Shout! Factory // 1993 // 2060 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 26th, 2012
"It's morphin' time!"
To this day, the Power Rangers have a stranglehold on kids' live-action television, which is ironic because there's probably an excellent chance your children currently have strangleholds on each other due to the Power Rangers.
Rita Repulsa an evil intergalactic space witch with designs on conquering the universe. Escaping from her moon Dumpster, she turns her diabolical machinations towards Earth, unleashing a hailstorm of Putties and Monsters on an unsuspecting populace. Luckily, five teenagers from the local youth center are drafted into service as The Power Rangers, summoned by a talking lava lamp named Zordon. He gives to them form-fitting unitards, great powers, and the ability to summon gigantic plastic dinosaurs.
And so it commences, the epic battle between the forces of good and evil. Through three seasons and a billion episodes, the Power Rangers morph their brains out and deliver unto a generation of children impromptu karate lessons, over-simulation of all senses, and boxes full of cheap toys that may or may not be slathered with several coats lead paint.
When Haim Saban cooked up the notion of blending corny teenage hijinks with recycled footage from the Japanese series Super Sentai, the world of children's television as we knew it changed forever. On a modest budget, working with an unseasoned young cast, Saban and his comrades delivered unto America a legitimate pop culture shift, one in which children of all ages would tie important life lessons of teamwork and proper toxic waste disposal to running around in red spandex fighting adult men wearing full-body pantyhose.
The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers phenomenon dropped out of my orbit, as the middle-schooler me considered them too "kiddie" to get into. But it was impossible to remain untouched by the insanity happening right outside my wheelhouse: kids in Halloween costumes delivering crushing roundhouse kicks to each other while blasting away with their plastic laser guns, toy shelves stocked with all manner of action figures and Zord-bots, and that crushing hair metal theme which has forever emblazoned itself upon my brain.
More power to 'em! Trillions of dollars were generated and a whole new industry of localizing incoherent Japanese children's programming was born. To celebrate the series 20th anniversary, Shout! Factory has released Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Complete Series on DVD, featuring three seasons and enough episodes of chopsocky sci-fi cosplay to keep your kids entertained until they age out of being Obamacare dependents.
Number of Episodes: 60
Number of Discs: 6
Major Plot Points: Aside from the basic table-setting of the series, the biggest shake-up comes with the introduction of the Green Ranger (Jason David Frank), a powerful warrior who plays his magic flute to summon the fearsome Dragonzord.
Things I Learned: If you're not hanging out at the Juice Bar, you're a nobody; brilliant teenagers wear jean overalls and talk like imbeciles; one huge plastic dragon makes a giant plastic man made up of five plastic dinosaurs moot; space Dumpsters make for poor prisons.
Number of Episodes: 52
Number of Discs: 6
Major Plot Points: Lots of major changes; new Red, Black, and Yellow Rangers; new Zords, a new villain (Lord Zedd), and the introduction of the White Ranger (Jason David Frank, again) armed with a talking tiger sword.
Things I Learned: Lord Zedd looks a lot more menacing and evil, but he's just as inept as Rita Repulsa; a talking tiger knife may have sounded awesome on paper, but in practice it's utterly moronic; speaking of which, is a tiger robot actually more helpful in the war against evil than a gigantic dragon robot?
Number of Episodes: 33
Number of Discs: 5
Major Plot Point: The retirement of the Pink Ranger, and ten episodes featuring the "Alien Rangers" -- big-headed purple replacements for the Power Rangers who have been turned into children.
Things I Learned: If you have to replace Amy Jo Johnson, might as well bring in a perky Australian blonde; as shown in the Christmas special, all these Zords and lasers do as much damage to the evildoers as a snowball fight at Santa's toy shop, so maybe Zordon should re-evaluate his defense spending priorities.
Is Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers ridiculous and corny? Of course it is. And watching it now, twenty years past its prime, with a set of grown-up post-irony lenses doesn't help. But I'd be severely underplaying the value and impact of the show, if I just spent this bandwidth dropping a deuce all over it. It's a fun show packed with energy and imagination and, despite its propensity for cartoon violence, there's not an offensive strand of DNA in its make-up. Plus, there's a monster with a pumpkin head that hurts the Power Rangers with his dope raps.
Shout! Factory has served the Rangers fanbase well with this complete series release. It might have been cool to enclose it in a helmet or something, but the retail mark-up would have no doubt been cost-prohibitive. As it stands, we get a big shiny cardboard box stuffed with six multi-DVD sets, and a snazzy booklet outlining the mythology and the characters. Episodes land in their standard def 1.33:1 full frame, Dolby 2.0 Stereo transfers, which look and sound about as mediocre as you would expect from a two-decade-old small budget production repurposing even older Japanese TV footage.
The surprise treat in this set is the bonus material, spread over two discs. Substantial extras includes new retrospective documentaries featuring select cast and crew talking about the development of the show, the cast, and the fan base. Each featurette is fairly lengthy and crafted with a welcome degree of love and attention. Rounding out the supplements are some esoteric odds and ends: a montage of Lord Zedd's various monsters, a weird stand-alone Christmas special starring Alpha the robot, an episode-length fan club video, the "White Ranger Kata" led by Jason David Frank, footage from the surreal "Power Rangers Live World Tour" show, and another one-off special called "The Good, The Bad, and The Stupid: The Misadventures of Bulk and Skull," highlighting the series' excruciating comic relief duo.
Brain-battering as it is, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers is a pop culture flashpoint. Though often shallow and saccharine, the series is deserving of this solid collector's edition treatment from Shout! Factory.
Not Guilty. Get the Morph out of here.
Review content copyright © 2012 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 2060 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episodes
* Bonus Footage