BCI Eclipse // 1977 // 341 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 15th, 2006
Two Super-Powered Teams! Twice the Super Adventure!
The Filmation vault has been sprung wide open, and the deluge of old-school cartoons is pouring out into your living room. This release packages two superhero-squad shows together for a round of groovy '70s action and afros.
The Space Sentinels: The Complete Series
Three ethnically diverse teens find themselves abducted by a mysterious spaceship and are given fantastic powers to combat evil. There's Hercules, the perfect Aryan blond mimbo who has exceptional strength, can fly, boasts a sweet headband and fights in his underwear. Then Astraea, the de facto leader of the group, a bodacious African-American shape-changer. Finally is Mercury, of Asian descent, and incredibly fast. The trio takes their marching orders from the enigmatic Sentinel One, a gigantic talking head that is projected in the Sentinels' spaceship. Together, our heroes face off against aliens, time-travelers, wizards, Egyptian gods, former Sentinels and other flamboyant villains, using their awesome skills and camaraderie to prevail. The show ran for one season on NBC, and all 13 episodes are accounted for on two discs:
Disc One Side A
"Morpheus: The Sinister Sentinel"
"The Time Traveler"
"The Return of Anubis"
Disc One Side B
"The Wizard of Od"
"The Prime Sentinel"
"Voyage to the Inner World"
Disc Two Side A
"The Jupiter Spore"
"The World Ship"
The Freedom Force: The Complete Series
This show was actually a small component of the hour-long Tarzan and the Super Seven that ran in 1978, on Saturday mornings. Clocking in at just north of 10 minutes per episode and only registering five episodes, The Freedom Force didn't necessarily eat up runtime. This elite force was composed of mythical heroes, including a returning Hercules with a considerably deeper voice, Isis the Egyptian butt-kicking babe, Merlin the magician, Sinbad the legendary sailor and the giant Super Samurai. The five episodes:
Disc Two Side B
"The Dragon Riders"
"The Scarlet Samurai"
"The Plant Soldiers"
All manner of Filmation is seeing the light of digital day thanks to BCI Eclipse. I have no memory of these two shows, likely because my cerebral cortex was still developing. The condensed version: both shows are characteristic Filmation, colorful, outlandish, busy and flush with imagination.
These cats are groovy, man! There's definitely a '70s sensibility present in the Space Sentinels, noticeably in the kickin' soundtrack and the costuming; lots of beards, wavy hair, bell-bottoms, and expose male chests. While certainly fun in a retro-way, this DVD will sink or swim based on the quality of the substance. My two cents: Space Sentinels is pretty good, though I'm not sure if anyone but nostalgia-buffs will find much value in the adventures of Hercules and company.
The dialogue is corny -- admittedly not a shocker in Filmation productions -- but it's the characters that ended up disappointing. Frankly, they're a bunch of stiffs, and the tiny capes don't do much to convince me of their studliness. Astraea's got it going on, though, and it's nice to see an African-American cartoon character not named Mr. T in charge of a band of crimefighters. Hercules is merely a pretty boy who lifts things and Mercury tends to whine.
The stories these heroes find themselves ensconced in are flat-out crazy. The writers have excavated all manner of villain, from demons that live in the Earth's core to robots to Loki (?!). It's very much kitchen sink storytelling and there's always something going on, so maybe there's something for your typical ADHD viewer to drink in...but I doubt it.
The Freedom Force
Now, this series is just f***ed up. The Freedom Force may be the strangest amalgam of superheroes ever conceived. Hercules is back with a much worse voice actor lending him his pipes, but he's still go that damn little cape and headband that counteract his impressive abs. Merlin is not like the Merlin I envision, all old and with a flowing white beard, but more a metrosexual in leggings and a turtleneck. The Super Samurai is just bizarre. And Sinbad is barely even in the series, I think because as a sailor he's limited to seafaring adventures; he's the Aquaman of The Freedom Force. Isis is a little better, mainly because she's hot and wears the Earth's tiniest miniskirt when doing battle with killer robots. Overall, the series is short it seems more a bonus feature than anything else. Should be fun for fans of nutty animation.
No matter how obscure a show is, count on BCI Eclipse to serve up a great set. A full-colored, trivia-laden episode guide comes packaged with the set. The discs themselves are dual-sided, which sort of sucks, but the transfers are very clear, considering the shows' age, and the sound mix is adequate. Bonus features include interviews with the filmmakers, that "Magic of Filmation" documentary that makes the rounds on these releases, an early animated pitch for The Young Sentinels (which would later become Space Sentinels), a hilarious "talent test" pilot for a live-action Sentinels series, art galleries and DVD-ROM accessible scripts.
This set gives you a good sampling of Saturday morning weirdness from way back when. The shows didn't really float my boat, but the quality of the set cannot be ignored.
Not guilty, brotha.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BCI Eclipse
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 341 Minutes
Release Year: 1977
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "The Magic of Filmation"
* Art Galleries
* Bonus Footage
* Official Site