REVIEW FOR OCTOBER 31, 2004

 
THE MASTER
MICHAEL SLOAN PRODUCTIONS/VIACOM PRODUCTIONS, 1984: PLATINUM DISC CORPORATION, 2001
FULL FRAME, 92 MIN., ENGLISH
3 OUT OF 5 | COMPANY RATING: POOR
SUMMARY | "EVEN HIS EYES CAN KILL YOU."  OKAY.
 
After months of me hyping this thing up, here it is: the first DVD review for UR.  Unfortunately, I'm going to make my detractors laugh by reviewing what is widely regarded by Mystery Science Theater 3000 enthusiasts as one of the worst "films" ever - actually, Platinum Disc Corporation doesn't go so far as to sell two episodes of a 1984 television show as Master Ninja.  Lord help us if the company did.  Still, four months of shilling and non-stop updates and the first thing I review is a television show starring Lee Van Cleef as a ninja.  The world trembles at my feet.
 
I think The Master is enjoyable as the sort of dreck NBC put out back when the company would put anything out if it'd grab a rating - Pink Lady and Jeff, Manimal, Supertrain, the names have been trotted out before a million times on worst-of lists.  Describing the plotline for The Master isn't that difficult - Max Keller (Timothy Van Patten) gets to know John Peter McAllister (Lee Van Cleef), the only westerner ever to become a Ninja.  The two team up, McAllister teaching Keller in exchange for riding in Keller's van looking for McAllister's long-lost daughter.  Sloan obviously sold this as Kung Fu meets The A-Team and it shows.
 
The Master wouldn't be that bad if the show weren't so sloppily made.  That seems to aid in the enjoyment of this show, as it seems to ruin the considerable talents of stuntman/lead antagonist Sho Kosugi.  The principal problem with The Master is the fact that Kosugi is used as Lee Van Cleef's stunt double as well as being the principal villain of the series.  Kosugi is essentially fighting himself, which means that when Van Cleef puts on the slimming black (because Van Cleef was, well, fat at the time of the series) and fights his enemies his gut magically disappears.  It's one of the tenets of the series - no matter how well Van Cleef is shot, the illusion is instantly blown the moment the fight scene starts.  No doubt this show was made with money in mind - The A-Team was one of NBC's only surefire hits in 1984, so Sloan cloning it and bunging on a loose ninja theme around the edges (people love ninjas!) would bring in viewers for that Friday timeslot.  That's how the thinking probably went, anyway - NBC was desperate for viewers around this time in the days pre-Must See TV.  The show deservedly bombed, but you already knew that.
 
The acting by the principal leads is standard for American television.  Timothy Van Patten couldn't act, but his overall quality as an actor is overblown a shade.  Van Patten was just eye candy for the girls so it's hard to blame him for his role in The Master.  Van Cleef isn't too bad as McAllister - he's not really acting, but he's tolerable in his role.  The rest of the actors are negligible (even Demi Moore, who guest-starred in the premiere episode for about five minutes and thus gets co-star billing on the DVD case itself) and the show as a whole is forgettable.  The DVD's three out of five rating is not indicative of the show's quality but the show is fun in the way that all notorious television flops are fun.  The Master is a trainwreck, and trainwrecks are fun when they're not taken seriously.  The show managed to be featured on MST3K twice, so it has something going for it - that, and Bill Conti's theme song.  How that managed to be catchy in the face of Conti's "sweeping," "epic" "compositions" (e.g. PrimeTime Live, Falcon Crest) I will never know.
 
As for the disc itself, it's terrible.  The disc looks like it was dubbed from a 1984 broadcast of The Master and the picture quality is terrible as Platinum discs tend to be.  The menu is poorly programmed (and titled The Master Ninja) and sometimes the disc I bought (for five bucks, like I'd shell out big money for this thing) stalls near the climax of the second episode.  The disc is so buggy I have a hunch this thing was trotted out as quickly as The Master was.  Overall, it allowed me to realise - too late, I might point out - the piss-poor quality of Platinum Disc Corporation product, and since then I have vowed never to get burned again by a Platinum title.  The Master isn't going to receive Paramount Home Video treatment, let's be perfectly honest here.  Still, tacking on a few quick extras (a quiz, biographies, the usual Platinum shit) without caring about the extant disc's quality just sours me on the Platinum experience.  The label obviously doesn't care about the quality of its product, and the results are evident when I watch the DVD.  It's a budget DVD, but fucking standards need to be met here.  Until the company puts out a better product, fuck Platinum Disc Corporation.  Their product is not worth your money.  Am I being too strong in my condemnation of this company?  I'm sure I'm not the first person who bought their shit.
 
PLATINUM DISC CORPORATION
PO Box 2798
La Crosse, WI 54602-2798
USA
NO EMAIL ADDRESS AVAILABLE OR NECESSARY.