The Adventures of Blake and Mortimer

Anchor Bay Entertainment UK
RRP: 24.99
Certificate: PG
Available 15 May 2006

It's the nineteen thirties: an age of empire, an age of heroism and an age of dodgy cultural stereotypes. Blake and Mortimer bestride the world with their oldie worldie imperialism. An age of innocence, where the bad guys are easy to spot. Well, they are usually jonnie foreigner, so that alone makes them untrustworthy. I think I feel sullied already...

Now, anyone who has read any reviews of mine should have worked out that I'm the good cop. My personal impression is that anyone who has got as far a producing a body of work should be encouraged (anyone else feel a "however" coming on?) However, Blake and Mortimer is pants of the worst kind and I've got four whole discs, twenty six episodes, to plough through. And you, dear reader, will suffer along with me.

Where to start? The animation is appallingly block coloured. If a coat is grey, it's grey all over. This is a land without shadows, hue or subtlety. Poor Mortimer looks like someone has painted his ginger hair and beard on. A few characters fair better, but they still look like someone has crazy foamed their heads. The stories are excruciatingly slow and dull, and the word "engaging" never entered my head. I was even happy to defend the cringing jingoism and cultural stereotypes, but without any other redeeming qualities it just adds to the awfulness. That said, and I'm dragging the depths here to think of something positive, you do get a lot of episodes in this box set, but no extras.

The animation is based on the series of books by Edgar P. Jacobs and appeared in the original Belgium Tintin comic in 1946. Maybe that's the problem. The show is directed by Stephane Bernasconi, so we're looking at someone else's idea of what it is to be British. It's not even as if this was a seventies animation (I feel a rant coming on); this was made in 1997 for goodness sake, on what? A shoe string! Ok, I'll agree that there is an audience for this sort of thing. Blake and Mortimer is not only a comic book but has also spawned other merchandise, including stamps and postcards. Not sure what this says about the target audience, but I'm sure you can guess what went through my mind. I can see the Dan Dare sort of thing going on but it's more lobotomised than Dan ever was.

The first disc opens with the Mystery of the Great Pyramid; it's the usual guys in fez's and stupid policemen, though on a strange note the information about Tutankhamen and his progenitors is oddly very accurate. The Yellow Mark sees the crown jewels being stolen. Swordfish Versus Delta Red moves into a more sci-fi Dan Dare arena, with the flight of a new needle like plane. The Atlantis Enigma opens with a couple of badly drawn paper plates pretending to be flying saucers being shot down, but were did they come from, and who really cares, is beyond me.

On to disc two, and the will to live is slipping away. I won't bother you with the turgid details of the three episodes on offer, but for collector's the disc has Heavy Weather, The Infernal Machine and The Ghost and the Necklace.

Disc three, and I've rented a dog to chew my leg off just to keep me awake; you really can find anything in the yellow pages. This contains another three episodes: Professor Sato's Three Formulae, The Francis Blake Affair and The Viking's Bequest, and the words "dogs" and "b*ll*cks" still aren't springing to mind.

And on to the last disc... and at this point I've found an Albanian dwarf to pull my teeth out (she normally does other more erotic work but after I showed her one of the episodes she really understood my need). So we have The Secret of Easter Island, The Alchemists Will and The Druid. If there had been another disc I would have had to hire the girl out of Audition to pin my eyes open with needles.

So, what is there to say? There is obviously an audience out there for this stuff, but I'm not sure I'd want to meet these people in a pub.

Charles Packer

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