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Speed Racer
DVD disk
10.08.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Speed Racer order
Director:
Christopher Cain

Actors:
Peter Fernandez
Jack Curtis
Corinne Orr

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The sixties brought about many things that would later become pop-culture icons and among them was a nifty little cartoon about a kid named Speed Racer. Speed drives around in his trusty Mach 5 (the most powerful car ever!), gets in and out of trouble and faces a bunch of oddball villains with the help of his girlfriend, his little brother and a monkey. Meanwhile, all the poor guy wants to is to become a professional race car driver...
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
SPEED RACER is like many pop culture icons. It looks great on lunch boxes and on t-shirts, it’s great to parody on other shows and has a broad influence on others but when you get straight down to it, it usually ends up being sort of boring. The problem is common to many older, influential shows. They start out with an innovative idea and then a million other shows begin building on it until the students eventually surpass the teachers and then, as is the proof with the current state of television, everything goes into the crapper and starts afresh.

All in all though, SPEED RACER is still pretty cool to watch for a little while if only for the camp value and basic animation. It’s nothing compared to today’s super refined computer techniques and if you’ve been a long time reader of my reviews, you’ll figure out that this is a huge advantage as it retains a lot of the “human” feel of cartoons. The characters look a bit different every time they appear and you can actually see some of the blur from the cells moving around. I love stuff like that! The plotlines on the other hand are definitely not rudimentary. With villainous turnabouts and intricate, conflicted family relationships, SPEED RACER offers a unique look into animated feature storylines that shows that even back in the sixties...Japan was light years ahead of the Western world as far as the exploitation of the genre. SPEED RACER is also one of those cartoons you would never see on kids TV nowadays. Cars blowing up, bullets flying and crooks sticking revolvers in each other's neck. This type of action in cartoon series is unfortunately going the way of the Dodo bird, leaving today's kids with ridiculously sanitized garbage to watch on Saturday mornings. It's a sad statement on the current state of affairs when I can safely say that a 1966 series gave me a breath of fresh air.
THE EXTRAS
Here's where the whole thing almost falls apart. DVD producers need to start understanding that naming a particular release a "Special Limited Extreme Collector's Edition" alone doesn't make it all that. For a cult classic like SPEED RACER, I expected a hell of a lot more than what I got, but the fact that they try to pass it off as something more than just a collection of episodes is a scandalous thing that cost them a whole star in my rating.

To begin with, we get a set of production notes which are brief text explanations of both the original Japanese and US versions of the show, the theme song's lyrics and short bios of the US voice talent bios.

Next up is a rundown of the special gadgets of the Mach 5. In the show, the Mach 5 has seven buttons on the steering wheel, each unlocking some special piece of equipment such as spinning blades, an airtight compartment for underwater navigation and a spy bird robot that comes out of the hood. This feature goes through all seven of them and lets you see a clip from the series in which they're used. It would actually be pretty neat if it wasn't already done as part of episode 2. As it is, it's simple rehash.

Following that is a Villains Gallery in which you get to see short descriptions and little action shots of all the villains (and there are plenty) of the series. Again, it's cool but nothing that warrants too much excitement. The last feature is entitled Speed Lives On which displays a short clip from the crappy-looking 1994 remake cartoon series as well as a few merchandising items.

Where are the episodes in original Japanese? Where's the description of the cult phenomenon? Where's an explanation of the influence of the series on animation as a whole? Where's a rundown on the struggle to get this on US TV? Come on guys? I thought this was the "Limited Collector's Edition"!?! All I get is a cardboard sleeve with a rubber, tire-like cover?!? Sorry DVD-San...that won't do.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
This is a pretty narrow-market release that will likely appeal to hardcore fans alone. I don't really see anyone buying this casually and younger kids probably just won't "get it". The series itself is actually pretty fun to watch, but the whole package doesn't deliver enough to honor such an influential cartoon.
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