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Case Number 07947

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He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe: Season One, Volume One

BCI Eclipse // 1983 // 710 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 2nd, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson once had the power, but he lost it in a game of Pinochle.

The Charge

"Forward, lackeys, in the name of destruction!!!"
—Skeletor, in "Evil Lyn's Plot"

Opening Statement

He-Man, Battlecat, Skeletor, Triclops, Merman, Stratos, King Randor, Man-at-Arms, Orko: further proof that the animators of the early '80s were privy to hallucinogenic lead paint in their studios.

Facts of the Case

In a faraway, magical corner of the galaxy there exists the planet Eternia, the home of the mystical, enigmatic Castle Grayskull, a fantastic hub of power and likely the axis upon which all of existence spins.

Grayskull, monitored by the powerful—and sometimes molting—Sorceress, has many forces allied to conquer it. None are more dangerous than Skeletor, the be-all and end-all of evil in the universe. Skeletor and his band of miscreants constantly scheme to penetrate the fortified walls of Grayskull and suckle on its power.

Their plans, however, are consistently foiled by Grayskull's greatest defender—He-Man! The most powerful (and minimally dressed) man in the universe! He-Man is the buffest warrior in Eternia, who battles his foes with a combination of amazing strength, boundless courage, and fantastic hair.

Aiding He-Man's campaign against Skeletor are his pals Man-at-Arms, inventor extraordinaire and last year's winner of the Best-Groomed Moustache in Eternia contest, Teela, Man-at-Arm's spunky daughter, Battlecat, He-Man's loyal and ferocious beast of burden, and Orko, the klutzy, floating torso.

But He-Man has a secret identity: when he isn't running around half-naked laying waste with his sword, he lounges around the royal palace as Prince Adam the Pantywaist. Only a few know his secret (Eternians must be even more farsighted than the employees of the Daily Planet), but when danger calls, Adam unleashes his mighty sword and calls upon the power of Grayskull, and with much flair and pyrotechnics he transforms himself into…

The Master of the Universe!!!

(Or maybe he's just one of them; it's never really clear.)

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Season One, Volume One features the first 33 of the whopping 65 episodes of Season One:

Disc One
• "Diamond Ray of Disappearance"
• "The Cosmic Comet"
• "The Shaping Staff"
• "Disappearing Act"
• "She-Demon of Phantos"
• "Teela's Quest"
• "The Curse of the Spellstone"

Disc Two
• "The Time Corridor"
• "The Dragon Invasion"
• "A Friend in Need"
• "Masks of Power"
• "Evil-Lyn's Plot"
• "Like Father, Like Daughter"
• "Colossor Awakes"

Disc Three
• "A Beastly Sideshow"
• "Reign of the Monster"
• "Daimar the Demon"
• "Creatures from the Tar Swamp"
• "Quest for He-Man"
• "Dawn of Dragoon"
• "The Royal Cousin"

Disc Four
• "Song of Celice"
• "Orko's Favorite Uncle"
• "Wizard of Stone Mountain"
• "Evilseed"
• "Ordeal in the Darklands"
• "The Return of Orko's Uncle"

Disc Five
• "The Defection"
• "Prince Adam No More"
• "The Taking of Grayskull"
• "A Tale of Two Cities"
• "Search for the VHO"
• "The Starchild"

The Evidence

Yes! He-Man is here! What young boy growing up in the early '80s doesn't remember this kick-ass cartoon?! And that theme music. Man, since spinning these discs, I can't evict that super-repetitive score from my brain: DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DE…DE-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DE!!!

For me, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is a great example of supremely bizarre animation that I lapped up as a sapling, unaware of how bat-$&% is actually was. The Smurfs is another example (a cartoon that is incoherent to me now).

But where The Smurfs, though surreally intriguing, is a slog to watch, I found He-Man as fun and engaging as I remembered it. Is it cheesy? You bet. Galactically weird? Absolutely. A smidgen homoerotic? Well, there is a character named Ram-Man.

But before I tread any further with the review of this excellent set, let's take a closer look at some of the inhabitants of Eternia, shall we?

