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Thundarr The Barbarian - The Complete Series

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    Ian Jane
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  • Thundarr The Barbarian - The Complete Series

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    Released by: Warner Archive
    Released on: 9/28/2010
    Director: Various
    Cast: Robert Ridgely, Nellie Bellflower, Henry Corden, Adam Pocket
    Year: 1980 - 1982
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    A series that ran for two seasons from 1980 through 1982, Thundarr The Barbarian was a fun Hanna-Barbera series that was produced by Ruby-Spears and originally aired on ABC only to be syndicated in reruns on NBC the year after it was cancelled. While it was a fun series, it wasn't really all that original. It borrowed from Planet Of The Apes (at one point if you look for it you'll see a trashed Statue Of Liberty in the background of an early episode!) and blended it with elements obviously culled from Conan The Barbarian, though tamed down quite a bit for a children's audience.

    The series was set in the 'future' where the Earth has become a bit of a wasteland, we learn that the planet has been divvied up into chunks ruled by various wizards and bad guys. When it all hit the fan, not only was the Earth thrown into chaos, but the moon was split into two somehow as well. We're never really told how or why this happened but it does appear to have wreaked havoc with tides and weather and other assorted moon related topographical issues. At any rate, the main character is, as you could probably guess, a barbarian named Thundarr, who looks an awful lot like Conan and who predates He-Man by a good few years. He rides around on a horse accompanied by Ookla The Mok, a sasquatch/wookie type creature who grunts and howls a lot and who is considerably stronger than pretty much anyone else around. The third member of the group is the lovely Princess Ariel, a fox with sexy boots and magical powers. Together the three make their way from the east coast to the west coast trying to set things right where they can, encountering all manner of wizards, warriors and ne'er do wells along the way.

    Short on plot and high on action, Thundarr The Barbarian featured some recognizable design work not only by Hanna-Barbera regular Alex Toth (who worked on Space Ghost and Birdman) but also Jack Kirby. In fact, one of the villains, Mindlok The Menace, looks an awful lot like Darkside from Kirby's Fourth World work for DC Comics (think Forever People and Mister Miracle) and it bears some similarities to his Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth. Comic nerdiness aside (I could go on but I won't) Thundarr's not the most slick looking show to ever hit the air and it lakes the psychedelic traits of something like Bakshi's Spider-Man but if you're at all familiar with Kirby's style, you'll notice it a lot in the backgrounds and the character design. The influence of Star Wars is also obvious, as Thundarr wields a sun-sword, which is pretty much just a lightsaber with the name changed to avoid a lawsuit from Lucasfilm.

    The series does get repetitive despite the fact that the writers (Buzz Dixon, Martin Pasko, Mark Evanier, and Steve Gerber among others - find more comic book guys in that short list if you dare!) do try to throw in different types of threats in each episode. Thundarr does some to specialize in dealing with evil wizard types but also periodically takes on giant metal robot things, a giant lobster, weird sort-of humanoid types like Mindlok and more. The resolution, however, is almost always the same. Things don't ever get too deep in the world of 3994, though on a superficial level they are at least exciting.

    This set from Warner Archives includes all twenty-one episodes that were broadcast, spread across four DVDs which, like all Warner Archive titles, are basically burned on demand and essentially made to order. The episodes are spread out across the four discs in the set as follows:

    Disc One: Secret Of The Black Pearl / Harvest Of Doom / Mindok The Mind Menace / Raiders Of The Abyss / Treasure Of The Moks

    Disc Two: Attack Of The Amazon Women / The Brotherhood Of The Night / Challenge Of The Wizards / Valley Of The Man-Apes / Stalker From The Stars

    Disc Three: Portal Into Time / Battle Of The Barbarians / Den Of The Sleeping Demon / Wizard Wars / Fortress Of Fear / Island Of The Body Snatchers

    Disc Four: City Of Evil / Last Train To Doomsday / Master Of The Stolen Sunsword / Trial By Terror / Prophecy Of Peril

    It's all rather ropey and dopey by modern standards and not exactly a thinking man's cartoon, but the constant location changes add to the fun and the Kirby/Toth style is visually pleasing even if the animation can be crude in spots. If the show might not necessarily appeal to today's kids, those of us who grew up when it was on and remember it fondly will definitely have a lot fun revisiting the series here.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The series was shown on television in the early eighties so a fullframe aspect ratio makes sense of the presentation here. As far as the video quality goes, these transfers were taken from existing materials and so they don't look as razor sharp or crystal clear as you might want. Generally speaking, however, the transfers are pretty decent. Colors are nicely defined and print damage, dirt and debris are kept to a minimum.

    The no frills Dolby Digital Mono sound mix is in English with no alternate language dubs, subtitles or closed captions provided. The audio is clean and clear and you won't have any problems understanding the dialogue. The levels fluctuate a bit here and there and there are a few spots where the effects are a bit loud, but these are minor complaints. Generally the audio sounds just fine.

    Aside from a static menu screen, this disc is completely barebones.

    The Final Word:

    Thundarr The Barbarian might not be the most highbrow animated series to ever grace the small screen but for some of us, it'll be a mainlined rush of nostalgia and Hanna-Barbera completists already know that they need this set. WB's burn on demand release isn't going to win any awards, but it gets you the whole set in decent shape at a fair price.
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