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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures
DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures
Warner Bros. // Unrated // August 12, 2008
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Cornelius | posted September 10, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The DVD

It's been a long, weird road in bringing Filmation's 1966-70 DC Comics cartoon series to DVD. Much of the problem stems from Filmation's own layout of the shows, which morphed from year to year in order to spotlight different characters, often mixing reruns of old material in with the new stuff. "The New Adventures of Superman" became "The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure," then "The Batman/Superman Hour," then, just to make our heads spin, back to "The New Adventures of Superman" for its final 1969-70 season. Each episode consisted of several cartoon shorts, which would get shuffled here and there as reruns ran on.

Warner Brothers' solution to this mess has been to divide the show completely, offering up DVD collections of the separate shorts, rather than the shows as a whole, as they originally aired. It's a tough call - the upside of getting, say, nothing but Superman cartoons, without the filler, must face the downside of fans being denied original broadcast versions of their favorite shows.

But what of that filler? Both "The New Adventures of Superman" and "Batman/Superman" featured two Superman shorts sandwiching a Superboy cartoon, while "Superman/Aquaman" branched out in the DC Universe, nixing Superboy but bringing in a rotating series of cartoons featuring Green Lantern, the Flash, and others. As Superman and Aquaman landed on disc, fans began to wonder if we'd ever see anything else from this era.

Superboy remains absent, being locked in legal limbo for what seems to be the umpteenth year. But the rest? They're finally out of the vault. Warner Bros. has released "DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures," a two-disc set compiling all the random cartoons left over from "Superman/Aquaman." Eighteen shorts in all, three apiece from the various guest stars.

That's the good news. The bad news is that like the rest of Filmmation's output of the era, these shorts just aren't very good, and work only in serving up a nice warm dish of Saturday morning nostalgia to older Gen-Xers. The animation is still flat, relying too much on an embarrassing amount of stock footage, while the writing barely squeaks past one-dimensional, with redundant adventures and unimpressive villains.

And yet there is some interest. The three shorts featuring the Justice League of America offers a curious precursor to Hanna-Barbera's popular "Super Friends" franchise of the 1970s (which wasn't very good, either). It's a blast to see one of DC's B-listers, the Atom, get his own spotlight. And the totally unhip attempts at being hip via the 1960s incarnation of the Teen Titans acts as a grin-inducing time capsule - dig that crazy DVD review!

The discs are housed in a single-wide keep case with a hinged tray for the second disc. The cartoons included in this set are:

Disc One:

The Atom starring in "Invasion of the Beetle-Men", "The Plant Master", and "The House of Doom".

The Flash (the Barry Allen version) plus - ugh - Kid Flash in "The Chemo-Creature", "Take a Giant Step", and To Catch a Blue Bolt".

Green Lantern (the Hal Jordan version) in "Evil Is As Evil Does", "The Vanishing World", and "Sirena, Empress of Evil".

Disc Two:

Hawkman starring in "Peril from Pluto", "A Visit to Venus", and "The Twenty-Third Dimension".

Justice League of America (Superman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Aquaman, the Atom, and the Flash) in "In Between Two Armies", "Target Earth", and "Bad Day on Black Mountain".

Teen Titans (Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy, and Aqualad) in "The Monster Machine", The Space Beast Round-Up", and "Operation: Rescue".

The redundancy of these adventures - which follow such a strict formula that the villains, settings, and dangers could all be interchangeable in a build-your-own-cartoon sort of way - means that it's best not to watch these in a marathon sitting. Younger viewers will likely enjoy the kid-friendly action, but only for a while, and older nostalgia-seekers will find a hard time enjoying more than one cartoon at a time.

Video & Audio

Presented in their original 1.33:1 broadcast formats, these shorts suffer from plenty of dirt and scratches (especially in their well-worn title sequences), plus an abundance of grain and softness throughout. Colors have held up fairly well, however, having faded only slightly, and we must remember that these cartoons never really looked that good.

The mono soundtrack fares better, free of hiss and distortion. The sound can be muddy at times (again, especially during the title sequences), but nothing too distracting. A mono Portuguese dub is included, as are optional English SDH and Portuguese subtitles.

Extras

Disc One kicks off with that obnoxious anti-piracy PSA that uses clips from "The Wizard of Oz" to yell at eight-year-olds about their bootleg habit. Sheesh.

Disc Two features a handful of previews for other Warner releases. A separate batch of previews plays as the disc loads.

The real extra here is "Lou Scheimer: Animation Maverick," a hefty (40 min.) documentary on the life of Filmation founder Scheimer. It's a lovely piece, detailing Scheimer's admirable work ethic and people-first attitude as employer, yet never dipping into over-glorification. Schemier's stories are always a treat, especially those regarding his early days, when his business partners had to fool potential clients into thinking the company was bigger than it really was. The discussion on the studio's eventual downfall is heartbreaking. In an odd move (perhaps to avoid potential copyright issues), the feature seems to go out of its way to avoid mentioning non-Warner-owned projects by name; if you're not listening carefully, you'll miss hearing "He-Man" by name, then wonder what the heck they're talking about. (Presented in 1.33:1 full frame.)

Not listed as an extra, but quite welcome, are the "Original 'As-Aired' 1967 Aquaman End Credits," accessible through the episode selection menu on both discs.

Final Thoughts

"DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures" is fun for a quick retro fix, but the thrills don't last too long. These aren't great cartoons by any measure, and the replay value - even for new, young fans - is limited. The Scheimer documentary is a welcome touch, but not enough to make the disc worthy of a purchase. Rent It.
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