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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #392  (Vol. 8, No. 39) This edition is for the week of September 24--30, 2007.

"In The Shadow of the Moon"  by Mike Smith
Book Review: Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow  by Lisa Ciurro
DVD Review: "Underdog: The Ultimate Collection Volume 1"  by ED Tucker
Goals, Part 2  by Corey Castellano
Renaissance Night and The Demzarah Gypsy Show  by Andy Lalino
Happy Birthday .... Can't Wait .... Barry Bonds .... If A Mime Dies Does He Make A Sound? .... Look Out Ronnie .... Extra, Extra .... Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 29: Next Week  by Mike Smith
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CF Presents Retrorama

DVD Review:
“Underdog: The Ultimate Collection Volume 1”

Released By: Classic Media
Release Date: July 24, 2007
Number of Discs: 1
Approximate Running Time: 120 Minutes
Special Features: Interview with Underdog’s co-creator, Overview of the short subject characters.
Suggested Price: $12.95

The Source:
The Underdog Show was a Saturday morning staple from 1964 until 1969 and thrived in syndication for many years thereafter. In all, 120 30 minute episodes were produced. The typical show featured two episodes of Underdog as bookends surrounding two short subjects from the Total Television catalog such as Tennessee Tuxedo, The Go-Go Gophers, Klondike Kat, and Commander McBragg. Most Underdog stories were comprised of four episodes and spanned two shows.

The Fanboy Factor:
For the majority of children growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, Underdog was their first exposure to the superhero phenomenon. The relatively simple and witty stories concerned the adventures of a super powered dog whose good hearted nature and single minded desire to protect the innocent from the forces of evil blinded him to the fact that he often caused more destruction than he prevented! Underdog received his powers from a “super energy vitamin pill” that gave him increased strength, speed, and assorted other enhanced abilities as long as his stamina held out. When the show was returned to national syndication in the 1980’s, the footage of him popping the pills that he kept in the secret compartment of his ring was excised to avoid giving children a pro-drug message. Underdog was also provided with a revolving cast of unsavory villains, like the gangster wolf Riff Raff and mad scientist Simon Barsinister, who were constantly planning to rob banks and dominate the Earth through bizarre means. The show was fast-paced and filled with sight gags for kids, while adults appreciated its subtle parodies of the superhero genre.

The Product:
Volume 1 of Classic Media’s Ultimate Collection features three complete Underdog adventures comprised of six half hours shows. The episodes included on this disc are The Big Dipper (Simon Barsinister attempts to steal the world’s water supply), The Gold Bricks (Riff Raff frames Underdog for a gold robbery) and Fearo the Ferocious (a King Kong take off). Overall, the quality of the cartoons on this DVD is very good, with only minor speckling and surface damage. The Underdog segments are complete with the pill popping scenes but all bumper footage, including the well loved opening that explained our hero’s dual identity as humble and lovable Shoe-Shine Boy, is missing. The short subject segments are not the same ones included in original syndication and have been trimmed of their opening and closing credits. For some cartoons, such as Tennessee Tuxedo, these trims are almost transparent but others, like Tooter Turtle, suffer noticeably. When I queried Classic Media on the missing footage, they provided me with the following response:

“Due to the fact that Underdog, Dick Tracy and a number of shows in the Classic Media library are well over 40 years old, we do not always have the original broadcast masters available for use. We do our best to present the shows in as close to original form as possible, given time-lapse and asset availability.” -Robert Mayo, SVP and GM of Home Video, Classic Media

The special features are limited but the approximately 10-minute interview with show co-creator Joe Harris is extremely informative and entertaining. The only other extra is described on the disc as the Underdog Show’s Family of Character’s original opening credits but is actually newly created videos with generic versions of the themes.

The Bottom Line:
For $12.95 it’s hard to complain about getting three full Underdog stories on a DVD. As a true Underdog fan though, I would have preferred to have fewer shows on a disc as long as they were complete with all the bumpers and credits. The special features are adequate but leave much to be desired. If the episodes on this volume are indicative of how the others on future installments of this series will be presented, then this collection is nowhere near deserving of the title “ultimate”.

"Retrorama" is ©2007 by ED Tucker.   All graphics this page, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.