Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / The Secret of the Ooze / Turtles in Time / TMNT
Warner Bros. | 1990 | 364 mins | Rated PG

From the late 1980’s through the early 1990’s, it seemed like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were everywhere–from toys to food to clothes, if the Turtles likeness could be put on it, you can bet it was. One of the most successful endeavors during the Turtle craze was a series of movies, which Warner Bros. has recently released on blu-ray in a box set. Given the comic books, animated series, the late ’90s live-action TV show, Japanese OVAs, animated spin-offs, Fox Network rebirths, and the many multi-platform video games that have appeared over the years, it’s impossible to deny that the Ninja Turtles have a devoted fanbase, one that will be more than happy to finally see these films in the high definition format.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Film Collection

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Released in 1990, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles closely follows the storyline from the comic books. When a crime wave hits New York and a Channel 3 news reporter named April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) is kidnapped in the process, four high-kicking vigilantes emerge from the sewers of the city to try and determine the source of the crime. However, these vigilantes aren’t your typical heroes; they’re giant, mutant turtles whose adoptive father, a mutated rat named Splinter (voiced by Kevin Clash), has trained them in the ways of the ninja. There’s Michelangelo (Michelan Sisti and voice actor Robbie Rist), the youngest of the turtles; a natural athlete, he uses a nunchaku as his weapon of choice, sai-slinging hothead Raphael (Josh Pais), bo-staff-swinging intellectual Donatello (Lief Tilden and voice actor Corey Feldman), and their katana wielding leader Leonardo (David Forman and voice actor Brian Tochi). Together with a an ex-hockey player turned vigilante named Casey Jones (Elias Kotas) and assistance from April, the Turtles try and stop a Japanese warlord known as the Shredder (James Saito and voice actor David McCharen) from building a crime empire. To accomplish this, our heroes have to deal with the Shredder’s Foot Clan and a group of corrupted, ninja trained teenagers; all the while, keeping their identity a secret.

Aside from some outdated pop culture references, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles holds up surprisingly well. The story was much darker than I remembered and may appeal to the kids of today. The film was made in the days before today’s widely used CG, so the heavy costumes worn by the performers causes some clunky movements, somewhat fake looking punches and crudely choreographed scenes. Despite those flaws, the screenplay by Todd W. Langen and Bobby Herbeck allows each of the Turtles distinct personalities to shine through. Further, director Steve Baron’s (Coneheads) decision to fill the Foot with disaffected teens does tend to lessen the Clan’s effectiveness but nonetheless, the film still remains solid entertainment.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Released in 1991, The Secret of the Ooze has the unfortunate distinction of being the acting debut of rapper Vanilla Ice and “The Ninja Wrap.” Lacking the story development of its predecessor, much of Ooze feels like blatant cash grab. After defeating the Clan and sending the Shredder to an early grave (or so they think), Splinter and the Turtles have moved in with April (now played by Paige Turco). However, little do they know, the Shredder (François Chau and returning voice actor David McCharen) has somehow risen from the dead. He has kidnapped a scientist named Jordan Perry (David Warner), who has been recruited to help the Shredder take another shot at capturing New York.

Music video aficionado Steve Baron was replaced by TV veteran Michael Pressman in the director’s chair. While a cameo by Vanilla Ice was a major coup at the time, the film itself plays out like a big budget rehash of its predecessor without much thought to the script. While the first film had a budget of roughly $13 million, Secret of the Ooze came in at $25 million. It’s almost as if executives just told Pressman to make everything bigger and brighter in the belief that this approach would result in major box office success.

Despite the films undeniable weaknesses, Secret of the Ooze will likely appeal to those who grew up as fans of the Turtles. There are plenty of pop culture references and the sight of the Turtles on stage with Vanilla Ice will likely make you wonder how that guy got famous. However, I doubt Secret of the Ooze will have much of a replay value, except among the Turtles most ardent fans.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time

Released in 1993, Turtles in Time is by far the worst film in the Turtle cannon. With the New York City location played out, our heroes head to Japan. Their friend April has been transported to 17th century Japan via a magical scepter and the Turtles decide to follow her, along with their new time traveling friend, Kenshin (Henry Hayashi). The turtles are shocked to learn that they are appreciated and respected in feudal Japan, unlike 20th century New York City where they must hide underground to avoid being targets of human xenophobia.

While the action sequences are a bit more exciting this time and the story flows better, by this time the Turtle franchise seemed to be played out. To be frank, everything about this film looks cheap–the costumes, the sets and the general production values. One doesn’t have to look very hard to tell that Turtles in Time was shot on a cheesy Hollywood backlot set, nowhere near Japan. The script and the acting in this one are so bad that the executives in charge of this production undoubtedly understood this was the Turtles last live action, big screen, hurrah.


Released in 2007, TMNT was the first Turtles film made with CGI and likely represented the first time Leonardo (voiced by James Arnold Taylor), Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) , Raphael (Nolan North) and Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley) could really show off what they could do. The CGI allows the filmmakers to mix the humorous tone established by the earlier films with some excellent action scenes that the bulky costumes of previous outings couldn’t accommodate.

The story concerns a warlord (Patrick Stewart) who resurrects four stone warriors from his past, hires what remains of the Foot Clan and sends them out to capture thirteen monsters. Helping the turtle’s is our favorite high-sticking vigilante, Casey Jones (Chris Evans) and ex-reporter April O’Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar). While April has abandoned investigative journalism in favor of tomb raiding and martial arts training, each character has been refined for their 21st century theatrical debut, retaining key traits established in the three previous films but getting some welcome tweaks. Munroe’s voice actors have been well cast. They fit their characters well, sound like their enjoying themselves and capture the essence of each turtle. I’m sure major Turtle fans will be more than happy to finally experience TMNT in high definition.

Presented in their original aspect ratios (1.85:1 for the first three films, 2.35:1 for the fourth) and enhanced for 16×9 displays, these transfers are far from reference quality. While they are an improvement over any of their previous DVD incarnations, none of these 1080p transfers appear to have undergone a major remastering. The first and second film’s darker palettes appear accurate, image detail is fair and black levels look consistent. However, you will notice more dirt and grain than one generally likes to see on a blu-ray. One might have expected New Line to do a more extensive clean up job on this set.

Presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mixes, you’re not likely to find these films sounding any better. The first three films sound like they’ve been remixed completely. Dialogue is clear and crisp in these lossless presentations but what really impresses are the disc’s use of surrounds. With surprisingly dynamic range, these films show off their 5.1 sound mixes.

English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes are also included, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.

This set doesn’t come with much in the way of special features. The first three movies only include standard definition theatrical trailers, and TMNT limps comes with the same unimpressive special features that appeared on its original 2007 release (an exceedingly dull director’s commentary, five minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, and seven minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes, all in standard definition).

I don’t ordinarily talk about packaging unless it’s noteworthy; in this case, it’s not in a good way. Designed to resemble a cardboard pizza box, the packaging is cheap. It houses all four discs (printed to look like pizzas), an envelope with eight collectible character cards, a signed Kevin Eastman sketch (It’s a print and a copied signature), a black-and-white graphic novel adaptation of the first film, and a high-quality (albeit kid-sized) black beanie boasting the Ninja Turtle logo. Further, the box tends to continually pop open once you’ve removed things. It just seems rather ungainly.

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