Manimal - The Complete Series : Release Year - 1983

Overall Rating : 6.5/10

Simon Macorkindale (Falcon Crest (TV) )
Melody Anderson (High School U.S.A)
Reni Santoni (Cobra)
Michael D. Roberts (Rain Man)
Glynn Turman [Pilot only] (Cooley High)

Supplied By : Shout! Factory

Film Reviewed By : Rick L. Blalock

Date Reviewed : November. 21, 2015


Dr. Jonathan Chase, wealthy, young and handsome. A man with the brightest of futures, a man with the darkest of pasts. From Africa's deepest recesses to the rarefied peaks of Tibet, heir to his father's legacy and the world's darkest mysteries. Jonathan Chase, master of the secrets that divide man from animal, animal from man. Partnered with a young policed detective and a former army corporal from the fields of Vietnam. A trio that stands against the crime that breeds in the concrete jungles and stretches its deadly tentacles to the fascinating but dangerous world beyond, the world of MANIMAL! Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale), famed Professor of Criminology, with the inherited powers to transform himself into any animal he wishes, uses that power to assist the New York Police Department in solving major crimes. He is assisted by Brooke McKenzie (Melody Anderson), an intelligent and beautiful detective with the NYPD, and Tyrone 'TY' Earl (Michael D. Roberts), a former intelligence officer with whom he served in Vietnam.
This short lived Television series from 1983, was created by the prolific Glen Larson, and starred Simon MacCorkindale as wealthy Professor Jonathan Chase. In the series, not only is Jonathan Case a Professor at New York University's Police Science Department, but he also harnesses a secret ability called "transmutation", which means that he is able to transform himself into any animal he chooses(It is a technique, he learned and perfected from his late father). In the show's Pilot movie, after her partner is killed on a case, Chase often shadows Detective Brooke McKenzie during calls, as a black panther and a hawk, assisting her a number of times, and sometimes saving her life. As Brooke continues to get deeper into the case, which killed her partner, she uncovers a plot by a terrorist group, who plan to hijack a hefty military shipment of nerve gas for their own evil use. As things grow more dangerous in nature, Johnathan has no other choice but to give up his secret to Brooke. In the end, Brooke is sympathetic to his ability, and finally agrees to keep it a secret. From then, the only persons to know of Chase's rare abilities are Brooke McKenzie, and Chase's war buddy from Vietnam, Tyrone Earl. As the series continued, Jonathan would continue using his shape-shifting abilities, in order to help his new friend Brooke to solve cases(also often there to help is Tyrone (portrayed by Glen Turman in the Pilot, and Michael D. Roberts for the remainder of the show's run) ). Lasting only 8 episodes, the series ran from September, to December of 1983.

Prior to this release, Glen Larson's MANIMAL is one Television series that I personally had never heard of. But upon searching online, I soon discovered that it is one that over the years, has sort of gathered a cult following. Glen Larson himself was quick to note in the interview with him, which is included in the set, that the series was more so popular overseas than in the states. Larson also revels what he believes to have been MANIMAL's biggest problem, and that is that the Pilot movie premiered against the return of the popular show, DALLAS. You know, the one where they revealed who shot JR? That one. While that might have been a huge factor, MANIMAL faced many other things as well. Although MANIMAL seems to have been a show with good intention, and was somewhat fun, it's clear that the show had budget limitations. First, was that the show is based around the idea that its lead character has the ability to transform into any type of animal he chooses. Because of this, a lot of time and planning needed to be done, and although the show was able to employ the great Stan Winston as its effects artist, there was only so much he could do. Because of this, although it is mentioned early on that he could change into ANY animal, in reality, the show was only to deliver the goods on three of them; a black panther, a hawk, and a snake(and a fourth one, a parrot, is only implied.). But on that, as far as big transformations go, the panther and the hawk were the most frequently used, And technically, both were pretty much the same in procedure; close ups of Jonathan's hands, his face, and his mouth, as they slowly change. It's high camp at its best, complete with the character concentrating hard and breathing heavy, shortly before each of his transformations (And in addition to this, his clothes which were ripped during, are seen intact, after he changes back, each and every time). Another thing, is that once Johnathan fully transformed, the crew were dealing with live, unpredictable animals on set, and would often have to film them on sound stages, where the animals' handlers had to be present. This along with the time spent on effects, must have been difficult on all whom were involved, so personally, I think it's no wonder it did not go beyond the 8 episodes that this set collects.

