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DVD SAVANT

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Volume Two


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Volume Two
Family Home Entertainment
1988 / Color / 1:33 flat full frame / 13 x 22 min. / Street Date April 26, 2005 / 14.98
Starring the voices of Cam Clarke, Barry Gordon, Rob Paulsen, Townsend Coleman, Renae Jacobs, Pete Renaday, James Avery, Pat Fraley
Original Music Dennis C. Brown, Chuck Torre
Written by Joe DiStefano, Marc Handler, Christy Marx, Michael Reaves, Stan Sakai, David Wise from characters by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
Produced by Kara Vallow, Fred Wolf

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

In the late 1980s Savant had small children and spent a lot of time trying to ignore most of Saturday morning television with the exception of Pee Wee's Playhouse. Then we discovered this hip (well, by seven year-old standards) cartoon series being shown at about 6 a.m., as if the networks were afraid of parental kickback about a show where grimacing green reptiles leap about with deadly samurai weapons. The show was a favorite around our house and figured in plenty of grade-school dinner table discussions. It even allowed Savant to steer the conversation toward his own pet subjects: "Ya know, kids, that Technodrome is really like a giant dome in this old Japanese movie ..." The Mutant Turtles weren't superceded until the more sophisticated The Tick came along.

Although the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show didn't air until 1987, it had begun as a reportedly much darker and violent comic book in 1984. The first season television show softened the heroes in a half-, but retained a lot of fighting with swords, Nunchakus and trident daggers. It also added characters like BeBop and RockSteady for comic relief. In the comic, the turtles' sensei Splinter was Hamato Yoshi's pet rat turned into a man-rat via an all-purpose goop called Mutagen. In the show he started out as Hamato Yoshi.

Season two's thirteen episodes are lighter in tone and far less violent; the show went international that year, changing from ninja turtles to hero turtles in England, where words like ninja are unaccountably banned from children's television. A lot of new characters are introduced, such as Iris and Tiffany, the new girlfriend of April O'Neil's boss Burnes. New monster characters, like a human fly version of Baxter Stockman and a mutated amphibian named Napoleon Bonafrog, appeared first as toys.

The second season arc starts with Krang (the Brain-thing in the stomach of a muscleman monster) dispatching Shredder to eliminate the turtles alone. Aliens set him in search of the Eye of Sarnoth,  1, a three-piece crystal that provided the source of several shows' worth of monsters - rampaging machines, overgrown vines, etc. They shrink the turtles down to a tiny size as well.

The shows do takeoffs on science fiction movies and play with a variety of fresh ideas within the concept. Splinter becomes Hamato Yoshi again in one episode. Giant meatball monsters resemble the frightening creature from the Alien movies, and Shredder's nerdy henchman Baxter Stockman is reconfigured by one of Krang's molecular force fields into a lookalike of the original 1958 The Fly.

When the writers borrow, they do a reasonable job of it. In one episode Shredder uses a Pizza bake-off to trap the turtles in the same way that Prince John used an archery tournament to catch Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The beginning of one episode will now have a different feeling - Shredder tests a new weapon atop the World Trade Center.

Finally, the densely plotted final episode has Krang return with the Technodrome through a giant portal at Niagara Falls, while the turtles scramble once again to save the world.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles do become a bit tiresome for adults, with the same buzz lines ("Let's haul shell!" "Cowabunga!") being repeated all too frequently. A few questionable zingers slip through ("You don't suppose he bent the big one, do ya?") but kids certainly respond to the punchy theme song and the surfer-dude turtle attitudes. It was a nice show on the road toward more involving entertainment.

Episodes:

Return of the Shredder, The Incredible Shrinking Turtles, It Came from Beneath the Sewers, The Mean Machines, Curse of the Evil Eye, The Case of the Killer Pizzas, Enter: The Fly; Splinter No More, Teenagers from Dimension X, Invasion of the Punk Frogs, New York's Shiniest, The Cat Woman of Channel Six, Return of the Technodrome.


Family Home Entertainment's DVD of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Volume Two is a decent encoding of about six hours worth of cartoons jammed onto one side of one disc. The audio is fine and the picture acceptable on a smaller monitor, but the necessary sparse encoding results in a mottled look to many shots on a home theater screen. There are no other extras, but the menus and packaging art are very nicely done.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Volume Two rates:
TV show: Very Good
Video: Good
Sound: Very Good
Supplements: none
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 8, 2005


Footnote:

1. Official sites call this the Eye of Zarnoth or Zarnott; to Savant it seems to be a reference to television's legendary David Sarnoff. But perhaps not - Sarnoff's network was NBC; the "Eye" logo belongs to CBS.
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DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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