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59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Before He-Man mastered the universe, it belonged to John Blackstar!Aug. 17 2006
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Blackstar was an influential 1981 cartoon that was Filmation's answer to Thundarr the Barbarian and is considered to be the direct predecessor to He-Man. It imbued sword and sorcery fantasy with science-fiction and it lasted a mere 13 episodes but it's format became the nucleus of the successful Masters of the Universe cartoons and toys that followed after it.
The story follows the adventures of astronaut John Blackstar whose space shuttle disappears into a black hole and crashes on the planet Sagar in an alternate universe where he is rescued and befriended by the dwarven Trobbits. Blackstar soon discovers that Sagar is ruled by the oppressive Overlord who lives in his Ice Castle and possess one half of the magical Powerstar which was split into two halves - The Powersword possessed by the Overlord - and the Starsword acquired by Blackstar. When both halves of the sword unite they form the mighty Powerstar which enables its wielder to exert tremendous magical powers. Blackstar allies himself with the Trobbits and is joined by the sorceress Mara and Klone, a shapeshifting alien, in his quest to free Sagar from the Overlord's tyrannical rule.
The similarities to He-Man are obvious. Blackstar is a heroic champion of good (one part Conan the Barbarian, one part John Carter of Mars) fighting against an evil Overlord voiced by none other than Skeletor himself... Alan Oppenheimer... who lives in an Ice Castle not unlike Skeletor's Castle Grayskull. He rides into battle atop his faithful winged green dragon beast Warlock which is the equivalent of his Battle Cat. He wields a mighty Star Sword similar to the Sword of Grayskull, that, when combined with the Power Sword form the Powerstar - by the Power of Grayskull! Like Eternia, Sagar is populated by inhabitants both benevolent and malevolent. The sorceress Mara was the precursor to He-Man's Teela, daughter of the Sorceress of Grayskull and was voiced by Teela herself, Linda Gary.
In 1983, Mattel introduced a new line of toys combining elements of fantasy and science fiction they called "Masters of the Universe" and they looked to Filmation to produce a series of weekday cartoons that would serve to market the toys to kids. Brushing the dust off their 2-year-old concept for Blackstar it was retooled to fit into Mattel's universe for He-Man. Ironically, Galoob produced a series of Blackstar toys to capitalize on the tremendously popular success of Masters of the Universe between 1983-1985 consisting of 3 series of action figures, the Ice Castle playset and the Trobbit Wind Machine but the cartoon was not re-televised to promote the toys which failed to have the market penetration that was coveted by He-Man.
Blackstar was originally envisioned to be of black ethnicity until CBS ordered that it was too controversial and that audiences were not quite ready for a challenge to the established mores of Saturday morning children's television.
On August 22, 2006, John Blackstar will once again ride into history when the influential 80's animated series is finally released on DVD for the first time from BCI Eclipse/Ink & Paint. This 2-disc DVD set includes all 13 episodes and the following Special Features:
* Interviews with creators Lou Scheimer, Michael Swanigan, Marc Scott Zicree, Michael Reaves, Robert Kline, Robby London and Ted Field. * "The Magic of Filmation" documentary tracking the history of Filmation, and its quarter-century legacy of popular animated and live-action series * Full episode audio commentary track for Episode 2 - "Search for the Starsword" featuring producer Lou Scheimer and animator Mike Bennett. Hosted by Andy Mangels. * Full episode audio commentary track for Episode 13--"The Zombie Master"-- featuring creators Michael Reaves, Marc Scott Zicree and Michael Swanigan. Hosted by Andy Mangels * Image gallery of original "heroes and villains" model sheets and sketches, plus a gallery of presentation artwork and backgrounds uses in the series * Spanish language tracks for all 13 episodes * DVD-ROM features - scripts for all 13 episodes, 5 complete storyboards * Trivia * Digital restoration
All 13 Episodes:
1. City of the Ancient Ones 2. Search for the Starsword 3. The Lord of Time 4. The Mermaid of Serpent Sea 5. The Quest 6. Space Wrecked 7. Lightning City of the Clouds 8. Kingdom of Neptul 9. Tree of Evil 10. The Air Whales of Anchar 11. Overlord's Big Spell 12 Crown of the Sorceress 13 The Zombie Masters
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A Great Classic but Almost Forgotten 80s Cartoon.June 24 2006
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Blackstar was a great 80s cartoon from Filmation and was a direct precursor to He-man.
