Thundarr The Barbarian: Old School Animation Goodness

I got myself Thundarr the Barbarian on DVD, which was created by comics writer Steve Gerber as a Saturday morning cartoon that ran from  1980-82.  The series only lasted two seasons, but it was the stuff of my dreams.  This is very old school animation entertainment full of strengths and weaknesses.

Thundarr, Ookla & Ariel don't take that mess off of tyrants.

Thundarr exists in a post-apocalyptic Earth after a runaway planet passes between the Earth and the moon.  As the shows says, “unleashing cosmic destruction.”   After 2,000 years the world is now populated with magic, super science, mutants, and humans.   Thundarr, along with his friends Ookla the Mok (mutant), and Princess Ariel (sorceress) travel this new world and help humans and friendly mutants against wizards, pirates, etc.  Thundarr tells many of his foes he “bows to no wizard,” and often disposes of them by the end of the episode.

When looking at many of the wizard’s one can see a parallel between some large corporations who use people and spit them out.  For example, many humans were fodder, pawns, slaves and insignificant to wizards in the hierarchy of schemes.  Several humans lived in ragged conditions while wizards lived with style and well-constructed strongholds.   Wizards always hold all the knowledge of old Earth and the bulk of super science.   There are two exception to this rule where the wizards are on very low end of the spectrum.  You know times are tough all over when the economy wrecks a wizard or two.

Wizard Gemini says, "Bring it on."

Some of the cons to this show is continuity errors, some bad perspective in spots, and the occasional plot logic errors that I often scratch my head about, even as a kid.  It does not outweigh the good.

One of the good points of this show is many of the character designs.   Comics/Animation legends Alex Toth and Jack Kirby worked on this series.   Toth designed Space Ghost and characters for the Super Friends cartoon.   Kirby, has an equally fantastic legacy in comics.   His creations for Marvel, DC still exist in current continuity.   Kirby’s style is clear and strong in several of the characters and vehicles.  Many of the antagonists bear Kirby’s style.   It’s good to see Toth and Kirby’s work in animation to have an extended life.

Sound plays a high role here as well.  Several of the wizards have a creepy metallic voices that adds to their supernatural presence.  The sound effects for the time were distinct enough to reinforce the more exotic elements of the show.

The future looks mighty bleak, but entertaining.

Some of the episodes, “Mindok The Mind Menance” (bodiless wizard) “The Brotherhood of Night” (werewolves),  “Stalker From the Stars” (alien in search of humans as food), and “Island of the Body Snatchers” (witch who steals Ariel’s body) were creepy and made them a little bit more memorable to me.

The DVD is bare bones, and  with a mislabel on dic three as to episodes.  I wish there were some liner notes or interviews that were either preserved or started so that we could hear from the surviving creators of the series.  It’s a slice of animation history that I’d love to see get a little more fanfare.

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Body Politics in An American Werewolf In London

As the curse begins, humanity and wild converge in dreams.

An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 cult horror film directed by John Landis.  This film mixes black comedy with tragedy, and horror.  Story-wise, the title says it all:  An American, David ( David Naughton) hikes in England with his friend, Jack (Griffin Dunne) and they are attacked by a Werewolf.  While Jack is slaughtered,  David survives.  The curse lives on in David.

This is why I never go hiking.

I think of the 1980s look as “rustic” because narrative and visuals hold up pretty well.  You see where the film attempts to edit some scenes but I find that gore and nudity come together to make the film.

Nudity plays a provocative role of  danger and laughs when the primal side of the body’s displayed.  Censors and prudes be damned. The beast was unleashed, played for a while,  then put down.   It is a rejection of our own bestial natures.  Visually and emotionally David’s body  journey’s through multiple stages of vulnerability, love, suffering (transformation), and ends with David’s death.

Note the contrast in David's gaze from previous image.

Seeing the undead people arguing with each other and discussing ways for David to kill himself to break the curse is hilarious and dreadful.  David is mortified, and in some was so was I, yet found the scene funny .

David’s transformations from human to beast are horrible, yet sublime.  The special effects look  painstakingly detailed.  We have the human body being reshaped into a creature.  As the film progresses, you want this torture to end, yet you don’t want David to die.  Like David, we don’t really have a say in the matter.

Waxing is gonna get ugly for poor David.