Monday, March 30, 2009

All-New Superfriends Hour, Volume Two review

Volume Two of this DVD set is just as great as Volume One, released over a year ago. In this new collection we see the remaining episodes missing from Volume One. A random sampling of what you will get when you buy this collection are 8 episodes. The episodes originally ran an hour when broadcast on TV but minus the commercials each episode is roughly 45 to 50 minutes in length. Each episode is broken into four separate segments as well, which is why it's advertised as 32 episodes. The first segment features a team-up between two Superfriends. The second segment features the Wonder Twins on adventures revolving teenage issues/peer pressure. The third segment is the main attraction, a story involving all of the Superfriends and the Wonder Twins. The final segment teams up one of the Superfriends with a guest super-hero. Batman and Robin, since they work as a team, are considered "one" hero in the team-up's.

Batman and Robin along with Superman appear together in the episode "Man-Beast of Xra" where an evil scientist, a woman named Dr Xra, unleashes man-beasts on the city with the help of her nervous accomplice. The professor is voiced by the show's narrator, William Woodson. Xra is voiced by Jean Vanderpyl, who became popular as the voice of Wilma Flintstone.

Aquaman's primary villain, Black Manta, appears in an episode entitled "Water Beast". In the episode, though, he's only referred to as Manta but the character design is clearly based on Black Manta. Aquaman gets a lot of screen time in the PSA segments where safety and health tips are dispensed. He also appears in the magic segment's as well. The rest of the Superfriends rotate with Aquaman in those PSA segments. In one safety segment, Aquaman warns a kid about attempting to roller skate with rusty skates and suggests he have a grown-up oil them. In the episode "Frozen Peril", Aquaman and Superman go on the mission of defrosting the world after an undersea villain, Sculpin, freezes the surface. John Stephenson voices a few characters in this episode including the villain.

The Wonder Twins appear in their own segments and one of them in this collection is frank by 1970's standards...Saturday morning TV standards specifically. I speak of the segment called "Prejudice" where the Wonder Twins tackle the subject when two bikers refuse to help a stranded motorist due to the color of his skin. "Pressure Point" deals with a kid named Jerry who feels insecure and sets about to show how talented he is at motorcycling by attempting to jump a canyon.

"Mummy of Nazca" is a story of an evil scientist who uses a mummy to do his dirty work. The doctor's name is Cooroff, loosely based upon Karloff, as in Boris Karloff, the actor who appeared in the Mummy horror movie 77 years ago in 1932. Henry Corden voices Professor Cooroff. In a rare moment in this series, Superman appears as Clark Kent for a period of time in this episode as he takes the Wonder Twins to the museum. Judging by the script, they didn't know Clark Kent and Superman were the same person.

"Forbidden Power" is a story about an evil scientist who sets off to find the ultimate power...Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman stop him.

"Day of the Rats" features Batman, Robin, and Black Vulcan in Gotham City attempting to clean up the rat's that have littered the city. The rats turned evil because of a mechanism in the sewers. It's one of the few episodes where a main villain wasn't featured...just a bunch of evil rats flooding the city and terrorizing businesses. It was like the film 'The Birds' but with lots and lots of rats. By episode's end, Black Vulcan destroyed the mechanism controlling the rats and they changed back to their normal behavior.

In an episode called "Tiny World of Terror" we have a greedy scientist/inventor who doesn't get co-operation from his colleagues with one of his schemes and he gets his revenge by shrinking them...he soon shrinks the Superfriends as well and they have to over-come their height disadvantage in order to stop the scientist, named Professor Strickland. His partners who he shrunk were Professor Wong and assistant Mary. In a funny scene, the tiny Superfriends encounter all sorts of animals climaxing with Superman hopping on a giant spider and riding it like a bull. In "Tibetan Raiders", Flash guest stars and joins Superman in the Himalaya's to rescue passengers from an airplane that crashed. Flash isn't voiced by Jack Angel, so it was unusual seeing the character with a different voice.

As you can see, a lot of these stories center around an evil scientist or a professor who becomes vigilante-like and sets about to "rid the world of war" or "end all suffering". William Woodson, the show's narrator, often provided the voices for the assistant's and sometimes he was the voice of the main villain. The villains were described as being mis-guided, rather than intentionally harmful.

The methods in which the villainous doctor's carry out their hopes and dreams in the episodes, of course, cross the line into illegal activity and by episode's end they're told how wonderful their wishes and dreams are but breaking the law to achieve their wishes and dreams was still a big no-no. There were rarely any villains, with a few exceptions, that were deliberately evil.

Having said that, one of the villains that was intentionally cruel was Lion-X. He was the leader of the race of lion's that appear in the episode "Lionmen". In this episode, Lion-X uses a special ray device and while taking control of the space station, he beams the ray at Earth. They want to pull the Earth apart and look to be a success pretty much throughout the episode...with Lion-X knowing Superman's weakness: kryptonite. Wonder Woman uses a special voice changer and pretends to be Lion-X...ordering the followers to switch off the ray...the plan almost works until Gleek innocently walks across a monitor and his tail clicks on the camera switch...exposing Wonder Woman's trick.

Rima, Green Lantern, and Apache Chief also make guest appearances. Atom, the small guy with the atomic energy, guest stars in the episode "Cable Car Rescue" with Wonder Woman. The two of them have to rescue a cable car dangling in the sky. The only DVD extra is about the Wonder Twins. Five stars...the DVD is of an acquired taste. Those raised on the super-hero cartoons of today with all of that over-the-top realism will perhaps not find these cartoons entertaining because the stories are fantastical and fiction, using just a shred of reality for the plot-line and going from there...since cartoons were geared at children who weren't expected to grow up too fast back then.

The principal voice-cast include the following:

Danny Dark as Superman
Olan Soule as Batman
Casey Kasem as Robin
Shannon Farnon as Wonder Woman
Norman Alden as Aquaman
Michael Bell as Zan and Gleek
Liberty Williams as Jayna
William Woodson as the Narrator

In the Wonder Twins segments, Michael Bell and Liberty Williams voice multiple characters in addition to Zan, Jayna, and Gleek as you'll be able to tell right away. Olan Soule often played villainous henchmen in addition to voicing Batman...Casey Kasem not only voiced Robin but in later episodes he voiced the computer. Casey can be heard as various villainous characters and incidental characters in this collection. William Woodson was often heard as villains, too.

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