Case Number 10039

BLUE THUNDER: THE COMPLETE SERIES

Sony // 1984 // 529 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 20th, 2006

The Charge

Rotor envy.

Opening Statement

Before he shot to super-stardom on Saturday Night Live, Dana Carvey tackled the most challenging role of his life: Clinton Wonderlove, the bowl-cutted, sexually insecure co-pilot of a prototype combat police helicopter. If you took a nap in 1984 and missed the entire 11-episode series run of Blue Thunder, now is your chance to acquaint yourself with Carvey's magnificent performance on this three-disc DVD set.

Facts of the Case

It appears that this series was based on the Roy Scheider film of the same name, dealing also with an experimental attack chopper. But unlike other film-influenced small screen spin-offs that would imprint themselves in pop culture mythos (e.g. M*A*S*H and Ferris Bueller), Blue Thunder took a nosedive, lasting only a handful of episodes.

The plot dealt with a new helicopter sporting heavy armor, pinpoint-accurate machine guns, advanced radar and scanning equipment and turbo boosts. Piloting this monster was grizzled flyboy Frank Chaney (James Farentino) and Clinton Wonderlove. Supplementing the air power would be a roving land unit, staffed by former football pros Bubba (Bubba Smith) and "Ski" Butowski (Dick Butkus). Falling under the auspices of APEX, a federal crime-fighting department, the Blue Thunder crew would zip around to whatever mission required its services that usually involved Blue Thunder shooting at jet planes and mean white guys.

Disc One
* "Second Thunder"
* "A Clear and Present Danger"
* "Arms Race"

Disc Two
* "Revenge in the Sky"
* "Trojan Horse"
* "Skydiver"
* "Clipped Wings"

Disc Three
* "Payload"
* "The Long Flight"
* "Godchild"
* "The Island"

The Evidence

Let's go straight to the meat of this and try to answer the question all five of you are asking: How does Blue Thunder stack up against Airwolf? Let's pit the two attack copters against each other and see who emerges victorious...

Alpha Male Pilot
Frank Chaney vs. Stringfellow Hawke

This one's not even close. String all the way. While Ferentino is well-respected actor and all and Jan Michael-Vincent is best known for his profound alcoholism, matching them up in their respective cockpits bears a lopsided result. Hawke's a stud, talking trash to suckers he blows out of the sky and landing in his giant desert crater before cavorting with The Firm's babe of the week. Chaney looks like a ninth-grade physical science teacher.
Advantage: Airwolf

Feisty Sidekick
Clinton Wonderlove vs. Dom Santini

Ernest Borgnine resembles a creation from a Val Lewton film and Dana Carvey plays Wonderlove like a complete tool, but I'm going with the latter. It's a kick to see Carvey in a "serious" role and he's able to squeeze in some impressions along the way. Plus, Ernest Borgnine just isn't as huggable.
Advantage: Blue Thunder

The Big Boss
Chief Braddock vs. Archangel

Both guys are pretty grumpy, but Archangel had a glasses eye-patch and dresses in white suits. Braddock wears suspenders. No contest.
Advantage: Airwolf

Supporting Crew
Bubba and Ski vs. Random Assortment of Girls

Yeah, "The Ladies of Airwolf" are better eye-candy than two former football players, but, kids, we're talking Officer Hightower and the café manager from My Two Dads! As a bonus, they rode around in a van called "Rolling Thunder" and drove a truck with a machine gun bolted to the back seat.
Advantage: Blue Thunder

The Storylines
White Dudes with a Grudge vs. Dirty Communists

It seemed like the Blue Thunder squad were always going toe to toe with disgruntled Federal employees or friends from years ago that turned evil. The Airwolf guys went after the heavy-hitters: Soviets and Libyans. Hell yeeeeahhhh!!!
Advantage: Airwolf

The Helicopters
Blue Thunder vs. Airwolf

And now we get to it. The main event. Let's look at the specs. Blue Thunder's got a sweet mini-gun and some counter-missile weapons. Plus it's fast, loaded silly with raw computing power (at least 4K of RAM on that sucker) and, more importantly, has a super-van with two gun-toting jocks on the ground ready for support. Airwolf has machine guns too, those belly-launching missiles, turbines, countermeasures and computers. The missiles and Rolling Thunder cancel each other out, leaving us with just one question: which looks cooler? Do you even have to ask?
Advantage: Airwolf

Winner: Airwolf

There you have it. We've finally settled that age-old dispute. So if you've got a hankering for mid '80s helicopter mayhem, Airwolf is your best bet. Blue Thunder has a few things going for it, but in the end, the forgettable plots, poor casting choices and idiotic villains keep it from ascending into the Kickass Chopper Stratosphere occupied by Stringfellow Hawke and his gang.

Closing Statement

The novelty of seeing Dana Carvey as a fighter pilot isn't enough to mandate a viewing of this brief and ultimately inconsequential action show. This set is straight-up bare bones, with a blah full frame transfer, stereo mix and a dearth of extras.

The Verdict

Sorry boys. You're grounded.

Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 70
Audio: 75
Extras: 0
Acting: 70
Story: 70
Judgment: 72

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* English

Running Time: 529 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0086671/combined