Guy's SEA HUNT Trivia Guide
SEA HUNT Trivia
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The SEA HUNT television show was conceived in 1955 while Ivan Tors was producing underwater sequences for "Science Fiction Theater" (1955-57). Tors was using a small one-man submarine to make second-unit shots for a couple of episodes that had underwater themes. Frederic Ziv and Maurice Ziv were un-credited executive producers of the show. Tors was formulating his idea for a possible spin-off TV show with an underwater hero.
Frank Donahue submitted a proposal to Ziv for a show named "The Underwater Legion" that included the show format, 12 story outlines, a screenplay, and a proposed budget. The story was about a world organization of hand picked men that have dedicated their lives to protecting the seas. These men lived on the flagship "Courageous", and were headed by Johnny Neptune. The proposal was for several episodes on "Science Fiction Theater" (1955-57) or for a possible new TV show. Tors agreed to produce Donahue's pilot but backed-out two weeks later saying he didn't like the idea.
In 1956, Donahue filed a California civil action against Ivan Tors and planned a separate action against Ziv Television Programs alleging that in 1955, he had conceived the idea for the show "The Underwater Legion" that had become Tors' and Ziv's project that was now in pre-production under the working title of "UNDERWATER". Donahue claimed that he had incurred $250,000 in costs and damages for his unsold pilot. Ziv and Tors denied most of the allegations. The court found no significant similarity between "The Underwater Legion" and UNDERWATER and found that the UNDERWATER concept was an independent literary work of Ivan Tors. In a 1969 Donahue vs. United Artists case decision, a jury awarded Donahue $2.00 for each of 100,000 telecasts of SEA HUNT. The court affirmed that $200,000 was a reasonable value of Donahue's ideas that were wrongfully used.
Some fans believe that an unsold half-hour TV pilot "Sea Divers" (1956) inspired SEA HUNT. The pilot stars Rhodes Reason (as Tom Gorman) and John Smith (as Mike Gilbert) and tells the story of two divers that are hired to find valuable papers in a shipwreck. Harold Minniear, the creator of "Sea Divers", sued Ziv claiming that he had shown the "idea" to Ziv and to producers and within the television industry. The creator further claimed that it was understood that if the producers were to use the idea, they would pay the submitter for the idea. While there was no express contract with Ziv to pay for "Sea Divers", "there was an implied contract, and that it is understood in the industry that when a showing is made, the "offeror" shall be paid for any ideas or material used therein". The court concluded that "there is substantial evidence in the record for the jury to infer a reasonable expectation by appellant that the defendant Ziv might buy the idea for a TV underwater series in the spring of 1956".
Other facts brought out in the case include: Thomas Scott, a film editor for Ziv, cut and edited "Sea Divers" at Ziv facilities. Minniear also gave Tors a booklet with the outline of "Sea Divers". A month after seeing the pilot, Tors began production of "SEA HUNT", hired "Sea Divers" underwater photographer and attempted to hire one "Sea Divers" leading men. Tors had purchased from Minniear a story and used it in the SEA HUNT premiere and pilot "Sixty Feet Below" Ziv #1.1.
USNR Commander Francis Doug "Red Dog" Fane and Dan Moore published a book in 1956 about the Navy Underwater Demolition Team. Titled "The Naked Warriors", the book documented the UDT during World War II and the Korean War. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Ivan Tors picked up the theatrical rights and produced "The Underwater Warriors" (1958), a feature movie based on Fane’s book. Dan Dailey played Commander Fane and the real Fane was the Technical Consultant on the film. During this production, Tors began framing his idea of the hero character JASON DOUGLAS for his concept television series that would be loosely based on Fane's military life during World War II with a post war and post military story. Fane was born November 16, 1909 and died November 13, 2002.
Tors began putting together the team needed to shoot his pilot in 1957 for UNDERWATER, now renamed "SEA HUNT". Several actors were considered for the part of Jason Douglas, now renamed "Mike Nelson", including Marshall Thompson (Dr. Marsh Tracy, "Daktari" 1966-69), but Lloyd Bridges showed up for the audition in a tight shirt and slacks displaying his muscular build and "seemed to be perfect" for the role. Bridges had been deliberately marched by Ziv's office so Ziv could see him. Ziv wanted Bridges for the role immediately. Tors had seen Bridges playing Ray Douglas, a hard-hat diver in the film "Sixteen Fathoms Deep" (1948), and with Ziv's insistence, extended an offer for the part Mike Nelson in his new show SEA HUNT. Bridges took some time to decide on the offer because serious actors in those days didn't want to get stuck in a weekly television show. "But I needed to feed my family and it seemed so unusual", said Bridges and so he accepted the role.
One day before shooting began on the first pilot episode 1B “Mark of the Octopus” Ziv #1.4, Bridges had his first scuba lesson in Courtney Brown's swimming pool. The next morning he was swimming underwater in Silver Springs Florida playing Mike Nelson. Recounting that first morning rehearsal, Bridges said, "Someone gave me an almost empty tank. After running out of air in a few minutes, I had to put into practice what I'd been taught about buddy breathing".
