Saturday, May 08, 2021

Thundarr the Barbarian in "Challenge of the Wizards"

In “Challenge of the Wizards,” Thundarr, Ariel, and Ookla end up in an “ancient city of pleasure” -- Las Vegas, and are captured by the sorcerer Basim. 

The heroes are soon taken to his stronghold, and informed that they must compete in a deadly race so as to earn “the helmet of power,” a device of unlimited magical power.

If Thundarr and his friends survive the “canyon of doom” -- and a battle on Hoover Dam -- they will not only receive the helmet, but earn the right to free several innocent villagers from captivity at Basim’s hand.

But the wizard has a double-cross in mind…

Jaunty and fast-moving, “Challenge of the Wizards” is a bit more original-seeming than many of the previous episodes of Thundarr the Barbarian, mainly because of the organizing principle of the car race, which features unique Death Race 2000-style vehicles like the spiked “wheel machine” and the “scorpion machine.” 

Also, it’s a kick to see the series’ three heroes riding around in a 20th century dune buggy.

Even the challenges that the triumvirate encounters during the race, including a grizzly snake -- a giant serpent with the face of a bear -- and a storm of toxic acid rain, speak of the episode’s general ingenuity and sense of imagination.  

The final battle, inside a Las Vegas casino, is also great fun.  The evil double-crossing wizard is magically captured and imprisoned inside an ancient slot machine, but only after Ariel defends herself by enlarging a bicentennial coin to enormous size.

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