Released by: Warner Archive
Released on: November 6, 2012.
Cast: Michael Grey, Les Tremayne , Jackson Bostwick, Jason Davey
Shazam!, based on the Captain Marvel comic books, originally aired on CBS for three seasons from September 7, 1974 through October 16, 1976 and has now been collected into one three DVD collection from Warner Archive.
The series revolved around a teenager named Billy Batson (Michael Grey) whose place in life is to travel around the United States of America in a giant Winnebago with his ‘Mentor’ (Les Tremayne) looking for people he can help. Billy’s not just any teenager, however – he has a secret. When trouble rears its ugly head he can yell out the magic word SHAZAM and be struck by magic lightning and turned into the mighty Captain Marvel (played by either Jackson Bostwick or John Davey depending on the episode in question), a superhero with the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. In fact, Billy is able to communicate directly with those Greek Gods by way of a communicator designed especially for him.
And that’s more or less it. Each week Billy and Mentor cruise around in their RV and find someone who needs help. Billy transforms into Captain Marvel, helps said person or people, and then after the story’s moral is revealed, they get back into the RV and cruise on over to the next episode. There isn’t a whole lot of continuity here and watched in a short period of time it quickly becomes painfully obvious just how repetitive this show is. With that said, however, shows like this weren’t meant to be watched in marathon back to back viewing sessions, they were meant to be watched once a week – so with that in mind we can cut it some slack.
Comic book purists might be annoyed that the show doesn’t follow the origins of the Captain Marvel comic books as closely as they might like. Additionally there are quite a few characters from that series that don’t make it to the TV series that, had they been included in the show, might have allowed the writers to go in more interesting directions from time to time. As it stands, however, in short bursts this show is a lot of fun. Yes, it’s obviously geared towards the younger generation of its day but there’s no shame in that and as a lot of fans will argue, kid’s shows of the seventies definitely have a cult appeal all their own these days – that rings true with this series. There’s an enjoyable sense of wonder, of magic and of adventure here that is more than a little bit infectious. While it’s true that Captain Marvel never really seemed to be all that challenged by anyone he went up against and while it’s equally true that the effects are pretty rudimentary even by seventies TV standards, you can’t help but love the ‘big red cheese’ when he shows up to save the day.
The series has an air of positivity to it. With each episode having an obvious lesson or moral to it, at the risk of sounding corny it at least tries to give kids something to take away from the show. Of course, it comes across as heavy handed and corny by modern standards but you can’t help but smile when good easily triumphs over evil. Realism is never a concern here, nor should it be when discussing a show about a teenager who basically turns into an invincible dude in a red outfit and cape.
The acting isn’t all that great and the storylines are consistently farfetched but this series still amounts to a good goofy time in front of the TV.
These episodes were shot fullframe, and we get them fullframe. All is right in the world of aspect ratios on this release. The picture quality is alright, if a bit soft in that seventies TV sort of way. There are even a few spots where the image is a little shimmery and some mild print damage is present throughout. The picture isn’t pristine, but it’s perfectly watchable with decent color reproduction.
The Dolby Digital mono track sounds pretty good. The sound effects and the dialogue all come together nicely without any hiss or distortion problems at all. There could have been a bit more bass and depth to the mix but this is likely due to the original elements more than anything else. Overall, these episodes all sound very solid. There are no closed captioning options or subtitles provided.
There are no extras, just episode selection and static menus on each disc.
The Final Word:
Shazam! is a cult favorite for a reason – it’s quirky, it’s goofy and it’s very much a product of its time. Though the complete series is way too much for one sane person to want to take in all at once, spread out over time it’s a fun watch, a strange nostalgia rush for those of us who remember it from our youth and Warner Archive’s DVD-R release offers it up in pretty solid quality even if it is barebones.