Tight and clingy, the bodysuit Judge Dennis Prince wears underneath his robes suggests his weaponry is still in good working order.
"Great galaxy! What are those weird things?!"
In a deep and distant galaxy, there's never a shortage of sinister goings-on and indescribable invasions by criminals and creatures intent upon wanton destruction. Space Ghost (Gary Owen, Laugh-In) is an interplanetary law enforcement officer based at his own Ghost Planet. He cruises the airless void in his ship, the Phantom Cruiser, to thwart alien creatures and criminals bent upon doing evil and suppressing the lawful. Armed with multi-purpose power bands and his own unique "inviso-power," Space Ghost is always ready to come to the aid of those in peril. Interestingly, there seem to be very few thriving civilizations within the reaches of space where our hero patrols. Subsequently, it is he and his two young companions, Jan (Ginny Tyler, The Adventures of Gulliver) and Jace (Tim Mathieson, Johnny Quest), plus their pet monkey, Blip, who become the target of the evil designs of cretins and creatures like Zorak, Brak, the Metallus, and the Heat Thing. Meanwhile, in another place and seemingly another time, a young boy has been forced to parachute from a crashing plane where he descends into a land out of time full of prehistoric terrors. Just as a saber-tooth tiger is about to pounce, the boy is rescued by an amazing caveman, Ugh, who takes the boy as his own and protects him from the dangers of the Lost Valley.
During the mid-Sixties, Hanna-Barbera studios was the fertile factory responsible for populating the lion's share of Saturday morning television. Youngsters of the day were dazzled from the early morning hours until lunchtime, entertained by the unrelenting adventures that eked from their television picture tubes. Among the most popular of the H-B adventure format shows was Space Ghost, intoned by the unmistakably commanding voice of Gary Owen. Each week, youthful viewers—and some curious adults, I'm sure—would tune in watch the boldly assertive space avenger dispatch the denizens of deepest space. The character design, developed by the renown Alex Toth, was simple but nevertheless effective. The action was formulaic and largely repetitive but it was still reasonably captivating to most ages, making this a quick hit with the Saturday morning crowd and paving the way for many more H-B adventure shows (including The Herculoids, Mighty Mightor, Shazzan, and others). In fact, in a clever but somewhat clumsy crossover promotion, the final two episodes of Space Ghost duly jettisoned the sandwiched Dino Boy in the Lost Valley cartoon in order to present a six-segment storyline that gathers the top villains to pursue Space Ghost and ultimately leads him into friendly encounters with the aforementioned heroes (plus a few others) to help launch those cartoons during their flagship seasons. Having achieved this, these original Space Ghost shows would then enter re-run broadcasts.
Now, after much pissing and moaning from yours truly (including the annual "letter to Santa" appeal to extend the reach of my whining petition), Warner Brothers had finally rescued Space Ghost and Dino Boy from intergalactic imprisonment for my personal indulgence—and yours, too. This two-disc package is well designed, a fold-over slimline digipak neatly tucked into an outer slipcase with plenty of evocative artwork. The two flipper discs secured within contain the entire complement of 20 original episodes, each featuring two Space Ghost adventures with one Dino Boy in the Lost Valley excursion sandwiched in between. Framed at their original 1.33:1 television broadcast format, these episodes look pretty good but not excellent. The colors are as vibrant as a comic panel but the original source prints show speckles of dirt and damage. Additionally, the transfers exhibit those typical "jaggies," the aliasing that occurs when content is quickly mastered without much thought given to restorative matters. Originally aired within a 30-minute time slot, each show begins with a one-minute opening title sequence then proceeds into a six-minute Space Ghost installment. After this comes the opening titles that set up the similarly-timed presentation of Dino Boy in the Lost Valley. The show wraps up with one more Space Ghost adventure before the end titles roll. And even though these episodes aren't immaculate in presentation, sporting a suitable yet not remarkable Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono audio, it's good news to find the complete series here. Then again, "complete" isn't an entirely accurate term since the episodes aren't truly complete. If you're familiar with the original airing of the show or perhaps happened to have grabbed one of the Worldvision VHS tapes back in the late 1980s, you'll see that these three-cartoon episodes do not contain the 15-second bumpers between adventures. The first was a mini-scenario where the Phantom Cruiser is gliding over the Lost Valley, spotting Dino Boy and Ugh being cornered by flying creatures. The other bumper featured Jan and Jace being pursued by a non-descript alien cruiser. Is it a big deal that these bumpers are missing? Emphatically, yes! Completists are very clear about what they consider faithful presentations and, sadly, this one doesn't measure up given the excising of this originally-aired material. Granted, the second bumper does appear—finally!—during the last two episodes but the crossover bumper featuring SG and Dino Boy never surfaces. Also missing are promotional TV spots, the sort that surely existed and could be found somewhere within the H-B vaults. Therefore, die-hard enthusiasts will still need to turn to original film of the show, occasionally available within the usual online auction circles, for complete and unaltered programming content. Pity.
Don't walk away entirely dejected, however, because the one key feature available here is an intriguing tribute piece to the Space Ghost creator, Alex Toth (say that "TOE-th"). The well-accomplished illustrator and designer is remembered by his surviving children as well as by a few others he had befriended—for a while, anyway. As Simplicity: The Life and Art of Alex Toth unfolds, we quickly learn that Toth was rather unpredictable, prone to mood swings and typically predisposed to abruptly cut off friendly relationships in rather unfriendly manner. His work is well regarded among those interviewed and his life is properly respected by his now-adult children (even to touching levels of emotional display), but it's apparently clear that Toth was sometimes a handful to manage. It's a compelling piece, nonetheless, that's certainly worth viewing.
In the end, it's highly satisfying to find the complete library of original Space Ghost adventures here, sprinkled with some Dino Boy fare, within this DVD package but it smacks of sinister doings that these episodes are not entirely "complete."
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Featurette: Simplicity: The Life and Art of Alex Toth
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