Two pilot episodes of SEA HUNT were shot. Ziv Television Productions used the following numbering scheme as Production Sequence Numbers for the production pilots. "1B" was assigned to the first pilot episode “Mark of the Octopus” Ziv #1.4 and "2B" was assigned to the second pilot episode "Sea Dart" (title was later changed to "Sixty Feet Below" Ziv #1.1). Some fans confuse the Release Sequence Number with the Production Sequence Number. "Sixty Feet Below" has a RSN 1001 and "Mark of the Octopus" has a RSN of 1004. "Mark" was shot first and "Sixty" was shot second. Many TV series do not actually air episodes in the exact production order because of differences in post production completion dates and rating strategies. Pilots are often not as good as some later episodes and often don't run until the end of the season. In one interview, Fred Ziv insisted that pilot 2B "Sixty" was the one used to shop SEA HUNT to the networks and syndicated affiliates, although it is clear that Tors was showing the first pilot 1B "Mark" to the networks before 2B "Sixty" had even been shot. 2B "Sixty" was used to shop the syndication market and to re-shop the networks.
Tors shopped the completed pilot to the television networks but the idea was rejected by all three as being too limited in scope to write a fresh story each week. Some fans believe that SEA HUNT was carried by CBS to affiliates, but that never happened. Convinced of the show's commercial viability, Fred Ziv masterminded a deal with United Artists to syndicate the series to 167 TV stations around the country broadcasting to more than 180 U. S. markets. That translates into more than 40-million viewers. A few network affiliates aired the syndicated SEA HUNT in primetime and rejected the network supplied programming. While never actually broadcast on the CBS Television Network, WCBS-TV (the CBS flagship station) in New York City aired SEA HUNT at 10:30p on Saturday nights in primetime grabbing a "first week" rating of 25.3 beating out "Wagon Train" (1957-65), $64,000 Question (1955-58), Maverick (1957-62), and Lawrence Welk (1955-82)! Baltimore pulled a 25.0, San Francisco 28.0, Pittsburg 28.8, and Birmingham 31.3. Miami took the biggest rating of 33.7 in primetime. By January 1959, Miami had a 40.1 rating taking 67.8% of the viewing audience share! SEA HUNT became the most successful first-run syndicated television series ever. (Baywatch (1989-2001) now holds this title after airing in first-run syndication in 144 countries to more than one-billion viewers and was translated into 22 languages. Baywatch also holds the title of the most watched TV series of all time). SEA HUNT was seen internationally in Australia, Cuba, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, the Virgin Islands, and the list goes on. In April 1958, SEA HUNT was dubbed in Russian and was included as a part of the first swap of TV programs under a U. S. and Soviet cultural exchange program. In all, SEA HUNT aired in at least 20 other countries in eight languages other than English.
The pilot and a few of the first season episodes were actually filmed in 1957. Many SEA HUNT trivia fans are often confused about the range of filming dates and the Original Release Dates. The show was filmed during the five years of 1957, 58, 59, 60, 61. The show originally aired during the four years of 1958, 59, 60, 61.
Some over-zealous fans clearly remember watching SEA HUNT in 1957 although the first time SEA HUNT hit the air was January 4, 1958.
Shooting-to-Air timing is still very similar today. A production company will shoot a pilot and may spend months shopping it to one or more networks. The show may have to be re-worked with the pilot being re-shot or re-cut in a version that is acceptable to the producer and the network or syndicator. By the time the show is a weekly regular on the air, the post-production work of an episode may be finishing just days before air time.
Another point of confusion may have to do with what comprised early TV's programming "season". Many shows "new programming" started the first week of January and ended about mid-October, leaving re-runs and specials for the holidays. September was a time of mid-season replacements. Chevrolet would change all of that when it convinced NBC to begin its 1963 new full-Color programming season to coincide with the September 1962 introduction of the 1963 new car models. Amid competitive pressure, ABC and CBS began their new seasons at the same time. Chevrolet was NBC's major sponsor of its hottest show "Bonanza" (1959-73). At Bonanza's peak, Chevrolet paid NBC a reported $180,000 per 30 second spot.
The first of the 155 SEA HUNT episodes released was the second pilot episode 2B "Sixty Feet Below" Ziv #1.1 and would air as early as January 4, 1958 on the east coast and as late as February 10, 1958 on the west coast. Mike has to free a pilot from a crashed jet cockpit before the pilot runs out of air. The show was one of two that were shot in Color . The first pilot episode 1B “Mark of the Octopus” Ziv #1.4 airing February 1, 1958 was also in Color and aired out of the production sequence. Monochrome prints were distributed for both Color episodes and these did not air in Color. All 153 other episodes were shot in Black & White. A French translation of the series began airing January 18, 1962 and a German translation began airing February 7, 1962.
By 1959, CBS realized the huge mistake they had made turning-down the show and had Tors create a high-budgeted one-hour Black & White rip-off of SEA HUNT for the network. Ziv United Artists Television produced the show. "The Aquanauts" (1960-61) hit the air on September 14, 1960. On March 1, 1961, a re-tooled episode 20 aired with the new name "Malibu Run" (1961). After one season of 32 shows and two names, poor ratings caused CBS to cancel "The Aquanauts / Malibu Run".
Bridges complained about the weight of the twin tanks on his back during endless topside re-takes, "Carrying those double tanks around all the time got to be a little rough on me". Harry Redmond had copies of the twin tanks made out of balsa wood and painted them silver. Except for episodes at the beginning of the first season, Bridges is seen walking around with balsa wood tanks on his back throughout the rest of the series.
