Zorro: Still sexy 50 years later

I don't make a secret of how much I love Zorro. He's exactly like Batman except Spanish and, y'know, first. Zorro is a fictional character so cool that Bruce Wayne, an even cooler fictional character, decided to base his whole life on him.

So I was pretty excited that Disney has released the complete series (two seasons, 78 episodes) of the black and white Zorro television show that ran in the late 1950s. The DVDs are part of Disney's stylish Disney Treasures series. The Zorro DVDs, divided into two sets: season 1 and season 2, come in fancy black metal boxes and include fancy collectors pins and postcards. They also include a long-winded introduction by Leonard Maltin, but fortunately my remote control includes a skip button.

The Zorro series is like the 1950s Superman series starring George Reeves, except it isn't boring and the action scenes are awesome. The opening sequence also features a bit of animation, which is pretty neat given the era. The song is awesome too. I like that it ends by repeating the word 'Zorro' to the point where the word loses all meaning. 

If you are unfamilar with the character for some reason (which means you HAVEN'T been reading the fantastic Dynamite comic series written by Matt Wagner and drawn by Francesco Francavilla despite my frequent suggestions to do so), Zorro (Guy Williams, aka Professor John Robinson from Lost in Space) is actually Don Diego de la Vega, a wealthy young man who has just returned home to California after studying abroad in Spain. A large part of his studies involved sword fighting (spoiler alert: this will come in handy later). When he returns he sees that the people of California are being ruled with an iron fist by the evil Captain Monastario. He decides that it would be a good idea to pretend to be a useless fop during the day, and transform himself into the dashing Zorro at night to fight the injustice he sees around him. This works out pretty well.

Both Zorro and Monastario are played by attractive actors, which adds to my enjoyment when they are fighting each other. In the third episode of the first season they get into a big whip fight and just start whipping the shit out of each other. You can see it around 5:45 of this colourized clip: 

Because this show holds up really well, is beautifully restored in black and white, and these are probably the only DVD box sets that Batman would own, I highly recommend.

The Simpsons Season 12: Worth Owning

I know a lot of people think The Simpsons jumped the shark well before season 12, but I disagree. I still think the show is funny now, and consider that, as high a number as it sounds, the twelfth season was barely past the half-way point for this pop culture juggernaut.

Admittedly, Season 12 doesn't contain any "classic episodes," but it does have a lot of good ones with a lot of very funny moments. I think that Season 12 is a turning point for the show, too. I wouldn't say the show gets dramatically worse, it just changes its feel quite a bit, and it has kept this new feel until the current episodes. The plots are more elaborate and absurd, the guest star cameos feel a lot more gimmicky, and the pop culture references become very current. The humour also gets a little edgier, perhaps due to increased competition from South Park and Family Guy (aka - the worst show ever).

I also want to point out that the packaging for this season is pretty nice, and is completely comic book-themed, from the exterior art to the booklet to the animated menus.

Season 12 starts with a solid Halloween episode, which includes the hilarious Night of the Dolphin short (in which Mayor Quimby delivers one of my favourite all-time Quimby lines: "People, please. We're all frightened and horny").

In fact, Season 12 has a lot of great lines. In the awesome Skinner's Sense of Snow episode, Homer and Ned have this exchange in Ned's car while Homer is driving recklessly:

Ned (nervously): It's a catchy song alright...you really wrote it?
Homer: Yeah. For Princess Di.

I mean, that is comedy gold. It's funny THREE TIMES! It's funny because Feel Like Making Love is a hilarious song for Homer to be singing at the top of his lungs while driving Ned Flanders through a blizzard at top speed. It's funny because Homer told Ned that he wrote it. And it's REALLY funny that Homer says that he wrote it for Princess Di.

The episode Pokey Mom is one of my favourites to catch in reruns. The episode guest stars Michael Keaton as an artistically talented convict that Marge takes a liking to. Other episodes of note this season: Day of the Jackanapes (the Manchurian Candidate-inspired Sideshow Bob epsiode), Worst Episode Ever (Bart and Milhouse take over the comic shop while Comic Shop Guy works on making friends), A Tale of Two Springfields (The town divides in half after a new area code is established, and The Who guest star), HOMR (Homer becomes a genius after a crayon is removed from his brain), Children of a Lesser Clod (Homer starts a daycare and gains a reputation as a perfect father), and Homer Vs. Dignity (Mr Burns starts paying Homer to do increasingly humiliating public stunts).

This season is definitely the dawn of the era where most Simpsons episodes feel more like two or three half-developed episode ideas smashed together into each episode, but that definitely gets worse in later seasons. You can still say "it's the episode where Krusty finds out he has a daughter" instead of "it's the one where a new comic shop opens up in Springfield, and also I think Marge opens a gym or something? And Homer gets plastic surgery?"

It's a good season. It's not season five good, but it's good. Still much funnier than most television comedies. I have really been enjoying watching these episodes again.

John Weighs in on the X-Men DVD Thing

Well, Rachelle pretty much nailed it on her review, so I'll keep this brief. Yes, these cartoons were terrible. The voice acting was basically bad, bad, bad (with some exceptions - Apocalypse was terrific), the animation was cheap, etc, etc. BUT. there are still some reasons to think about getting this collection:

1. The possibility of special prizes. The copy that we received contained, in lieu of Volume 1, Disc 1, the Leonardo DiCaprio film Catch Me if You Can. Maybe you'll get a Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD, or a slice of dried bologna or anything! It's like gambling!

2. Drinking games. Every time they reuse footage or dialogue, take a shot. Every time Professor X zooms into frame at an unsafe speed, take a shot. Every time something MAKES NO SENSE, take a shot. You will require about one episode per party.

3. Canadian pride (assumes that you are Canadian). Watch the episode with Alpha Flight and take pride in knowing that our national super-hero, the Vindicator, is so concerned with duty that he is willing to confiscate his best friend's skeleton for the good of his country/the military conspiracy that he works for. I felt so filled with national pride that I immediately confiscated some of Rachelle's ribs. Also, once more: suck it, other national conspiracies.

4. MST3K fun. If you watch bad movies specifically for the purpose of mocking them you will have fun with this. We burnt out after four or five episodes, though.

5. Academic interest. Watch and consider the political or practical considerations behind each nonsensical decision: why does Cable have a black starburst around his (intact) eye? Are scars hard to animate or did the writers/animators believe that children shouldn't know about eye-scarification, in case they might try to it themselves (to look cool, like Cable)? What about that hover-wheelchair? Was regular chair-wheeling too intricate an animation? Was it a plot hook that never got used, like Moira McTaggart's Irish accent? I swear that I could write five papers on this stuff.

6. PYRO AND AVALANCHE. They only show up every few episodes but these two are the very best thing about this show. Pyro is an Australo-Cockney skinny-boy and Avalanche is a big dumb dope who sounds like he maybe got his powers by being beat repeatedly about the head with a pipe. Nothing ever goes right for them - they try to hit on a chick in a bar and it turns out to be Rogue, who beats them silly. They kidnap a scientist and it turns out to be their boss Mystique in disguise. They are the ultimate sad sacks. I want to pitch The Misadventures of Pyro and Avalanche to Adult Swim. Rachelle's suggestion, Pyro and Avalanche in: Gettin' the Blob Laid also has merit, maybe as a movie spin-off.

In any case, you already know if you're going to buy this thing or not. It's exactly like you remember it, trust me.

Oops, now I've got to write my Saturday post. Bye!