Warner Bros. // 1966 // 77 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // December 2nd, 2008
Their first full-length tune-full adventure!
Since it originally aired in the early 1960s, The Flintstones has become a memorable childhood institution for many Gen-Xers and continues to capture the hearts, minds, and funny bones of children and adults with re-runs still airing around the world. A cult classic and a legend in animation, The Flintstones was the forerunner to shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and King of the Hill, paving the way for adult-oriented animation to succeed on prime time television, not only in North America, but also in many other languages around the world.
The Flintstones expanded on a television archetype originated by The Honeymooners in the 1950s...familiar situations, light-hearted comedy and family values...and enjoyed a successful prime time run on ABC from 1960 until 1966. The first few seasons of the show were geared towards an adult audience, with many of the situations and conflicts reflecting adult sensibilities. The Flintstones relies on the tried-and-true situation comedy formula of putting the central characters into awkward conflict situations, often based on misunderstanding or deception, then resolving the conflict with laughs and warm sentiment in the final act.
The universal appeal of The Flintstones fueled six seasons of the original show and, almost immediately after the TV series wrapped, Hannah-Barbera started production on a feature-length adventure. Released to theaters on August 1, 1966, and billed as an animated musical film, The Man Called Flintstone blended a Bond-esque wink at the world of international espionage, including Stone Age era gadgets, mysterious and beautiful women and an insane but brilliant master criminal named the Green Goose.
For fans of the TV series, and for better or worse, The Man Called Flintstone borrows heavily from some familiar plotlines that were explored during the series: cases of mistaken identity, Fred and Barney's lifelong friendship, international espionage, and Fred gaining some measure of fleeting fame, just to name a few. As a long-time fan of the series with fond childhood memories of catching the film at a matinee screening in the '70s, I'm sad to say The Man Called Flintstone doesn't really stand the test of time. There are great moments fans will enjoy, but somehow it feels like listening to the CD version of a song that sounded great on 8-track. Something's missing. And by rehashing and combining classic Flintstones plotlines, the film winds up feeling more stale than anything else, leaving the viewer with a strong sense of "been there, done that." To add insult to injury, musical numbers that are clearly aimed at the younger crowd appear throughout the film, clashing directly with the international spy storyline, and jarring the viewer every time one of the little ditties pops up.
I remember as a kid thinking how cool it was to see The Flintstones on the big screen, but seeing the film again, it's really not that fond a memory. Much of the disappointment can be chalked up to the weak presentation of this release, especially given the obvious love, attention and re-mastering the series' episodes received in the boxed set releases. Those sets are a joy for fans, really treating the material with respect. Sadly, that is not the case here...dirt and damage to the source material range from very distracting to mildly irritating throughout the film, and the picture is visibly grainy. The viewer is left with the feeling that this release was rushed out the door, rather than showing the film the respect it deserved as part of an animation legacy for generations to come. The audio mix is acceptable and at least that seems to have either been re-mastered, or it is showing its age very well. Thankfully each of the series' boxed sets included some nice extra features and supplements because you won't find any of that here.
Am I glad to have The Man Called Flintstone finally on DVD, to relive fond childhood memories and share it with my own children? Yes. Could I have waited for a better release with a more consistent overall presentation like the TV series boxed sets? Absolutely! As a fan and a completist, I'm happy, but Warner Bros. made a mastodon-sized marketing mistake by treating this classic material so poorly.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated