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American Gladiators: The Battle Begins

4.5 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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(Jul 14, 2009)
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3
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Editorial Reviews

The 80s cult classic American Gladiators was a forerunner of the reality show: a physical competition series in which two male and two female contestants pitted their strength, speed and skill against highly trained pro athletes Gemini, Zap, Nitro, Lace, Malibu
and Sunny, aka the American Gladiators. American Gladiators first premiered in January of 1989 and was hosted by Mike Adamle and Joe Theismann. In Season One, events included The Joust, The Assault, Powerball, The Human Cannonball, Breakthrough and Conquer, and the Eliminator. This 3 DVD set covers Season One, including the mid-season wrap-up episode and the subsequent 13 episodes leading up to the finals.

Bonus Features:

* Brand-new interviews.

* Original show promos.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Zap, Nitro, Gemini, Lace
  • Directors: Bob Levy
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Shout! Factory
  • DVD Release Date: July 14, 2009
  • Run Time: 840 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001XW7IDQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,398 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Premiering in 1989, this precursor to today's reality show phenomenon pitted athletic contestants against the muscle-bound, spandex-clad American Gladiators in games for cash and prizes culminating in a tournament at the season's end. Boasting a heroic theme music by Rocky composer Bill Conti, this was more than just a spectator sport, this was a show that challenged couch potatoes to prove themselves. While the series was initially an enigma to everyone involved, including the Gladiators themselves, the competitive events and mass appeal of the Gladiators saved it from a premature demise. Hosted by former NFL stars Joe Thiesmann (who was eventually replaced by Todd Christensen) and perennial host Mike Adamle, the first season (as with most shows) had its fair share of growing pains. The games and props were not well designed, the Romanesque arena was dimly lit (perhaps to conceal the lack of audience members), the awarding of points was excessive, comical-looking hooded figures initially officiated the games, and the Gladiators were too often forced to stay in character (as opposed to the individual natural charisma exuded in subsequent seasons). Although the show changed drastically throughout the first season, expect to see trademark events such as Breakthrough & Conquer, Joust, and Powerball. The six original Gladiators who ushered in this inaugural season included;

Raye "Zap" Hollitt- This buxom, blonde beauty (who was unceremoniously cropped from the DVD cover image) packed femininity and brawn into a relatively small frame.
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I was never a die hard fan of the original American Gladiators, and I’m not completely sure why. After all, I watched the remake regularly and it could be argued that American Ninja Warrior is a more extreme descendent of the show, and I love that. Anyway, I do remember watching some episodes and enjoying them, so when I stumbled on American Gladiators - The Battle Begins for a cheap price, I grabbed it.

Right from the start, the name of the set is rather misleading. It sounds like it has the very first episodes ever, but that’s not true. The first season consisted of two 13 episode halves, and only the second half episodes are here. The recap episode of the first half does start things off, so we get 14 hour long episodes in this three disc set.

Each episode finds four contestants, two men and two women, facing off in a series of challenges. There’s The Wall (a rock wall climb), Joust, Assault (contestants shooting at a target while avoiding balls shot from a Gladiator), Breakthrough and Conquer (football followed by wrestling), Power Ball (dropping balls in containers while avoiding Gladiators), and Human Cannonball (swinging to knock a Gladiator off a platform). The contestants can win points along the way, but ultimately it all comes down to the Eliminator, in which the contestants race head to head through an obstacle course. The points earned earlier give one of the contestants a time advantage as they try to make it through to the next round.

Yes, this is an on going contest with preliminaries, quarter finals, semi-finals, and then the winner of the half season being crowned in the finals.
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I managed to get my hands on this DVD set and watched it the other night. It was such a throwback to being in front of the TV watching the show as a kid.

First, it's amazing how much changed over the seasons, yet how much stayed the same. The first 13 episode recap was a good way to get past the early medieval look to the show. I thought the production values of those first episodes was pretty cheap, and I'm glad they decided to spend more money for the second half. Once you do get to the last half of the first season, things pick up.

The video quality is actually pretty good too considering how it was filmed. I was impressed with how "new" it looked. I don't know if any restoration was done, but the second half looked pretty darn good for it's age.

The one thing I really loved about this set though were the audio commentaries by the 3 gladiators. Dan "Nitro" Clark, Jim "Laser" Starr, and Raye "Zap" Hollitt. I have to say that they are better than a lot of other commentaries I've listened to, just because they are so natural and casual. The gladiators go into specific details on how the show was in it's first year, the different personalities of the other gladiators, and what some of them are up to now. Also, giving some inside info on the contestants and the backstage decisions. What I liked the most was just the interaction between the 3 of them, it was like sitting on the couch with them and just chit-chatting with friends. Sometimes I would forget to pay attention to the show, because I was listening to one of their stories. It's kind of a "fly on the wall" feeling...like you shouldn't be listening, but it's good stuff, and they are really funny. I'm also glad the production company didn't censor them...
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