Super Awkward ‘Legends of the Superheroes’ Roast Finally Available On DVD [Video]
You’ve heard about it. Perhaps a friend has introduced you to its atrociousness via a bootleg tape or YouTube clip. Now, thanks to the awesome Warner Archive, Legends of the Superheroes, the infamous 1979 DC Comics superhero roast, can be yours to own on DVD.The DVD set includes both live-action NBC specials produced by Hanna Barbara during the late ’70s in an attempt to cash-in on the success of Superfriends. In “The Challenge,” the Justice League gathers at the Batcave to celebrate the retirement of elderly hero Scarlet Cyclone. As the clip below attests, most of the jokes are of the “Oh, those elderly folks and their wacky Alzheimers!” variety.
And then there’s “The Roast,” an Ed McMahon-hosted train-wreck studded with the type of C-list ’70s celebrities (Ruth Buzzi, Charlie Callas) whose quips should be familiar to anyone who’s ever seen an old episode of “Match Game” on Game Show Network. With tons of corny one-liners and awkward McMahon banter, it’s really no different than any old-school Friar’s Club roast. Oh, except for the fact that the comedians are roasting actors dressed in atrocious costumes that wouldn’t even pass muster on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The heroes are roasted by Sinestro (Callas), Weather Wizard (Jeff Altman, who, along with The Pink Lady and Jeff, is responsible for some of the worst television of all time), Solomon Grundy, and other villains who for some reason have decided to torture their archrivals with terrible zingers. Ruth Buzzi shows up as randy “Aunt Minerva,” because you can’t have a terrible variety show without Ruth Buzzi, and there’s an appearance from Hawkman’s mom that’s heavy on the bird puns. But all of this is a masterpiece of subtle comedy compared to “Ghetto Man,” an uncomfortably dated “regional” superhero played by comedian Brad Sanders. The presence of Adam West, Burt Ward, and Frank Gorshin livens things up a bit, but there’s really no coming back from a joke that compares George Washington Carver to Dr. Sivana.
Based on the preview clips provided by Warner Archive, the picture quality from the original video master is far superior to what you can find floating around online or in a dusty VHS case at your local comic book shop. Though, like everything in the Archive, “Legends of the Superheroes” comes with the disclaimer that it “has not been restored or remastered.” Perhaps that’s for the best. There’s no amount of fancy remastering that could ever make “Ghetto Man” not cringe-inducing.
Check out another clip, featuring Hawkman bantering with a Lurch-like Solomon Grundy, below. Between this, “Smallville,” and that random Baby Ruth commercial from the ’90s, it’s clear that Hollywood has zero concept of how to make a Hawkman costume that doesn’t cause severe ocular damage.