Most wetsuits of the time were black which was fine for the bad guys. Ivan Tors felt black was too villainous for Mike Nelson. Tors had twin brothers Bill and Bob Meistrell, owners of Dive 'n Surf at Redondo Beach (who custom made the wetsuits and were the founders of Body Glove), spray paint Nelson's wetsuit with gray paint (which appeared white in Black & White TV). Angered for being charged $100 for the paint job, Tors had Harry Redman paint the next wetsuit needed while being worn by Bridges' stand-in. The stand-in couldn't put his arms down before the paint was even dry. Redman's team had to cut the suit off of the stand-in. After that, Tors let Dive 'n Surf do the wetsuit painting. Bill Meistrell died of Parkinson's disease on July 26, 2006 at his home in Rancho Palos Verdes. Lori Meistrell (Billy's second wife) was one of the mermaid swimmers at Marineland of the Pacific.
Still complaining, Bridges remarked, "I still had to put that damn wetsuit on and take it off... sometimes three or four times a day... because they'd cut from that... (wetsuit shot) to some topside thing".
During the first season of SEA HUNT, Mike Nelson used the green label Voit Lung, a non-balanced diaphragm single-stage regulator. It featured green hoses and a green straight mouthpiece. In season 2, Nelson upgraded to the new Voit 50 Fathom non-balanced diaphragm single-stage regulator with gray hoses and mouthpiece, and a blue-painted brass housing (internally very similar to the US Divers DW "Stream Air" Mistral). The tanks on most episodes were twin steel thirty-eight cubic foot AMF Voit Lung. He wore the Sportsways Navy depth gauge with revolving numbers on his right wrist and an Elgin Canteen (model 18W8) in early episodes and later the expanding-bracelet, rotating-bezel Rolex Submariner (model 6538) watch on his left wrist. He wore a pair of dark blue (black heel) A6 Voit Viking "full foot" swim fins and a Voit oval mask in later episodes. The white Voit Viking ship logo is visible on the top of the fins in several season 4 episodes. The selection of Voit was entirely because of a joint Voit-SEA HUNT professional Scuba product marketing promotion deal that Fred Ziv negotiated between AMF-Voit and Ziv Television Programs. Bridges contract included required compensated endorsements and appearances in Voit advertising and product labeling. SEA HUNT had more than 52 merchandising tie-in / production sponsors.
Bridges became very comfortable diving and wanted to ride Marineland of the Pacific's star performer Bubbles, an 1,800 pound short-finned cow pilot whale, for a few shots in one episode. "As time went on, I got envious and wanted to do a lot of stunts myself", said Bridges. Tors put a stop to that idea saying, "All Bubbles has to do is to flip her tail and I lose my leading man". One day while shooting a scene, Bubbles squeezed Lamar Boren against the Marineland tank window. The photo shown here is actually Bubbles' sister. Bubbles died choking on a ball in an unrelated incident. You can see several good close-ups of Bubbles in Ziv #1.33, "Dead Man's Cove", Original Release Date: August 23, 1958.
Bridges said, "Ivan Tors was the brains of the whole thing. We wouldn't see him on the set very often. He was off dreaming up the next episode. He would give his ideas to a staff of about four or five writers". Tors once said, "If we learn to communicate with animals, there is some hope that one day we will learn to communicate with each other". Tors compensation was 5% of the gross plus a salary in connection with the production of each episode. Tors died June 4, 1983 in Mato Grosso Brazil.
Bridges told the story that, "One embarrassing thing that happened to me". Ziv had the press out on the set and the sea happened to be very rough that day. Bridges continued, "Mike Nelson wasn't supposed to get seasick, but I would excuse myself, go on the other side of the ship and toss my cookies, then come back and make believe I was Mike Nelson again".
"Lloyd Bridges is great, a real nice guy who liked to hang with the crew. That's rare. And out of all the actors I've worked with, he was the best in the water", said stunt double "Big John" McLaughlin.
In a 1994 interview, Bridges admitted that his diving skills were limited and sometimes being Mike Nelson proved to be a burden. Bridges wife Dorothy told these stories:
The first time we went to Hawaii was at the height of SEA HUNT's popularity.
In our hotel, there was a message from the admiral of the 7th fleet addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Mike Nelson. The message read, "Dear Mr. & Mrs. Nelson, If you would like a tour of Pearl Harbor, the Admiral's yacht is at your disposal."
Commander Nielsen was in charge of UDT there and he asked Lloyd, "We're thinking of buying new regulators. Would like you to look them over?" Bridges replied, "Commander, you're pulling my leg". Commander Nielsen turned to the other officers and said, "See, I told you Mr. Nelson would be a modest man". He was serious.
It was like they refused to believe there's no Santa Claus.
Later on, Commander Nielsen asked Bridges to join in a demonstration of a 100 foot free decent. I told them, "I never let Lloyd swim after lunch".
Editor Note: During the filming of the SEA HUNT, Bridges rarely went deeper than 30 feet.
The final episode was “Round Up” Ziv #4.38 airing September 23, 1961 and included a young and mostly unknown actor named Jack Nicholson in a very forgettable two-line role delivered only as Nicholson can. Speaking to Mike Nelson, Nicholson exclaims "How many times I gotta tell you? There ain't no bomb!". In this last rendition of SEA HUNT, Mike has to find and disarm a torpedo that an ex-employee "gone postal" has placed in the outflow tube of a hydroelectric generation plant. The Scuba Guy can only give this story a rating of 3 tanks. But an interesting underlying plot that quietly surfaces is the day to day risks that Mike must take in his profession. Shaking his head in disgust in the very last scene, it appears that Mike is thinking about quitting the Scuba diving profession as he reflects on the risks he has taken in the last few days or maybe throughout the four years of the SEA HUNT series. Was this some sort of subtle message to the audience for the last show?
Thirty-Nine episodes were made each season except for season four's 38 episodes, making a total of 155 episodes. Some fans believe that there are 156 episodes, but the plug had been pulled on the show and Ziv #4.39 was never made.
