Monday, September 9, 1985.THE SECRET OF THE SWORD. Written by Larry DiTillio and Bob Forward. Based on the Masters of the Universe action figures He-Man and She-Ra. Music by Shuki Levy, Haim Saban and Erika Lane (Lou Scheimer). Directed by Ed Friedman, Lou Kachivas, Marsh Lamore, Bill Reed, Gwen Wetzler. Running time: 91 minutes. General entertainment.
CALL IT A SIXTH SENSE. Professional filmgoers develop certain instincts and, over the years, I've learned to be wary of cartoon features in which:
— the names of the featured characters are trademarked.
— supporting characters have labels rather than names.
— merchandising tie-ins were marketed before the movie was even thought of.
— the idea was first developed as Saturday morning cartoon concept.
The Secret of the Sword is such a picture. An animated advertisement for the Mattel toy corporation's Masters of the Universe™ line of plastic action figures, it purports to offer audiences the story of He-Man™ (voice of John Erwin) and She-Ra™ (Melendy Britt).
Though they are siblings, he grew up as Prince Adam of Eternia. She was stolen away as a baby, and raised as Adora, a force captain in the service of Hordak (George DiCenzio), the beastly ruler of Etheria.
They have matched swords that enable them to transform themselves into their superheroic alter-egos.
The bad guys are all ugly, unpleasant and have names such as Shadow Weaver (Linda Gary) and Skeletor (Alan Oppenheimer). Among the good guys are Nordic-looking self-righteous hunks with names like Glimmer (Linda Gary, again), Angella (Erika Scheimer) and Bow (George DiCenzio, again).
The picture comes from Filmation, a production facility in the utterly artless tradition of Hanna-Barbera. Together with H-B, it is responsible for most of the cartoon pollution that passes for animation on Saturday morning television in the U.S.
For a while, it manufactured a He-Man™ Masters of the Universe™ series for that market. The current theatrical feature, an example of limited animation of the least imaginative kind, looks like a lot of those TV episodes pasted together.
The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1985. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.
Afterword: As it turned out, The Secret of the Sword was a feature-film pilot for the 1985 television series She-Ra: Princess of Power. A spin-off from the He-Man Masters of the Universe show, it made its debut on the morning of September 10 in the half hour that immediately followed He-Man. It ran for three seasons (1985-87), or 93 episodes.
Alan Oppenheimer, who celebrates his 85th birthday today, has the sort of face that few people remember. A supporting player since 1964, he's worked regularly on television and in the movies — in 1971, he played General Hackett in the first made-in-Vancouver sci-fi feature, The Groundstar Conspiracy