I thought I’d have a look at a few shows that were spin-offs of movies. As I mention, I wasn’t especially into the films and as a kid was more likely to watch the cartoons, but it’s interesting to now look at them with the knowledge of what they were derived from.
The Real Ghostbusters – The Spirit of Aunt Lois
I was never that big a fan of the Ghostbusters movie, so this show was a bit lost on me, although I had the toys and the posters and watched the show. I always felt like it was on the edge of being a show that I would like, but it had a few bits that deterred me like the goofy ghosts, whether it was their appearance or presentation. No doubting it was a really well produced show, though, from writing to acting to animation.
In this episode, Ray’s aunt Lois (as called by Egon) requests the guys come by to investigate a haunting at her house. She’s already enlisted a TV psychic to join her, who they debunk and deconstruct the tricks of. His projected and recorded “spirit”, which actually looks far scarier than the ghosts he inadvertently calls up, is looking for Lois’ money, but the real supernatural creatures are looking for Lois instead and take her prisoner. The boys have to rescue her and take care of the strange apparitions.
Can’t doubt the quality or success of the show, it’s a great episode, but I have to wonder how much better it would’ve been if played straight and not a comedy. A house elf that’s half frog and half fish is weird enough, but not really scary. Egon reciting mathematical equations and Peter and Ray singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall is an amusing way of warding off the domovoi and the animation and design helps create a great atmosphere, as does the music at times, but it loses something for me when it seems like they’re going to contain some Muppets and Fraggle Rock rejects.
Robocop – Crime Wave
There have been a couple of Robocop cartoons – this was the first one. A Wally Burr narration brings us up to date with the change from Murphy to Robocop in TV and kid friendly terms before the episode kicks off, with criminals robbing a blood bank before Robocop and his female partner turn up. She’s really annoying and cramps his style massively. Although he apprehends the crooks, he gets s--- off one of his colleagues and the Machiavellian Dr. McNamara is trying to supplant him with the ED-260 model, that is far more officious and violent. Never trust a guy wearing shades indoors and with metal hands.
Although some stuff is really on the nose, I did like aspects like a violent gang called the Vandals, who McNamara enlists to provoke Robocop, although I don’t get why one with an electric shock gimmick has an Irish accent. Again, I’m not massively into the Robocop franchise but appreciate what they went for. This was decent, but would’ve been better if they’d chopped the annoying Lewis character and skewed a bit older, although when the purpose is to sell toys… I feared the worst with the awareness that notoriously poor studio AKOM provided the animation, but it wasn’t bad at all. As previously mentioned, it’s a series that only ran for twelve episodes instead of thirteen so the budget for the last one could be put towards Pryde of the X-Men.
Karate Kid – My Brother’s Keeper
A show I only seemed to catch snippets of as a kid. It has a really cool intro and opening theme, although they steal a plane/car rescue from anime series Sherlock Hound. Mr. Miyagi is played much more for laughs than in the film and is basically a caricature of Pat Morita’s performance of him. He and Daniel are also joined by a girl called Taki to diversify the cast a bit further. James Avery, Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince, is instantly recognisable as one of the initial villains we meet, a member of a South American tribe, and makes me realise I need to review some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes soon!
A young lad, played by Cam Clarke (Leonardo of the Turtles), is an outcast from his village and befriended by Daniel, while Mr. Miyagi is made prisoner by the chief of the jaguar tribe. An attempt to feed him to an alligator sees him tying up the gator and escaping to get back to his students and the boy, who is actually destined to be the leader of his village. Daniel becomes his mentor to train him ready to re-assume his position with new maturity. This culminates in a battle over a fiery pit.
I think I was ready to dislike this show, having a memory of it being too goofy, but I was won over by hearing certain voices and the effort that was being put in. Jim Cummings was a bit OTT as he can tend to be as the villain, and I probably would’ve preferred that he and Avery swapped roles of leader and second-in-command, but it’s a minor complaint. Keep a keen ear out and listen for a few music cues that would be reworked for The New Adventures of He-Man.
Rambo: The Force of Freedom – Robot Raid
Wrapping up with this one. Great intro, with the camera focusing on the flexing muscles of John Rambo as he laces up his boots and tightens his headband, which is use later in the show as a kind of power-up stock footage. Rambo and his friends Turbo and KAT take on the evil forces of General Warhawk, who is played by the awesome Michael Ansara (Mr. Freeze from Batman: The Animated Series). It’s a very masculine and tough show, and the animation is a bit off in places, but overall is strong with good attention to detail.
The story here is that a young lady, the heiress of her late father’s company, is attacked in her home on the eve of taking over the company, but escapes and goes on the run, coincidentally running into Rambo and his buddies on the first stop for help at a club. The villains are really cool, with a leader with a terribly scarred face who has to wear a robotic suit and a dome over his head, plus a masked sidekick and an incredibly strong bodyguard. Turns out the first two were were critically injured in an accident and rebuilt themselves and then built their muscle too, as he’s a robot. The show starts off with a very creepy tone between the initial event and the bad guys.
When we join up with Rambo (voiced by Neil Ross, doing a pretty dodgy impression of Sly Stallone) and company at a disco they’re ready to help defend the lady, with a battle ensuing and a chase through a shopping centre. Good attention to detail with stuff like running out of ammo, as opposed to ignoring that and doing whatever they want. The battle leaves the city as we find out that the man who wants to take over the company has hired Warhawk and his mercenaries to dispatch the girl so he has a clear path to the top. He’s foiled when the villains are captured, although Warhawk gets away to fight another day. If it was a movie, the hunters would be killed, but instead they’re just dropped in holes in the ground and left living, but the robot takes a beating.
Impressively high quality show, even with little things like the colour of the sky changing between shots. There’s a damsel in distress and a female team member, but even they have big, hairy balls like the rest of the show did. I’ve got to try and watch more of it because I think it’s probably become a forgotten classic.
Conclusion: Really enjoyed watching these shows, which were good in different ways. When the one I’m more familiar with (Real Ghostbusters) is the weakest one of the four then it speaks highly for the other shows, which I probably wouldn’t have been too fussed with as a kid.