Bridges influenced storylines as the years went by. He pressed for stories that had positive messages with family values that families could view together. By the time the second season rolled around, the ending credits included "The Seal of Good Practice" awarded by the National Association of Broadcasters.
Bridges himself was mainly responsible for the show's demise. During season four, it became clear that the show would need to be overhauled for fresh stories in season five if Ziv United Artists Television was to retain the syndicated affiliates. Bridges agreed to continue but insisted on a format change saying, "There's a lot to be said about what's happening to our ocean... big companies polluting it with their oil and all the raw garbage that's being spilled in there. A lot of villains out there have suits on... that don't look like your regular villain... and Mike Nelson could tackle that kind of situation. It could be just as exciting... and maybe do something about clearing up the mess that we're putting in the ocean." Standard Oil was a major production sponsor and Tors gave-up the idea of trying to re-tool and sell a fifth season. Bridges announced he was leaving the show saying "They wanted more cops and robbers. I wanted to look at the real villains of the sea, like the oil companies".
When the show ended, Bridges said that he was happy that he would now have time to enjoy his new hobby of diving. His entire family took a certification course from Bob Meistrell of Dive 'n Surf and became certified divers.
Bridges said that the best thing about being recognized at dive centers around the world was that they always wanted to lend him dive gear and take him out on their boat for a dive at no charge. "I take advantage of it when I have the time", said Bridges. "I love the sea and I love diving and"... I am... "very flattered people recognize I had something to do with the development of interest in the underwater world. But I'm foremost an actor. I feel embarrassed being compared to the guys who really work at it. I fake it. I make believe I know all about it, which is what you're supposed to do as an actor".
Bridges was originally signed with Ziv Television Programs at $1200 per episode against 10% of the gross after the break (meaning after the show made a profit) and reportedly made $2000 per episode against 10% of the gross from Ziv United Artists Television by the end of the show. Some sources put the total dollar amount received at well over $6,000,000. Bridges had become a household name and a big television star. SEA HUNT continued in syndication into the 1980's and several sources indicate that Bridges continued to received ten percent of the gross of the re-runs as residuals. "The series certainly brought me more notice than anything I have ever done before as an actor. It has also brought me more money than anything else in my career", said Bridges.
In 1949 Phil Gersh founded The Phil Gersh Agency, establishing a reputation as both a principled gentleman and a tough negotiator. Gersh represented Bridges. Gersh died at 92 on May 11, 2004. Bridges was represented by the William Morris Talent Agency in the later years of his career..
Some fans incorrectly believe that there was a SEA HUNT movie. There was no SEA HUNT movie. There have been rumors in Hollywood over the years about several possible script ideas for a movie. Peter Benchley, who wrote "Jaws" (1975), was hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in November 1994 to write a script that would focus on the estranged son of Mike Nelson. No one was sure if Lloyd Bridges would come back to play Mike Nelson but speculation was that they would try to get Jeff Bridges to play Nelson's son in the movie. MGM planned to release the movie in 1997. The project never really got off the ground. Bridges died in 1998. Benchley died February 12, 2006 at his home in Princeton New Jersey.
Bridges did play Dr. Doug Standish in "Around the World Under the Sea" (1966). In this Ivan Tors MetroColor® production, the crew of a five-man new experimental submarine, The Hydronaut, travels the world oceans planting sensors on the ocean floor to warn scientists of any impending earthquakes. Marshall Thompson, the guy that Bridges beat-out for the Mike Nelson role during SEA HUNT auditions, plays along side of Bridges as Dr. Orin Hillyard. Ricou Browning directs Lamar Boren's shooting of the diving sequences while Elmer Parsons, Arthur Weiss and Art Arthur handle the screen writing, all are SEA HUNT veterans. The storyline sounds a little like the show idea "The Underwater Legion" that Frank Donahue submitted to Ziv in 1955.
Before he died in his Loring Avenue home in Bel Air California on March 10, 1998 of natural causes, Bridges said that he wanted to be remembered for his concern for the good health of the earth. Survived by his wife Dorothy, they were married for 59 years. Born in San Leandro California on January 13, 1913, Bridges is also survived by his daughter Cindy, his sons Jeff and Beau, and 11 grandchildren. Bridges attended UCLA and earned a B.A. degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1936.
While Lloyd Bridges was the solo star of the series (unless you include the Scuba gear), a young new female star was brought in after 117 episodes had been shot. Her name was the Argonaut, a 33-ft 1960 Trojan Sea Breeze. The Argonaut and Argonaut II names were used on numerous boats that Ziv rented and used in the first three seasons including a Chris-Craft and a 1955 wooden Eddy Craft that included a prop that was supposed to be an underwater TV monitor. But the boat that fans say is the "real" Argonaut was purchased by Ziv United Artists Television and shipped to Ziv Productions in Hollywood on September 21, 1960 from the Trojan factory in Lancaster Pennsylvania. The model 346 Express Cruiser (Serial #1018) was purchased as a part of a revamping program for the fourth season designed to head off the third season sinking ratings. The 12-ft beam boat with mahogany and teak planking sported a custom built fly-bridge. Built by Amish shipwrights (craftsmen) and fitted with optional twin 240-hp Crusader Interceptor engines with reverse screws, the Argonaut would only play an occasional role in the plot during the final 38 shows in season four. Trojan boat designer William K. Smith personally monitored the production and assembly of this boat knowing it was for SEA HUNT. Ivan Tors derived the boat's name from the ancient Greek tale of Jason and his ship the "Argo", built by the master ship builder Argo. Argonauts were the Argo's crew members that traveled with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece. Restoration of this classic boat is nearing completion in San Diego. The Argonaut is available for TV appearances, movie productions, and boat shows.
