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When I was younger, I had a voracious appetite for anything superhero related and would watch just about any show featuring those character. As you might expect, I would tune in to watch CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS any time the show aired. Of course, over the years, my tastes became ever so slightly more sophisticated, and have come to recognize that CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS offered depictions of superheroes that were less than ideal, especially in the wake of such shows as the dark and complex BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, not to mention the infinitely superior TV update of the Super Friends concept- JUSTICE LEAGUE.

However, with a sense of nostalgia I chose to revisit this show from my youth and found that it offered quite a bit of goofy good natured fun, even if it reduced the mythologies of characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and The Green Lantern to their most simplistic levels. Fairing somewhat worse that the superheroes, were their evil counterparts from the Legion of Doom, whose motivations were reduced to little more than perpetrating evil for its own sake and eliminating the members of the Justice League of America.

Even with its weaknesses, I’m still glad that CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS: THE FIRST SEASON ($30) has come to DVD. Season one arrives on DVD in a two disc set that features the following sixteen episodes from the show’s one and only year of production: Wanted: The Superfriends, Invasion Of The Fearians, The World's Deadliest Game, The Time Trap, Trial Of The Superfriends, Monolith Of Evil, The Giants Of Doom, Secret Orgins Of The Superfriends, Revenge On Gorilla City, Swamp Of The Living Dead, Conquerors Of The Future, The Final Challenge, Fairy Tale Of Doom, Doomsday, Superfriends, Rest In Peace and The History Of Doom.

Warner Home Video has made the episodes from CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS: THE FIRST SEASON available on DVD in a full screen format that is representative of the original television broadcasts. Considering the ultra-low rent animation employed for this Saturday Morning cartoon show from 1978, the episodes look pretty darn good on DVD. This is not to say that the visual quality of this release is going to impress anybody, but the shows certainly look far better on disc than they did in reruns. The 2D cell animated images looks as well defined, as they are ever likely to look under NTSC, plus the picture boasts pretty good color reproduction. All of the hues appear reasonably vibrant and nicely stable, plus the black and whites seem accurate and crisp. The film elements display few blemishes and noticeable grain is held to a minimum. Digital compression artifacts remain well camouflaged.

All of the episodes that comprise CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS: THE FIRST SEASON feature perfectly fine Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. Background hiss and other types of noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves the episodes with pretty stable sonic presentation. Fidelity is limited, but for the most part, the musical component holds up well, with only an occasional "tinny" sounding moment. Voices have a respectable sense of presence and the dialogue is easy to understand. A Spanish language track has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Audio commentaries have been provided for the episodes Wanted: The Superfriends and The History Of Doom. Saturday, Sleeping Bags & Super Friends: A Retrospective runs fourteen-minute and provides a fond look back at the series. Hall Of Justice provides biographies for the Super Friends, while Legion Of Doom does the same for the show’s villains. Video trailers/promos for BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VOLUME ONE, THE JETSONS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, THE FLINTSTONES: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON and JONNY QUEST: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON close out the extras.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS: THE FIRST SEASON is a fun and nostalgic DVD release for anyone who enjoyed Saturday Morning cartoons during the 1970s, plus the DVD set offers better presentations than one is likely to get in reruns. If you are a fan you’ll want to spend some time getting reacquainted with the show on DVD.



Challenge of the Super Friends - The First Season (1978)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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