Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Sid and Marty Krofft were prolific creators of children’s programming in the 70s, though often adding a twist of the bizarre into the mix.  Electra Woman and Dyna Girl was no different.  The show was, essentially, a gender-flipped 70s-era version of the 1966 Adam West Batman series by the creators of H.R. PufnstufElectra Woman and Dyna Girl was part of The Krofft Supershow, airing in 12 minute segments for a total of 16 episodes, each pair forming a full story.  The end of the odd-numbered episodes was a cliffhanger with the main characters facing danger.  The segment lasted for just one season, being dropped from The Krofft Supershow when it went to its second season.

Deidre Hall, best known for her work on the daytime soap Days of Our Lives, played intrepid reporter Lori, who became the superheroine Electra Woman.  Judy Strangis played Judy, who became the teen sidekick Dyna Girl, even though Strangis was only two years younger than Hall.  Their powers came from the ElectraComs, devices on their wrists that projected energy that could be used to thwart the machinations of their villainous opponents.  The ElectraComs received their power from the ElectraBase, where scientist Frank Heflin, played by Norman Alden.  Heflin operated the CrimeScope, a computer designed to track crimes and acts of villainy.  To get around, the ElectraDuo used the ElectraCar, a three-wheeled vehicle.

While the heroines depended on gadgets for powers, the villains weren’t so limited.  The Sorceror and Miss Dazzle relied on magic, including a magic mirror that allowed them to travel in time.  Glitter Rock and his sidekick, Side Man, used sonic gadgets.  The Empress of Evil and Lucretia used magic.  The Pharoah and Cleopatra used magic and alchemy.  Ali Baba and the Genie also used magic.  The Spider-Lady and her sidekicks, Leggs and Spinner, kept to a spider-theme with nets and misdirection.  The sources of the various powers were never expanded upon.

Indeed, given the time limitations, the episodes jumped right to the action.  Lori and Judy were reporters more to give them a way into some of their mysteries more than anything else.  Electra Woman was a superhero fighting evil while Dyna Girl was the spunky teen sidekick, a much more colourful and happier Batman and Robin.  The focus of the episodes was split between the heroines and the villains, showing the nefarious plot to avoid the slower parts of investigation.

The 2016 reboot movie started as an idea from Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart.  They wanted to do a superhero series to mock life in Hollywood.  As they developed the idea, Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures approached them with the idea of using Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.  The result was first released as a series of webisodes before being released on DVD.  Electra Woman (Helbig) and Dyna Girl (Hart) returned.

The reboot begins in Ohio, with Electra Woman and Dyna Girl at home after a gruelling day of heroing, still in costumes that resembled those worn by Hall and Strangis.  On TV is a commercial featuring Major Vaunt, a superhero who has landed a contract with a Hollywood agent and, as Judy put it, “sells out.”  Their day continues on its low course when the Bernice, the bratty teen-aged neighbour, pops in to mock them and their uselessness.  After all, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl don’t even have powers, just Dyna Girl’s Dyna Suction Gun.  Lori and Judy shoo Bernice off, then head out to get a snack.  At the convenience store, while the heroic duo are in the back hunting down slushies, two masked robbers enter.  One is armed with a pistol, the other with a smartphone, recording the crime.  To add to their general lack of smarts, neither robber notices or even looks for anyone in bright spandex.  Despite their lack of powers, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl show the robbers the error of their ways, disarming the gunman with ease in a very literal fashion and uploading their failure to their own YouTube channel.

The video becomes an overnight sensation, leading to Electra Woman getting an invite out to Los Angeles by CMM, the Creative Masked Marketing agency, run by Dan Dixon, superagent to superheroes.  After travelling from Ohio to LA in the ElectraCar, a sixteen year old hatchback with a fading psychedelic paint job, Lori and Judy are given the grand tour of CMM.  Dixon isn’t one to take no for an answer, so the tour includes the lab of Frank Heflin, genius inventor with almost no social skills, the ElectraComs, which are a mix of smartphone and weapon, and the reveal of new costumes.  Judy is hesitant, but Lori jumps at the chance to be a proper superhero and answers for both of them.