Bridges and his family used this boat after the show ended according to one source. In a November 2007 interview, Jeff Bridges was asked about The Scuba Guy's assertion that the Bridges family used the boat but he couldn't recall ever doing that.
The Argonaut, like any important actress, had a stunt double on a Ziv United Artists Television sound stage in West Hollywood. Resting on piles of tires so stage-hands could rock the boat, the engineless and mastless Argonaut sat in front of a large rear-screen where ocean scenes were projected to create close-up dialog shots of Mike Nelson as if he were miles out to sea. This common-place technique of filming close-ups with live dialog is known as "process shooting".
In most episodes, the Argonaut's marine radio fictional call sign was WM-2050. In Ziv #3.9, "Jade Cavern", the call sign is WM-2052. In pilot episode 1B Ziv #1.4, "Mark of the Octopus", the call sign was WA-1005. In Ziv #1.24, "Pressure Suit", the call sign was G57. In Ziv #1.11, "Killer Whale", the call sign was WHL5. In Ziv #2.15, "Nerve Gas", Mike is on the "Chinook" and the call sign was 2XL. These call signs are used in both U.S. and foreign waters. None of these call signs are in 3 x 4 F.C.C. marine call sign format issued at the time.
SEA HUNT enjoyed a $40,000 per episode budget at the peak of its popularity. This was considered large, but certainly not unheard-of at the time for first-run widely-syndicated television programs. Many network shows were spending much more. Disney was spending $82,000 per episode making the "Zorro" (1957-59) TV series starring Guy Williams for ABC. Production sponsors were paying Desilu $200,000 for each episode of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" (1957-60) for CBS.
SEA HUNT's California schedule was tight with only 3 days per episode for rehearsal, set-up, and shooting of location shots, sound stage scenes, process shots, and underwater close-ups of the stars. Bridges recalled, "We worked under a lot of pressure... three days to do an episode, sometimes two in a week, 39 episodes a year. It was very important that you kept your sanity and didn't let the pressure of time affect what would be seen later on the screen". Paul Stader was simultaneously in-charge of the second-unit team doing the underwater "two" and "wide" shots in Silver Springs Florida and the Bahamas. Selecting shooting locations soon became more of a function of water temperatures. Cast and crew moved to locations with warmer water as temperatures became cooler. Bridges said, "Sometimes we'd be filming Florida and it was cold. They gave me some bourbon to warm me up and I started getting silly after awhile".
As many as six second-unit underwater sequences were shot each week under Lamar Boren's supervision. The platform boat used by the primary crew for the director, sound technicians, cinematographers, and cameras in the Los Angeles location shots was the "Long Fin". The boat actually appears in several episodes but is most clearly seen in Ziv #4.21, "Quicksand", Original Release Date: May 27, 1961.
Marineland of the Pacific, open from 1954 to 1987, was SEA HUNT's primary underwater close-up filming location. The 108 acre theme park was located on the Long Point hilltop overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the 6000 block of Palos Verdes Drive South on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Rancho Palos Verdes California. The park was gaining a long tradition of nursing sick and injured wild marine animals back to health and then returning them to the wild. The project featured two “Oceanariums” (tanks) containing sharks, dolphins, and saltwater fish. The park property included a 240-ft long pier out into the Pacific Ocean and a hotel. Marineland's big 540,000 gallon Oceanarium would be considered medium to small by today's commercial aquarium standards. The original Marineland logo sign (without the pilot whale) is still visible from Palos Verdes Drive South. The parking lot, a fence, and some buildings are still standing. The west end of the property, on a Pacific Ocean cliff, was being used by Universal Studios as a lot to build sets for movies until June 2006. The village in "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (2003) was built and shot here. The Scuba Guy was recently on the set with Universal for a movie with an exploding building. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006) and "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" (2007) wrapped up shots here in early 2006 and in July 2006, the buildings were torn down. All of the Marineland property is being demolished for new development. There is a 46 parking space public "pocket park" at Point Vicente just west of the property on Palos Verdes Drive South where you can park and view the property. Principal construction work on Terranea is nearing completion along with the complete demolition of what remained of Marineland of the Pacific.
In an April 2009 letter, a representative of the Terranea Resort assured The Scuba Guy that the upscale resort is, "so committed to the legacy of the show (Sea Hunt) that one of the restaurants will be called Nelson's - named for the Lloyd Bridges character on the show". The resort including Nelson's is now open.
On the front side of Catalina Island and on the southeast side of Long Point are many caves, including the cave that Bridges swam through in many Sea Hunt episodes. Scuba divers love finding the cave and swimming through it just as he did more than 45 years ago. It is shallow and you can expect some surge. There is a surface cave that goes through the point and with a strong wind, it whistles! Indians that lived in the area are responsible for stories and legends about the point. There are rocky reefs on lee side of the point to 80 feet. The front side of the point drops to over 100 feet with strong currents. Most of the underwater shots that involved kelp were done in this area. Pirates Cove is another filming location in this area for SEA HUNT with a good mooring site. Some scenes for "Waterworld" (1995) were shot here. Passenger ferries leave from the Queen Mary parking lot at Long Beach and several dive operators in Avalon on Catalina Island offer boat dives to Long Point and Pirates Cove. These operators are happy to show you the famous cave.
