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G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1983) – DVD Review

g i joe real american hero dvd cover


Written by: Ron Friedman
Directed by: Sam Weiss
Starring: Michael Bell, B.J. Ward, Chris Latta, Arthur Burghardt, Morgan Lofting


  • The first mini-series, “A Real American Hero”
  • The second mini-series, “The Revenge of Cobra”
  • Interviews with writer Marv Wolfman and writer Ron Friedman
  • Comes with an exclusive Snake Eyes action figure, complete with all accessories and his sidekick wolf

Released by: Rhino
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format

My Advice: Rent it.

[ad#longpost]The terrorist organization known as Cobra has vowed utter and complete world domination. Its leader, Cobra Commander, has an army of blue-clad soldiers and megalomaniacs like Destro to help him get the job done. The only thing standing between Cobra and their goal is G.I. Joe, an elite military organization that has the skills, know-how, technology and costume diversity that they’ll need to stop Cobra dead in their tracks. Now you know the synopsis, and knowing the synopsis is half the battle.

Back in the early 80s, when there were only three (or if you were lucky, four) channels to watch, cartoons ruled the world of the young. I still blame the fact that I have no inner monologue on the fact that I was addicted to Super Friends. Here, with G.I. Joe, you had the same lethal toy/cartoon combo that you would see time and again with other shows/merchandising schemes like Robotech and Masters of the Universe, just to name a couple. And believe me, the toys were infectious. Watching this series again, I was able to still identify the vehicles and half the characters, and I had owned most of them at one time or another. One of the most vivid memories of my teenage years was being roped into putting together the aircraft carrier (six feet long, three feet high, two feet wide) toy for my brother on Xmas Eve. How sad is that.

Now, if you go into this thing wanting some gritty, realistic military show–you’re just not going to find it. What Joe did well was have a bunch of colorful good characters facing off against some equally colorful bad characters. Nobody ever, to my recollection, actually got shot–marksmanship on a level of The A-Team–in fact, all the guns were replaced with identical laser rifles of some sort. Single shots of these rifles could bring down a tank, so potent were they. The dialogue has some winners like “Ice melts!”, so there’s nothing to be had there. Indeed, the very fact that “Yo Joe!” is the rallying cry should tell you something.

g.i. joe real american hero duke scarlett
Here is trouble, therefore we must fight for freedom. Yo Joe!

But it’s okay. It’s a show for kids, and a show for kids from the 80s. So if you go into it with the right mindset and a good sense of nostalgia, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that they upped the thing to 5.1 sound, actually. It’s just entertaining cheese and it’s packaged for the elder geek who wishes to revisit his youth. Pure and simple. The two discs contain the first two mini-series, five episodes each. The video actually looks pretty sharp, all things considered.

Features are slim, but there’s only so much you can do. Each disc comes with an interview, one with a very reserved Marv Wolfman (perhaps best known for his work on the comic New Teen Titans, not to mention his recent ill-advised lawsuit with Marvel) and a more entertaining one with Ron Friedman. Friedman lays out the problems inherent with such a series (umpteen-thousand characters) and how you deal with them in an entertaining style, and also discusses the strange fandom he has encountered. That one, at least, is worth watching. It would have been nice, if you were really going for that geek dollar, to maybe get the cards from the back of the action figures’ boxes for each character. Or maybe some of the massive amounts of schematics and side info that certainly has been generated since, for toys or comics or the cartoons. But for what it is, the set works fine.

g.i.joe real american hero cobra commander destro
The Joes just need a big electromagnet to take down these guys. Co-BRA!

Bonus is the Snake Eyes figure, which looks just about how I remember him–though he seems much smaller. Or maybe I’ve just gotten bigger. Regardless, he comes with his submachine gun, sword, pouch of explosives and a backpack, along with the wolf sidekick. Bonus geek points given for this exclusive figure.

Like I said, if you remember fondly the toys and the action figures, then this is a nice set to have on your shelf. If you have not been exposed to Joe, you damn whippersnapper, it’s worth at least a rental to know your cartoon and toy history.

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