Friday, July 13, 2012

TONIGHT'S EPISODE: I have been waiting SO long for this! However....

Jackson Bostwick as Captain Marvel #1. (DC Comics/Warner Home Video)
THE first of Filmation's live-action Saturday morning TV shows is the last to be reissued on a (legit) DVD collection. On July 11, the news came out Warner Archive has Shazam! The Complete Series (a three-disc, Made On Demand set retailing for $34.95) slated to be released on September 17, and they're taking pre-orders for it now. A few weeks later, Amazon will then have it available on a wider scale going beyond US borders.

Original TV Guide listing. (Google images)
When I first got the early indications this was coming out for real (thank you,, I was about as excited as I was when the show originally premiered in September 1974. Back then (when I wasn't so old), as much as I liked watching reruns of things like The Adventures of Superman or Batman, somehow, the imminent arrival of Shazam! (CBS, 1974-1977) felt like a happening, my little mind fueled by those "provocative" commercials for the program CBS kept showing in the time leading up to its debut. Once its first episode was broadcast, I was hooked. To me, Captain Marvel was awesome, and actor Jackson Bostwick looked enough like the comic book character I knew I would be tuning in again and again. Of course, I liked Billy Batson (Michael Gray) and Mentor (Les Tremayne), too, but the good captain was the guy I eagerly awaited to arrive and add needed excitement to the weekly melodramas with the morals tacked onto the end.

 Isis and Captain Marvel #2. (Google images)
Once Bostwick (as I later found out) was unfairly kicked off the series and hastily replaced with John Davey, I know I wasn't the only one disappointed with the change. Compared to Bostwick, Davey looked somewhat doughy (especially during some of the flying sequences when his gut tended to hang out a bit over his yellow belt), but I begrudgingly came to consider him okay. I think it took the crossover shows he did with the foxy super heroine Isis (JoAnna Cameron) to help do so; if she "accepted" him as Captain Marvel, so could I. At any rate, it took three TV seasons to bring forth a mere 28 episodes (not counting the Captain's appearances on Isis) before Shazam! was finally cancelled, though its reruns did air one more time in 1978 before disappearing into the realm of Cobweb TV for several years.

But it wasn't completely gone. Somebody was shrewd enough to actually invest money, time and effort in taping those '78 reruns, and once the VHS era of home video was at full throttle, it was only a matter of time before Shazam! could be had by fans on bootleg tapes. I was one of those who purchased them, buying a seven-tape set of all 28 shows that cost $150.00. (Not surprisingly, the copies of the Bostwick episodes looked like they were played more than the Davey ones.) These tapes helped sustain my memories for years, as they did (no doubt) for many others.

Meanwhile, jumping ahead to the time when TV Land was still cool to watch, Shazam! resurfaced in a scattering of edited reruns. What was notably gone were the morals, which were clipped out years ago (the same thing happened to Isis), the missing film now (presumably) lost forever, though they still exist through the bootleg recordings. (As for the DVD sets of shows currently available on Jackson Bostwick's website, since they are billed as having the "End Tags," I presume the episodes are taken from the old videos. If anybody knows exactly what these DVDs are sourced from, please drop me a line in the comments.)

(DC Comics/Warner Home Video)
Which leads to me to why I have a slight reservation about buying this new Shazam! set. Look at its cover: it says "The Complete Series." What a Shazam! fan considers "complete" may be different than how Warner decides to interpret the word on this compilation. In a perfect DVD world, this collection would have all 28 episodes, plus the Isis crossovers, uncut and digitally remastered from original film prints. However, if the bonus Shazam! disc found in the third season Wonder Woman set (which featured "The Joy Riders") can be considered a fair preview of what's to come on STCS, then don't expect it to be really complete. If the main stories survive intact, that's better than nothing at all, and I think this is how Warner will define "complete." In addition, since this is a MOD product, bonus features of any kind are nonexistent, if not ultra-rare; so it goes I don't see Warner bothering to license the Isis crossover shows from Classic Media. At least, if [what remains of] these episodes get the sound and picture noticeably enhanced like more recent Warner Archive TV shows have been, that will be good enough for most Shazam! fans. Otherwise, by labeling it as "complete," Warner will inevitably upset some people with what will be an incomplete set.

Actually, the misleading packaging isn't a real concern to me: it's the discs themselves. I've read of how MOD discs sometimes have playback issues in certain DVD players, so this investment of mine brings with it the risk the discs won't work in either of my two players, which may mean getting a new one. (Holy moley!) Fortunately, I've been setting aside money for this Shazam! set, so I can afford to take this hit in my wallet, including (if need be) a new player. I'm optimistic I'll have no problems

Sometime in late September, be sure to tune into Cobweb TV! when the box set will be reviewed by yours truly, R.A.M.'67. I'm looking forward to it....

(Google images)


(Fabulous Films/VCI)
Keeping it trivial....


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