This short-lived series was based on the popular DC Comics character, The Flash. Barry Allen (Shipp) was a crime lab technician, long before CSI made the job trendy. When lightning interacted with an unknown chemical compound as only comic cosmic events can, Allen receives a powerful jolt. The injury results in a dramatic change in his metabolism. Now supercharged, his body is capable of moving at supersonic speeds. Complete with a bright crimson costume appropriately modeled after the swift Greek god Mercury, The …lash uses his powers to combat crime in Central City. Help is provided by Julio (Desert), his capable lab assistant. Julio is apparently smart enough to tackle complex chemical formulas, but remains oblivious to his partner’s abilities. His secret is shared by scientist Tina McGee (Pays) who works with Allen to try to figure out the changes his body has been put through.
Every superhero has a weakness. Superman had kryptonite and Batman had… well… Robin. The Flash, it seems, can be done in by a junk food deficiency. It turns out that speed burns up an awful lot of sugar which, of course, must be replaced. I think they missed out on some great tie-in opportunities here. “Hey kids! Want to grow up big and strong with blinding speed just like The Flash? Then don’t forget a super sized bowl of Capn’ Crunch with extra sugar for a superhero breakfast.”
The show featured pretty fine f/x for a television effort. The Flash movement was light-years ahead of Steve Austin’s slow motion moves with springing sound effects. Central City is quite a comic book world. The streets are mostly gritty and dirty. Buildings in town are dilapidated and often darkly painted. The cars are a 50’s retro style against a modern world of high-tech labs. Expressionistic paintings are larger than life and create a backdrop to most locations.
I think the cast worked well together. Amanda Pays and John Wesley Shipp had a good developing relationship. Guest stars included such notable names as Richard Belzer, Mark Hamill, David Cassidy, Bill Mumy, and M. Emmett Walsh to name a few.The stories were a mix of camp to rival even Adam West’s Batman and a touch of realism that the former series never achieved. This uneven presentation likely contributed to the difficulty the series had in attracting enough viewers. It was gone after the first season.
Each episode of The Flash is presented in its full frame original broadcast format. Expect a touch of grain, particularly in dark scenes. The entire color palette makes heavy use of the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. These basic colors are often extremely clear, almost enhanced. They stand out incredibly against any of the more mundane colors on the screen. Contrast is excellent. The style gives the entire show a feel appropriate for a comic book character. The real trouble with the transfer is the inconsistency in lighting. Often scenes are either too darkly or brightly lit. An unusual black line often appears on the screen from top to bottom. It acts like a scoreline but does not appear to be a physical mark on the film. A good example can be found at about 54 minutes into the pilot. Look over Allen’s left shoulder in the cemetery scene.
The soundtrack is an unremarkable Dolby Digital 2.0 track which sounds pretty much like 2 channel mono. Considering this was a failed television show, you can’t expect anything dynamic from the mix. Dialogue is there, and I couldn’t detect any distortion. Musical scores come across a bit heavy handed at times, but without distortion.
The series is spread out over 6 single-sided discs. There are reports of defective disc 1 problems. Warner has set up a number if you experience the problem:
I did not experience any problems with mine.
I did have a problem with the packaging. The six discs are held in a cardboard fold-out. There are 3 panels, each holding 2 discs. The discs overlap so that you cannot remove the second disc without first removing, and putting down somewhere, the first disc. This kind of packaging design leads to disc accidents.
Comic films and television series are a risky business. Heroes with super abilities must be portrayed with care. What works in a comic book will not necessarily translate well to live action. For every Spiderman success story there are more than a few Punisher failures. Often these characters have been cherished by a generation since childhood. One must be very careful of any changes made to fit the film medium. It is also often difficult to keep from looking just plain silly. The Flash did a remarkable job of navigating these treacherous waters. Still, prime-time just wasn’t ready for The Flash. A new film is in pre-production. Little is known about the direction this newest effort will take. It might not hurt at all for these filmmakers to take a quick look at this DVD set. The show is worth a buy to the fans of the character, but perhaps not to most of the general public. After all, the series only lasted a year for a reason: low viewership. It was here, then gone in a “flash”.
02/02/2006 @ 9:49 pm
I also purchased this set, and have been very happy with it. I still think it holds up even today; but alas I’m not sure any “superhero” type show can hold up in a prime-time market. Excellent review, just didn’t agree with everything. For the record my disc 1 works fine too.