The basic story is relayed in the intro to the cartoon:
"John Blackstar, Astronaut, is swept through a blackhole, into an ancient alien universe. Trapped on the planet Sagar, Blackstar is rescued by the tiny trobbit people. In turn he joins their fight for freedom against the cruel Overlord who rules by the might of the Powerstar. The Powerstar is split into the Powersword and the Starsword. And so with Starsword in hand, Blackstar together with his allies, sets out to save the planet Sagar. His Destiny. I am John Blackstar."
Unfortunately, only 13 episodes were made:
1. City of the Ancient Ones
2. Search for the Starsword
3. The Lord of Time
4. The Mermaid of Serpent Sea
5. The Quest
6. Space Wrecked
7. Lightning City of the Clouds
8. Kingdom of Neptul
9. Tree of Evil
10. The Air Whales of Anchar
11. Overlord's Big Spell
12. Crown of the Sorceress
13. The Zombie Monster
While the production values were slightly less than the later He-man series, it was still a very entertaining and well done cartoon.
Pick up this classic cartoon to add to your collection. I don't think you will be disappointed.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
At LONG Last, Filmation's Blackstar AND Flash Gordon on DVD!July 12 2006
Athenaeus Alexander Dukas
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I am THRILLED beyond words that Filmation's Blackstar and Flash Gordon are both FINALLY being released as complete series sets on DVD!
For their time, both shows were very well-done in terms of plot, animation, music, and visual effects.
Ironically, considering that most American produced anime has recently become low-tech CGI cubist [...] these two vintage entries will be a welcome naturalist relief.
Considering that they were both basically early American anime -- Pre-Robotech / Pre-Voltron -- I am completely flabbergasted that either show even actually made it to DVD but I guess we can thank He-Man, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and the Thundercats for starting the retro-wave.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
What? No female Trobbits?Jan. 14 2007
K. T. Ong
- Published on Amazon.com
I remember catching glimpses of Blackstar on TV during my younger days but never being able to get to watch a full episode for some reason; hence I purchased the DVD without hesitation when it finally came out. Always had a special fascination for mixtures of science fiction with sword-and-sorcery -- especially when they feature handsome, near-naked muscle boys as their protagonists! :p (Another two examples would be the Warlord from DC Comics and John Carter.)
So what's my verdict on this series? The sound and color reproduction are good on the whole. Occasionally the image gets a bit spotty and you can see that the producers have laid transparencies one on another for working on the animation, but on the whole such things aren't too noticeable. The characters and creatures are mostly quite well-drawn, though the backgrounds could use a little more finesse and detail. The overall concept is interesting and there are lots of fun and clever ideas -- a shape-shifting elf, energy-shooting swords, stone lizard-golems, aquatic races, flying cities, a box in which spring is locked away and winter stays until it is opened, a scepter that wreaks havoc with time, a sphere that imprisons the souls of living beings, and so on. The trouble is that most of these ideas are not further developed upon; apart from the central figures in the saga, creatures, characters and special objects that appear in one episode almost never appear again in another. This gives the whole story an amateurish feel: one throws in new ideas as one pleases, uses them in one episode, and leaves them. It feels especially unsatisfying when many of the characters/creatures are supposed to eventually become our heroes' allies in their fight against the Overlord. Couldn't there be a couple episodes in which some of these new allies turn up to lend a hand?
