Judge David Johnson once had the power, but he lost it in a game of Pinochle.
Our reviews of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe: Season One, Volume Two (published February 13th, 2006), He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe: Season Two, Volume One (published June 7th, 2006), He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe: Season Two, Volume Two (published November 22nd, 2006), He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe: The Complete Second Season (published October 23rd, 2011), He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe (2002): The Complete Series (published October 26th, 2009), He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe (2002): Volume One (published February 27th, 2008), He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe (2002): Volume Three (published August 20th, 2008), and He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe (2002): Volume Two (published June 11th, 2008) are also available.
"Forward, lackeys, in the name of destruction!!!"
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:
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?
King Randor and Queen Marlena
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.
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.
By the power of Grayskull…NOT GUILTY!!!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BCI Eclipse
• "The Secret Origins of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe"
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