The Space Kidettes / Young Sampson (DVD)

What was in the water at Hanna-Barbera during the late ’60s/early ’70s, and where can I get some?

From 1967, we’ve got two low-rent yet far out cartoons from the prolific Hanna-Barbera TV animation studio. Originally, each was its own series, with two adventures per episode, but they were later combined into one series for syndication, which is the version on this four-disc set, containing all 20 episodes of both series’ runs.

Space Kidettes
The titular kids, Scooter, Countdown, Jennie, and Snoopy (Snoopy?!?) and their dog Space Pup, fly around the cosmos and/or hangout in their intergalactic clubhouse. They are continuously chased by bumbling space pirate Captain Skyhook, who wants a treasure map the kids have in their possession.

Young Samson
Teenager Sampson and his dog Goliath travel around the world, meeting people of various cultures. Everywhere they go, it seems, giant monsters and/or robots have a tendency to run amok, so Samson transforms into his super-strong alter ego, also named Samson, and his dog Goliath transforms into a giant lion, also named Goliath. Together, they save the day.

I can’t really call these cartoons “good,” in any sense, but I nonetheless appreciate them for what they are. For a comedy ‘toon, Space Kidettes is painfully light on jokes. Aside from the occasional slapstick gag with the buffoon villain, or antiquated gags like, “We’re not lost, we just don’t know where we’re going.” Instead of making with the funny, the Kidettes merely run and fly around a Jetsons-style space future aimlessly, with no real purpose. Also, one of them is named “Snoopy?” Really? How did Schultz not sue?

Young Samson fares a little better, only because the hero has some direction. He travels around the world helping people. It’s not much of a driving motivation, but at least it’s something. The problem with this ‘toon is how repetitive it is. Samson and Goliath ride into town, a giant monster attacks, our heroes fight the monster, and then ride off into the sunset. Even worse, the action beats are very similar, with Samson and Goliath dispatching the monster-of-the-week almost the same way every time. There’s no origin story, so we don’t get any background about who this kid is, and there’s little continuity as to whether people know about Samson or that he transforms into his Sampson alter-ego. Finally, why does his secret identity and hero persona have the same name?

So, yeah, these shows aren’t that great. Their real value is as a relic of another time. If you fondly remember this stuff from when you were a kid, then the nostalgia factor will be off the charts. Also, considering the stiff movements and limited backgrounds, you have to applaud the animators for doing what they could with clearly very little to work with. If nothing else, the shows will likely appeal to very, very young viewers, kids not quite yet old enough to enjoy the likes of Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter.

The soft picture and mono sound show aren’t stellar, but are good considering the show’s age and relative obscurity. Because this is a Warner Archive set, the lack of any bonus features is what we get in exchange for just having these rare oddities on DVD at all.

The Verdict

As a satisfying TV series: Guilty. As a nostalgia trip: Not guilty.

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