If you're from my generation, and you lived in a city that had a good independent TV station, chances are you were lucky enough to see Japanese tokusatsu series like Ultraman and Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot, those incredibly violent, insanely addictive live-action special effects extravaganzas featuring giant rubber monsters, fanciful sci-fi/fantasy sets and plots, and incredible stunts. After watching endless reruns of Bozo and Heckel and Jeckel, nothing on American TV looked like those shows. Kids were immediately hooked.
Of course now, through the wonders of DVDs, you can have all of those vintage tokusatsus at your fingertips, but back in the early 90s, those shows were just faint, half-remembered shadows in my mind; they had been off the local TV stations for years and years. But then the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers showed up, and secretly, twenty-somethings like myself might stroll by a set that happened to have them on, and those dusty memories of Johnny and Ultraman came flooding back. And the toys! Well, seriously, if you were lucky to have a kid back then, you could indulge every kick-ass martial arts fantasy you ever acted out with your old Johnny Sokko Flying Robot (the one that your Mom helpfully gave to Good Will without you knowing about it when you "too old for it.") through the myriad Power Rangers offerings at Toys R Us.
Well, the Power Rangers continue to this day, and the latest series that airs on Disney's Jetix channel, Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive, has been released on DVD (the first three volumes, Brownbeard's Pearl, Volume 1, Toru Diamond, Volume 2, and Blue Sapphire, Volume 3 are available, comprising the first eighteen episodes of the series). Being an unashamed fan of the series, I can say quite honestly that I never get tired of these quickly-paced tokusatsu adventures. Now I know there are quite a few hard-core websites out there devoted to the Power Ranger franchise, and they discuss at length the pros and cons of each new permutation in the long line of series. That's not me. I'm not an expert on the Power Rangers; I don't know all the series or the villains or the heroes, either. I'm just a dabbler in the Power Rangers canon.
Having said that, I quite enjoyed this latest variation on the series. Centering around the adventures of explorer and adventurer Andrew Hartford (Rod Lousich), Hartford has inadvertently released brothers Flurious (Gerald Urquhart) and Moltor (Mark Ferguson), who crave the Corona Aurora (the "Crown of the Gods"), a jewel-encrusted crown that will give them unlimited power. Hartford's recovery of the crown - sans the jewels - has awakened the brothers (Flurious was encased in ice; Moltor in lava), and now it's up to Hartford to pick five young novices to become the new Power Rangers, to fight the two villains.
Hartford selects Will Aston (Samuell Benta), a safecracker who will become the Black Power Ranger; Dax Lo (Gareth Yuen), a stunt man who will morph into the Blue Ranger; Ronny Robinson (Caitlin Murhpy), a race car driver soon to be the Yellow Ranger, and Rose Ortiz (Rhoda Montemayor), an archeologist who will be the Pink Ranger. After rearranging their DNA to boost their powers (Will=super hearing and sight; Dax=giant leaping; Ronny=super speed; Rose=invisibility), Hartford plans on joining the gang as the Red Ranger. But his son, Mack Hartford (James MacLurcan) wants to help, too; he feels neglected by his father who spends all his time on his adventures and who is overprotective of his son's well-being. Can Mack convince his dad to let him become the Red Power Ranger, and attain super strength? And will the Power Ranger Team be able to stop Moltor and Flurious before they gain the scattered jewels to put back into the Corona Aurora, and gain total domination over the world?
All of the hallmarks of past Power Rangers series are here, including a hyper-fast editing scheme (blink and you'll miss a lot), outsized stunts, huge, fiery explosions, morphin megazords, a copious assortment of incredible gadgets and weaponry (I particularly liked the Black Ranger's Drive Slammer), relatively cheesy but always fun special effects, and plenty of super-sweet chop socky action. Plot is negligible to the action, and if you miss something, it's okay; it's all going to get repeated in the next episode. The cast for this particular round-up is quite good, with MacLurcan an attractive lead hero, and Montemayor funny and cute as the too-smart-for-words Rose. Production values for Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive are smart, too, with always-interesting visuals and framing that keep things humming along. Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Blue Sapphire, Volume 3 continues the non-stop action, along with an easy-to-follow storyline. A new Power Ranger is added to the line-up: Tyzonn's Mercury Power Rangers. And new villains The Fearcats are a nice touch. Norg, however, still isn't all that funny.
Here are the seven episodes of Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Blue Sapphire, Volume 3:
Man of Mercury (Part 1)
Ronny gets close to Tyzonn as the Rangers battle their new enemies, The Fearcats. But their new adversaries proved to be formidable opponents. Meanwhile, Flurious keeps track of Team Kamdor and Miratrix, while the Rangers use the DriveMax UltraZord to defeat on of the Fearcats.
Man of Mercury (Part 2)
Tyzonn, liquefied at the end of Part 1, is reconstituted by Mr. H, but he still refuses to join the Power Rangers. What secret from his past keeps him from donning the uniform? And Flurious, not one to quit, has brought Fearcats Benglo and Mig back to life.
Behind the Scenes
A TV interview for Mr. H's college pal, Jessica Jeffries, goes horribly wrong when Miratrix fixes Tyzonn. Will Tyzonn get a Zord of his own, to battle the Fearcats, who now command the Giant Robot and Cannon of Ki Amuk?
Just Like Me
Mjolnir, the Hammer of Thor, Norse God of Thunder, is the prize for Moltor - who's sheltering runaway Norg. Meanwhile Tyzonn and Will start to dress alike.
It's Hammer Time
Mexico is the next stop for the Power Rangers, as every possible weapon and villain is thrown at them, including Kamdor, Miatrix, Flurious and his Chillers, Moltor and his Lava Lizards. Will the real god Thor actually show up and help the Power Rangers? Or is he a fake?
Out of Luck
Will runs out of luck when Blothgaar, using the Paedra Aztec Del Compass, gives Will's karma a 180 degree turn. Can the Power Rangers get him back in line?
One Gets Away
Will loses the third Jewel of the Corona to Kamdor and Miratrix - and resigns from the Power Rangers. Will he be redeemed? And can the Fearcats be stopped once they possess their Super Armor, given to them by Moltor?
The full frame, 1.33: video image for Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Blue Sapphire, Volume 3 is super-sharp and brightly hued, with a sparkling, clean picture.
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 stereo audio mix is fine for these adventures, but can you imagine them in 5.1 Surround? Come on, Disney - step up to the plate! There are English subtitles available, as well.
Ranger Vehicles has the cast introducing the various vehicles needed to be a Power Ranger. There's also a DVD game: Ranger Reserve Training Course Level 3 - Blue Jewel, that's kind of cool (my little boy loved playing it, just like the first two on Volumes 1 and 2).
The old days of Japanese tokusatsu like Ultraman and Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot live on in the hyped-up adventures of Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Blue Sapphire, Volume 3. Plenty of explosions, cool morphin zords, weapons, gadgets, and kick-ass chop socky make Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Blue Sapphire, Volume 3 an easy recommendation for the initiated.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.