Paradise Cove was used for a few beach scenes in SEA HUNT. It is off the Pacific Coast Highway west of Malibu and has a secluded beach, a pier, tennis courts, and a nice restaurant. Once a haven for nude bathers, this private Malibu beach has been the set for lots of movies, TV shows, and commercials including "Baywatch" (1989-2001), "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965), "Charlie's Angels" (1976-1981), "Gidget" (1959), "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" (1961), "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" (1965), and "Malibu Run" (1960). Paradise Cove is probably most famous for Jim Rockford's fictional address "29 Cove Road" and his beach side trailer in "The Rockford Files". The trailer was really parked on the beach behind the Paradise Cove Cafe ("Sandcastle Restaurant" at that time). The beach is still used for filming today.
Silver Springs is a natural springs park in Silver Springs Florida. The park is located in the 5600 block of Silver Springs Boulevard and was a second-unit shooting site for footage that appears in as many as 100 episodes of SEA HUNT. While tens of thousands of feet of film were shot at Silver Springs, a good portion of the film was never needed or used. The park became popular in 1878 when Hullam Jones invented the first glass bottom boat which allowed visitors to view fish, crustaceans, turtles, and fossils from a dry boat. A popular park still today, it has been the shooting site of numerous movies, TV programs, and commercials including "Tarzan" (various), "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954), and "The Yearling" (1946).
Marineland of Florida, in the 9600 block of Ocean Shore Boulevard near St. Augustine in Flagler county, was another indoor tank close-up filming site when Bridges needed to be in Florida for topside location shots. SEA HUNT stunt double crews also used the tank when Bridges was in town and when temperatures were uncomfortably cool Florida. The 140 acre theme park originally opened in 1938 as Marine Studios, the nation's first saltwater filming studio. The park's rectangular Oceanarium was also used to film "Tarzan" (various), "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954), "Sea Dream" (1978) the world's first underwater 3-D picture, and the set for "Flamingo Rising" (2000). The park is now undergoing the $6,000,000 phase 1 construction portion of a planned $250,000,000 renovation to include a dolphin-centered research complex, a restaurant, condos, retail shops and a resort hotel.
Cypress Gardens, open from 1936 to 2003, was a topside second-unit filming location for story establishing shots on several SEA HUNT episodes that featured water skiing and other surface stunts. Closed April 13, 2003, and cited as another result of lessening tourism since 9/11, the park was located in Winter Haven Florida about 35 miles southwest of Orlando in the 2600 block of South Lake Summit Drive, State Highway 540. Movies filmed at Cypress Gardens included "Easy to Love" (1953) and "On an Island With You" (1948) starring Esther Williams, and "Moon Over Miami" (1941) starring Betty Grable. The transfer of 150 acres of Cypress Gardens to Georgia theme park owner Kent Buescher was completed February 24, 2004 after lawyers spent most of the day bickering over last-minute details. Governor Jeb Bush said in a press release following the sale, "Cypress Gardens is a rare piece of Florida's modern history, ...Florida's first theme park will live again". Polk County and the state of Florida will retain rights to the gardens and the original park areas and protect them from any type of future development. Under it's new name, Cypress Gardens Adventure Park re-opened in 2004 with a lower admission price, new rides, and new attractions. Buescher said he invested another $35 million for thirty new rides.
Tarpon Springs on Tarpon Avenue just off U.S. Highway 19 north of Clearwater was a topside second-unit filming location for story establishing shots on several SEA HUNT episodes that featured Sponge Diving. Tarpon Springs became known as "the sponge capital of the world" with more than 200 boats working the waters from Apalachicola to Key West. Hollywood and the rest of the country discovered Tarpon Springs with the release of the film "Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef" (1953).
Nassau on New Providence Island, in an area mostly served by "Stuart Cove's Dive South Ocean" located at the Clarion Resort on the island's south shore, was the site of much SEA HUNT second-unit filming. Best known for scenes in James Bond movies such as "For Your Eyes Only" (1981) and "The World is Not Enough" (1999), Sean Connery learned to dive here during the filming of "Dr. No" (1962). Divers flock to the sites of decaying underwater sets from their favorite movies and television shows. Favorite sites are the Tears of Allah shipwreck from "Never Say Never Again" (1983), the Vulcan Bomber (covered in gorgonians and sponges) used in "Thunderball" (1965), and Rock Point House where Roger Moore drove the amphibious Lotus out of the water in "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977). The entire Stuart Cove's PADI Gold Palm Diver Center and dock area was transformed into a fishing village for the movie re-make version of "Flipper" (1996). Many of the underwater sets and the fishing village are largely still intact. "Splash" (1984), "Cocoon" (1985), "Jaws IV: The Revenge" (1987), "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954), and many more shot footage here. SEA HUNT also used the Lyford Cay wall for Ziv #4.1, "Point of No Return" for an unusual shot needed at 110 feet!
Grand Bahama Island waters, in an area now dubbed SEA HUNT by some dive centers, became a regular second-unit shooting site during the last two seasons of the show. West of the mooring, there is a large isolated start coral that hosts Sea Fans and other soft corals. Blue Headed Wrasse, blue and gray Cromus, and Sergeant Majors swim above the coral head. There may be patches of purple eggs attached under the overhead or on the hard bottom below which belong to the Sergeant Majors. Scuba Divers interested in some nostalgia can dive the site known as SPID City. There is a six-seat twin-engine Piper Aztec PA-23-160 used in a SEA HUNT episode resting at 40-ft on the sandy bottom. Large schools of blue Parrot Fish are regularly seen grazing on the bottom around the aircraft. As divers head south from the Piper, the coral becomes solid with surge channels running through it. This site is near the location of a "shark dive" so divers should expect to see a few Caribbean Reef Sharks passing through the site. SPID is an acronym for Self-contained, Portable, Inflatable, Dwelling that was once used for short term habitation experiments in the mid-to-late 70's.
