The best and quirkiest shows often start small and cheap, but what they lack in viewership or budget, they more than make up for with imagination and improvisation. Producer Sanford Fisher used a treasure trove of educational and entertaining film clips to capture the minds and hearts of a young 70s audience, via Marlo and the Magic Movie Machine.
Laurie Faso played Marlo Higgins, a computer programmer sporting a serious mustache/’fro combo, who ran afoul of his boss at the L. Dullo computer company; as a result, he was sent to the deepest basement of the building where he discovered a wonderful computer that housed miles and miles of film on any subject imaginable. After Marlo had finished his daily duties, he would head down to the basement and tinker with the Magic Movie Machine that was intelligent enough to hold conversations full of witty banter. Marlo would bid the Machine (voiced by Mert Koplin) to show various clips that included old newsreels, comedy skits, instructional shorts—everything but the kitchen sink.
Regular segments of the show included a number of games, where Marlo would input a specific numeric code using the Machine’s keypad and relevant clips would pop up on the screen. For example, the ‘Pre-fame Game’ code brought up baby pictures of famous people and the audience would have to guess who that was before a present day picture appeared as well. Giving the Machine a certain year, month and day would reveal historical events that happened on that particular date. There were also jokes, riddles and other games to be played between human and machine.
Marlo and the Magic Movie Machine debuted in 1977 on WFSB-TV in Hartford, Connecticut, a CBS affiliate. The show’s popularity increased and was picked up by many syndicated stations across the country, running until 1980. Today, it exists only in a handful of video clips and, of course, in the hearts of its many former viewers. Hopefully, it will rear its head again one of these days via a DVD release.
If you remember watching this classic kids show back in the 70s, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your Marlo and the Magic Movie Machine memories with all of us in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this TV gem from the past.