Inhumanoids is likely to gain an audience transplant for this DVD release. Back in the mid-eighties, when the series was created and first aired, it was no doubt targeted towards a kids’ audience – specifically those with the money to snap up the various tie-in merchandise. Yet in 2005, those forking out for this two-disc set are more likely to be twenty-to-thirtysomething nostalgists wishing to relive their childhoods. (More than likely they’ve already picked up the various Masters of the Universe and Transformers releases.) Being unable to recall the series from my own youth I am hardly qualified to comment on how Inhumanoids lives up to such childhood memories, however this review will approach it from an adult perspective as no doubt its ability to stand up to more mature eyes will of course affect those considering a purchase.
The crux of the series is a battle between good and evil. On the side of good we have Earthcore, a quartet of square jawed all-American scientists, and on the side of evil the Inhumanoids, three house-sized creatures by the names of Metlar, D. Compose and Tendrill, each of whom have their own particular means of creating wanton destruction. Over the course of its thirteen episodes, Inhumanoids’ creators also provide something of a mythology, complete with an entire underground kingdom, talking trees and other such fantastical elements familiar from the likes of Tolkein and Jules Verne.
As for the actual storylines themselves, Inhumanoids’s two discs proffer a distinct separation. On the first we have five episodes which were later reconfigured (i.e. the various credits were removed as were the repetitious bits which follow the ad breaks) into Inhumanoids : The Movie. The second disc then houses the concluding eight episodes which again share an overriding narrative arc, but generally dispel with the cliffhangers and could each operate as a standalone entry. Surprisingly, it is those which make up the feature which prove to be the more simplistic in storytelling terms with principle writer Flint Dille clearly becoming more relaxed as the series progresses and thus more adventurous. Whereas the earliest episodes provide the laser battles and explosions typical of such fare, later on they begin to deal with teen cults, introduce an evil computer and defecting Russians (all of whom are either KGB or chess masters, of course!) or reinvent the Statue of Liberty as a brassy “Noo Yoik” broad.
That said, all thirteen episodes prove themselves to be jaunty, no-nonsense affairs. It’s impossible to find yourself getting anywhere near involved with the exploits of Earthcore – the general state of affairs is that a problem arises and is then solved within minutes, if not seconds – but then it’s also rarely dull. As said, the mythology bulks things out and keeps things busy (even if such aspects were invented purely as a means of getting more toys on the shelf – toy giant Hasbro being behind its creation) as do the additional human characters: a moustachioed tabloid reporter with no integrity; wealthy do-gooder Sandra Shaw; her evil brother, the eye-patch sporting Blackthorn (who tries to bargain with the Inhumanoids, of course); an fellow bad guy Dr. Herman Mangler, a man who, upon falling into a toxic pool during a prison break, becomes Nightcrawler, a half-dead mutation.
With regards to the latter, it is often surprising just how dark the tone of Inhumanoids is at times. Visually, Nightcrawler resembles a carcass with a snakelike limb, whilst D. Compose’s special skill is the ability to turn whomever he touches into a giant member of the undead complete with exposed ribcage and rotting flesh. The BBFC have decided upon a PG certificate for this release, but it’s hard not to imagine this being much higher had the series been live action, especially as the above examples are also met with lopped arms, transparent stomachs and other such body horror. Then again, the crudeness of the animation has its own way of dulling the visceral edges, though of course, the fans from the eighties will no doubt want it this way.
Indeed, the production values as a whole leave much to be desired, yet this is part of the fun. The vocal talents behind the three key villains provide them with eighties issue, barely discernible evil speech impediments (lisps, a penchant for sibilance, etc.), whilst the rest gamely deliver the agreeably trite dialogue. Everyone speaks in CAPITAL LETTERS, has an off the cuff witticism for every occasion, even when on the brink of death, and there’s an unavoidably flirtatious edge to Earthcore’s macho banter which makes for an inadvertent delight. Of course, each episode also serves as an extended commercial for whatever the latest vehicle or flying machine was to hit the shelves and also seems to be providing its own geography lessons (“Look! It’s the elemental core!”), yet the nostalgists will no doubt lap up such traits as part of the series’ overall charm. Indeed, in its own low-key way, Inhumanoids offers plenty to amuse over the course of its thirteen episodes. Those wishing to relive their fond memories would do well to pick it up, and maybe even those inclined towards such fare will find much to savour.
Inhumanoids comes to Region 2 DVD as a two-disc set and in reasonable condition. The original 4:3 ratios are kept for each of the thirteen episodes as are the original mono soundtracks. Clearly no remastering or restoration has occurred and as such the colours are somewhat duller than I imagine they would have been back in 1986, though it must be noted that the animation was never superb in the first place. The image also suffers from artefacting on occasion (though such instances are minor) and ghosting throughout, an aspect which is especially noticeable during the more hectic moments.
As for the soundtrack it is difficult to determine whether the faults are courtesy of age or the original recording. The mix as a whole feels generally muddy with the music and sound effects competing with the booming vocal delivery, whilst, as previously noted, the Inhumanoids themselves are barely discernible at times. (In this respect subtitles would have been much appreciated, but alas are nowhere to be found.)
As for extras, these are clearly designed for the nostalgia buff. We are offered an original TV commercial for the Tendrill and Redwood toys, a gallery of the artwork used for these and other toys in the Inhumanoids range, plus – easily the most enticing of special features – complete scripts for each of the thirteen episodes. With regards to the latter, please note that these are available only to those with DVD-ROM capabilities.
Anthony Nield has reviewed the Region 2 release of Inhumanoids : The Complete Series, an unexpectedly jaunty collection of all thirteen episodes from the original mid-eighties animated series. Fans of the show will no doubt be pleased at the presence of downloadable scripts, though the presen