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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superheroes > TV > The Secrets Of Isis – The Complete Series (BCI/Filmation)

The Secrets Of Isis – The Complete Series (BCI/Filmation)


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



Female superheroes seem to have a strangely rough time when it comes to getting respect or having staying power.  You can blame sexism to some extent and there is a sudden myth that we don’t have hit features with them because there is no actress or female star consistently available to them.  Of course, it is really from not trying to look for a new face and sign them long term, plain and simple.  When super heroines began to surface in comics like Wonder Woman, they were popular.  Isis was the first invented for television, is the last of the great classic superheroines and the big hit TV series The Secrets Of Isis – The Complete Series (which began in 1975) is finally out on DVD.


As hard as it is to believe, it is the first TV series with a female superheroine lead.  Batgirl never spun off, two attempts to launch Wonder Woman live-action failed before Lynda Carter arrived in 1976, Electro Woman & Dyna Girl also arrived in 1976, the animated Wonder Woman never had her own show, Batgirl was stuck on all of Batman’s show despite a Yvonne Craig 15-minute pilot that never sold, Supergirl was stuck on Superman’s shows, Catwoman was a villainess, Mera was always only on Aquaman’s shows and only the 1980s began to convince many that female heroes did not have to be second-stringers.  Ironically, the toys and memorabilia of these heroines (including Isis) are some of the most valuable in the superhero market.


Later becoming a DC Comic book, Isis was Filmation’s original counterpart to Captain Marvel/Shazam! which was a big hit for them on TV.  Instead of licensing Mary Marvel, which they did later for an animated series, they created Isis.  School teacher and archeologist Andrea Thomas finds an ancient amulet on a dig and it allows her to become this great, unknown female Egyptian power connected to other gods of mythology.  Wonder Woman is connected to Greek Myth and both would set a standard for future such heroines.


JoAnna Cameron was an actress on the rise and her beautiful looks, as well as having an amazing, exceptional build, landed the role.  Like Lynda Carter, Yvonne Craig and even Lindsay Wagner on The Bionic Woman (not so much a superhero as a spy like Diana Rigg’s Mrs. Peel on The Avengers or Anne Francis’ Honey West), Cameron was outstanding casting and she brought the perfect combination of pure femininity and confident strength to the role without even being masculinized.  For this, Isis became the last great female superhero of what we can now consider the classical era.  Note now that too many of the female heroes (the Jennifer Garner Electra or any Buffy The Vampire Slayer) are more like “one of the boys” with issues for a separate essay.


The show lasted two seasons with new Shazam! episodes and as The Shazam!/Isis Hour was the #1 Saturday Morning hit during the golden era (into the early 1980s before the big three networks abandoned the practice) in its time.  In each show, Andrea and her workmate Rick Mason (Brian Cuter) meet with students to help them and teach them, including a student/teacher assistant (Joanna Pang as Cindy Lee in the first season, Rolanda Douglas as Rennie Carol in the shorter second season, beginning with episode 16 below) sometimes have to supersede their job requirements to intervene when real trouble shows up.


Sometimes consulting Albert Reed as school principle Dr. Barnes, Andrea does as much as she can, but when it gets too dire, she becomes Isis and fixes everything.  After each show, Isis even addresses the audience directly with a moral to the story (sadly only in a supplement here) and that is the wrap-up of each show.  The episodes are as follows, including key guest stars and character actors where noted:



1) The Lights Of Mystery Mountain guest stars Kelly Thordsen, Michael Maitland and Hank Brandt.


2) Fool’s Dare guest stars Charles Cyphers, Frank Whiteman.


3) Spots Of The Leopard guest stars Debralee Scott (Welcome Back Kotter, Angie, Match Game), Lou Frizzell and Paul Jenkins.


4) The Sound Of Silence guest stars Philip Bruns.


5) The Outsider guest stars Morgan Jones, Harry Hickox and Anson Downes (Brian De Palma’s Carrie).


6) Rockhound’s Roost


7) Lucky


8) Bigfoot guest stars Scott Columby, Bill Engesser and Neil J, Schwartz.


9) To Find A Friend guest stars Mike Lookinland (The Brady Bunch), Buddy Foster, Russ Marin, Tommy Norden (Flipper) and Christopher Norris.


10) The Show-Off guest stars Russ Marin and Meegan King.


11) No Drums, No Trumpets guest stars Christopher Norris and Michael Greene.


12) Funny Gal (in stereo with optional isolated music and sound effects track) guest stars John Davey as Captain Marvel.


13) Girl Driver guest stars Susan Lawrence (Welcome Back Kotter).


14) Scuba Duba


15) Dreams Of Flight (with audio commentary by the creators)


16) The Seeing Eye Horse (Start of Season Two with Rolonda Douglas taking over from Joanna Pang) guest stars James Griffith and Kathleen O’Malley.)


17) The Hitchhiker


18) The Class Clown guest stars David Cole.


19) The Cheerleader guest stars Colleen Camp, Laurette Sprang (Battlestar Galactica) and Danil Torppe.


20) Year Of The Dragon guest stars Victor Sen Yung, Jeanne Joe and Roger Kern.


21/22) Now You See It… …And Now You Don’t (in stereo with optional isolated music and sound effects track) guest stars Jerry Douglas, Michael Blodgett, Ben Frank, Paul Hampton and John Davey as Captain Marvel.  The show was also intended to launch a spin-off called The Super Sleuths, but that did not work happen.  The Sleuths were played by Ranji, Evan (C.) Kim and C.J. Howe and Craig Wasson as Feather, but it did not sell.



The shows have dated in some ways, including Isis needing to rhyme phrases for her powers to work, a convention of superhero tales until the 1978 Richard Donner Superman – The Movie (reviewed elsewhere on this site) dropped that for good.  The visual effects, especially Isis flying, obviously use analog videotape for composites and look even worse than the process driving of Roger Moore on the original The Saint.  However, this was a step above the flying on the George Reeves Superman series of the 1950s as far as variety was concerned.  Otherwise, the show is written well, was ahead of its time and is only going to reignite interest in the character, who has remained very popular.  Cameron remains amazing and it is a shame we have not seen more of her since.


The 1.33 X 1 image was originally shot in 16mm film, but one of the owners of the Filmation catalog apparently destroyed the film elements, leaving digital low-def backups.  That is what is used here, which is good, but not as good as it would have been if the film elements were available.  Some film prints are floating around and we hope to see them acquired and made into HD versions wherever possible.  Most of the episodes are Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono as the original shows were optical mono, but the Shazam! shows with John Davey (the second and last actor to play the role on that show) are here in nice Stereo upgrades and with the bonus of isolated music and sound effects tracks.  Too bad all the shows could not have stereo upgrades.


Extras are terrific, including two hours of interviews that extensively cover the show through cast and crew accounts (though Cameron was sadly not available), the missing morals from the end of each show that were still in good enough shape that they should have been reinserted in to each show along with alternate credits & commercial bumpers for the shows, DVD-ROM printable comic book and printable versions of all 22 teleplay scripts, a stills section that includes all the great Isis collectibles (like her Mego action figure) & still on the promotion and making of the show, trailers for all of BCI’s Filmation DVD releases and a bonus episode from The Freedom Force (reviewed elsewhere on this site) where an animated Isis (voiced by another actress) was part of another hit TV series.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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