The Heroes

He-Man
He's the Alpha male of Eternia, a dude so jacked you have to wonder if he's freebasing Creatine. He-Man is decent to a fault, never willfully causing harm to another and never ever taking a life. The fault? He rescues his enemies so much they keep popping up to wreak more havoc.

Prince Adam
The royal prince of Eternia is the effeminate, pink-clad alter-ego of He-Man, and a major disappointment to his parents. The bumbling act is of course a façade to mask his identity, though it would take a clinically dead wombat not to realize that He-Man is in fact identical to Prince Adam, save for fewer clothes and a reluctance to use Eternian sunblock.

Battlecat/Cringer
The contrast between Cringer and Battlecat is even starker than that of Adam and He-Man. Cringer was a pussy in all senses of the word, but when he got torched by the Sword of Grayskull he turned into one mean bastard (which probably had something to do with the fact his primary function was to cart around He-Man's lazy ass).

Man-at-Arms
MAA's thing is he's a master inventor and a total stud when it comes to weaponry. Despite his porn-star appearance and that weird green protuberance on his breastplate, he's a bona fide good guy and a strong father figure to boot.

Teela
This girl is scorching. Why the Captain of the Royal Guard feels high heels and a one-piece are practical to enforce the law in Eternia is beyond me, but for a small boy who was just beginning to find the opposite sex intriguing, that wire bra was hot as hell. (As of this writing, my wife has yet to agree to wear a tiara and gauntlets.)

Orko
Yeah, he was annoying, and his high-pitched warble of a voice could rupture crystal, but Orko did what he had to do in the He-Man universe: easily translate into a plush toy.

King Randor and Queen Marlena
Queen Marlena was an Earthling whose hackneyed space mission landed her in Eternia. Long story short she hooked up with King Randor, who prefers tights to pants.

The Sorceress
A Deity-like figure in Eternia (characters often "praise the Sorceress"), she was second only to Teela on the "Strange Stirring in the Loins Meter." I think it was the feathers.

Ram-Man
This short, mentally challenged warrior had springs for legs and possibly the most uncomfortable hat any animated character ever had to wear (forged perhaps by Man-at-Arms for his ninth-grade science project). But when your only ability is smashing into things head-first, your personal luxuries are usually far down on the priority list.

Stratos
This guy flew around a lot and had a horrible beard.

The Villains

Skeletor
Not only was he evil, he was an obnoxious dick. Skeletor treated everyone like crap, even his minions. Especially his minions. In pretty much every episode you could count on him referring to his flunkies as "fools." Not that they didn't deserve it—they were largely useless—but perhaps if Skeletor fostered some teamwork-building and hosted a few problem-solving seminars he'd get somewhere.

Evil-Lyn
Of all the goofy names of characters, I've always though "Evil-Lyn" was the tops. Presumably her real name is Lyn, which she was called before becoming evil, and thanks to a striking lack of creativity added a prefix to her name instead of coming up with something cool like "Madame Death" or "Baroness" or "She-Bitch of Dismemberment."

Beast Man
Awww, nobody likes Beast Man. Of all the toadies in the employ of Snake Mountain, he got it the worst from Skeletor. Whenever one of the schemes fizzled, Beast Man was likely to get blamed. Plus, his power of controlling animals rarely seemed to work (in one episode an insubordinate monkey-thing throws fruit at his face). No wonder he has those bags under his eyes…

Panthor
I see no point of Panthor's existence besides the obvious: Skeletor wanted an oversized jungle cat to ride around on because He-Man had one.

Merman
The ugliest of all of Skeletor's villains, Merman had some sort of sea-relevant powers. I found him pretty insignificant on the land, as did Skeletor, judging by the menial tasks he had him do ("Guard Snake Mountain!" "Go catch us some dinner!" "Polish my bone throne!").

Triclops
Whoa was this dude useless. Triclops was just a regular guy, but had a crazy helmet that would rotate between three separate fields of vision. Only thing is, they all were projected through one eye! I doubt "peripheral" was one of his settings.

