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Warner Home Video presents
Wonder Woman: The Complete First Season (1975-1977)

"Any civilization that does not recognize the female, is doomed to destruction. Women are the wave of the future, and sisterhood is stronger than anything."
- Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: July 13, 2004

Stars: Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner, Richard Eastham, Beatrice Colen, Carolyn Jones, Debra Winger
Other Stars: John Randolph, Red Buttons, Stella Stevens, Eric Braeden, Severn Darden, Fannie Flagg, Henry Gibson, Kenneth Mars, Cloris Leachman, Bradford Dillman, Christine Belford, Lynda Day George, Christopher George, Anne Francis, Dick Van Patten, Bobby Van, John Saxon, Robert Loggia, John Hillerman, Mickey Morton, Robert Reed, Hayden Rorke, Nehemiah Persoff, Marisa Pavan, Roy Rogers, Henry Darrow, Lance Kerwin, Robert Hays
Director: Leonard Horn, Barry Crane, Richard Kinon, Herb Wallerstein, Charles R. Rondeau, Stuart Margolin, Alan Crosland, Bruce Bilson

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 11h:58m:47s
Release Date: June 29, 2004
UPC: 085393343521
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BB+B B+

DVD Review

During the mid-1970s, feminism had gained serious steam as a movement, but television was lagging far behind. Almost entirely dominated by males, the medium didn't offer much in the way of role models for young women and girls. But all that changed with this adaptation of the classic DC comic book that not only redefined TV heroines, but turned unknown Lynda Carter into a cultural icon.

This set contains the 1975 pilot (disregarding with hardly a mention the 1974 first pilot starring Cathie Lee Crosby) and the 13 episodes aired on ABC during 1976 and 1977. This first season was set during World War II, as were the original comic and numerous revamps afterwards. Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) crashes near Paradise Island in the Bermuda Triangle, the haven for a group of immortal Amazons led by Queen Hippolyta (Cloris Leachman in the pilot, replaced by Carolyn 'Morticia Addams' Jones during the series). Princess Diana (Carter) is commissioned to return Trevor to the U.S., where she learns of the ongoing battle between good as represented by the Allies and evil in the form of the Axis. Adopting the secret identity of Yeoman Diana Prince, she helps Trevor foil Nazi plots with the help of her magic lie-detector lasso (appropriate, since the character was created by William Moulton Marston, inventor of the polygraph), invisible plane, bullet-deflecting bracelets, and super-strength.

Although the feminism is laid on a bit thick during the pilot, it retreats into a less obnoxious background theme throughout the rest of the episodes presented here. The use of the 1942 setting is clever in several ways: by planting Wonder Woman into the days of Rosie the Riveter, she fits in better, and makes this seem less of a message program. As a result, the period setting has allowed the program to age gracefully in the years since despite the numerous anachronisms that plague the series.

Carter really hadn't done much acting before taking on this starring role, and it's a credit to the producers' eye that they saw that she was capable of carrying a series. Although she's a bit stiff in the pilot and the first few episodes, by the fourth episode she has the character nailed and there's no looking back. The retention of the secluded Paradise Island allows her to play the part with a certain naivété that's very appealing, yet she also projects an unself-conscious strength of character and physicality in the part. To top things off, Wonder Woman is presented here as a math and physics prodigy, which is a much more positive role model than the "Math is hard" Barbie. Unlike such thespians as Denise Richards, who look good but are best described as woeful when cast as a scientist, Carter pulls it off with a natural aplomb. It's impossible to imagine anyone else in the role, frankly. Waggoner makes for a great straight-arrow and almost-campy male lead, who's apparently more dim than Lois Lane in ferreting out secret identities. Beatrice Colen revives the nearly-forgotten Etta Candy character to serve as comic relief with her man-chasing desperation.

As was the case with Batman, there was a steady stream of B-list stars anxious to play Nazis of various sorts throughout the season. But perhaps the most notable find other than Carter herself is the recurring character Drusilla, or Wonder Girl, Diana's younger sister, played by a very, very young Debra Winger. Her fans will certainly be interested, if only because her Wonder Girl costume is even skimpier than Wonder Woman's.

There are a few somewhat formulaic episodes, with a standard plot of Trevor thinking Wonder Woman is in trouble, going to rescue her, getting captured by Nazis and having to be rescued himself by Wonder Woman. But there are also some entertaining episodes, such as the two-part The Feminum Mystique, in which Nazis find Paradise Island and attempt to enslave the Amazons to mine the magical metal that forms Diana's bracelets. A nod to DC's penchant for stories with gorillas (gorillas on the cover seemed to sell a lot of comics for some reason) in Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua as she takes on a Nazi-trained giant ape. Last of the Two Dollar Bills provides a whimsical explanation for why you don't see that denomination much any more. The two-part Judgment from Outer Space mostly plays as a weaker and preachier version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, though the addition of Nazis to the story does provide some interesting twists. One part of this program seems to be a few minutes short and may be missing some footage (perhaps from the recap of the prior episode, which seems unduly brief). Roy Rogers guest stars in The Bushwhackers, an entertaining pastiche of the old Republic westerns that finds Wonder Woman foiling rustlers who are stealing cattle earmarked for the military.

After this season, ABC for some reason canceled the series, but it was quickly picked up by CBS for two more seasons. But there were serious changes, including an updating to the 1970s and (for the most part) dumping the Nazis. The change in scene and timeframe really isn't for the better, and this first season is definitely the best of the three. If you're only intending to get part of the series, this is the volume to acquire.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Since this program had a decent-sized budget and was shot on film, the episodes presented here look wonderful for three-decade-old television. Clarity is sharp, without added enhancement. Color is very good, with deep black levels. Skin tones on occasion have an odd wavelike pattern visible on them for some reason, but it's not a significant issue most of the time. The only other defect is moderate speckling and expected graininess during the optical sequences. I didn't expect this to look half this good and am very pleased with the results.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono track sounds quite good. It's very clean for the most part, with only occasional minor hiss. The range is quite acceptable, with decent presence. The frequent brass sounds in the music sound first-rate, and Charles Fox's infectious theme song sounds fabulous.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 112 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Lynda Carter and Executive Producer Douglas S. Cramer
Packaging: Digipak
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: DVD-18

Extras Review: Two DVD-18s and an RSDL disc contain the entire season. In addition there's a commentary on the pilot that isn't bad. Carter talks a good deal about preparing for the part and her selection for the role, but she does leave quite a few unanswered questions. It's not an essential commentary but certainly not as egregious as many.

The package is wrapped up by a 21m:30s documentary, Beauty, Brawn and Bulletproof Bracelets. This again features Carter (who still looks fabulous) and Cramer, plus comics historian Les Daniels and esteemed artist Alex Ross discussing the character both in the funnies and over the air. Some attention is given to the notorious costume, as well as some of the more interesting bits of effects work. It's worthwhile and a nice bow to wrap up the package.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Warner provides these old episodes in excellent shape, with some good extras. The program that fueled millions of adolescent fantasies is a must-have for all fans of 1970s television.

 


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