When I was a kid, quicksand was a popular device used on nearly every cheesy TV show I can remember to create tension and peril of some strange and exotic nature that was foreign to city dwellers the world over. In fact, even now with a rudimentary grasp of geography and such, I still can’t tell you exactly how quicksand is created without Googling it but have these quasi-romantic notions of how dangerous it can be, how hard it is to detect and that you must not under any circumstances, struggle should you find yourself stuck in quicksand. And as geographically rare as it may have been in the real world, there was a veritable plethora of it awaiting us on television and at the cinema. There was quicksand in the old Batman series (c.1966) that ran reruns ad nauseum (same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!) when I was a kid – an episode with the Riddler as the antagonist who had cleverly lured the caped crusaders, Batman and Robin to his lair where upon they found themselves drowning in a big birthday cake looking vat of quicksand. From the same series, Batgirl too ended up in the quicksand once apparently as well. The Phantom took his dunking in quicksand too at one stage back in ’55. Dr Who has done the quicksand thing in approximately five early episodes but being a timelord alien thing I guess it’s not surprising where he ends up!
I actually remember at least one episode of Get Smart where Max and 99 were sinking in quicksand while the bad guys watched on and I have vague recollections of an episode of Gilligan’s Island where Gillian and the cute one, Mary Anne, were sinking in a quicksand/mud slop at some point (along with four other Gilligan’s Island episodes as it happens!). It turns out Fantasy Island had at least three quicksand episodes, but at least made some kinda sense given because they were on a random tropical island somewhere, whereas Buck Rogers and the 25th Century pulled out the quicksand thing twice and that silly show was is set in the goddamn future complete with robots, loads of aluminium and sliding doors! Go figure!
The Six Million Dollar Man (djugga-djugga-djugga-djugga-djugga) managed to rescue some ditz from some quicksand on at least one occasion, and the Bionic Woman found herself sinking in quicksand but managed to heroically pull herself free of the stuff before tricking some prison guards into fall the same trap. Charlie’s Angels used the old quicksand fall back a couple of times too apparently – oh what that must have done to Cheryl Ladd’s flicky hair! Hell, even Daisy Duke from the Dukes of Hazzards ended up in quicksand at some point! (edit: I was half right – turns up that the Dukes of Hazzard used the Great Quicksand Plot Device no fewer than four times!).
Soap operas were also fond of the quicksand ploy – Days of Our Lives (three times), General Hospital (four times) and One Life to Live (three times) all throwing it out there for public consumption with alarming regularity. Why it seems the pitched the quicksand story line almost as often as they pulled the amnesia card! Quicksand even turns up in an episode of Flipper for crying out loud! Flipper!
The quicksand was also a ‘thing’ regularly trolled out in cartoons back in the day like Captain Caveman, Darkwing Duck, Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and My Little Pony and Friends (I know right!). The Simpsons were also guilty of being on the quicksand band wagon too, with a record six episodes all from 1989… what a great year for quicksand that must have been! 😀
And then there’s all the quicksand movies plot devices from around the same time. Back in the day, Flash Gordon, The Dark Crystal, Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark all had their heroes facing a brush with certain death by quicksand though I believe no harm came to any of the good guys on any occasion as the direct or indirect interactions with the hazardous stuff.
And of course my all time favourite cinematic use of the highly unlikely yet excessively popular quicksand movie device from the Master of the Absurd himself, Mr Mel Brooks, in Blazing Saddles where he has a couple of negro workers go off the end of a railroad track on a rail cart while singing the ‘Camptown Ladies’… absolutely comedy gold!
So, it seems quicksand was a HUGELY popular plot device right through from the 60s – early 90s… but now it seems to have sadly disappeared from Hollywood’s repertoire. I’m wondering what happened to the quicksand? Did audiences get too savvy to ‘buy it’? Did people suddenly decide quicksand is really rare, man, so how can it be in the middle of Gotham fucking City? Or maybe it became a victim of global warming or something and no longer seems relevant to today’s audiences….?
(some images and episode info pulled from here)