Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Double Dragon -- Good Game, Terrible Cartoon, Worse Movie

Anyone who grew up in the '80s and had some degree of interest in the video game scene is familiar with Double Dragon. The quintessential beat 'em up game, it first hit arcades in 1987, and is well known for its side-scrolling street-fighting antics, with our heroes, martial artist brothers Jimmy & Billy Lee, making their way through various gangland environs and dispatching various street toughs while attempting to rescue their ladyfriend. See some of the gameplay below:

Seems simplistic now, but it was fairly revolutionary at the time. In addition to spawning a whole succession of video game sequels, Double Dragon's popularity even inspired a short-lived Marvel Comics series in 1991 and, in 1993, led to a truly terrible animated series, which sort of typifies everything we hate about early '90s animation. The violence of the video game was understandably neutered, and the production quality skewed close to what we'd come to expect from the syndicated kidvid of the time. Here, watch in horror:

If that animation looks extra terrible to you, congratulations, you've learned to spot the work of our favorite crap factory, DiC. The animated Double Dragon lasted for two thirteen-episode seasons, premiering in September of 1993. Naturally, this being a kids' show, there was also a line of toys ready to go, manufactured by Tyco (which seems to imply that the big toymakers like Hasbro and Mattel took a pass). Here's a commercial for the assortment:

Of course, that wasn't entirely the end for this franchise, as in November '94, at the very tail end of the animated show's run and a full seven years (an eternity!) after the game first hit, a Double Dragon live action feature film came to theaters, directed by James Yukich and starring Scott Wolf (later of Fox's Party of Five) & Mark Dacascos (of TV's The Crow) and Alyssa Milano (!!). Watch the trailer below:

Yep, that's the T-1000 himself, Robert Patrick, as the main baddie. Selling $2 million worth of tickets against a $9 million budget, the Double Dragon flick was pretty much a disaster, and it's not hard to see why based on the assemblage above. Since then the franchise has retreated to its home turf, staying alive via numerous iterations on numerous video game platforms. The feature remains a "bad movie" favorite, while the cartoon is almost entirely forgotten. That's probably for the best.
One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Street Hawk -- A Man Named Mach and his Magic Motorbike
Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Misfits of Science -- TV's X-Men Before TV's X-Men
Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Captain America Edition

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