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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > Drama > WWII > Comedy > TV > Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection (1975 - 1979/Lynda Carter/DC Comics/Warner Blu-ray Set)

Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection (1975 - 1979/Lynda Carter/DC Comics/Warner Blu-ray Set)

Picture: B Sound: C+ Extras: C+ Episodes: B

Wonder Woman has been popular since she arrived during WWII and remains the number one female superhero of all time, yet being brought alive on any screen took decades and her debut was actually in Saturday Morning animated TV cartoons before anyone saw her live action. Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection would suggest all her live action TV exploits (including a failed 1960s TV pilot film, the underrated Cathy Lee Crosby 1974 TV movie and disappointing Charisma Carpenter pilot telefilm that never aired) would be included in this set, but this is strictly all the Lynda Carter adventures.

To distinguish itself from the Crosby telefilm, the TV movie pilot that launched Carter as the still most successful Wonder Woman (though we love Gal Godot) was entitled The New Original Wonder Woman, had more money and ambition in it than you would expect and was a major event when it premiered on ABC in 1975. Save The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler telefilms (both finally on excellent Blu-rays themselves) and not counting mini-series, the film has one of the most remarkable casts of any film made for television ever. Carter is instantly perfect in the role of the title character and her secret identity of Yeoman Diana Prince, Lyle Waggoner (who eventually left the insanely successful Carol Burnett Show for this series) is Major Steve Trevor, Richard Eastham is his boss General Blankenship, Cloris Leachman (Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and soon her own spin off, while still doing Oscar-winning feature films) as Wonder Woman's mother Queen Hyppolyta (with a reported paycheck to match), Fannie Flagg, Kenneth Mars, Stella Stevens, Eric Braeden, Henry Gibson, Ian Wolfe, Anne Ramsey and Helen Verbit. The teleplay is good too.

The Adam West Batman was heavy in syndication at the time and actors knew how valuable it was to get on such a show, so a cast that strong is no surprise and the script was just as good, telling how Trevor is shot and barely survives a Nazi aerial encounter, only to land on Paradise Island, where is is found by Diana (Carter) and sets up all the characters, the Nazi menace and what became the series. Such casting continued (we'll also list key, lesser-known/remembered actors) and the wit of the scripts, including some humor and camp not as broad as Batman, made for some classic shows in one of the bets seasons of any show, superhero or otherwise, in TV history. Here is an example of what we got as this launched as a full series, without going into all 60 stories.

Wonder Woman Meets The Baroness Von Gunther has the great Christine Belford as the Baroness, introduces the always terrific Beatrice Colen as Etta Candy, Bradford Dillman as another villain, Ed Gilbert, Ed Griffin and John Brandon. Gunther is in prison, but is still up to no good. However, the show is aimed at a younger audience and the results are mixed.

Fausta, The Nazi Wonder Woman may be the most amazIngly wacky hour of superhero television of all time and ranks with the Nazis believe Wonder Woman is just a Hollywood creation and truly not capable of what she has been captured on film as doing (stopping bullets, cars, bad guys, etc.) but Fausta (Lynda Day George is a great performance) is not so sure and flies into the U.S. to find the truth. She'll kidnap Steve Trevor to get Wonder Woman and bring her to Nazi headquarters in Germany and that's just the beginning! Bo Brundin is the most formidable Nazi in the series as Colonel Kesselman, Keene Curtis, Colby Chester, Jeff Cooper and Christopher George. You have to see it to believe it.

Beauty On Parade is an amusing romp where Diana goes undercover in a beauty contest (as Yeoman Prince, she has not been considered 'beautiful' from the ned of her intro in the pilot telefilm) because military bases are being sabotaged. Dick Van Patten, Bobby Van, Anne Francis and Christa Helm. A good entry where the actors make a good script better.

The Feminum Mystique is in two parts, introduces Debra Winger and as Wonder Woman's younger sister Drusilla, who becomes Wonder Girl here, plus has John Saxon as a lead Nazi, Caroline Jones (succeeding Cloris Leachman well) as their mother on Paradise Island, Curt Lowens, Kurt Kreuger and Pamela Susan Shoop as the Amazon we see most when the Nazis become interested in the material Wonder Woman's bulletproof bracelets are made from, called Feminum. It is a classic of the series and another must-see.

After that, the shows still had great guest stars and some solid episodes, but after only 14 episodes including the pilot TV movie, ABC cancelled the series. Fans hoped there might be a Wonder Girl spinoff, but that was quickly ended too, though Winger was back for the final episode of the season in that character again and for the last time. It seemed that would be the end of it, but CBS contacted Warner Bros. with an interest in reviving the series. Now set in the later 1970s when the show was being aired, the show was a surprise hit and lasted two more seasons with Carter back as Wonder Woman.

The theme song was altered twice (resulting in less impact) and Waggoner was back as Trevor's son, but Eastham and Colen could not be rehired as their characters would be senior citizens or passed on, plus no Wonder Girl resurfaced and Beatrice Straight would play Wonder Woman's mother in the relaunch pilot telefilm and find a new take on the character. A private jet with the son of Steve Trevor (Waggoner again) is flying near the Bermuda Triangle, but that is also near Paradise Island and when they get gassed, the plane hits the invisible magnetic field Paradise Island uses as protection. Diana goes on board to investigate, only to discover Trevor, which brings on brief flashbacks.

