When you boil the idea of super heroes down to the idea that many run around wearing masks, tights and underwear on top of their costumes, it really is hard to take them seriously. The 1960s Batman show captured this perfectly, combining over-the-top stories with a bunch of campy cheese. The result is a show that still resonates, particularly whenever the words, “POW,” “BLAM,” and “BIFF” are uttered. Running from 1966 through 1968, the show reveled in poking fun at the idea of super heroes, creating a live-action cartoon. I thought it’d be tough to top the cheese-factor Batman had for the hero genre, but then along came Legends of the Super Heroes, a two-part television special that included Adam West donning the Batman cowl (albeit one that didn’t fit as well as the original) and Burt Ward once again at his side as an obviously grown-up Boy Wonder. Save me now!
Legends of the Super Heroes is a super hero-themed variety show from 1979. It takes the large cast of costumed saviors found in the animated Super Friends series and gives them a live action spin. They’re on stage – literally – stumbling through a comedic roast that has about as much real humor as a musical interpretation of Paranormal Activity might have. Talk about your train wreck caught on video.
Legends of the Super Heroes is about playing comic heroes and villains for (attempted) laughs versus basic battles of good versus evil. With their cheap and bright costumes, most of the main players look like they stepped off of a card of lucha libre wrestling and into the television studio. Two TV specials make up the series. The first episode, The Challenge, has a group of bad guys led by the Riddler (Frank Gorshin returns to the role) trying to trick the heroes into giving up their powers. For some reason, both the heroes and the villains sit around and share stories to a laugh track in between the horrendous action. It’s much of the same in “The Roast,” only this time Ed McMahon moderating the comments.
Legends of the Super Heroes is a product of its time as demonstrated by the wise-cracking introduction of Ghetto Man, a black stand-up who gives a toned-down talk that might have been more suited for Sanford and Son. It’s just one sign of the dated nature of the program.
Legends of the Super Heroes can only be viewed one way – by expecting something worse than the piece of flaming monkey poop that it is. The charm of the show is in its horrendous writing, production values and community theater performances. I doubt that anyone would argue the point that this show is bad. But that’s where some fun can be had, even if it the nostalgia only lasts through the opening credits.
Legends of the Super Heroes DVD Review
Hardcore comic fans can finally retire their bootleg VHS copies as Legends of the Superheroes has made its way to DVD courtesy of the on-demand Warner Archive live. Both television specials look great given the video source. Audio is in English mono. Also included is more than eight minutes of outtakes and deleted scenes, so be careful that your finger doesn’t slip and turn them on.
Legends of the Super Heroes Gallery