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Darna
(1951-1994 Film Series)

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About These Films

ROSA DEL ROSARIO ERA
1. Darna (1951)
2. Darna & the Hawk Woman (1952)

LIZA MORENO ERA
3. Darna & the Evil Twins (1963)
4. Isputnik vs. Darna (1963)

EVA MONTES ERA
5. Darna & the Tree Monster (1964)

GINA PARENO ERA
6. Darna & the Planetman (1969)
This was the first Darna film to introduce the idea that Narda had a bum leg.

VILMA SANTOS ERA 1
7. Fly, Darna, Fly! (1973)
8. Darna & the Giants (1974)
9. Darna vs. the Planet Women (1975)

DOLPHY ERA
10. Darna, kuno? (1979)
This was a weird kind of movie, even for Darna.  It starred Dolphy (best-known as hero Captain Barbell) as a male Darna; the second male Darna ever done, the first was Chiquito in "Darna vs. the Planet Women" (1975).  Believe it or not, even a third male Darna was done in 1980s "Darna & Ding" (played by Nino Mulach).  There were three Darnas in this movie.  The major female Darna was Brenda del Rio (her part was originally offered to Vilma Santos).  Another female Darna was Lotis Key.

RIO LOCSIN ERA
11. Bira, Darna, bira! (1979)

VILMA SANTOS ERA 2
12. Darna & Ding (1980)
Vilma's last Darna film, and the first Darna film to abandon the idea that Narda had a bum leg.

NANETTE MEDVED ERA
13. Darna (1991)

ANJANETTE ABAYARI ERA
14. Darna: The Return (1994)

OTHER DARNA FILM APPEARANCES
Captain Barbell (1986) [Played by Sharon Cuneta]
Captain Barbell (2003) [Played by Regina Velasquez]

DARNA TV SERIES
"Darna!" (1977-1978) [Played by Lorna Tolentino]
"Darna" (2005) [Played by Angel Locsin]
"Darna" (2009-2010) [Played by Marian Rivera]

About These Films:  Darna started life as the comic book creation of Mars Ravelo.  Her purpose was to be the Filipino version of America's Wonder Woman.  Darna was not, however, a ripoff of the beloved American character; she had her own unique backstory and supporting cast, and was similar only in a very basic sense.  The one element that was truly copied from Wonder Woman was the fact that she deflected bullets with her bracelets.  Darna was first called Varga and appeared in "Bulaklak Magazine" [Volume 4] #17 on July 23, 1947.  Ravelo had a falling out with the editors of that magazine.  Renamed Darna, the heroine was relaunched on May 13, 1950 in "Pilipino Comics" #77.

    The character was interesting enough to be put into movies the very next year.  Darna movies are unique, because there really isn't much continuity from film to film.  The movies have seemingly been "rebooted" with each successive actress.  Even her powers are changed from time to time.

    Starting in 1973, the Darna movies started establishing long-standing traditions.  Vilma Santos took on the role, and has become the actress most identified with the role.  Santos played Darna in four films from 1973 to 1980.  Since Vilma's first Darna movie, the character of Narda is no longer a little girl, but a beautiful young woman.  Narda herself changes into Darna, rather than just channeling into a different body.  Our heroine must swallow the stone to become Darna, and coughs it up to change back.  Unlike past versions, Darna herself is not from the planet Marte, but is just a "warrior of light".  The most noticable change, however, is the fact that her little brother Ding is the only one that knows her secret, and is a sidekick of sorts.  During the Vilma Santos era, a popular catchphrase was born with, "Ding, ang bato!" which translates to "Ding, give me the stone!".

    Valentina is the snake-haired, Medusa-like archnemesis of Darna in most of the films and television shows.  She isn't the only villain in Darna's universe by a long shot, but certainly the major baddie.

    In 1977, Darna was given her first live-action TV series, called "Darna!".  The Darna TV series' is discussed further in the Television Department.  Its relevance to the films is that it appeared between the ninth and tenth Darna movies, and proved that the character could be adapted into television.  Filipino film and television is all lower-budget with limited effects, so there isn't much of a difference between the quality of a Darna movie or a Darna TV show.  Darna's first series starred Lorna Tolentino, an actress that has gone on to do a lot of great things in her long-lasting career.

    Darna had two more television series', "Darna" (2005) and "Darna" (2009-2010).  None of the Darna series was short-lived.  TV is done differently in the Philippines, and they simply crammed a lot of episodes in a season.  Darna has become so popular on television, that films have been put on the back burner.