As for the show itself, as I said above, it is some fun, but it is simultaneously, oddly campy, as only a show called MANIMAL could be. For the most part, the show is cheesy, in that the show is pretty much Pro-animal. Most of these episodes feature a story involving the animal lover, Chase hoping to preserve the integrity of a selected animal. For instance, in one such episode, everyone is quick to blame a spider for the death of a man. It's under strange circumstance, and Chase believes that the spider isn't at fault. And because of this, he springs into action, in hopes to proving the spider's innocent, while looking for the true culprit. Similar occurs in an earlier episode, in which a tiger is suspected of killing a circus performer. And so, on and so forth. Many episodes follow this formula, however, with its final 3 episodes, MANIMAL began to change a little. These were less about animals, and more about Jonathan Chase's abilities, and how he adapts them to solve a routine case. Although still campy, these episodes had a more serious tone to them. I kind of liked the serious tone more. yet these episodes had less to do with Chase's abilities(more so the transformations), and I missed that as well. One story involved Chase, Brooke, Ty and others finding a dead man's skeleton, and also a valuable Scrimshaw(a bone with a picture map etched into it). In another episode, which was one of my favorites, saw Jonathan take on a gang of martial arts, led by a crooked criminal. And lastly, the show ended on a good note with a story which featured a group of criminals(led by a pre-Freddy Robert Englund), who look to take over a country town called Birch Hollow, and build an illegal gambling casino(think WALKING TALL). With the feel of the series' final 3 episodes, it's a little impossible to predict where the show would have went.

Out of the Pilot movie, and the 7 full episodes that the show did get, As I said, I really liked the martial arts episode, simply for the fact that it REALLY didn't fit with the others. And the fact that Jonathan Chase happens to become a martial arts expert in matter of just 30 or so minutes is just off-the-wall hysterical. And his reasoning, all the more funny. He gives us and everyone else, a hodgepodge explanation that martial arts initially began with the animals and nature(of course they did, right?). And so, he takes to his books to learn the art of fighting in the way of the wild. Adding to it even further during the final fight of the episode, the present footage, is composited with stock footage of tigers fighting in the wild, which is comparable to the fight footage of Chase squaring off with the episode's villain. It's silly, but it is at the same time, oddly fun, in its outlandishness.

Come to think of it, that statement pretty much sums up the series run. It's really campy, and sometimes a little laughable in nature, but for the most part it's enjoyable. Everyone involved in terms of casting seems to have known just how bizarre this show was, and embraced it for what it is, and was. I liked 2 of the series' 3 leads Simon MacCorkindale, and Melody Anderson a lot, as Professor "Jonathan Chase", and Detective "Melody Anderson respectively. But when it comes to the character of "Tyrone C. Earl", I have to say that I actually preferred Glynn Turman in said role. Turman portrayed Tyrone in the Pilot only. After the Pilot, Glen Larson, and the crew replaced Turman, in favor of having a more comedic character - thus Michael D. Roberts was hired. Larson states in the interview provided that the change was made, in order to implement more comic relief, in order to sort of offset Jonathan's level of seriousness. While I understand why this change was made, overall, I just didn't feel the comedy most of the time, as I liked Turman's more serious character, and his approach more. However, with this said, the film is definitely a nice little odd keepsake, that might be fun to visit from time to time.

Although I had never seen, nor heard of this show prior to this, it appears to have been a cult favorite that was rare to come by, before this release from SHOUT! FACTORY. So it's great to see this show has finally been released for those who wish to revisit it, and also for those who will discover it for the first time(myself is included here). For this release of the complete series, SHOUT! FACTORY, here, has teamed up with the UK's FABULOUS FILMS to release this series. With that said, it appears(and I could be wrong) that the shows Pilot, as well as its 7 episodes have been encoded here from a PAL(Region 2) source, as there is quite a bit of ghosting in the movement of persons and things in scenes. The process of re-encoding PAL video to NTSC involves the process of duplicating frames, in order to increase the video frame rate to the US and Canada standard of 29 frames per second. As a result, sometimes the Actors' movement is a little blurry, however with all things considered, such as the show being 32 years old, and rare, it's not too bad. As for the overall picture, the footage seems to have been shot on film, and then transfered to tape, as was standard for TV shows of the era. The picture does have a little bit of grain, but overall, I was actually surprised with how crisp and colorful it all looks.

Aside from of course, the episodes, the set, as I said includes an interview with series creator Glen Larson, who offers up many details including tidbits about its development, casting, its premiere, why it didn't catch on in the states, as well as its popularity in other countries. In addition to this, in the package is an extensive episode guide booklet, which describes each of the episodes in great detail.

This 3 DVD set is packaged in a clear DVD case. 2 of the 3 discs are held in a front and back insert, while the third disc is housed in the case's back panel. The episode guide booklet in held within the case's front panel.

Special Features include :

- Man To Animal: An Interview With Glen A. Larson
- Concept & Production Notes
- Biographies
- Galleries
- Automan Trailer
- Episode Guide Booklet

Overall, although MANIMAL didn't catch on, and it didn't last long, it is still a short lived series that is interesting, and is somewhat comparable to the television version of THE INCREDIBLE HULK. It's silly, and it's campy, and it's not all that great. But then again, it's enjoyable enough, while at the same time, it presents something that is obviously pretty memorable. Its cult status is surely evidence of that.

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