Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: ElectraWoman and DynaGirl: "Ali Baba" (October 23, October 30, 1976)

In “Ali Baba,” Lori (Deidre Hall) and Judy (Judy Strangis) are covering a scientist’s convention when they receive word from Frank (Norman Alden) in the Electra-Base that a noted Russian scientist, Namakov, has vanished along with his plane.

This is a terrifying development, because the professor was carrying his new “Metamorphis” formula with him.  This chemical can turn people and animals into their opposites.  A gentle person will become aggressive, and so on.

ElectraWoman and DynaGirl soon discover the truth.  The professor and his formula are now in the hands of the evil supervillain, Ali Baba (Malachi Throne) and his minion, a Djinni (Sid Haig).

This evil duo captures DynaGirl and utilizes the Metamorphis formula on her, transforming the energetic and kind young woman into the most evil of super-villains. 

Worse, with her knowledge of Crime Scope, Electra Base and the Electra Comps, DynaGirl could help Ali Baba take over the world.

The fate of Earth will be decided in the "final showdown" between ElectraWoman and DynaGirl.

Bolstered by a terrifying, go-for-broke performance from series co-start Judy Strangis, “Ali Baba” is another solid episode of this campy superhero series of the 1970s.  

In this story, DynaGirl is possessed by evil, and promptly makes for the most memorable and wicked of the series’ super villains thus far.  Her choices as a performer here aren't subtle or nuanced, but -- sheesh -- they're effective!  

Strangis goes bug-eyed and wears a malevolent ear-to-ear, toothy grin for her scenes as the corrupted DynaGirl. Her energetic performance is also boosted by weird pancake make-up that gives her face a ghostly, life-less tenor.  In short, this iteration of DynaGirl is really, truly, creepy.

Even Ali Baba himself is impressed.  “You’re more evil than I dared hope for,” he says to Dyna Girl, surprised.

It’s funny to consider that “Ali Baba” also features great character actors Sid Haig and Malachi Throne, in guest-starring roles…but that a little pig-tailed performer, Strangis, effectively steals the show.

“Ali Baba” also succeeds to the degree it does because the episode feels surprising, and once more, not simply formulaic. 

When ElectraWoman is threatened with being buried alive (in a chamber rapidly filling with sand…), she attempts to use her ElectraComp. 

But DynaGirl -- pretending to be her sweet self -- calls Frank in ElectraBase and tells him to de-activate it; that ElectraWoman is the one who has been changed. Thinking nothing is amiss, he complies.

Since, as I also noted last week, the ElectraComps are basically crutches for the series writers, this development makes the episode feel more dangerous than usual. 

There’s a feeling, at times, that ElectraWoman has been outmaneuvered, betrayed by her sidekick and most trusted friend.  The final showdown isn't much more than ElectraWoman and DynaGirl shooting beams at each other with their ElectraComps, but the final battle still feels least if you love Saturday morning TV shows of the 1970s.

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