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Film Memories

“Pizza dude’s got thirty seconds” – Revisiting TMNT The Movie (1990)


With the three original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films being re-released on Blu-Ray and DVD this month, it felt appropriate to give the first film another revisit for posterity’s sake. If like me you’re of a certain age group, you will remember when the first TMNT film hit cinemas back in 1990. I remember the excitement of being able to see the green foursome up on the big screen and in living colour.

Regardless of my age (I’m now in my late 20s) there’s something comforting about revisiting the original film. If I’m completely honest I have a rather large soft spot for it, mainly because any memories I have of it haven’t altered over time. It’s still consistently entertaining whenever I sit down and watch it. Even after talking to a few people on Twitter recently, it’s clear the original film (and to a certain extent the first sequel) hold many a fond memory for fans.

I think one of the main reasons TMNT 1 has such a lasting appeal among us, is the fact the suits and animatronics still hold up by today’s standards (mind you when as anything The Jim Henson Company done ever dated?). They feel like living, breathing characters which genuinely inhabit this underground world, with no CGI enhancements.

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What is also evident on revisits is the sombre story of father and sons. Not to get bogged down in anything too analytical, but if you scratch beneath the surface a little, it’s an emotional story of loss and acceptance.

Ok admittedly you might not have to scratch too deep to find those themes, but still for a comic book film (and an independent one at that) TMNT set out to tell a compelling story first and a film about giant turtles second – stop me if I’m being overly sentimental about this. It’s also a supremely dark and violent film at times, which I suppose goes some-way to echoing the original comic tone.

One of the many highlights of the film has to be the love/hate relationship between Raphael and Casey Jones. Their hot-headed temperaments allowing each other to find a kindred spirit. It’s interesting to see how their friendship develops from a humorous stand-off in Central Park, to a close (almost fraternal) bond.

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But I can’t do a blog piece on TMNT without mentioning the actual fight sequences. Now it wasn’t until a few years ago (2004 I think) that us lovely folk in Blighty could see all of the fights scenes uncut. Obviously this was down to the fact that the BBFC deemed any Nunchuk scene or shot, unsafe for our delicate dispositions.

Now intact, the fights feel more visceral and complete – for instance when the Foot Clan perform a house invasion on April’s apartment, we get to see Michelangelo’s face-off with a fellow Clan member. It’s actually quite impressive how the fights (now over 23 years old!!) haven’t really dated that much (if at all). There’s still an that element of excitement present (which had when first viewing it) to each Ninja kick and punch, particularly Raph’s fight with the Foot Clan at the top of the building and the climatic showdown with Shredder.

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I think what I’m trying to say with this post, is that no matter how old I’m getting the first TMNT movie is still watched by myself. What is strange, is that I’ll openly (and passionately) defend this film even if certain individuals believe it to be naff or childish.

In all honesty the sequels might have got a little too light-hearted as they went on (Ninja Rap anyone?), but the first film will always have that dark, grimy, low-budget feel to it and because of that I will always be a fan of these heroes in a half-shell.

Also as a quick side note, I love how Raph walks out of a cinema screening of Critters, as a monster fan I can’t help but smile a little bit when I see the poster (and his reaction to the film).

What are your fond memories of the original TMNT film? Did you used to love it back when you were younger or have you continued to watch it no matter how old you’ve become? Sound off with your comments below (and don’t forget to mention your favourite turtle).


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October 2013
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