The life of a Blu-ray reviewer can be very difficult indeed. Just imagine having to watch 25 Warner Bros cartoons in a row. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. But enough of this tomfoolery, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute as I was reacquainted with old friends Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweety Pie, Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner, Speedy Gonzalez – legends, every one of them! If I’ve missed a character out, I apologise profusely lest an ACME brand anvil descend upon my head.
Out now on American Region free Blu-ray, we have ‘Looney Tunes Showcase: Volume 1’ which includes a fine collection of ‘one reel’ cartoons from the Warner Bros stable. Many of the current generation will be unfamiliar with the fact that a Cinema main feature used to be preceded by a short film in order to, mainly, get the audience’s eyes and ears used to the picture and sound. A great cheer would go up when, rather than a documentary on Bee keeping, we were presented with the wonderfully vibrant colours of the Looney Tunes logo. But who would be the star? An even greater cheer went up when that superstar Bugs Bunny made his appearance.
My own love of Warner Bros cartoons went as far as collecting them on 16mm or Super 8 film. Even if they were scratchy old prints with missing title sequences, they were still valued by collectors. I recall paying £25 for one cartoon back in the late 1970’s. Now we can obtain 25 cartoons in near mint condition on the High Def format for less than £20.
So anyway, what about the cartoons in this collection? Connoisseurs will immediately recognize the titles:
"Hare Tonic", "Baseball Bugs", "Buccaneer Bunny", "The Old Grey Hare", "Rabbit Hood", "8 Ball Bunny", "Rabbit of Seville", "What's Opera, Doc?", "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery", "A Pest in the House", "The Scarlet Pumpernickel", "Duck Amuck", "Robin Hood Daffy", "Baby Bottleneck", "Kitty Kornered", "Scaredy Cat", "Porky Chops", "Old Glory", "A Tale of Two Kitties", "Tweetie Pie", "Fast and Furry-ous", "Beep, Beep", "Lovelorn Leghorn", "For Scent-imental Reasons" and "Speedy Gonzales".
The stand outs for me are ‘Buccaneer Bunny’ where Bugs does a Charles Laughton impression from ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. The way he outsmarts Yosemite Sam time and time again using vaudeville gags is wonderful. The one that gets me on every viewing is where Sam is chasing Bugs out to the ship and passes a small boat with no oars. Naturally, he swims out to the ship, then back to the small boat with a pair of oars in his teeth, before rowing the boat out to the ship. Classic!
‘Rabbit of Seville’ and ‘What’s Opera, Doc’ send up the world of classical music with a great style that always put a smile on my face. I can’t hear Sylvester say a frustrated ‘Sufferin’ sawkatash’ without a belly laugh starting to build. Foghorn Leghorn used to make my shoulders shake after a hand grenade he has been holding has gone off and the smoke clears to reveal him still trying to put the pin back in.
In among the antics of the Warner strolling players, there are a couple of curiosities. ‘Old Glory’ is an early Porky Pig cartoon where ‘Uncle Sam’ gives our hero a lesson in American history, proving that cartoons could be educational too. ‘A Tale of Two Kitties’ is basically Abbott & Costello as a couple of animated cats, but it’s also the very first appearance of Tweety Pie.
Many period Hollywood movie stars made animated appearances in the Warner Bros cartoons. Look out for Humphrey Bogart and a ‘live action’ Errol Flynn in this collection.
This package is actually just disc 1 of the much larger 3 disc Platimum Collection of WB cartoons on Blu-ray, which I will now have to purchase as it has many other titles that bring back childhood memories. At least we get a chance to sample the quality with the 'Showcase' disc.
Ask most collectors which cartoons they’d really like to own and most will say the banned ones. A whole bunch of cartoons were removed from distribution due to things like racist comments, which were acceptable at the time of release (like ‘Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs’) but are now deemed shocking in our politically correct modern world. They exist on the internet as very ropey, fuzzy versions that look like they were copied from VHS tapes, and while their references might not be liked in today’s market, to refuse to release them is like saying that part of history never happened. Wouldn't it be refreshing to shine a light on how cartoons have developed over time and release such long lost entries, albeit ones with antiquated ideas, on Blu-ray?
In the meantime, let’s enjoy what we’ve got. In the words of the immortal Porky Pig, “A dee, a dee, dat’s all folks!”
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