Super Mario Bros. Super Show (US - DVD R1)
Gabe cries because he can't get the freaking theme song out of his head
I've got no one to blame but myself. When word came over the wire that a review copy of the entire run of a live action/animation hybrid I adored in my youth, I jumped at the chance. With visions of weekday afternoons in front of the tube, avoiding homework, snacking on grapes in a little Tupperware container swimming in my head I put the first disc of the four-disc collection in my player. Within minutes all my illusions came crashing down, and I was stabbing my inner-child to death with a pick-axe culled from dashed expectations and the raspy last breath of my sense of nostalgia.
Based on the popular video game (most specifically the first and second Super Mario Bros. games, which were the only ones available at the time), each episode of Super Mario Bros. Super Show! (note the exclamation point) is split into two separate segments, one concerning the plight of working class plumbers Mario and Luigi in the real word, the other concerning the adventures of the same working class plumbers trapped in another dimension where malevolent, dragon sized turtles kidnap princesses that rule over fungus. The live action segments usually revolve around a guest star, and never leave the nightmare realm of the Mario Bros. Plumbing Co.'s underground lair. The animated segments usually revolves around the Bros. and their fungal friends looking for some magical whatsit that'll stop the evil talking testudine named King Koopa (he's the one you fight at the end of all the games).
The show is bad. It's bad in a way that only a show from 1989 can be bad. Live action guest stars strut as has-beens before the episodes even aired; their loud, neon clothing crying out for the mercy of career euthanasia, their faces dull with the shame selling out in the vilest way. The animation is sloppy. Voices jump characters, extra mouths and hands are mistakenly left in frame, and backgrounds are recycled to the extent that story geography ceases to make any sense. Yes, this is the kind of garbage that numbed the mind of a young Gabe Powers. No wonder I couldn't remember my times tables.
To the series' credit, the live action segments are watchable in a car-crash kind of way. They play out like bastard cousins of The Peewee Herman Show, and the regulars posses a certain impalpable charm. Aging wrestler Captain Lou Albano is sort of adorable, in that he cannot act or dance, making his characterization of Mario Mario uncannily realistic. To the contrary, Danny Wells takes the lead in most segments as the wiser (and more intentionally funny) Luigi Mario. There is something to them, I must admit, but I'm not sure if I prefer them to Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo just yet.
The funniest thing about the set is that Shout Factory (a company I will always adore for releasing every season of my favourite animated sit-com Home Movies) has seen fit to leave everything in but the commercials, including the pre/post commercial stills, and the previews of the upcoming weekly Legend of Zelda episode (which, as I recall, aired every Friday). Shout Factory has released The Legend of Zelda collection as a separate set, and I'm not sure if they were introduced by the live action Mario’s or not. Regardless, this inclusion makes it so each episode, totally around twenty two minutes, includes less than ten minutes of actual cartoon, yet the cartoons still has a commercial break in the middle. Had the set included the Zelda episodes and maybe even some toy ads, it would've really been the complete package: a 100% recreation of a week in the life of my younger self. Then I could watch The Real Ghostbusters on Saturday, and Sky Commanders, Robocop, and Dino-Riders on Sunday. Or maybe I should just let my sense of nostalgia die quietly in the corner.
Well, the show looks about as good as I remember it looking back when I watched it on a thirteen inch Admiral with questionable reception. The picture is pretty clear, but the bright cartoon colours (in both the live action and animated segments) bleed like my rapidly haemorrhaging inner child, minus all the whining of course. Red is an especially vicious offender, which is too bad, considering one of the main characters dresses in the titular colour. Chroma noise is present throughout, as is some pretty wicked edge enhancement, and a few nice bits of dirt. I don't blame the disc's producers for this, as I'm pretty sure that everything was mastered from old magnetic tapes, maybe even bootlegs taped by intrepid little youths who've grown up to be obsessive big adults, not unlike the one writing this very review. I know I still have my Eek the Cat VHS tape around here somewhere.
Swing your arms from side to side, c'mon, it's time to go do the Mario
'The Mario' was not a real dance. It was simply an invitation to children to flail their limbs to the classic video game theme. It wasn't even sung by Captain Lou Albano. It was a lie, an abrasive, obnoxious lie. But thanks to the advent of DVD now you too can listen to the end title song over and over again, along with the opening title rap, and the cartoon segment’s slightly varied opening title rap. By the end of the day you'll probably be looking for sharp objects to cram in your ears in hopes of puncturing the part of your brain that won't quit singing the damned themes. I know I am. In fact, I'm hearing them right now as I type this.
Anyway, I suppose that like the video, the audio is as clean as can be expected. It is presented in Mono, and has decent amount of fidelity and balance to it. Everything's a little on the flat side, but there's no major distortion, and you do have to work with what you get. The live action sequences have a heinous laugh track that I thank God wasn't re-mastered into surround a surround track.
The four-disc set isn't overflowing with the extras fans may have expected. They consist of an interview with the Captain, the storyboards to the opening song, and background art galleries.
The interview with Albano is the closest we get to a history behind the show, which I (for some reason) was actually interested in. Apparently the show was a massive hit. Albano, who some readers may remember from Cyndi Lauper music videos, is a friendly enough guy who seems satisfied n the work he did on the series. He also makes a big deal of the fact that he had to shave his trademarked goatee for the role of Mario, who only has a trademarked handlebar moustache. The storyboards and art galleries are welcome, but not the kind of thing viewers will want to watch time and time again.
It's too bad that Shout Factory couldn't get the cast together for a few commentary tracks, which would've added some much need joy to the series. It's also too bad they couldn't get their hands on a decent documentary on the Super Mario Bros. sensation. I'm pretty sure I saw one on G4 TV here in The States. The surreal worlds of the game (and show) could do with a little explanation—I mean, besides drug-addled stupors.
Well, I'm pretty sure that my review is going to have exactly zero effect on the fan base of the show, and that my negative endorsement will probably inadvertently create curiosity in younger readers who aren't familiar with the series. If you still have a healthy sense of nostalgia, by all means pick this set up. While you're at it, pick up the Legend of Zelda set too, and have a grand old time. Me, I've got an inner child to finish off, he just won't quit singing that bloody theme song.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 28th March 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono English
Extras: Storyboards, Concept Art Gallerys, Interview with Captain Lou Albano (“Mario”)
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Lou Albano, Danny Wells
Length: 660 minutes
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