Sunday, December 07, 2014

Monster Force: Volume 1 – Review

Directed by: Chris Schouten

First aired: 1994

Contains spoilers

Monster Force was a short lived animated TV show, which used the Universal license to include the classic creatures from that studio. The show was written primarily by Marv Wolfman of Marvel's Tomb of Dracula fame (though the pilot was written by Craig Miller).

The first volume DVD, which was released in 2009, contains the first seven out of thirteen episodes. To my knowledge the second volume is yet to be released. I must admit that I was unaware of the show until I picked up the DVD, and I wasn't exactly blown away by it.

Lawrence Bayne voiced Reed
The show is set in the future, I assume given the wonderful toys the Monster Force have to play with, including jet bikes, power suits and lasers. Even scared townfolk are able to go out in their mobs with laser rifles rather than pitchforks and torches. It isn't revealed in these episodes how the Force came to be, but it is made up of mentor Dr Reed Crawley (Lawrence Bayne) and his young friends; Luke Talbot (Lawrence Bayne) who is stricken by the werewolf's curse, martial artist Tripp Hansen (Philip Akin), the weapon specialist Lance McGruder (Philip Akin) and psychic Shelley Frank (Caroly Larson). Frankenstein's Monster (Howard Jerome) is an occasional team member and has a particular affinity for Shelley.

Renfield and Dracula
It is within the Creatures of the Night that we find our vampire connection. The primary enemy is Dracula (Robert Bockstael) who is more often than not accompanied by three vampire brides and Renfield. Renfield is unfortunately relegated to a rather unfunny comedy character. As well as Dracula, we get appearances from other werewolves, the Mummy (also Robert Bockstael) and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Abraham Stoker
I mentioned the wonderful toys that the good guys have to play with. These include EMACS or Energised Monster Armed Containment Suits. Not used by Luke, the wholly human members of the team use these suits to even up the odds. At one point they meet a vampire hunter called Abraham Stoker (!), and he is less than impressed with the gadgets relying instead on hammer and stake. A gruff old buzzard he also disagrees with the team's philosophy of containment and believes the vampiric scourge needs to be killed. Actually the team do kill vampires from time to time, normally with a solar grenade or a laser. However they do try to capture - it is a kid’s show after all.

Luke in wolf form with Dracula
The vampires on the other hand have a full arsenal of supernatural powers. They can change shape, become mist, fly and turn their enemies into vampires. As I mentioned a solar grenade it will not come as a shock to learn that sunlight kills them. Dracula seems to have spells and incantations that he can use as well. There isn't really much other lore to mention, however Dracula does seem obsessed with ensuring that monsters are on his side and not on the side of the humans. In one episode he tries to recruit Luke, who can turn into the Wolfman at will except during full moons when he loses control. If he were to kill someone then he would permanently become a mindless beast (apparently). Dracula also wants to recruit the Frankenstein Monster.

EMACS powered up
Whilst there arguably wasn't anything intrinsically wrong with the show, it really didn't grab me; perhaps it was all a bit too run-of-the-mill despite the sci-fi twist. The voice acting was average (though I liked the way Dracula was voiced as a debonair character), the animation was average and the stories too short to really develop a proper meaningful arc. Narrative wise, Dracula seems to fall into the clichéd arch villain trap, not killing the good guys when he has chance and relying on convoluted plans to convert the monsters who are on the good guy side. All in all this is probably only worth 4.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Alex. G said...

Thanks for informing me about this show. Gonna have to seek this one out since I am a sucker for cartoons about paranormal investigators.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

no worries Alex