The Secrets Of Isis – The Complete Series (BCI/Filmation)
C Sound: C+ Extras: B Episodes: B
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
5) The Outsider guest stars Morgan Jones,
Harry Hickox and Anson Downes (Brian De Palma’s Carrie).
6) Rockhound’s Roost
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
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
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.
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
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
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