Conquer Fort Boyard comes from Vin di Bona productions, the same stable that gave us Storm the Castle which we’ve covered in another feature. Interestingly, although the show was filmed in 1991, it didn’t go out on ABC until March 1993 – we’ve always been a bit surprised by this.
After a quick montage of the show ahead, punctuated by a few horns, we are introduced to our hosts currently flying above the fort in a helicopter. This is sportscaster Chris Berman and the actress Cathy Lee Crosby. There are 13 different challenges, the most demanding physical and psychological challenges ever attempted on television.
This is a good ten years before Fear Factor of course, to put it into some kind of context. American Gladiators would have been on though.
Here’s our logo. The shieldy bit rises from the water which is quite a neat graphical effect. We don’t know why "Fort Boyard" is written in Masters of the Universe font either.
Our two teams approaching the fort by speedboat.
Our hosts have to be winched down. Although it appears that Cathy didn’t know this was going to happen. "This is the easiest challenge on Fort Boyard… I hope," says Chris to camera.
Fort Boyard has a perfectly good helipad, incidentally.
Apologies for the colour bleed. Our two teams of four who have apprently "been in training for the last six weeks" are being told that there is "no escape".
The team in flourescent purple are "The Untouchables", in the yellow, "The Cavaliers". The leader of The Cavaliers is Rico Costantino, a law enforcer at the time of filming, nowadays a top WWE wrestler. He had also become a star thanks to some appearences in American Gladiators previous.
Event one is The Mission (each event is introduced with a shield graphic. It is a mish mash of various outward bound adventures on the fort.
The referee. There’s no attempt at atmospherics here on the fort, this is a sports entertainment show pure and simple. Shame really.
Each team member has a role to play in this challenge.
First leg, one of eah team deathslides from the top of the fort to the sea beneath.
They are picked up by another team member on a jetski. When both are on the jetski, they must race to the boat and lap it once.
When they’ve gone round, they can grab their team’s pennant.
That is the signal for their teammate to climb the 40 ft mast and grab the key.
All the keys in the show are giant foamy ones.
And when they’ve grabbed the key, a signal is sent for their teammate to start climbing the 80ft wall. There are other keys on this wall, but they only count if you’re the first one up to the top. Getting to the top first also wins your team a bonus key.
It’s a photo finish, and it’s been awarded to the Cavaliers!
Whilst The Untouchables were the first ones to get on top of the wall, Rico was the first one to actually grab the key.
Post game interview. Note the amount of flags adorning the fort.
The scores,a thrilling one key each. That’s one for being the first up the mast, and one for being the first up the wall.
In case you didn’t know where Fort Boyard was, here’s a handy guide.
The Cavaliers are sequestered in the tower, whilst The Untouchables go on to… the Dark Labyrinth.
That play symbol isn’t on the original, obviously.
A computer representation of the labyrinth, which is very nice but very unlike the maze they’re about to enter.
Cathy explains the game in voiceover form.
One team member must go into the maze and find the key. They can’t see anything (except for the first 15 seconds when they have a sparkler) and will have to be guided by teammates.
The person going in also has a flashlight but it’s off. To turn it on, there’s a smaller key attached to the large key which will power it up.
They must get back out again before the 2:15 time-limit, or they don’t get to keep the key.
The other team members can help with this map which apprently lights up to show where she is. The key is marked in the middle, there.
They can also watch her on the big screen.
The key is in the large skeleton’s mouth.
Infra-red technology wasn’t very good at the time.
We could follow where she was on the head-up display down the bottom.
To be honest, the trail the black lines makes seems to have no bearing with what actually happens on screen and is a bit rubbish really.
The other team get a go now, and the reds meet them on the way out. Clearly, the sport of Fort Boyard is the winner today.
A nice overhead shot.
Event three is the bungee jump, a 50ft trial of terror. As we are used to, the contestant is attched to two bungee ropes and must swing into the fort to grab the hanging key. A successful jump is worth two keys.
Rico has a rather unusal tactic – he missed it on the first bounce, but pulled on the ropes and managed to keep enough momentum to grab the key on the second bounce. It had never been done before, and hasn’t happened since.
The event was introduced with Chris saying that four people had to face the test, but it turns out only the two team captains actually have to do it.
The underwater cavern as explained through computer graphic.
The player must swim through the four underwater chambers underneath the fort filled with "icy cold" seawater.
In the cavern are ten keys of their team’s colour. The contestant must collect as many as possible and then, importantly, must escape the cavern before the one minute forty-five time limit expires.
As one person swims, the rest of the team keep him informed of the amount of time remaining.
The Untouchables kick the keys across the floor – they weren’t worth anything because their contestant didn’t get out of the cavern in time, as judged by the referee.
This gives the Cavaliers quite a lead, as you can see.
The snake pit next, one for the ladies.
As you can see, the original snake pit was far more open plan and hance far less claustrophobic than the one it turned in to the next year which we still have now.
There are five keys down here and a one minute time limit. Contestants descend by rope and have to have their feet back above ground before the end of time for it to count.
The final event is The Gauntlet, an excuse to run around the fort a lot.
There are 30 keys to play for in this final round, although the hosts erroneously say 29.
The first leg is the foot stirrups. A male from each team bounces up on a trampette to a hanging ladder from which they can get to the stirrups.
These stirrups are made from metal rather than rope, making them rather easier to manoevere.
When both males get halfway across the beam (past a line), a female from each team starts the race.
The first male and first female to cross the beam win a key. They meet a third team member there.
The next leg involves crossing a suspension bridge whilst a member of the opposition fires volleyballs at you from a machine.
Each person who sucessfully gets across without being knocked off wins a key.
All four team members must now climb the cargo net. This is a race because the first team to have all four members at their crossbow wins another key.
A complete change of pace now. At the other end of the fort to the crossbows are seven balloons. The teams have six arrows each (the rest, and the seventh balloon, are in case of a tie and a shoot-off). Each burst balloon earns four keys.
Unbelieveably, the Untouchables have pulled it back to 33-33. The Cavaliers have three arrows left to hit one of their balloons…
And they’ve done it!
Cathy commiserates the losers, but the winners now have a chance to go for the gold!
Chris hands the team the seven treasure room keys. Inside the treasure room are 10 boxes of coins, and each key opens one box. The other three keys are hidden inside the other boxes.
To win the $25,000, the team have to deposit over 3,000 coins in the scale before the two-and-a-half minutes run out.
The door opens with a hydraulic sound you don’t hear on any other version of the show.
The door’s closing, and that means it’s time for the cameraman to get back inside the safety of the bars before the tigers are released again.
The team don’t know that 3,000 is the magic number. Chris tells them the good news.
We came, we saw, we conquered Fort Boyard!
And it finishes with a rather lovely sunset.
This article was originally written in 2005, the following comments were left in the original comment box:
I can hardly bear to look at this. It is an abomination on the fort we all know and love. Purely due to that sickly American sweetness which in my opinion was only eradicated when the glorious Fear Factor started.
I suppose it’s better that there never was an American series rather than this becoming reality…
You can hardly say its an abomination becuse the british version so different to the french.
beware the colorbleed!!