All aboard are cured, but made to forget the last few days and the Amazons discover a secret enemy plot on board. Stunned to see Steve and to hear about international terrorism, that becomes the last straw that makes her return as Wonder Woman for the first time since the Allies won WWII. Norman Burton (Diamonds Are Forever) would play the head of the intelligence outfit Trevor and Diana Prince now worked for as Joe Atkinson and would be in the mode of the original Mission: Impossible series for story setups. It also used a 'supercomputer' to be more science fiction and the series (among other cheesy 1970s things it would do) jumped on the Star Wars bandwagon.

Carter says a few times in the supplements that these later seasons were more fun for her since they opened up more possibilities for storylines, but besides the many 1970s time capsules and time capsule moments, the show just increasingly becomes too broad and moved more and more away from the basics that worked in the first season, which remains my favorite. Still, it was finally a hit and now you can see for yourself for the first time in high definition.

Other name guest actors on the show for the run of the series included singer/actor Rick Springfield, Roddy McDowall, Frank Gorshin, Robert Loggia, John Hillerman, Barbara Anderson, James Olsen, Tim O'Connor (as Andros), Celeste Holm, Janet McLaughlan, Arch Johnson, Nehemiah Persoff, Henry Darrow, Lance Kerwin, Martin Mull, Harris Yulin, Robert Hays, Charles Cyphers, Fritz Weaver, Jessica Walter, Mel Ferrer, Dick Gautier, James Hong, Ted Shackelford, Jayne Kennedy, Juliet Mills, David Hedison, John Colicos, Kent Smith, Vincent Van Patten, Barry Cahill, Gary Crosby, Bubba Smith, Greg Morris, Ron Ely, Christopher Stone, Joel Fabiani, Jennifer Darling, George Chakiris, Ross Martin, Mitch Vogel, Michael Cole, Harry Guardino, Lucille Benson, Warren Stevens, Lee Bergere, Michael Lerner, Albert Paulsen, Suzanne Crough, Gary Burghoff, Ed Begley Jr., Joe E. Tata, Gavin MacLeod, Cindy Eilbacher, Brian Tochi, Eve Plumb, Dick O'Neill, John Carradine, Peter Mark Richman, Philip Michael Thomas, Paul Sand, Joan Van Ark, Mako, Marc Lawrence, Robert Reed, Milton Selzer, Rene Auberjonois, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Andrew Duggan, Judge Reinhold, Sarah Purcell, Jeremy Slate, Carmen Zapata, Marlyn Mason, Roger Perry, Bob Hastings, Donnelly Rhodes, Hermione Baddeley, Barry Miller, Arthur Malet, Charles Haid, Raymond St. Jaques, Ina Balin, Bert Remsen, Clark Brandon, Jared Martin, Joseph Sirola, Fred Lerner, Craig T. Nelson, Kaz Garas (who played Steve Trevor in the Cathy Lee Crosby Wonder Woman telefilm) and Dack Rambo as a new Andros.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on all the episodes can show the age of the materials used in parts, including some experimental use of analog videotape in the early episodes that look low def, but these look even better than the DVD transfers and the First Season in particular really benefits by having the best color (including all those Donfeld outfits for Carter that hold up remarkably well), most solid look and some great depth of field shots. The later two seasons happened after a delay and the show was moved up three decades, so color is suddenly not as good, the show is shot with flatter all around lighting, is meant to be more 'naturalistic' and is also softer and not as color rich.

Still, I doubt these shows will ever look better, but you can see the money and effort that went into the WWII First Season shows here and they do steal the show from the set.

As for sound, I was expecting lossless sound, like DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless tracks for all the shows, not even any kind of stereo upgrade, especially with the classic theme song and great scoring led by Charles Fox and Artie Kane. Unfortunately, Warner and DC have decided for some reason to use the older, more compressed, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound for all the shows and that is the weak point of the set. This is especially apparent on shows from all three seasons when the soundtrack is overwhelmed by music, dialogue and sound effects on the bigger action moments. This is not all the time, but it is annoying when it happens and the same kind of sound was oddly retained for the Blu-ray sets of the Adam West Batman show, which made fans unhappy in that case too. DC, what are you thinking?

Extras include an excellent Audio Commentary of the pilot movie by Lynda Carter & executive producer Douglas S. Cramer, Audio Commentary by Lynda Carter on episode, ''My Teenage Idol is Missing'' that featured Leif Garrett and three featurettes: Beauty, Brawn and Bulletproof Bracelets: A Wonder Woman Retrospective, Revolutionizing a Classic: From Comic Book to Television and Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Feminist Icon. These apparently are from the older DVD sets and I wish a few new extras would have been produced, but these are well worth your time.

With all that said, the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman had been at the top of many lists of TV classics not on Blu-ray yet, but it is finally here, though both the George Reeves TV and Kirk Alan serial Superman have yet to make it to Blu-ray. No matter its upas and downs commercially or critically, it was a major iconic event in television history, even if many did not realize it at the time. While some things have dated as noted, some were and are way ahead of their time and some as relevant or more relevant than ever. The series is enough of a classic that everyone should revisit it again and this Blu-ray set is now the very best way to do it.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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