Ruby-Spears (September 15-19, 1986), Warner Archive (April 1, 2011), 1 disc, 110 mins, 4:3 ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0, Not Rated , Retail: $14.95


Chuck Norris and his Karate Kommandos fight The Klaw and his henchman Super Ninja who are bent on dominating the world.

The Sweatbox Review:

Chuck Norris has his share of fans around the world. He has become known as the ultimate tough guy and has reached an iconic status few action stars ever establish. Of course, his reputation is nothing new and has been around for over two decades. Still, long before Walker, Texas Ranger, he starred in a string of successful action-adventure movies like Good Guys Wear Black, and Lone Wolf McQuade. While never reaching the heights of Stallone or Schwarzenegger, he had already achieved a great level of fame by the time he approached Ruby-Spears with an idea for a cartoon series called Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos. The show starred Chuck Norris as the leader of a team of martial arts fighters who battle against VULTURE.

The Karate Kommandos featured a diverse team that included Pepper, a technology expert, Reed, Chuck’s apprentice, Kimo, a samurai warrior, Tabe, a sumo champion, and Too Much, a kid in Chuck’s care. VULTURE, on the other hand, seems to be mostly made up of their leader The Klaw and his henchman Super Ninja, although we do see a female counterpart named Angelfish in the first episode. In most of the episodes, VULTURE wants to steal some super-secret and advanced piece of military technology and the Karate Kommandos are tasked with either protecting it or recovering it. Similar to Mister T’s show in style – another 80s Ruby-Spears star vehicle – each episode begins with a quick live-action shot of Chuck Norris at his gym explaining the episode and later at the end emphasizing the moral of the story.

Like many other shows coming out at the time, Kommandos started as a five-part miniseries (without a real connecting thread). However, the show was never picked up beyond the original five episodes. While no official explanation was ever given to the show’s demise, it is fair to say that the show probably did not get much traction from audience or critics. The show itself was a little misleading and probably could have been built differently. I was always a bit confused by the Karate notion of this show. Nothing can dispute Chuck Norris’ prowess in Karate, but most members of the team do not even use Karate. They’re also fairly stereotypical characters with flat personalities. They are standard archetypes – the tomboy, the fighter, the fat guy, the kid that gets into trouble, and the young apprentice. These can work fine in children’s cartoons, but in this case they just seemed too generic to make audiences care for them. Ultimately, other shows just did it first and better.

The episodes on this disc are as follows:

Deadly Dolphin (September 15, 1986): Chuck and the Kommandos fight The Klaw to prevent them from breaking into Sealab and kidnapping a well-known scientist.

Target: Chuck Norris (September 16, 1986): The Klaw steals a computer chip that gives them access to NATO’s defenses. It’s up to Chuck and the Kommandos to recover the chip and save the world.

Terror Train (September 17, 1986): Chuck has to disarm a bomb strapped to a train that is transporting a top-secret government robot of interest to The Klaw.

Menace From Space (September 18, 1986): Chuck follows The Klaw into space to prevent the villain from controlling a fusion cannon.

Island of the Walking Dead (September 19, 1986): Chuck visits Voodoo Island to recover a missing military satellite and finds the island filled with zombies.

Is This Thing Loaded?

Like other Warner Archives releases, this one comes without any special features.

Case Study:

The DVD comes housed in a standard black Amaray Case. The cover features Chuck Norris prominently with a red background. This is being billed as part of the “Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection”, even though it is really a Ruby-Spears production.

Ink And Paint:

The video print isn’t great, but it’s perfectly adequate for a release like this. Given that the show is nearly 25 years old, I can’t say I was expecting a great transfer. This is basically on par with previous Warner Archive collection DVDs from the 80s. If you’ve seen the recent Hanna-Barbera 1980’s collection, you might have caught the first episode of this already and seen the quality. The print is the same with some scratches and grain found on the print. The show is being released in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Scratch Tracks:

Featuring a very basic track, Karate Kommandos won’t impress you with the sound, but I doubt it will bother you either. It comes with a standard Dolby Digital 2.0. The show has been released in English with no subtitles or alternate audio tracks available.

Final Cut:

If you have vague memories of the show when it first aired on television back in 1986, you might be interested in the show. More recently, the show was also show on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block (although with only five episodes, it was a very short run). I reckon that the people most interested in this release are 1980’s action cartoon enthusiasts and Chuck Norris uber-fans. Otherwise, I really do not have much to recommend here. It was a generic show when it first aired and it has not dated very well. The era of infallible action heroes is over, even for a kid’s cartoon. Having said all that, there is something very nostalgic about the show and how it handles villains like The Klaw. There just were other shows from the era that did it much better.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?