Sony // 1984 // 529 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 20th, 2006
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.
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.
* "Second Thunder"
* "A Clear and Present Danger"
* "Arms Race"
* "Revenge in the Sky"
* "Trojan Horse"
* "Clipped Wings"
* "The Long Flight"
* "The Island"
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.
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.
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
Advantage: Blue Thunder
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
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?
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.
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.
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
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 529 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated