Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Movie Collection, 1990-93
Directed by Steve Barron, Michael Pressman and Stuart Gillard.
Starring Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, David Forman, Michelan Sisti, Leif Tilden, Josh Pais, Robbie Rist, Corey Feldman, James Saito, Kevin Clash, Toshishiro Obata, Mark Caso, Kenn Troum, Paige Turco, David Warner, Ernie Reyes, Jr., Brian Tochi, Adam Carl, Laurie Faso, Kevin Nash, Francois Chau, David Fraser, Jim Raposa, Matt Hill, Tim Kelleher and James Murray.
The Heroes in a Half-Shell clash with a criminal gang of ninjas, seek to prevent their arch-enemy The Shredder from creating an army of mutants, and find themselves transported back in time to ancient Japan.
Cowabunga! Almost a quarter of a century after Turtlemania swept the globe, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are big business once again. The Heroes in a Half-Shell are the subject of a hit Nickelodeon animated series, the action figures adorn the shelves of toy stores (or maybe that should be supermarkets these days) across the land once again, and next year Paramount Pictures will be hoping that director Jonathan Liebseman (Wrath of the Titans) and producer Michael Bay (Transformers) display T-U-R-T-L-E Power with the controversial big-budget live-action reboot.
So, with Christmas around the corner, what better time to introduce a new generation of Turtles fans to the original live-action trilogy with a shiny new Blu-ray released of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time (1993). Now, if you were born in the early to mid 1980s, then chances are you’re already familiar with these movies, even if it’s been a good few years (or decades!) since you last watched them. Essentially, what you have here in this collection is a mostly-faithful translation of the TMNT, which means hours of totally bodacious butt-kicking Turtles action for the kiddies (and kid-friendly these certainly are, despite the whole moral panic from back in the day over the films’ levels of violence, use of nunchucks, etc) and plenty of nostalgic entertainment for older viewers. Well, from the first two movies, at least.
Produced by Hong Kong action specialists Golden Harvest, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies are the dictionary definition of diminishing returns, but things get off to a solid start with the original movie, which sees Leonardo, Raphael, Michaelangelo and Donatello emerging from the sewers to tackle a massive crime wave sweeping New York City, led by the evil Shredder and his gang of teenage hoodlums, the Foot. Despite its low budget, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop does a great job of bringing the Turtles and Master Splinter to life and it’s by far the most memorable and enjoyable of the trilogy – even though the Shredder’s master plan appears limited to stealing portable TVs and toasters from the backs of open delivery trucks. Still, the film delivers where it counts, with some decent action and all the humour we’d come to expect from our mutated heroes.
Unsurprisingly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a huge success at the box-office and led to an almost immediate sequel in The Secret of the Ooze, which upped the budget significantly, albeit at the expense of a decent script. Nostalgia aside, there’s really not much here for older viewers, with everything firmly geared towards appealing to its target audience (the Turtles even ditch their signature weapons for the majority of the movie, reportedly as a reaction to complaints from parents over the ‘violence’ in the original). Still, it’s a much easier watch than Turtles in Time, which tried to freshen things up by transporting the Turtles back to feudal Japan, but ultimately only succeeded in killing the franchise with a plodding and predictable Seven Samurai/Four Ninja-style tale that will even have the little ‘uns yawning by the half way mark.
Despite nosediving in quality as the trilogy progresses, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Movie Collection is definitely one to pick up if you’re a fan of the franchise, have fond memories of the originals, or have kids who’ve picked up the torch of Turtles fandom.
Gary Collinson is a writer and lecturer from the North East of England. He is the editor-in-chief of FlickeringMyth.com and the author of Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen.