Wednesday, May 9, 2007

JASON OF STAR COMMAND

I just finished watching the complete JASON OF STAR COMMAND (1978-79) – cartoon studio Filmation’s final live-action show and probably the most expensive kid’s program of its era – and it was a lot of fun reverting to a 13-year-old mind frame and watching the show again.

A more action-oriented spin-off of the studio’s SPACE ACADEMY, using many of the same sets and models, but eschewing the previous show’s "educational" stories in favor of STAR WARS-inspired action, JASON was serialized sci-fi in the FLASH GORDON tradition. The stories basically pitted the titular hero (Craig Littler, SUPERBEAST), a Han Solo-esque soldier of fortune attached to Space Command, against the evil, would-be ruler of the universe, Dragos (the wonderful Sid Haig, GALAXY OF TERROR, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS). Other cast members include James Doohan (STAR TREK), Tamara Dobson (CLEOPATRA JONES), and Susan O’Hanlon (ALL MY CHILDREN). The stories are slight and silly, but fun; space opera for kids with really remarkable special effects.

In fact, as impressed as I was with the miniatures and effects on SPACE ACADEMY, the FX work on JASON, by the same team, shows a marked improvement, both in conception and execution. The quantity of and variety of shots is impressive, as well as the surprising number of stop-motion alien menaces that appeared on the show. Pretty amazing, considering their limited resources. For fans of old school special effects (guilty!), these discs are something of a treasure trove of pre-computerized FX work.

The first season ran as 15-minute segments of the TARZAN & THE SUPER SEVEN show, but in season 2, it graduated to it’s own half-hour berth. This three-disc set includes all the episodes from both seasons.

The full-frame transfers are on a par with the SPACE ACADEMY discs, a little soft, but light-years better than the bootlegs floating around the comic book conventions.
The new documentary includes on-screen interviews with Craig Littler and Sid Haig. They both are obviously fond of the show and seem to have had fun making it. Littler is now the Gorton’s Fisherman in TV commercials, while Haig continues to appear in horror films and other supporting roles. Three commentary tracks are included, featuring Littler, Haig, Filmation chief Lou Scheimer and various FX artists. There’s also a special effects demo reel, image galleries, original scripts and promos for BCI’s other Filmation discs.

This should be on sale soon, and if you’re another aging sci-fi fan who came of age in the Seventies, you might want to check it out. Decent price, too.

BUY: Jason of Star Command - The Complete Series