Monday, July 11, 2011

THE HERCULOIDS - THE COMPLETE SERIES

I've always thought that Hanna-Barbara's THE HERCULOIDS (1967-1969) not only had one of the coolest names ever, but was possibly the greatest concept for a Saturday Morning adventure cartoon ever devised.

Zantor (Mike Road) is something of an intergalactic Tarzan, living on the jungle planet Quasar with his mate, Tarra (Virginia Gregg) and son, Dorno (Ted Eccles). Unfortunately, their home appears to be the target of choice for every evil being in the universe (it's never explained why), and they are constantly besieged by armies of alien invaders, equipped with the most advanced weapon technology in the cosmos. Although this family of tree-dwellers would appear to be seriously outmatched, Zantor and his family have five secret weapons: a giant stone ape named Igoo, a flying, laser-firing dragon called Zok, an armored, ten-legged rhino/triceratops creature named Tundro, and two, shape-shifting, sentient bags of protoplasm, Gloop and Gleep. Whenever their lush jungle homeworld is threatened, these heroic monsters team up to defend Quasar and make short work of their interstellar enemies.

Extremely popular (it was repeated on the networks well into the late 70s and on cable for decades after that), and fondly remembered by those who grew up with it during their childhoods, THE HERCULOIDS is a great action/adventure cartoon - and how could it not be? A space Tarzan, heroic monsters, hordes of cool alien, robots and flying saucers/rocketships - it's got everything!

Each episode is made up of two ten-minute stories, and they're all pretty much the same, with minor variations. That repetitiveness means that the show does not lend itself to prolonged watching in single sittings - but then, it was never intended to be watched that way in the first place. Still, despite the repetitive nature of the plots, the incredible character and creature designs of comic book artist Alex Toth help keep it fresh. The man's imagination was boundless, and the variety of alien menaces that he came up with was astounding.

Long desired by fans, THE HERCULOIDS have finally made it to DVD courtesy of the Warner Archives manufactured-on-demand service. All 18 episodes of the original 60s series are included on 2 discs, presented in their original 1.33:1 "full-frame" television aspect ratio. The transfers are acceptable but not outstanding, with faded colors on some episodes, scattered occurrences of print damage like scratches and specks, and fairly omnipresent grime. In other words, no restoration or remastering appears to have been done, and these episodes look pretty much the same as they have in reruns for years. Audio is a clear but flat Dolby Digital mono. There is one extra: a brief retrospective featurette that previously appeared on Warner's SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS: THE 1960s disc.

If you're a fan of 60s Hanna-Barbara adventure cartoons - and/or this cartoon in particular - the Warner Archive edition of THE HERCULOIDS is long overdue, and should make a welcome addition to your DVD library, despite the less than stellar presentation and slightly high price. It appears to be complete, and none of the various image imperfections seriously impair the viewing experience. If you're not already a fan, I still recommend it - but bear in mind that all 18 episodes (36 stories) are almost exactly the same. The real enjoyment of THE HERCULOIDS comes from the endlessly imaginative characters/creatures and the comforting familiarity of the plot(s).

Personally, I love it and am thrilled to have it on DVD. Recommended.

BUY: Herculoids: The Complete Series