The Secrets of Isis: “The Lights of Mystery Mountain” (1975)

Andrea Thomas (Joanna Cameron) seems like an ordinary high school science teacher, albeit one who keeps a pet raven in the classroom. Yet, as the opening credits tell us, on an archaeological dig in Egypt she uncovered a mystical amulet which can transform her into the goddess Isis, “dedicated foe of evil and defender of the weak.” One would assume she would fly to the big city to battle criminal overlords, but instead she hangs about a small town and teaches important life lessons to Cindy Lee (Joanna Pang, playing about five or sex years below her age) and other youths, occasionally catching a small-time crook by putting her fists on her hips and waiting for not-very-special effects to happen. She’s assisted by Rick Mason (Brian Cutler), who has a mustache and smiles a lot – presumably because Isis runs around in a skirt too short to stay put.

The first episode of this 1975 Filmation series, which aired as part of the “Shazam/Isis Hour,” doesn’t waste time with any exposition or introduction of the characters. No, you’re thrust straight into the story of strange UFOs photographed around “Mountain Park” by Cindy Lee. Not only that, but several circle-shaped “burn spots” have been found on the mountain, and Cindy Lee is urging an immediate investigation, because she’s a high schooler and people should listen to her. Andrea is supportive, in her nurturing way, but Rick Mason is skeptical. He doesn’t believe in flying saucers, and anyway “nobody’s ever caught one.” The man who has many times teamed up with the goddess Isis to fight crime lays down some serious condescension on the room when the notion of “flying saucers” is discussed. Nevertheless, it’s agreed that the team should head out to the sheriff’s headquarters on Mountain Park to find out what’s really going on.

Cindy Lee’s photos cause general bafflement, but the sheriff doesn’t believe these rumors of alien visitation. Granted, some people are abandoning their homes and leaving the state, and there have even been several reported disappearances, but none of this is worth the sheriff’s time. Andrea takes off her oversized glasses and makes a serious face, which she did in the last scene as well, and is, in general, the reason why she wears glasses. The sheriff at last agrees to take them to see the scorched markings supposedly left by a flying saucer. Just then, “Chick Jeffers and Art Byron,” Cindy Lee’s school chums, pull up to share the local gossip about the disappearances, and she shows them her UFO pictures, which allows the two boys to exchange a secretive look. “Mr. Moss’ll want to know about this,” they say as soon as Cindy Lee hops off. They’re up to no good, which you could probably tell just by looking at them.

As the gang approaches the first burn mark location, Rick Mason says, “Maybe there’s something to this whole UFO thing after all.” “Spooky!” Cindy Lee agrees, and snaps some pictures. Andrea takes a sample, scientific-like, just before the sheriff calls them away: a new UFO-marking has been found. As they head off, a theremin noise is heard overhead. Everyone looks up, and white flying saucers move slowly across the blue sky. Just like in Cindy Lee’s photos!

Everyone races uphill in pursuit of the saucers, but Cindy Lee realizes she’s out of film, and runs back to the jeep. The theremin noise suddenly rises on the soundtrack. Cindy Lee looks up in the sky and says, “Oh no. Andrea and Rick. I need you. They’ve come back.” Sure enough, when the others return, Cindy Lee is gone and a fresh, smoking circle has been burned into the road. Has she been abducted by aliens? Have they fried her with a laser beam? Lest you be held in suspense, we immediately cut to Cindy Lee, being driven down the mountain by Chick and Art, who have glum, guilty looks upon their faces, though she’s ecstatic that they saved her from the aliens. When she gets out of the car to look for more UFOs (this consists of standing still and looking about vacantly), Chick and Art steal her photos, which they don’t feel too good about. When “Mr. Moss” shows up – a middle-aged man covered from head to toe in dirt – he takes the photos and then loses his cool because he wanted the negatives. “This is just paper!” Cindy Lee, who has been standing approximately seven feet away this entire time, wanders back to the car and innocuously asks what’s up. That’s when the collective conscience of Chick and Art presses down upon them at long last, and hurriedly they drive little, innocent Cindy Lee away. Mr. Moss, infuriated, jumps in his car and chases them. When they reach the police, Chick and Art point to Mr. Moss accusingly. “He wants her pictures!” Outraged at this moral violation, the police spring into action, but Isis is quicker – Andrea transforms into her alter ego by running a bit of the opening credits sequence, and then says in a voice that echoes, “Oh zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly.”

Perching upon a rock overlooking the mountain road, Isis observes Mr. Moss in his getaway car. She puts her fists on her hips and looks concerned, a move which invokes her mystical, ancient-Egyptian ability to overheat car engines. Mr. Moss pulls the smoking vehicle aside and begins to run, red-faced, sweaty, looking for all the world that he’s three paces away from a stroke. She teleports ahead of him and then declares, “Mr. Moss, perhaps you need a dose of your own medicine,” and utilizes another of her goddess powers which always came in handy in the days of the Pharaohs – she makes white UFO blobs appear over his head, which induces a panic, and a few more strokes.  When he can finally stand, he runs back to her and pleads, “Isis, you just gotta help me. The UFOs are after me.” “Why, Mr. Moss,” she retorts triumphantly, “there are no such things as UFOs!” The sheriff arrives and immediately drags Mr. Moss away, without for a moment questioning what this Egyptian goddess is doing here. I suppose everyone in this small town knows Isis by now. Anyway, it’s time for the episode wrap-up.

Mr. Moss, you see, had discovered gold at Mountain Park, and so he had to scare the property owners into selling their land with the ruse of UFOs, and the able assistance of Chick and Art. “A gas hose to burn the ground, a projector to make mid-air pictures of UFOs, and sound equipment – no wonder I was fooled!” says Rick Mason in embarrassment. (As you’ve correctly guessed, this is also the plot of every single Scooby-Doo episode.) Chagrined but triumphant, the team leaves Isis and returns to find Andrea sleeping under a tree (after Isis hastily flies there). Funny, they declare, that Andrea is never around when Isis saves the day. That’s right: they still don’t know that Isis and Andrea are the same person. Why? Because Isis wears a white tunic, and Andrea wears pants. And so, as Andrea shares a secretive look with the camera and the music rises, another adventure comes to a close. Now finish your cereal and go brush your teeth.

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