but for the most part, the story is the same. It’s your basic treasure hunt story and a mystery. Frank and Joe are bored during the summer and just want to solve a mystery with their father who is never home because he is always in the city. They later meet Perry and learn of the Applegate Treasure. Perry is believed to be a criminal, which is another change made from the book. Having read the first Hardy Boys book and now watching this, I will say that this was superb adaption of the book and I feel that it actually improved upon areas that were lacking in the book.
Now I’ll be doing something different for this review and instead of looking at the music in the middle, I have decided to start with the theme song. Seeing as that was the first thing I heard each time watching the serial.
This song is just awesome. It knows how to get the audience excited for the story they’re about to watch. It has a great pirate like feel to it. It is a great song and 2 fun facts for ya: the clips for this intro are taken from the Disney film, Treasure Island and the voice singing may sound familiar. As that is Thurl Ravenscroft singing it there.
I’ll be breaking this down into Important, Supporting and Villains.
Frank Hardy played by Tim Considine
Frank is the older of the two brothers and it really shows at least in the earlier episodes of the serials. Frank in the books was my favorite of the two Hardy’s because he was the logical thinker and that truly shines through. Again, I say that was shown in the earlier serials and yeah it was still there for later episodes but there seemed to be a shift in his character during the middle of the story because he started to seem a bit flat but he was the more engaging of the two brothers.
Joe Hardy played by Tommy Kirk
It’s hard to say how Joe was, in some scenes he was portrayed as an annoying little brother to Frank. While in other scenes and the latter section of the serial is that he seemed just as if not more competent than his older brother. Though to the credit of Tommy Kirk, he played this role well and while it isn’t how I would have portrayed Joe Hardy, it was a good portrayal. As for Tim Considine and Tommy Kirk, they worked well together and the entire time watching it, I believed them to be Frank and Joe. Yes, they did make Frank and Joe younger, then their book counterparts as to appeal to the the audience of the Mickey Mouse Club but unlike with another certain character, that didn’t distract me. They were good characters all the same.
Perry Robinson played by Donald MacDonald
Now we come to one of the first changes made from the book to the serial. As you see it is believed that Perry is the criminal that has been causing some of the mayhem at the Applegate mansion. Going back to the change made, you see in the book Perry’s father was the one that was thought to be a crook but Disney cut out the character of his father and made Perry an orphan as to try and make him more relatable since he was the one always getting in trouble with the adults. Do I think this was a good move? No but I can see what they were thinking because they had the mindset of kids can relate better to kids than to adults. In this adaption though, Perry was probably the least interesting character. I mean sure, he was the one that got the story moving but by the time the later episodes started, he wasn’t needed and I think the people behind this knew that because by the end, you barely see him. I should mention that Perry gives Joe a doubloon that is part of Applegate’s Treasure that starts the search for the treasure.
Applegate played by Florenz Ames
Applegate is a strange character and yes, he’s important to the story. (His name is in the story). Applegate is the employer of Perry and another character, Jackley who turns out to be one of the main villains. At first Applegate is portrayed as a crotchety old man who doesn’t like young kids and kind of has a “Get off my lawn” feel to him. Though when he finds out that Frank and Joe believe in the treasure, he starts treating them kindly and starts to show them respect because no one else ever believed there was any treasure. Applegate is a strange character, at first I didn’t like him but by the time, people started looking for the treasure and they were tearing down his house, I felt bad for him because here was this man whenever he would tell other about the treasure, they would laugh at him but when a doubloon was found and the rest of Bayport thinks there is treasure, they start to tear his house apart.
Aunt Gertrude played by Sarah Selby
Now we come to our second change made from the books, Aunt Gertrude was upgraded from what I consider a sort of comic relief character in the books to the boys’ maternal figure. As you see, it was decided to cut out the character of Mrs. Hardy as they felt it was wrong to show kids disobeying their mother but only sort-of wrong to show kids disobeying their aunt. Remember, how I said this made some improvements from the books. The character of aunt Gertrude was one of them because as in the books, I found her to be annoying and over barring and almost unneeded because Mrs. Hardy was there to look over Frank and Joe. While in the serial, Gertrude not only serves as a maternal figure but she also appears as more strong-willed character in this version and more engaging character than the book version. To be honest, I hated her character in the books and I was dreading seeing what they did to her in this adaption but she was probably one of my favorite adult characters.
