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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > TV > Blue Thunder – The Complete Series

Blue Thunder – The Complete Series


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: D     Episodes: C+



John Badham’s Blue Thunder (1983) was a decent action thriller that did not do as well as it should have and is a better film than it ever got credit for.  When it was not a blockbuster, those in the know knew a hit was still to be had somewhere, so TV was the next place to go with the concept.  While Airwolf with Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine was the somewhat bigger hit, Columbia decided to try out a Blue Thunder TV series the next year.  With James Farentino taking Roy Scheider’s place and the cast offering football greats Dick Butkus & Bubba Smith, the hope was to get the male audience.  However, the show only lasted 11 episodes, all collected here on this Complete Series DVD collection.


An additional curiosity for the show is that it was produced by Fugitive producer Roy Huggins, who was also known for Alias Smith & Jones, Maverick, Toma, Baretta and latter-day hit Hunter.  This was not as successful, but no worse than Airwolf or other later imitators.  The other curio is an early Dana Carvey before hitting it big as a Saturday Night Live cast member.  Carvey had previously surfaced briefly as an ambulance attendant in Halloween II and then on the failed Mickey Rooney sitcom One Of The Boys which later produced one of his funniest impersonations of a celebrity in doing Rooney as someone who could not stop talking about his peak fame decades before.


Like Airwolf, the budget here was not going to be the equivalent of Badham’s feature film, but this was a serious, ambitious and good-looking attempt to do a series version that holds up better than you might expect.  Besides some old technology, only Cold War plots involving KGB troubles add age to the show.  The series also tries to erase (unsuccessfully) the idea of the technology being used for the wrong purposes, a major point of the film that rings truer than ever.  Still, it is worth a look for those interested and was worth the trouble of pulling out of the Sony archives.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot on film, remastered in digital High Definition and looks shockingly good throughout.  There are shots that are not as good, while the Pilot in particular reuses footage from the original feature film.  It is blurrier because at the time in 1984, reprinting square 1.33 X 1 frames out of anamorphic 2.35 X 1 Panavision frames was not done as well and there were limits in being able to do it right.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is clean, but at a volume that is lower than it should be.  There are no extras.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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