During an interview on a morning show, the ElectraDuo stop an armoured car robbery, using the ElectraComs and natural talent.  The footage shoots them from stardom to superstardom, but cracks in the partnership start forming.  The media and CMM treat Dyna Girl as a sidekick instead of a partner, driving a wedge between Lori and Judy.  Meanwhile, a supervillain appears, the first since the end of the Shadow War, the final battle between superheroes and supervillains that ended with the heroes triumphant.  The villain calls herself the Empress of Evil, wielding what looks like magical powers to stymie the LAPD.  The collected heroes of LA can only watch as the Empress toys with the police until Major Vaunt teleports to the scene to fight her.  However, he’s too busy playing to the cameras to be effective and is killed by the Empress.

The rift between Lori and Judy grows afterwards.  Lori has fully embraced the Hollywood star lifestyle, focusing on media appearances, while Judy wants to use Frank’s CrimeScope to locate the Empress.  The two split up, going their separate ways.  Outside where a commercial is being filmed, fans recognize Judy as Dyna Girl and get selfies with her.  One other person recognizes her, and Judy knows who it is just before she’s taken away.

Learning that Judy has been kidnapped by the Empress, Lori realizes what and who is important in her life, even if Judy can be a wet blanket at times.  She talks to Frank, who locates Judy’s ElectraComs at CMM’s headquarters.  Lori races, with some false starts, to the agency and finds Judy in the basement, tied by cables to support pillars.  The Empress reveals herself and taunts the two before leaving to cause more mayhem.  Lori apologizes for the way she behaved, and Judy accepts that Lori has come to her senses.  They’re discovered by Frank who is on a soup run.

Lori and Judy try to figure out a way to stop the Empress.  Frank reveals to them the new ElectraCar and the pair rush off.  They confront the Empress of Evil with the new ElectraCar, a sleek sports car with a massive ElectraCannon extending out over it.  The ElectraCar lasts not even five minutes before the Empress uses her powers to fling it away.  Electra Woman takes matters in hand and pummels the villain, but the Empress’ powers have made her body impervious to damage.  Lori, though, knowing the villain, knows her one weakness and uses it to defeat her.

The reboot has several advantages, the big one being that special effects cost far less, relatively speaking, now than in 1976.  The lack of details in the original Electra Woman and Dyna Girl means that expanding on their backgrounds and personalities won’t contradict anything previously done and allows for greater depth of the characters.  The reboot is a comedy at heart, and the webisode approach allows for humour that wouldn’t be allowed on Saturday morning television.  Helbig and Hart make the characters their own while still acknowledging the original work.  At the same time, they have commentary about life in LA for actors and the nature of superhero movies.  While the rift between Lori and Judy was an obvious conflict, Judy herself makes fun of that storyline while foreshadowing it.  The reveal of the Empress of Evil’s identity is also foreshadowed, with hints given along the way.

Helbig and Hart’s Electra Woman and Dyna Girl updates the TV series.  The new costumes are practical, with spandex replaced by padded outfits that both protect and give further range of motion.  The new ElectraComs have similar abilities as the originals with the extra communication capabilities as smartphones.  The situations are also updated, with modern problems plaguing the ElectraDuo, from life in LA to trying to find the right Uber car.

The new Electra Woman and Dyna Girl is very much a product of now, much as the original was a product of the 70s.  Dyna Girl is no longer a sidekick, despite the attempts by both CMM and the media to paint her as such.  Instead, she’s Electra Woman’s partner, an equal.  The focus is on the ElectraDuo; the only time the audience learns anything about the Empress of Evil and her plot is when Electra Woman and Dyna Girl are there, only because the villain takes the time to gloat.  The Empress herself does change from the original; instead of being a construct created by Lucretia, the new villain has motivation and a tie to the ElectraDuo, one that is set up even before she appears as the supervillain.

With the original Electra Woman and Dyna Girl having almost no depth because of its format, the reboot has a free reign to create details as needed, playing around with the concept for the sake of the story.  The new version is slightly more adult than the original and is far more genre savvy.  The result is a movie that exceeds the original in scope while still remaining about the title duo.

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