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Putting the "high" in "high concept," Glen Larson's crime-fighting shape-shifter was a man who could turn into ANY ANIMAL. Any animal at all. As long as that animal is a panther. OK, in a pinch, he can do a hawk, but can we stick with the panther please? It's not so much that special effects technology didn't exist in 1983, it's just that network TV could not afford them. Production costs were high for all that Manimalization, and when low ratings did not quickly morph into Neilsen success, Manimal was hastily euthanized.
Simon MacCorkindale does fine work as the Manimal, but to modern eyes this show plays more like an extended Saturday Night Live skit, when the promise of a man who can be any animal turns into the reality of a guy being swapped out for the same piece of stock panther transformation footage week after week. Still, I sincerely hope Manimal is reissued, because for all its faults, it's a priceless slice of ridiculous 80s fun.
From what I remember I liked the show, but it might have been just the fact that a guy could turn into any animal he wanted (although he only got to do a few of of them). That would capture the imagination of any 8 year old. I remember wishing I could do that!
Even more interesting that Manimal was brought back to life fifteen years later in yet another Larson effort, NightMan. Still, a fantastic show to enjoy and sadly short-lived.
After growing up a bit and seeing it again on Sci-Fi, I can see in some ways why it didn't continue. I think the biggest flaw was that the story writers didn't take advantage of the Man into Animal aspect. They stuck the main character basically with routine Cops and Robbers plots. Most (if not all) of the story lines could be transplanted to any other Police / Crime show and be solved by an ordinary person with no animal powers. Sure, there were some instances where Dr. Chase would find himself in a predicament where only changing into an animal would save him (like falling out of a plane and changing into a hawk), but for the most part the cases were pretty mediocre.
Another problem was leaving Dr. Chase's past too enigmatic. I'm sure it was meant to add to the mystery, but most people just had no idea where this character came from or why he could do what he could do. There was the cryptic opening sequence where the young Jonathan Chase is standing by his dying father's bedside, but no other explanation is ever given about him. Knowing almost nothing about the character, you couldn't really develop too much sympathy for him. They also never delved into any complications that may come with being able to turn into any animal. Did he have their instincts as well? Did he have any limitations? Could he transform into Fish, Amphibians or Insects, or just air breathing animals? He did transform into a reptile once (python), but the rest were warm blooded air breathers like mammals and birds.
I watched on Sci-Fi Channel when they had interviews with Stan Winston, the creator of the Transformation sequences. I could see with the TV show budget, they could only do two or three sequences (Panther and Hawk were the main ones, but the Python was one exception and used only once), but those sequences were great. All done with prosthetic make-up and mechanical effects and all done in real time. Pretty impressive for the day. If the series had been produced today, it would have been much easier to do a multitude of sequences and most likely done with CGI Morphing. Once, the Dr. Chase / Manimal character made a guest appearance on "Night Man", but we were robbed because the transformation sequences were reduced to an instantaneous transformation with a flash of light. What's up with that??
Like I said, this series is greatly missed and I hope that someday the entire series comes out on DVD. I will certainly be first in line to buy it.
Second, if anyone remembers the pilot to this show, his girlfriend (I THINK that was here relationship. It HAS been almost 20 years!) found out about his abilities when he turned into a cobra to pull her out of some quicksand. I also recall him becoming a mule to kick open a locked door so he and his friend could escape. Sure, the panther and hawk were used the most, but they did make him more versatile than that.
Granted, it was no "Misfits of Science", but still, quality television all the way! (At least for a nine-year-old ...)
well like many postes here, i also spoke about this TV show when friends are around talking about the 80s TV. Very few remember Manimal but the fact that some do is really something.
it only ran for 8 EPs and that Includes the pilot. and I'm talking from London England, so some TV people here payed money to air it here. like i say it ran for Just 8 eps and we still remember it to this day so i must have made some sort ot impact. Shame there wasn't more.
well i looked into it and it was never released on DVD so god knows where this came from. ahhhh memory's
all i need now is Auto-Man, StreetHawk on DVD
Due to a) budgetary concerns and b) this being before morphing, viewers only ever saw him change into THREE animals - usually a panther or a hawk (both realised quite well by Stan Winston), but for the episode "Scrimshaw" we saw him turn into a snake to rescue Brooke (the show's token female) from a sinkhole. This repetition and the need to hide other changes as a result (in the show where he became a horse we had to make do with sound effects) must have bored viewers, though the actual scripts can't have helped... safe to say we won't be seeing a movie version of this one.
This is, however, not as painful to watch as some of Glen Larson's other shows after leaving Universal. Or would you really rather see "NightMan" than this? Thought not.
The coolest part was when Jonathan Chase started transforming into an animal - the veins in his hands would swell up as if his andrenaline was going through the roof.
I am sure if I watched it today I would think it was cheesy though..
And I recommend an alternative ending to this misguided piece of tripe. The learned Professor, during one misguided hawkish fly-by of some crime-infested borough, mistakenly flies over a licensed hunting ground, and is unceremoniously felled by one thankfully eagle-eyed hunter. Forthwith, Benji, who due to his long-unemployed status is doubling as a hunting pooch, proceeds to de-feather and ingest the hapless hawk before he can morph back to a creature better able to defend himself.