Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Memory of Captain Lou Albano, the voice (and face) of Mario for a Generation

Do you remember the Super Mario Bros. Super Show?  Of course you do.  Anyone who had an NES and a pulse watched that show religiously back in the day.  They ignored the fact that the plot lines were contrived fairy tale/movie/whatever parodies of the week simply because it was Mario in cartoon form.

Nowadays though, most people deride the show cheap cash in it basically was.  It didn't help that since every episode was a parody of something, they often felt like they had nothing to do with Mario (Nintendo must have noticed this too, since later Mario series would be much more game orientated).  If there is any part of the show that is remembered with any fondness though, it was the show's live-action segments featuring wrestler Captain Lou Albano as Mario.

It kind of amazing that Nintendo got him to shave his beard for this

Unlike the cartoon, these segments were more like a sit-com with Mario and Luigi (played by Danny Wells) siting at home, while occasionally receiving celebrity guest stars including Vanna White, Magic Johnson and Sgt. Slaughter.

In retrospect, it's kind of amazing that these segments exist, because there's no way Nintendo today would ever let a former wrestler play Mario on low-budget sitcom.  However, I'm not just bringing up the show to reminisce about it.  I bring it up because I just found out that last week Lou Albano passed away.

I'll confess, I don't know much about the man outside of the fact he was Mario, but that's actually more then enough.  Aside from the live-action segments, Lou Albano also voiced Mario throughout all of the various cartoon production.  And since those shows were syndicated and rerun to hell and back for many years, this meant that Albano performance of Mario became the definitive version in many people's eyes.  Even Bob Hoskins' performance as Mario in the ever infamous Super Mario Bros. movie and Marc Graue's in the better-off-forgotten CDi game Hotel Mario seem based off of Albano.

Of course, Nintendo themselves seemed to think otherwise (possibly since most of the things I just mentioned are technically pretty bad) seeing as the first time Mario spoke in a Nintendo-produced game it was quite different then what people were used to.

For my part, I've long accepted and gotten used to hearing Charles Martinet high-pitched, whimsical Mario voice.  However, whenever I imagine Mario speaking in anything other then one-line quips I can still imagine Albano's more gravely (and arguably less stereotypical) version.  So I'll end this tribute in the only way possible:

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