Ziv Studios were in the 7900 block of Santa Monica Blvd at Fuller in West Hollywood. Purchased in 1954, it was formerly Hollywood's Eagle Lion studios which had been built on the old Grand National Studios site. Some SEA HUNT interior shots and some post production was done here. A 7-Eleven Food Store is located at this address today.
California Studios, in the 5300 block of Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, was occasionally used for a few SEA HUNT interior sound stage and back lot shots. While California Studios may not be the most well known, it is one of the oldest studios in Hollywood dating back to 1915 beating Paramount to the intersection of Melrose & Bronson by over a decade. The studio's main business was renting out its back lot and sound stages to other production companies. Now known as Raleigh Studios, it was first known as Clune Studios back in the 1920's. Later called California Studios then Producers Studios Inc. It was the filming site for such classic movies as "In the Heat of the Night" (1967), "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946), "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane" (1962) and the original "A Star is Born" (1937) with Janet Gaynor.
Other shooting locations include Lake Meade in Nevada, the San Pedro Channel between Catalina and the California coast, and Hansen Dam in the lower San Fernando Valley.
A Brief History of Color TV
The first network NTSC ColorCast was The Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 1954 to 21 NBC affiliates. RCA rushed through a pre-production run of 200 Model 5 TV Sets with 8-5/8 by 11-1/2 inch color screens. These early Model 5 Color TV Sets were the forerunners of RCA's model CT-100 "The Merrill" which would retail for $1000 (about the price of a new car). RCA predicted that 75,000 CT-100's would be sold in 1954 but would later report that "only a disappointing 5000 were sold". It is widely believed today that RCA actually only sold about 1000 CT-100's in 1954. Un-sold CT-100's were dumped in 1955 for $495. Today, about 100 CT-100's are known to still exist with fewer than 25 that collectors have restored and made operational.
Sixty-Eight hours of ColorCasting would be broadcast on NBC during 1954. But by the end of 1956, RCA's new 21 inch CTC-5 was marketed in 11 different cabinets retailing for $495 to $895 and color TV was becoming a reality! The 1956 Color TV seen here without legs was part of RCA's CTC-5 series. "The Dartmouth Color T5 Super Model 21CT786x" had a 21 inch picture tube providing 254 square inches of viewing area in a lowboy console that was available in Mahogony-5, Walnut-6, and Limed Oak-7 finishes.
The now-famous animated NBC Color Peacock made its debut on September 7, 1957, just 4 months before SEA HUNT's debut. The Peacock logo was designed by NBC Art Director John Graham and those famous words "The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC" were originally spoken by Ben Grauer.
Underwater Color Photography
Underwater photography for most movie and television productions is done close-up with filters, wide angle lenses, and usually in depths of less than 15 feet because light is so quickly and unevenly absorbed by water. The distance light travels from the source to the camera must be minimized. Red is lost first, then Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Occasional deep "long and wide" shots looking up toward the surface are edited into the final film and falsely 'establishes' the depth of the action. To the viewing audience, the scene appears much deeper than actually shot.
SEA HUNT producers were thinking about re-runs and that widespread Color TV broadcasting may not be too far into the future. But TIME magazine had just proclaimed Color TV as "the most resounding industrial flop of 1956". Color photography was extremely expensive and a significant part of any production budget at that time. Color film would require an additional $5000 per episode from the budget. Since much of the show was to be underwater footage with loads of associated Color balancing problems, Johnny Florea convinced Fred Ziv to save SEA HUNT budget dollars and shoot the series in Black & White. This would also solve the problems and costs of matching film cuts that were shot in various locations and lighting conditions since Black & White film only requires contrast and brightness adjustments. Today, many of these Color balance problems are solved with post-production film Color balancing and digital video tricks, and the cost of shooting in Color instead of Black & White is insignificant. Florea died August 25, 2000 in Las Vegas.
Frederic Ziv also produced "The Cisco Kid" (1950-56), "Boston Blackie" (1951-53), "Highway Patrol" (1955-59), and "Bat Masterson" (1958-61). Ziv's company had become the largest privately owned television production company in the world. "Mr. Ziv was like God", said Bridges. With nearly 2,000 employees worldwide, Ziv was producing more than 250 half-hour TV episodes annually with a production budget that exceeded $6,000,000. Ziv ran his studio from a four-story office building on Madison Road in Cincinnati because it enabled him to remain in the background. The corporate offices were in New York. In 1959, Ziv sold 80% of his company to a consortium of Wall Street investment firms for $14,000,000. Ziv explained, "I sold my business because I recognized the networks were taking command of everything and... I didn’t care to become an employee of the networks". In 1960, Ziv sold his remaining share of the company to United Artists. His impressive body of work includes more than 80 TV programs, many regarded as television classics. He remained a consultant to United Artists until 1965. Ziv spent 22 years of his retirement teaching at the Conservatory of Music college at the University of Cincinnati. A pioneer in syndicated television, Ziv died October 13, 2001 at his Hyde Park home in Cincinnati of natural causes.