    The last theatrically-released Darna film was "Darna: The Return" (1994).  This has been the longest period of time to date that another Darna movie has not been produced.  Will Darna ever return to movies?  It's hard to tell at this point.  Television has been kind to the character, and there really isn't much more that can be done for her in films besides a total reboot from the ground up.  I'd like to see the Filipino superheroine put into an American-ized, big budget movie with great special effects.  I think a new movie should still be set in the Philippines, with a predominately Filipino cast, just done bigger and better and in the English language.  Darna needs to be opened up to American audiences.



1. Darna (1951)




2. Darna & the Hawk Woman (1952)



3. Darna & the Evil Twins (1963)
:  




4. Isputnik vs. Darna (1963):  




5. Darna & the Tree Monster (1964):  




6. Darna & the Planetman (1969):  




7. Fly, Darna, Fly! (1973):  




8. Darna & the Giants (1974):  




9. Darna vs. the Planet Women (1975):  




10. Darna, kuno? (1979):  




11. Bira, Darna, bira! (1979):  




12. Darna & Ding (1980):  




13. Darna (1991):  




14. Darna: The Return (1994):  Anjanette Abayari is definitely the highlight of this movie.  She is one of the most attractive Filipino women I've ever seen, period.  At the time of its release, just about everyone thought she looked awesome in her costume and that she did the character justice, but the rest of the movie didn't hold up.

    To date (March, 2011), this is the most accessible Darna movie for Americans to find.  That is not to say it's an easy search.  Even this film is hard to find on DVD in the United States.  The Philippines has managed to keep Darna largely within its borders.  Fortunately, you can play this film with English subtitles on the rare DVD release.

    There are some notable action sequences in this film, but for my taste it's often too dark and scary for a superhero movie.  On the plus side, there is enough of Anjanette bouncing around in her skimpy Darna costume to make portions of this movie worth rewatching.

    Parts of this film's story do not tie together well.  Choppy editing.  Some of the writing, it would seem, had unfinished thoughts.  There were a number of things that were pretty vague.  And the Grandmother character is annoying.  However, it was filmed pretty decent, and the general idea of the movie is pretty cool.  Here is a basic rundown of what happens:
  • Narda gets knocked out and her magic stone (the one that transforms her into Darna) is stolen.
  • For some reason, the blow to Narda's head makes her crazy.  Narda and the family move from the devastated rural town of Talisay to the big city of Manila.
  • A friend of the family named Pol, who happens to love Narda, takes care of the family.
  • Narda's brother Ding, who happens to know Narda's secret, finds out who stole the stone and plots to get it back.
  • As the story unfolds, Darna's snake-haired enemy Valentina needs the stone to stay alive.  She has a snake-haired daughter named Valentine, and a human-looking son named Max.  Together, the terrible trio plot to destroy Darna and take over the world.
  • Valentine poses as a religious fanatic named Dr. Valentine Adan.
  • Max poses as two different people: police Lieutenant Max Ablan, and criminal Magnum.
  • Ding gets the magic stone back, and Narda becomes normal again.  She can also tranform to Darna.
  • The bad guys try to steal back Narda's stone.
  • A final showdown ensues, resulting in the deaths of the three snake-like villains.  Valentina is blown up, Max is thrown on a fire while in snake form, and Valentine falls to her death in the ocean.
  • Pol wants to return to Talisay as a farmer with Narda as his wife.  She declines due to her responsibilities and stays in Manila.
Cast:
Anjanette Abayari as Narda/Darna
Lester Llansang as Ding
Rustom Padilla as Pol
Cherie Gil as Dr. Valentine Adan
Pilita Corales as Valentina
Edu Manzano as Max
Bong Alvarez as Magnum

Alternate Titles:
  • Darna
  • Darna and Pagbabalik
  • Darna ang Pagbabalik
Fun Facts:
  • This is, at the time of this writing, the Darna film most easily available to American audiences.  However, it did the poorest at the theaters of any Darna film.
  • Anjanette Abayari did take pride in her role, and did not have a stunt double.  This is amazing, due to the fact that some of the stunts in this movie were pretty elaborate and dangerous.
  • This is the second film where Darna wears a simple tiara instead of a headdress.  "Darna" (1991) was the first such film to make this costume change.  I prefer this look over the skullcap/tiara combo.