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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/30/02

Transformers: Villains
1986 (2001) - Rhino

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Transformers: Villains

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B/F

Specs and Features

66 mins (3 episodes at approximately 22 mins each), NR, full-frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, keepcase packaging, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (18 chapters), language: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: none

"Creating a mindless slave is simplicity itself thanks to the brilliant complexity of my hypno-chip!"

When I was 11 years old, I ran home from school for three reasons: the ABC After School Specials, The Transformers and because the school bully was about to give me an ass-whuppin'. The third one's not all that fun to discuss and the ABC After School Specials are nowhere in DVD's future, so let's talk Transformers. It'd be difficult to find many cartoon series and toy lines that were as successful at influencing each other, and the little kids that gobbled them up, as The Transformers were. I'd watch the cartoon and want the toys; I'd play with the toys and look forward to the next installment of the series. But I regress... I mean digress. In many ways, The Transformers cartoon series is an outdated product of its time, but even still, they retain some of their indulgent brand of light, kiddy-friendly sci-fi.

Transformers: Villains features three linked episodes: Ultimate Doom, Parts 1, 2 & 3. The Evil Decepticons, with the assistance of the aptly named Dr. Archevil, have a plan to take over production of energon cubes (the Transformer equivalent of crude oil) and ultimately, the universe itself. Not an easy task, but they've got a plan - create an entire population of slaves by taking control of their minds. With Archevil's mind controlling hypno-chip, they can put the human population to work for them and produce greater amounts of energon. Things aren't so easy for the Autobots. The Decepticons have captured Sparkplug, the Autobots' primary technician, and have made him into a slave. The malevolent Megatron draws Cybertron (your basic man-made moon) closer into Earth's orbit to cause further destruction. Will the Autobots intercept Megatron's nasty plan soon enough to prevent the forces of nature that have been unleashed by the approaching Cybertron? You'll only find out if you watch, but let's just say that in the land of the Transformers evil doesn't last very long. There is, after all, a series to carry on.

Rhino released this trio of episodes as a featureless disc, but they're in fairly decent shape for home viewing. The main hindrance to the video is an outdated look. There's only so much you can do to cheap, made-for-television material to give it a little more life. It has a tendency to look flat and dull. As a result, Optimus Prime and company sometimes look a little worse for wear. Colors, particularly blues and greens, seem faded, yet some of the brighter colors stand out. Black level is serviceable and flesh tones... oh wait, there's no flesh tones. Never mind. Grain is negligible and the source print exhibits very little damage. It's not a bad picture, but it certainly could have been cleaned up some to make it look a more crisp and defined.

I was taken aback a bit by the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It didn't knock me out of my chair or anything as dramatic as that, but it sounded quite a bit better than it previously had on home video or on television. Though most of the audio movement is across the front left and right speakers, there is some play in the surround channels. The music track sounds full and robust here and adds a measure of strength to the rear half of the sound mix. You'll also hear a decent share of animated laser noises and explosions that liven up the mix some. Bass level is adequately potent and really kicks in on some of the action sequences. I certainly don't remember The Transformers sounding like this when I was a tike.

Rhino has since released a few of these Transformers discs. Most of them are featureless, but they're worth a spin if you're a fan who has to have them in digital format. This disc might be a little more difficult to track down now that Rhino has released a full box-set of the first season of The Transformers on DVD (a 3-disc set of episodes with a 4th disc of extras). Those discs of episodes (5 or 6 episodes per disc) are also available separately. But if you only need a quick fix of the never-ending Autobot/Decepticon battle, this disc is a good way to go.

Dan Kelly
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