Trapjaw
Here's a bad guy who could have proven to be daunting. He had a robotic right arm that could be swapped for weapons or tools. Unfortunately, this interchange could only be done manually, and it would take forever for Trapjaw to perform the switch. He'd still be fumbling with an Allen wrench well after He-Man had thwarted Skeletor's plot, saved Eternia from the forces of evil, and delivered the post-episode moral.

Each episode brings these two forces together in a grand confrontation, which usually shakes out like this: Skeletor cooks up another plan to sack Grayskull, utilizes a plot device (e.g., The Diamond Ray of Disappearance, The Shaping Staff, The Spellstone), and is subsequently defeated by He-Man and company.

It's a proven formula, and works because of the limitless imagination the writers infuse into the shows. Basically, Eternia is bound to no restriction: it's got the look of fantasy, with dragons and sorcery and swords mixed with lasers and flying battle jet-skis.

Look, I'll be intellectually honest and not let my nostalgia color this review and say that by and large the show was often bombastic and corny, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. And He-Man doesn't lie.

There is just so much creativity on display in these episodes, it's incredible the staff was able to pump out 65 of these bad boys. Sixty-five! But though the story template is largely the same, each show always features something new, be it a character or a landscape or, often, both.

As an added bonus, you get yourself a fat juicy moral at the end of each story. It's not subtle, but the "final thoughts" are purposeful, and reflect the mission of the creators: to create engaging entertainment with sound message for small children.

All in all, while this series certainly had a special place in the part of the brain that's in charge of childhood reminiscence, I had a lot of fun with these shows, and thoroughly enjoyed my trip back to Eternia.

Let's talk about this set. Frankly, it's awesome. Every inch of this set drips with love for the series, from the packaging to the technical treatment to the special features. Everything is top-notch.

Each episode has both a detailed synopsis on the disc menu as well as in the accompanying liner notes. The notes look great and are dotted with full-color screen grabs and the disc menus feature animated transitions.

The full frame transfers are super-clean and the colors are vibrant. You would not know this show was 23 years old. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is more than suitable, sounding full and active. This could have been a half-assed technical treatment, but BCI Eclipse obviously takes this release seriously, and it shows. High marks for everything.

You're going to see a 100 in the extras category for the Scales of Justice. While this set isn't overflowing with extras, what's included is very good and thoughtfully executed and I'm going to roll the overall Grade-A packaging and presentation into the score too. That sum total is an easy 100.

The highlights of the bonus materials are the two documentaries: "The Secret Origins of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" chronicles the creation of the series and "The Stories of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" focuses on the formation of the adventures. These are superb, newly-produced, original documentaries, featuring interview with writers, animators, and producers of the show.

Also included: a full-length side-by-side animatic-to-finished-episode comparison; 50 profiles of characters, creatures, and artifacts; trivia facts; DVD-Rom accessible episode scripts; and two 4"x 6" collectible cards.

This is awesome stuff, kids.

Closing Statement

So, should you spring for this set? No doubt fanboys will want it, but how about you, the casual DVD collector? If you're a fan of top-shelf DVD sets, lovingly crafted, and think you might enjoy a truckload of episodes detailing the exploits of a muscle-bound Boy Scout and his mythic adventures in a world of imagination, then, yeah, you should buy it. This is one of the finest DVD sets of any television series—animated or live action—that I've ever seen.

The Verdict

By the power of Grayskull…NOT GUILTY!!!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 100
Audio: 95
Extras: 100
Acting: 90
Story: 95
Judgment: 97

Special Commendations

• Golden Gavel 2005 Nominee

Perp Profile

Studio: BCI Eclipse
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 710 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• All Ages
• Animation
• Fantasy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• "The Secret Origins of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe"
• "The Stories of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe"
• Two Collectible Art Cards
• Animated Storyboard Comparison
• 50 Profiles of Characters, Creatures and Artifacts
• Trivia
• DVD-ROM Scripts

Accomplices

• IMDb
• He-Man.org








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