Baby Boomers, if you long to relive your childhood through the magic of DVD technology, look no further! The super kitschy kids' program Diver Dan is here to save the day!
Diver Dan consists of 15 episodes, but they are only about seven minutes long each, and they run in sequential order, so it is best to avoid the included chapter selections and watch the entire DVD straight through. The language is surprisingly advanced, full of long words and complex sentences; it doesn't talk down to children in any way. The plotlines, however, are fairly difficult to follow. There is always some threat that the mean Baron Barracuda and his sometimes reluctant buddy, Triggerfish, are cooking up. Usually it involves exploding something underwater, but Diver Dan is always there in time to go to the rescue.
The scene is set behind an actual fish tank. The fish characters are fake, obviously, but real fish can be seen swimming in front of the characters. Fake bubbles and a constant bubbling sound further give the feel that the characters are underwater. Miss Minerva, the lovely blonde mermaid who helps the fish characters and Diver Dan at times, is a nice addition, and it keeps the show from feeling too male-dominated. Diver Dan defies the laws of physics by plodding steadily along the ocean floor. His concern for his fishy friends and his appropriately slow walking, as though he is fighting the density of the water, outweighs oversights like this, however.
My six-year-old son, on whom I test drive some of the DVDs I review when in need of a purely juvenile opinion, pronounced the whole thing "great" and gave it the thumbs-up sign. I was torn by this one. On the one hand, Diver Dan has fantastic kitsch value, but on the other hand, the plots are kind of dumb. It is definitely worth a look for nostalgia value, but in terms of long-term re-watchability, it's doubtful. If my son is any indication, however, little boys will enjoy it.
This DVD is presented in full screen, just as one might have viewed it years ago. The picture quality is terrible, but let's cut this disc some slack, as the footage is close to forty years old. The picture flickers and is spotty at times, but the overall visual effects are quite good. The fish characters are actually puppets, but it really looks as though they are swimming, and it is difficult to make out nay strings that were used to manipulate them. Overall, the picture is about what one would expect viewing a black-and-white television series from almost forty years ago.
The sound has a reedy, uneven quality to it, however I contend that this is permissible given the age of the series. The voices and very dramatic music can be very clearly heard, and the voice of the narrator is very smooth. Remember the old days of LPs and 45s? As much as I love my iPod, I do remember that slightly scratchy quality to my mother's old LP collection that gave the music real character. The sound on this DVD is akin to that.
There are no extras included on this release, but be sure to read the interesting production notes on the back of the keep case. It discusses how this show began as a syndicated series out of Philadelphia in 1960, and that most of the characters were voiced by the legendary Allen Swift. Listen closely and you will hear the same voices he lent to shows like Underdog.
Be warned, however, that the keep case is in full color, even the scenes from the show. This is incredibly misleading, because all of the episodes are in black-and-white. There is nothing wrong with black-and-white, and it is actually quite effective in setting the era of the show in context, however, potential buyers deserve more than a small mention of this fact on the back of the box.
Kids over the age of eight may find this show a little corny, but parents who remember shows like this when they actually aired will absolutely adore this little piece of television history. This is the beauty of DVD; it makes shows available that haven't been since they originally aired. Rent this one before you buy, though, just to make sure it's a keeper.