Today I’m reviewing the Warner Archive release of a Saturday morning classic, FRANKENSTEIN, JR. & THE IMPOSSIBLES: The COMPLETE SERIES. It’s also under the banner of The Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection.
Note – all screencaps are unmodified
It was part of the huge offering of Saturday morning super-hero action shows Hanna-Barbera had on CBS from 1966 to 1968. Debuting in 1966 with SPACE GHOST & DINO BOY, the two shows proved so popular, that CBS ordered 3 more super hero series from Hanna-Barbera. (NBC, not wanting to be outdone ordered two as well from H-B.) Where Space Ghost (and the others that followed, for the most part) were more straightforward action, FJ&TI was a cross between that and H-B’s typically lighter, ‘cartoonish’ fare. Each half hour show was comprised of three episodes, each between 9 & 10 minutes (FAR less commercials back then). The back story for each was fairly simple –
Frankenstein, Jr. – Boy scientist Buzz Conroy & his dad built an amazing giant robot to fight monsters &/or the evil scientists that create them, or alien menaces. They even make him look like a super hero, complete with mask & cape. Buzz would summon him with his ‘Radar Ring’ which could bounce off anything & hit its mark, which was the antenna atop Frankie’s head. Buzz would usually ride on his shoulder, so he could push buttons for extra functions, though he had a rocket pack to jump off to safety, if the fighting got too intense. Ted Cassidy (best known to TV audiences as Lurch, the butler of The Addams Family) provided Junior’s voice. Buzz was voiced by Dick Beals & Prof. Conroy was voiced by John Stephenson (who was the first to voice Dr. Quest on JONNY QUEST).
The Impossibles – Three famous teen musicians turn into a team of super heroic teens, when danger threatens the innocent.
The members of the team are:
Coil Man, whose body turns into super springs letting him stretch and bounce impossibly far (voiced by Hal Smith, best known as Otis, the town drunk on ANDY GRIFFITH)
Fluid Man, who can turn into any form of water and control liquids (voiced by Paul Frees, master voiceover artist, who also narrated and voiced many villains)
Multi-Man, who can seemingly create an infinite amount of body duplicates, using them to form bridges, walls and of course, an army (voiced by legendary H-B voice-man Don Messick)
Their chief is the mysterious “Big ‘D'” (There are those who think it stands for Big Daddy) and he calls them to arms, usually in the middle of a performance or rehearsal, over the video phone in Coily’s guitar (also voiced by Paul Frees).
As a kid, I loved this show. One reason I loved Frankie, was because it was SO much like Gigantor (which was in syndication weekday mornings around the same time). Many years later, without the benefit of childhood innocence, I realized it was possibly NOT that much of a coincidence. My favorite part of the show were the Impossible episodes, and my favorite was Coil Man. I certainly was taken back watching the DVD, but I couldn’t help making some key observations:
- There were never any origins for either feature, they were just ‘there’ to start with.
- Even though there were TWO Impossibles episodes to one Frankie every week, and the opening titles were geared 99% to the Impossibles, Frankie got top billing.
- Though they were always saying that the Impossibles’ identities were secret, they always seemed to change in the middle of their concert, or a crowd, whenever Big D called. PLUS, their singing group was ALSO named the Impossibles. In an episode when they hand out autographs, you can see they signed their papers as “Fluey”, “Coily” and “Multi”, which were the nicknames they called each other. Even more, their stage changed into their flying car, and they’d even be driving (or flying) the car in their singing identities.
This didn’t spoil my enjoyment, but I just wanted to point it out. It’s still a LOT of fun.
I have yet to check out the other H-B Super Hero Warner Archives releases (HERCULOIDS, YOUNG SAMSON and MOBY DICK & MIGHTOR), but I WAS able to compare it to the two H-B Super Hero mainstream releases I have at my disposal, SPACE GHOST & DINO BOY and BIRDMAN & THE GALAXY TRIO. Personally, I think this release was far better than the ‘mainstream’ releases.
For one thing, the packaging is better. The cases for SG&DB and BM&TGT were designed to be ‘fancier’ than the normal release, using a cardboard slipcase design, with a single holder for both discs. To make matters worse (IMHO), they were double-sided which I’ve NEVER liked. FJ&TI is on TWO discs, ensuring the best quality. The case for FJ&TI is a standard plastic case, with a separate holder for the second disc. The box art is new (as far as I can tell), drawn in the style of the cartoon. It follows the Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection format, as opposed to the Warner Archives format. This is also the case with the discs themselves. They’re not the standard WAC ‘Blue’ discs. The only change I’d make is the addition of an episode list, either an insert, or printed on the inside of the jacket (The case is translucent).
The menu is VERY easy to navigate. You have the option to choose either to watch all the episodes (including the opening & closing credits), or the individual cartoons. This is also an improvement, I feel, over the ‘mainstream’ releases. On those, you could either watch them all, or watch each 30 min (appx) show, but NOT the individual cartoons.
There IS a bit of a bonus on here. On Disc 2, there is a ten minute featurette that offers background and insights into the show. You’ll learn the ORIGINAL name that was planned for Frankie, and see original storyboards and cast call sheets. It’s an excellent treat!
The audio quality is excellent. It’s very crisp. I clearly noticed that there were two distinctly different narrations that Paul Frees did for the opening. One sounded almost sinister, the other, a bit more upbeat. The upbeat intro seemed to be a bit louder and clearer than the other, and that shows that it was clearly taken from the originals, as they were, instead of using just one opening for all the episodes in the set. Naturally enough, the picture is full screen, and the video quality is Very good.
There are no extra languages, nor any subtitles. The discs are DVD-R (as are all Archive Collection made-on-demand program releases). It played with no problem on both my 5 year old DVD player and my HP Pavillion G Notebook*
I absolutely loved this offering. The packaging was great, the quality was great, and we have some behind the scenes info as well. The only thing that slightly disappointed me was the absence of the two ‘bumpers’. Bumpers were 20 second animations that were used when the commercials ended, before the title cards of the second and third cartoons. The first has Frankie helping the Impossibles and the second shows the band playing then changing into their super-selves.
By all means, hop on this nostalgia express for a trip back to the Saturday mornings of childhood!
I give Warner Archive’s release of FRANKENSTEIN, JR. & THE IMPOSSIBLES: THE COMPLETE SERIES my HIGHEST rating – 5 out of 5 ‘Jaggies’!
Make sure to visit their site at http://www.warnerarchives.com
and to follow them on Twitter – @WarnerArchive
*- There is a note on the back which states that the disc is designed to work in ‘play only’ devices and may not work in DVD recorders or PC drives.