The recent reviews of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, including featuring appearances from the X-Men, prompted me to have a look at the 1989 pilot for a new X-Men show from Marvel Productions that didn’t get taken to series, Pryde of the X-Men. The single episode ended up being released on VHS, which is where it’s probably more widely been seen. It’s never been on DVD and isn’t on Disney+, so YouTube is the place to go for it now.
First off, the intro. It uses the yellow and red block lettering logo and is comprised of clips from the show, with an absolutely terrible, unintelligible song playing over it after a bit of spoken word narration. The part that you can make out sounds like it should be in a toy commercial and the part you can’t sounds like it’s being yodelled by a Norwegian with his lips stitched together.
Larry Parr is the writer and Stan Lee rushes in an intro before people start talking in the episode, doubtless added in post-production. I use the verb rushes, this speaks for the whole show. It feels like a a Monday to Friday mini-series that has had the first ten minutes of the first episode and the last ten minutes of the last episode stitched together. The animation quality is high, from the Japanese studio Toei instead of Korean studio Akom. The effort is evident in the danger room scenario in the episode, which is a quasi-Mayan citadel exterior, with attacking stone guardians and skeletal remains strewn across the ground.
Back to the writing, which informs some of the acting, Magneto is a prisoner of the US government, quickly broken out, no thanks to a colonel who is written and played as a goof. Beyond that, I don’t think the casting directors had a good idea of matching the voices to the comics, as Susan Silo, as good an actress as she was, doesn’t have a voice that matches the White Queen.
The Pryde of the X-Men is Kitty Pryde, who has been sent a letter by Professor Charles Xavier to join him at the X-Mansion, which sounds way too creepy. Prof. X gets to introduce the characters and concepts of the X-Men, meaning narration over (admittedly well animated) action at length. Cyclops is played as straight as ever. Nightcrawler’s lessons with Xavier must’ve included being a creep too. Colossus is given lazy “Is good yes?” dialogue. Dazzler is street-smart. Storm is presented pretty close to her ’92 version. And, infamously, Wolverine is bizarrely given an Australian accent and is the arsehole of the team.
The recipient of most of his bad attitude is Kitty Pryde, who is a whiny, snivelling little brat for most of the episode, but it’s not a comfortable dynamic. The Wolverine we got to know through the subsequent show and the movie was a loner and was incredibly dangerous, but he was a hero despite that, so if someone was threatened he ultimately would come to their rescue. A sensitivity, whereas here there’s a begrudging “I guess she’s OK” mood when Pryde “proves her worth”.
Due to the abbreviated nature of the show, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants get little time. Pyro, properly Australian, has his cool, bug-like look. The Blob is pretty faithfully presented, although I don’t know if Alan Oppenheimer was the right choice for his voice. Toad is given a Peter Lorre voice by Frank Welker and seems to disappear quickly after serving a menial purpose. He is for some reason with Lockheed the dragon, who by the end of the episode is an X-Men mascot after being the dog that’s kicked by Magneto. And Juggernaut is a brute.
There’s just not enough about this single outing to say that’s good beyond the animation. Larry Parr is a capable writer, but it’s not evident here. The voice actors are all great, but it’s not evident here. The plot is all over the shop as mentioned, with too much going on, including a space plot, a false death, and disappearing characters after glorified cameos. Giving Kitty centre stage when she’s a total wet and giving her more responsibility than she’s due or deserves is misguided. I feel like X-Men: Evolution got it better by having a younger Nightcrawler as the access character, but here they probably would’ve felt committed to presenting him more faithfully in his obviously mature appearance (even though Kitty is fourteen and looks MUCH older).
X-Men absolutely deserved a TV show, but not off this. It’s worth watching as a historical curiosity, but nothing else.