Sunday, February 21, 2010
MONSTER FORCE Vol 1 DVD Review
I recently stumbled across the Monster Force Volume 1 DVD at a Best Buy in New York City and had no idea Universal had plans to release the series. As a kid I didn't watch Monster Force on TV at all, but I used to see the figures in the local Toys R Us quite often. Unfortunately, the series only lasted 13 episodes and I don't think the toy shops were able to push many of the figures. As I mentioned in a previous post, the show was created by a Canadian studio called Lacewood Productions and Universal Cartoon Studios in 1994 and aired alongside Exo-Squad each week. As one might expect, many of the characters are voiced by Canadian talent - Philip Akin, Lawrence Bayne and David Hewlett.
Here's the overall premise: It is now the year 2020 and six teenagers called "The Monster Force" have teamed up to keep the world safe from "The Creatures of the Night" - A group of evil villains made up of Dracula, Renfield, The Mummy and other creatures Dracula can convince to join them. Using special costumes called EMACS (Energized Monster Armed Containment Suits) to heighten their fighting abilities, The Monster Force stop monsters each episode from destroying the planet.
Although the story is quite campy, much like the rest of the 80's and 90's kids TV shows, there is something kind of fun about seeing all of the classic Universal Monsters in the future fighting with each other. It may also have to do with the fact that comic writer Marv Wolfman (Crisis on Infinite Earths) wrote and story edited many of the episodes.
The characters that make up the Monster Force are your classic superhero team. You have a martial artist (Tripp Hansen), a powerhouse marksmen (Lance McGruder...not McGruber), a brilliant scientist (Dr. Reed Crawley - I presume the one who created the EMAC suits and the leader of the group), a psychic (Shelley Frank - Frankenstein's love interest) and two monsters; Frankenstein and Luke Talbot (The Wolfman - a decedent of Lawrence Talbot from the original Universal Studios The Wolfman). The villains change every episode, but the main villains are Dracula and his lackey Renfield.
1) Sign of the Dragon
A great introductory episode introducing the Monster Force. When Dracula (or as he likes to be called in the future, "Dracool") traps team members Barker and Luke Talbot in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, the team has to rush in to save the day. Dracula spends the episode trying to convince luke to join the Creatures of the Night and accept that he is a werewolf and he will never be able to control his animalistic urges. Unfortunately, Barker is turned into a vampire pretty early on, so we never learn too much about the guy. Watch out for the awesome fight between Frankenstein and Luke as a werewolf.
2) Tracking the Beast
More of Luke’s family history is revealed when the Monster Force goes searching for the werewolf that transformed his family into lycanthropes. They soon discover that the werewolf has turned hundreds of townsfolk into werewolves that the Monster Force has to save the day. It's great to see how the writers tie in the original Universal stories into this series.
3) Immortality of Evil
Tribal headdresses are stolen from museums around the world. The Monster Force discover that the headdresses were previously owned by vampiric tribal leaders and now Dracula is using the headdresses to resurrect all of the ancient vampires. Once resurrected, Dracula hopes to transform all of the vampires into immortal beings who no longer require human blood to stay alive. Not a great episode and kind of silly. I don't know why the Monster Force would want to stop Dracula from doing this as he would no longer need to kill anyone for human blood - isn't that a good thing?
4) Return of the Creature
Something is interfering with a Dr. Crawley's friend's research on a sunken city. The Monster Force investigate to discover it is the Creature from the Black Lagoon causing all of the chaos. Very cool to see the Creature in this show.
5) Dark Deception
The Monster Force travels to Transylvania to learn all of Dracula’s secrets while he is away on the other side of the world. There, the Force meet Abraham Stoker, a vampire hunter, and decide to raid Castle Dracula, having to fight off all of the townspeople who are now vampires. A fun episode exploring Dracula's history and his castle.
6) He Walks Again
The Monster Force travels to Cairo to study the evil Imotep’s tomb. Unfortunately for them, the Mummy has been re-awaken and Dracula has begun attempting to recruit him into the Creatures of the Night. But The Mummy has other plans. Similar to the Creature episode, it is just fun seeing all of the classic monsters fight with each other.
7) Dark City
The Monster Force discover a “dark city” about to appear in Spain that re-appears every 100 years with the original townsfolk, who are now demons. They decide to check out the city and make sure it does not claim any new victims. Very original and entertaining episode. One of the best on the DVD.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released the DVD barebones. Nothing but the 7 episodes are featured on the disc. We really can't complain though. It's just a miracle the show ended up getting a release. With so many cartoons from the 80's and 90's still in purgatory, it's great to see Universal making the effort to release this and Exo-Squad (review coming soon). For those of you who are fans of the show, I highly recommend you pick up the DVD. The image and sound quality are satisfactory and it is great to just finally add the cartoon to your DVD collection. For those of you who have never seen the show before, but are into cheesy cartoons, definitely give this one a try. More than anything it is just fun to see a new interpretation of the classic Universal Monsters. If we're lucky and enough units of volume 1 are sold, maybe we will be seeing volume 2 sooner than later.