LEGENDS OF THE SUPER HEROES
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Back in the bizarro world of the late 1970s, Hanna-Barbera Productions was producing the popular “SuperFriends” cartoon series. To coincide with this superhero-themed program, the company produced a live-action version of the show, variety show style. Two episodes were produced. The first featured “The Challenge” in which the Legion of Doom plotted in their underground lair how to trick the Super Heroes into drinking a potion that would rid them of their powers.
The second episode was a roast… yes, a roast by celebrity sidekick Ed McMahon. The “Tonight Show” personality came in to poke fun at the Super Heroes, with a few surprise guest, including lesser (and obviously fake) heroes like Ghetto Man. Oh boy, the drugs were good in the 70s.
WHAT I LIKED
I remember watching these shows when they aired back in 1979. Being only eight years old and a huge fan of the “SuperFriends,” I thought they were genius. In this sense, they completely captured the spirit of the 70s, mixing silly superhero types (remember that Richard Donner’s “Superman” was to date the only really serious superhero movie) and the era’s love for variety show programming.
While horribly written and campy as all get-out, looking back on this more than three decades later gives it a bizarre charm. What was just a bit silly in the 70s had become unwatchable in the 80s and 90s but is strangely nostalgic and wildly entertaining today.
Prior to this release from Warner Archive, the only way to watch these shows was on blurry YouTube videos, and I had dabbled before. While shot on videotape with shockingly low production value, they still look pretty decent for the era in question.
Also, one thing to love about this was that outside of the 1960s TV series and the “Batman” feature film, it is the only other time that Adam West and Burt Ward (as the middle-aged wonder by this point) played Batman and Robin on screen. (It is also the only other time that Frank Gorshin played The Riddler.)
“The Legends of the SuperHeroes” is a train wreck, but in a goofy and unbelievably entertaining way. Hardly quality work, I still could not look away and will likely watch this several times over the coming years for a good laugh.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Were I to take this show seriously as a stab at the superhero genre, there’d be plenty to complain about. Forget the shoddy casting of the heroes, it’s the casting of the super-villains that really boggle the mind. Charlie Callas as Sinestro? Wouldn’t that be like casting Mel Brooks as Lex Luthor? Sure, but such was the case in this show.
Additionally, the elaborate schemes the Legion of Doom had to do the superheroes in are convoluted and illogical. If Sinestro has a power ring, why does he need to sabotage the Batmobile (which was left unguarded and unlocked at the side of the road)? Why, if the Weather Wizard has such power over nature, must they dupe the superheroes into drinking a potion?
Finally, the roast episode is just plain insanity. Whoever thought this would be a good idea got away with television murder here because the show is almost painfully ridiculous… but in a good way.
Sadly, there’s no special features on this release, and that’s a shame because I’d love to see how high the people were when they made this show.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Anyone who lived through the 70s and remembers when this was cool.