Hanna-Barbera (1977), Warner Archive (July 23, 2013), 2 Discs, 440 mins, 4:3 ratio, Dolby Digital Mono, Not Rated, Retail: $29.95
After a prehistoric superhero is rescued from an icy prison, he assists three beautiful girls in solving mysteries across America.
The Sweatbox Review:
It’s so fun to watch for the Warner Archive announcements. Just when I think they’ve collected every Hanna-Barbera show I would want, they announce something like Captain Caveman And The Teen Angels. “Oh, yeah! I’d forgotten about that show!” At this point, I can barely recall watching the original version of the show, as I mostly remember Cavey from his appearances on The Flintstones Comedy Show. I was such a wee lad then, that it’s all become hazy. Nevertheless, I was keen to experience some 1970s nostalgia with Warner Archive’s two-disc set.
By 1977, Hanna-Barbera had quite a cottage industry going that was essentially made up of remakes of Scooby-Doo. Many of these actually had Scooby in them, but for a while it seemed like half of their shows were Scooby clones. Every season, they churned out more and more series about teenagers solving mysteries, accompanied by a sidekick of some sort. After already using everything from a ghost to an invisible dog, it was time for the one sidekick that no one had thought of— a caveman! And this time, the teenagers weren’t just the usual mix of geeks, pretty gals, and beatniks; no, Captain Caveman scored big in getting three bright and lovely ladies who were obviously inspired by the hit show Charlie’s Angels, which had debuted on ABC the previous year to boffo ratings.
Captain Caveman And The Teen Angels was originally part of a massive, two-hour show: Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics, which also had segments starring Scooby, Dynomutt, and the eponymous competition show that featured dozens of Hanna-Barbera characters (including the Captain Caveman characters). With so much star power going for it, ABC guaranteed that viewers would stick with them most of the morning (and this came on right after The All-New Superfriends Hour, so I know I was locked onto both Hanna-Barbera and ABC for three hours, only abandoning them for CBS at 11am when Filmation’s Batman-Tarzan Adventure Hour came on.) Cavey returned for a second season on the slightly revamped Scooby’s All-Stars, then got his own timeslot in 1980.
The series’ opening succinctly summarizes the premise: Captain Caveman, appearing very much like the Slag Brothers from Wacky Races, was found frozen in ice in a cave by three mystery-solving friends. He then joins them as they travel across America – in a van, of course – stumbling across a succession of crooks and schemers. The friends are comprised of three young ladies, Brenda, Taffy, and Dee Dee— a brunette, a blonde, and an African American. While the blonde is portrayed as being a little ditzy, at least the African American girl in the group avoided stereotypes, and in fact Dee Dee was seen as the quite capable leader of the group, quite progressive for 1977.
Stories run about eleven minutes each, reflecting the show’s original status as a “filler” in the larger Laff-A-Lympics block, though the format continued when Cavey got his own half-hour show, with two stories per show. All the usual tropes are on display in the forty episodes, with the gang teavelling to Hawaii, meeting Bigfoot, encountering trouble at the circus, and so forth. They even eventually travel into the past to meet Captain Caveman’s parents and help his dad remain chief of his tribe.
With the stories being so short, they naturally have to be wrapped up quickly, and certainly don’t lend themselves to anything resembling character development. Fortunately, the personalities of the characters carry the show. Captain caveman is bigger than life, as portrayed by the legendary Mel Blanc, muttering broken English scattered with “”unga bunga,” and enthusiastically shouting, “CAPTAIN CAAAVEMA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-AN!!!” The sight gags are fun, too, with Cavey continually pulling all sorts of items out of his furry body, and they are often living creatures! His tendency to eat clues also offers good laughs, especially when they are explosive.
Captain Caveman And The Teen Angels may fall into that rather large category of mediocre Hanna-Barbera offerings from the 1970s, but for those of us alive back then, it sure is comforting to have Cavey sitting on my DVD shelf, and to be able to watch him and the Angels with my own kids.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Warner Archive is rarely able to offer bonus features, and that is the case here. The menus do at least list all the episode titles. Incidentally, even the original shows from the All-Star era get paired off, with an opening sequence and closing credits.
Standard keepcase with tray, to help hold the two DVD-R discs.
Ink And Paint:
The episodes do not look restored or properly color-timed, with skin tones tending towards yellow. However, the episodes do look quite good otherwise, being reasonably sharp and having little in the way of dust or scratches. Occasional scenes are softer in appearance, but considering the age of the show and nature of its release on DVD, I was basically satisfied.
One-channel English is all that’s offered. The sound is clear and distinct, sounding at least as good and likely better than it could in the 1970s.
I’m always torn when trying to rate a release such as this. On the one hand, the show is nothing special, being yet another attempt to cash in on the crime-solving teens craze. On the other hand, it does have a neat twist or two with its cast, the voice talents of Mel Blanc (among other Hanna-Barbera stalwarts), and fun gags with a good-natured tone. No doubt that adult fans will appreciate it most if they have a fondness for the era, while today’s kids should also find themselves just as amused as we were back in 1977.