SEA HUNT was filmed topside (and some underwater shots) on various Eastman Kodak 35mm professional Black & White negative film stocks. The two Color episodes were shot on several 35mm Kodak EastmanColor® film stocks which are notorious for fading to red with age. Some underwater shots were made with DuPont ASA 400 high-speed low-light medium-grain 35mm professional Black & White negative film stock. For many of the major-market stations, the show was distributed on idle composite video feeds or original prints shipped on 35mm Eastman Kodak Safety Professional B&W positive film stock and DuPont Safety B&W positive film stock. There are also 16mm Eastman Kodak Safety Professional B&W positive film stock and DuPont Safety B&W positive film stock original prints of the show in existence (often used by stations needing 16mm format and during re-runs to save reproduction and shipping costs) and even some 16mm (various B&W film stocks) kinescope copies made from composite video feeds. Today, the show would be distributed to local TV stations by digital feed or digital tape.
Authentic Original Prints
An authentic 35mm or 16mm original SEA HUNT print should include commercial-break countdowns, an internal "SEA HUNT tag", a "Lloyd Bridges tag" at the end telling the viewer to tune-in again next week, and be on Eastman Kodak Safety Professional positive film stock or DuPont Safety positive film stock. To be considered in near mint condition, the physical condition of the film should have no splices (not even at the commercial-break countdowns), look like the film might not have ever been projected, and be completely free of Vinegar Syndrome. Kodak places a date code on their positive film stock that can be of further use to authenticate the print. Beware that Kodak date codes repeat every 20 years. The Scuba Guy would appraise an authentic original Black & White SEA HUNT print in near mint condition between $75 and $100 for 16mm, $175 to $300 for 35mm. Other projectable original prints, good copies, and good kinescopes are worth about $25. One of the Color prints used to shop the pilot would require a public auction to determine its value.
During the early 1980's, a few episodes of SEA HUNT were being sold to the public, copied onto 16mm (various B&W film stocks) and on Kodak Super 8 Sound-Stripe® film. In recent years, all 155 episodes have been non-professionally transferred (not broadcast quality, not digitally re-mastered, and not even a commercial VHS quality dub) to medium and low quality VHS video cassettes (NTSC & PAL formats) and are currently available for sale from several sources. There are non-commercially 'PC-burned' DVD (Digital PC/DVD format) copies of numerous episodes. All of the various-format copies of the two episodes that were shot in Color are being sold in Black & White. There may be some question as to the legal right for any of these copied versions to exist.
No Pioneer LaserDisc® (North American Phillips CAV/CLV/CAA LaserVision® formats) versions of SEA HUNT have ever been 'printed'. No licensing agreement ever existed for the short-lived RCA SelectaVision VideoDisc® (CED format) and no discs were ever 'pressed'. No Sony BetaMax® (Beta VTR format) tapes were ever commercially 'dubbed'. No licensing agreement ever existed for the short-lived Toshiba HD DVD and no discs were ever 'printed'. No HD Blu-ray Discs have ever been 'printed'.
In 1960, United Artists purchased Ziv Television Programs, including the 20% share still held by the Chairman of the Board Fred Ziv and Ziv President John L. Sinn, for $20,000,000. The newly merged production company was renamed Ziv United Artists Television. United Artists had never been very successful in television. Ziv United Artists Television produced 12 pilots in its first year and failed to sell any of them.
In 1962, United Artists phased out Ziv Television operations and changed the division's name to United Artists Television. In 1981, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired United Artists including its film and television divisions and their libraries.
On September 13, 2004, Sony Corporation of America announced that a Sony-led consortium would buy MGM after Time Warner dropped its bid to own the movie giant. Sony acquired MGM for about $2.94 billion in cash and $1.95 billion in assumed debt. The ownership of the 4000 movie titles and countless TV episodes were the most import asset in the five billion dollar acquisition deal. Sony's other consortium partners include Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Comcast Corporation, and DLJ Merchant Banking Partners. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is a division of Sony Corporation of America, which is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. Sony Pictures Entertainment - Global Operations include motion picture, television, and home entertainment acquisition and distribution in 67 countries.
So today, the Sony / MGM Home Video® division owns SEA HUNT licensing rights. There is one episode of SEA HUNT (Ziv #1.4, "Mark of the Octopus" Original Release Date: February 1, 1958, Color) commercially copied, licensed, and available on VHS and DVD and presented in Black & White. No matter which copy you find, all will be great fun to watch.
Because of the film stocks used to make the show, there is no reason that SEA HUNT can't be re-mastered and digitally released for High Definition 1080p video format on Blu-ray Discs at some point in the future. Just like the chance that Fred Ziv took in 1957, fans can only hope that some shrewd person or company that's convinced of the show's commercial viability today will release the show again on DVD.
Sony / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is considering making SEA HUNT available on DVD. While no decision has been made, Sony / MGM Home Video is reviewing internet traffic as a part of a study as to the amount of interest there would be in making the DVD's of the series available. Click here to see what YOU can do to get Sony / MGM executives to release SEA HUNT on DVD.
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Editor Note: Bill Jones, The Scuba Guy, is a PADI Master Instructor and a Published and Award-Winning Writer
un-published, narrative, 400 page manuscript of The Scuba Guy's SEA HUNT
is available for publication.
Read more about it:
Sea Hunt Sparked Interest in Diving
Sea Hunt Trivia
Sea Hunt Episode Guide
Sea Hunt Principal Cast & Crew
Sea Hunt Guest Stars
Sea Hunt Fact or Myth
Sea Hunt FAQ
Sea Hunt Legacy
Sea Hunt Memorabilia
Sea Hunt Travel Guide
Lloyd Bridges Biography
Lloyd Bridges Trivia
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