DVD Review: Shazzan: The Complete Series

How exactly do two kids from Maine end up in the world of the One Thousand and One Arabian Nights? In the case of Chuck (Jerry Dexter) and Nancy (Janet Waldo), they entered a cave and found a treasure chest with a pair of rings that when connected reads “Shazzan.” They put the rings on and touched for fun. The action transported them into the past. Luckily for them, the rings gave them power over the genie Shazzan (Barney Phillips). He’s a somewhat sadistic giant who gives them a flying camel named Kaboobie (Don Messick). The kids want to return to Maine. Why? Probably to get back to their jobs as models for the L.L. Bean catalog. The only way back is to find the rightful owner of the rings. He’ll know what to do with the kids. Shazzan: The Complete Series has all 18 episodes of Saturday morning magical fun.

Alex Toth was the king of action animation for Hanna-Barbera. His was the hand behind Space Ghost, Herculoids and Birdman. Characters getting busted, punched and blasted was his specialty. Shazzan doesn’t disappoint in its violence level for a Saturday morning cartoon. There’s a lot of hard contact in the battles between various magicians and the genie. Nobody plays nice when attacking the kids on a flying camel. This series was one of the reasons why uptight parents groups shackled the action in ‘70s animated shows.

“The Living Island” seems like an easy pit stop when the kids land on an island to let Kaboobie get a breather. But the Evil Hunter turns them into his prey since that’s all trespassers will be slaughtered. Eventually they kids join rings and Shazzan proves to be the biggest game in town. “Master of Thieves” ticks off Shazzan when he’s called before he’s really needed. He’s more diva than Liza. “Valley of the Giants” has Shazzan battle massive monsters. “Demon in the Bottle” and “Demon in the Bottle Returns” features the same evil genie to battle Shazzan. “The Keys to the Zodiac” introduces the Twins of Gemini. They look just like Chuck and Nancy so naturally the kids are in major trouble when they arrive. “The Land of Neverwas” finally gives Shazzan something he can’t overcome easily. There’s a forcefield around a kingdom. The Master of Thieves returns in “Baharum the Befuddled.” He has his own genie except he’s not quite up to Shazzan’s standards.

There was always a strange bit of confusion with Shazzan since it seemed like it should have been paired with the “Arabian Knights” cartoons that ran on The Banana Splits. Both were about Middle Eastern magical figures out to destroy evil. But none of the Knights were as wickedly sadistic as Shazzan. Shazzan Was a unique series for Hanna-Barbera since the lead character isn’t warm, fuzzy or even that noble. You almost expect him to declare, “What now?” and “Here comes the pain!” This attitude keeps the show interesting even with the formulaic scripts. The big mystery of the series is if Shazzan can get the kids get back to Maine in time for a lobster dinner? No need to spoil how the season ends.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers on the DVD-R show a touch of age. These seems to be taken from broadcast masters. They look fine enough to enjoy with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The effects track shines in the mix as Shazzan dishes out the punishment.

The Power of the Shazzan (5:46) gives a bit of background about the series. Paul Dini calls him a big mean genie. Dini also breaks down the obvious structure of the shorts. Why doesn’t Shazzan destroy the weekly enemy the first time instead of having to finish the job five minutes later? They discuss how he’s just way too powerful of a cartoon.

Shazzan: The Complete Series is a fine example of the kind of violent Saturday morning cartoon that upset concerned parents. The show lets things get physical as the genie rescues the kids. Shazzan addictive Arabian animated action.

Warner Archive presents Shazzan: The Complete Series. Starring: Jerry Dexter, Janet Waldo, Barney Phillips and Don Messick. Boxset Contents: 18 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: May 3, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.