austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

It'll take time, I know it, but in a while

Our third Lost Superfriends adventure: Once Upon A Poltergeist.

At the towering Wayne Building, tallest skyscraper in Gotham City other than the clearly taller buildings in the background of the animation cell, there's a sudden earthquake and the building shakes as if the cell were being tilted side to side (or ``shaking like a nervous poodle'', in Robin's strange words). A helicopter from the roof goes falling off, leaving two people dangling from the side; Batman, Robin, and Apache Chief handle this by dropping Apache Chief, who grows really large, and catches the helicopter in his hands, defying certain post-Aristotelian ideas about gravity; from the Batcopter, Batman and Robin throw out a Bat-Bag which inflates under the falling pilot and passenger, who survive their fall from the top of Gotham City's tallest building with a little bounce. Apache Chief detects something Not Of This World, and the power gets cut off.

The disembodied voice Ongwanonhsioni announces everyone must leave, which is why he breaks the elevator. Batman, having read the script, knows there are only seconds to top it. So he forces open the elevator doors and calls for the Bat Jacks, with which they use to distort the rails on which the elevator slides, so that it comes to a stop inches above Batman's rather confident head. Apache Chief is still feeling something otherworldly and Ongwanonhsioni's transparent disembodied head appears to yell at folks for building on sacred Mohawk grounds. It probably would have been nice if he'd said something about this in the five years it took to build the towering Wayne Building, but, Ongwanonhsioni has issues.

The spirit tosses Robin into the wall; Batman lassoos a ... well, I don't know what, exactly, but he swings on whatever he lassoos to get over to the far side of the room rather than walking. Maybe he gets a per diem for using his utility belt. It can't even have been a lighting fixture since the room clearly has fluorescent bulbs in a drop-down ceiling. Besides, the ceiling is maybe nine feet high anyway. Hanna-Barbera can't have lacked a walk cycle for Batman --- if there's one thing Hanna-Barbera had, it was walk cycles --- so why he had to swing I don't know.

While Ongwanonhsioni shakes things up, causing the cast of Apartment 3-G to flee the streets, the Bat-Computer reports that this is so not an Ancient Mohawk Burial Site, but rather just an Ancient Mohawk Battle Site. As the cast of Apartment 3-G flees again because if we liked this footage before we're bound to love it now, Apache Chief finds three spears stuck out of the ground in a woodland setting, and he uses smoke signals to call off Ongwanonhsioni, who was confused about where his burial grounds were. Ongwanonhsioni is awfully embarrassed about this.

Robin then wonders what Ongwanonhsioni means, and Apache Chief declares it's what the Iroquois called themselves, ``we longhouse builders''. This means I shouldn't have been using this as a spirit's name, but the whole episode plays out like Ongwanonhsioni is his personal name. I note that Google has (as of the moment I write this) a scant 71 references to ``Ongwanonhsioni'', a number suspiciously small to my eyes, and Wikipedia asserts that the Iroquois called themselves ``Haudenosaunee''. But I can kind of see how the one might be a different emphasis and spelling of the other, if there were an easy way to get the ``gwan'' to sound kind of like ``den''. I think you can do it, I'm just not sure I feel it right away.

Robin considers that ``we'' have a lot in common with those Indians, since, ``we build some pretty long houses ourselves'', which he says as the camera points up at the Wayne Building. This shows that the writers will grab at anything whatsoever to simulate a comic tagline and that Robin is unclear on the difference between ``long'' and ``tall''. Don't be so hard on him. It was only last month he finally understood how those cows are small, while those other cows are far away. And Robin undergoes many little ego-crushing moments this series anyway.

This episode keeps feeling like it might be better than it is. Poltergeists were modestly popular as a scary-stories concept in the early 80s, and it's a refreshing but welcome change that the ``villain'' this story is actually more properly an antagonist, a person who wants something fairly reasonable and who turns malevolent only from an inability to get that. In the first series of Superfriends the opponents were almost always people you could have some sympathy for, and that fell by the wayside as the show got into more standard feats of villain-menace-peril-capture. It's nice to have a taste of something different.

Yet it's still kind of dull. There's not much tension; the biggest action scene, the helicopter falling off a building, is lifted so straight out of Superman: The Movie that I wonder if it wasn't meant to be a cute in-joke homage. (Note that the previous cartoon had the Superman poster outside a movie theater.) But the shaking building never looks for a second like it's really being ripped up, and while there could be a bit of peril built in all the lights of a building going off, as Ongwanonhsioni messes with the fuse box, it plays instead like looking at the random blinking of computer lights in those pre-1980 computers that were all blinking lights. And, of course, there's the problematic elements of Those Magic Indians what with first the lingering spirit of the Ongwanonhsioni warrior and then Apache Chief and his Apache Senses detecting that magic supernatural thing. I suppose the Indian With The Connection To The Other Realm is a story idea that won't go away as long as there are stories about Indian Ghosts or yamaglatchis or whatnot to go around, and moreso thirty years ago when it was discovered that you could have American Indians in a story that wasn't a Western, but it's still ... something that could've been done better.

Trivia: On investigating the Royal Navy's marine compasses Dr Gowin Knight (1713 - 1772) discovered that of a sample of twenty of them, no two agreeed on the direction of north. Source: Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation, Alan Gurney.

Currently Reading: Hershey: Milton S Hershey's Extraordinary Life Of Wealth, Empire, And Utopian Dreams, Michael D'Antonio.


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