Also sorely missing is an overall account of the world of Sagar: its history and geography, the different races and creatures that inhabit it, and above all the backgrounds of the central characters in our epic. What are the origins of the Overlord, the Trobbits (who resemble all too strongly the Seven Dwarves from Snow White), Mara the enchantress, Klone the shape-shifting elf, and Warlock the dragon? Who forged the Powerstar? How did it split up into two halves in the first place, and how did one of the two halves wind up in Blackstar's hands? Why are there only seven Trobbits, and all male at that? Are they an endangered species, maybe? And what's so special about the Sagar Tree -- are the life forces of the Trobbits (and maybe all of Sagar even) somehow linked to it, or is it just a tree for them to build a nest in? Does Warlock belong to some species of dragons or is s/he a unique creature? What was Blackstar's life-story back on Earth before he crash-landed on Sagar? These questions are never answered anywhere in the entire series (except for the last one, and only in a very partial way); you're just expected to take everything for granted. Don't know about most viewers, but I find this highly unsatisfying. Episode 6 (`Spacewrecked', the best episode perhaps), in which Blackstar's lover from Earth (Katana -- odd name, and she hardly looks Asian) comes to Sagar in a spaceship to bring him home, could have provided a setting for answering all the above questions: she could be curious to learn more about Sagar (I would be), and Blackstar and his friends could then tell her everything. But no. She never seemed to express the least desire to learn about this strange alien world at all.
One more thing. Doesn't Blackstar ever miss home? He never showed any hints of such emotions in the whole series. And when the chance came for him to return home in Episode 6, wouldn't he feel torn between staying and going home? I certainly would be.
Well, maybe I can shelve away my endlessly inquiring mind and simply enjoy the series as nostalgic entertainment, but here's where my most serious complaint comes in: the action often feels stiff, unnatural and unreasonable. Example: bad guy knocks special item out of good guy's hands. Bad guy stands there and spends a few moments grinning evilly while good guy likewise stands where he is for a while and pulls a long, sour face. Is this a good action sequence? NO! Both parties must be made to follow up quickly on their last moves! (With appropriate facial expressions of course.) There's no time to stop and make faces! Another example: Bad guys chase good guy. Good guy blasts hole in the ground for bad guys to fall into. Bad guys run what look like a couple dozen feet before falling in. Problem here is, if I had to run that long before I could fall in I probably would have seen the hole long beforehand and got out of the way, right? Yet another example: Blackstar, Mara and Klone the shape-shifting elf are at a cliff's edge with bad guys closing in from behind. Oh, no! What are they to do? Well, couldn't Klone turn into some sort of flying creature, pick up everyone and fly off, as he did in a couple other episodes? Why couldn't he do it this time? Unfortunately, the kind of unreasonable scenarios I just described turn up time and again in the series. Watching it all I almost felt a bit embarrassed for the producers.
My final verdict is that Blackstar is a series with enormous potential, except this potential was prevented from being exploited to the full by the problems listed. If not for them, this would have been a truly wonderful animation series. Certainly, watching the interviews with the producers, one cannot help being infected with the same enthusiasm.
By the way, just for the fun of knowing, there are more than a few ideas in this series which either can be traced to or were reused in other media productions. Hence the pods from which evil doubles of characters and creatures are formed (episode 9, `Tree of Evil') can be traced to `Invasion of the Body Snatchers'. And Blackstar's sword being tainted by an evil creature with potentially disastrous consequences (episode 10, `The Air Whales of Anchar') seems to be borrowed from the Hong Kong film `Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain'. Indeed even the idea of a set of twin magical swords, whose powers are vastly augmented when combined, might have been borrowed from this film, too. Finally, in the concluding issue of the DC comic series `The Warlord' -- which also features a guy from modern times who wound up in a lost, mystical world and decided to stay on and play the role of a near-naked, sword-wielding muscle boy -- there was this ugly fat slob who trapped people's souls in pearls, just as there's also one in the concluding episode of Blackstar!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Memories brought backNov. 7 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
This was among my very favorite cartoons when I was an adolescent (pre-teen, really) and I was SO excited to learn it was now available on DVD that I immediately ordered it. (Now if someone will just get the Drac Pack out there, I'll be a truly happy camper)
The episodes seem to have been remastered a bit, because they are nice and clear and the sound quality is very good. Three of the episodes have audio commentaries (I haven't listened to those yet - just watching the episodes the first time through). Although Klone isn't quite as cool as I remembered him being, the show is still as fun as I recalled. Lots of noise and flash and Trobbits running around - all very silly, of course, very 80s, but that's what it was all about back then.
If you were a child of the 80s and remember "Blackstar" fondly, don't hesitate to get a copy of this 2-DVD set. It will bring a warm fuzzy to your day.