Fenton Hardy played by Russ Conway
What can I say about Fenton? Well, this was probably the character that was closest to his book counterpart. He was a good father, cared for Frank and Joe. He looked like what I expected Fenton to look like. Now it has been awhile since I read The Tower Treasure and I can’t recall if it is shown that his detective work puts a strain on his relationship with Frank and Joe and even if it did, in the books, they had their mother to turn to. (By the way, I would have like to known what happened to her in this version. I guess she died.) But here they only had their aunty and while she does try to be a paternal figure for the boys, it is obvious that they need their father in their lives and I like how this explored the dynamic of the relationship between Frank, Joe and Fenton. Fenton wasn’t the most interesting character but he served the role of being father well.
Iola Morton played by Carole Ann Campbell
Oh dear lord, was this character ever annoying? I cringed each time she was onscreen. Here again we come to another change made from the books and one I which they didn’t make so annoying. You see in the books, Frank and Joe are friends with Chet Morton, who happens to be Iola’s older brothers. What happened to him? Well, in this version he doesn’t exist and Iola was made an only child. As she was upgraded to female lead. Funny story, this role was almost offered to Annette Funicello but I have to say I’m so glad they didn’t cast her in this role as this version of Iola just feels too young. Yeah, I get the main leads are all young kids but it so blatantly obvious with Iola. You want to know who she reminds me of most, Sally from Peanuts because she has such an obvious crush on Joe. Joe has no interest in her and just finds her to be a pest (I agree). I mean yeah in the books, they had feelings for each other but it was subtle. The worst part is that she ruins the ending. This grand story about crime and treasure hunting ends with her chasing Joe through Applegate’s garden. Well, I guess that does make sense since she is the character they used to open the story with as you see when it opens as you see is a hand in a black glove tapping a knife to a phone. I thought it was a villain and here I was thinking, all right, they aren’t wasting any time, we’re getting right into the action but no. It was just Iola annoying Frank and mostly Joe with a form of Morse code that she just invented to relay a message. Really?! You had to keep this character but you cut out her older brother, who actually went on missions with Frank and Joe. Why? Oh, I know they needed a character that the girls could relate to, that or they thought she was so much more important than Chet. I think I have made it clear that I did not like this character at all.
Now we come to perhaps the most interesting characters, the villains.
Jackley played by Robert Foulk
Now unlike usual, one villain doesn’t rank as more important over the other. So instead of listing them like that, I’ll be listing by order of appearance. Jackley was the first of the villains that we meet. Now going in, I knew that he was one of the villains not only because he was in the book but he was also touched upon in the DVD featurette, From Dixon to Disney. Knowing that did taint the enjoyment a tad but I do appreciate the fact that if I hadn’t watched the featurette, I would have found his heel turn more shocking because while there is build up to show that he is evil, it isn’t obvious and really isn’t shown until towards the end of the story. Really, only one thing stated he had a past because he is apparently a con who had escaped prison and now works as Applegate’s gardener. Though granted, it was a rather quick heel turn when it happened but it wasn’t so obvious, I mean in the beginning he is shown helping Frank and Joe on the case. Out of the two villains, I think he was the more engaging.
Boles played by Arthur Shields
Boles is a bit of an interesting case because it was so obvious that he was a bad guy. Almost too obvious to the point, where I thought they were using this character to mislead us into thinking that he was a bad guy, that wasn’t the case. My deduction skills didn’t turn out to be right because he was still a bad guy. I should note that he used to work for Applegate. He was first shown to be a comedic villain and that is all I thought he was, just a comedic foil but it was later shown that he was actually a capable villain. while not as capable as Jackley, he still had his moments.
My Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, while I have qualms with this adaption. Namely Iola, it is a good adaption of my favorite boy detectives. Disney did a great job bringing Frank and Joe along with the rest of Bayport to life. As I said, there are some things that are better in the book and vice versa. I honestly can’t choose which is better than the other because they are both good and as a longtime Hardy Boys fan, it was just awesome to see Frank and Joe make the leap from this…
to a wider audience on TV. Granted, this would not be the last time Frank and Joe would appear on TV as there was also the ’70s series which starred Shaun Cassidy, younger brother of David Cassidy as Joe. There have also been rumors going around of a live action Hardy Boys movie that I’m not looking forward to as Frank and Joe apparently would be portrayed as adults and it would be called The Hardy Men (dumb title). In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the Mickey Mouse Club version and might check out the ’70s show.