Wednesday 28 November 2012

Legends of the Superheroes

Just-less League

Legends of the Superheroes
1978 USA
Directed by Bill Carruthers & Chris Darley
Warner Archives Region 1

Holy Catastrophe, Batman!

You know, on paper, Legends Of The Superheroes must have sounded like it might just have worked and, frankly, the line up for this live action superhero-fest is enough to get any comic book fan clamouring to see this... that was my first mistake.

Ten years after the last episode of the 1960s Batman TV show aired, Adam West and Burt Ward reprised their roles of Batman and Robin in the only two episodes of this show ever produced. Joining West and Ward are Captain Marvel, Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman, Black Canary and The Huntress. Frank Gorshin reprises his iconic TV role of The Riddler for the first episode but, it looks like he had enough sense to bail out in time before the second episode was shot. He joins up with such super villains as Dr. Silvana, Sinestro and Solomon Grundy to blow up the world unless the Justice Leaguers (never referred to as such, this is more or less a remake of an episode of the old Superfriends cartoon show) can work together, follow The Riddler’s clues and save the day... like you know they are going to.

I got really excited about this show a few months back when I found out about it, but there are two things that should have tipped me off as to just how unbelievable a mess of a TV show this is. These are the fact that it doesn’t seem to have ever aired in this country (having now seen it... I’m so not surprised) and the other obvious thing is that I’d never even heard of this one until a short while ago. Seriously... how does that happen? I was ten years old at the time and superheroes were “it”. How does this one manage to get shown anywhere without various people of my age group even finding out about it. Ahh... I guess the days before the internet had their advantages and disadvantages. But even so, to stay off my radar for this long? It’s almost like they tried to bury it (understandable)... until Warner Archives resurrected it on DVD. And I don’t really blame them to be honest... with all these superheroes in it, it’s bound to be a good seller.

To the unsuspecting public at large, that is.

Legends Of the Supeheroes is easily one of the worst, boring, only survive it by gnawing one of your own legs off* chapters in live action TV superhero shenanigans that was ever picked up on a cathode ray tube. No, worse than that... scrub out “one of”. It’s basically an excuse for various supervillains and other characters to mock the DC superheroes and for the DC heroes to go along with it and show just how stupid they are. All this to fake audience applause and horrible canned laughter. It’s unremarkably shot, has terrible acting (although West and Ward seem to be true to form, just a little more ridiculous but enjoyable when they're in their “zone”), has dire music and the cheapest special effects ever (The Flash just dematerialises and reappears somewhere else to signify that he must have run there at super speed). It’s sexist (the women seem to be deferred to in a derogatory manner quite often and chosen for their ability to look like they’re about to burst out of the top of their costume at any second), racist (don’t even get me started on “ghetto-man”) and, worse than all this, simply unfunny... although it’s definitely being played for laughs.

And as bad as you think this first episode is... the second episode manages to run this even further into the ground by being even lamer than the previous edition. The second takes the form of a “roast” where various supervillains and acquaintances run our heroes down, as hosted by Ed McMahon. Seriously, this show is so badly written and disrespectful of the characters that I’m really grateful we didn’t have this in the UK when I was a kid. It would have sullied the reputations of these characters so much that my brain would have melted and I would have never been able to read of their exploits again. Just to give you a taste of how bad this is... when Hawkman’s mother comes around and starts taking cheap pot-shots at her son, she asks him to phone when he’s next visiting home so she knows to put some clean newspapers on his bed. That’s the level and quality of humour on this one I’m afraid folks and, combined with an awful and thunderous rendition of That’s Entertainment by a supervillain called Mordru and an interview segment where The Atom and his new fiance Giganta are quizzed about the difficulties of their sex life... it has to be said that this show ran for two episodes too long.

This is the first Warner Archives disc that I’ve seen that comes with any extras... and it’s the first time I’ve not wanted one of their discs to have any. If you can handle it, and I braved it I’m afraid, there is a deleted scene and a couple of outtakes on here, including a bit where you are invited to watch the entire finale song of episode 2 again, but with slightly different sound on it. This really isn’t for the feint hearted, folks.

There’s no way I can recommend anyone, superhero fan or not, to watch Legends Of The Superheroes. Luckily for Warner Archives, unless you know just how awful and unfunny the content of these episodes actually are, then you will be drawn in by the promise of seeing the live action versions of all these superheroes teamed together... so I really have no way of warning you. Still, I have to admire the label in question because they have been responsible for some terrific releases and even this... um... curio is something which should see the light of day at some point, I guess. But it’s a hard watch and a far cry even from the original Batman TV show in terms of the camp content that made that show so brilliant. It really doesn’t take itself seriously and, although that’s not an absolute necessity and could have worked really well for them... well, it didn’t! And I almost wished I hadn’t known about this one.

Holy wasted opportunity!

*with thanks and apologies to Douglas Adams

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