"Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 5:
Now You HAVEN'T Seen Everything!"
-Review by Matthew Hunter
Somebody ought to make the release date of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection each year a National holiday. Once again, Warner Home Video has put out another solid collection of 60 classic cartoons, and again they have gone above and beyond for the extra bonus features. They've also FINALLY gotten it together on the packaging art, with some nice new artwork both on the box and on the discs themselves. The disc menus, sadly, retain their random assortment of ugly clip art featuring characters that don't even appear on the set (K-9, Michigan Frog). But why judge a book by its cover, anyway?
Disc one is a collection of cartoons starring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, both apart and together. Each one is a gem, and there are some remarkable restorations. If you think you've seen these favorites so many times you can recite every line and remember every gag, you will be blown away by what you've never seen before. Two of Chuck Jones' Daffy classics from the late 1940's, "A Pest in the House" and "You Were Never Duckier", have their original title cards and brilliant color restored. You'll be interested to find that Henery Hawk was considered a big enough star to share billing with Daffy. Friz Freleng's first Bugs Bunny/Yosemite Sam pirate ship feud, "Buccaneer Bunny", reveals some stunning backgrounds that were difficult to notice in the faded television prints we're all used to. "Hollywood Daffy", a memorable chase through the Warner Bros. movie lot with Daffy and a Joe Besser-inspired cop looks so clear and bright it could've been made yesterday. As if this weren't enough, Chuck Jones' fan favorites "Ali Baba Bunny" and "Abominable Snow Rabbit" look amazing, and they didn't look bad to begin with!
I actually found myself laughing out loud at the Robert McKimson entries on this disc. I had forgotten how hysterically funny "The Super Snooper" was. "Oily Hare" is also a gut-buster, and has some beautiful animation on Bugs Bunny. Arthur Davis' "Stupor Salesman", in which Daffy Duck tries to sell gizmos to a bank robber bulldog, has some of the funniest loose-limbed animation you've ever seen.
The extras on disc one are great, too. Jerry Beck gives us a look at a great episode of the Bugs Bunny Show and a whole bunch of commercials from the show's original run. And I mean a BUNCH of commercials, and they're great. Also included is the 2000 PBS documentary, "Chuck Jones: Extremes and Inbetweens", an excellent retrospective on Jones' career that was good enough to warrant a standalone DVD release even before the first "Golden Collection"! If you've never seen it, I highly recommend it, and if you have, it's fun to revisit. There are also some great commentaries on the cartoons themselves, with Jerry Beck's defense of the later Bugs cartoon "Transylvania 6-5000" and Eric Goldberg's look at "You were Never Duckier" being standouts. If there's something on this disc you feel like skipping because you think you've seen it all, watch it anyway!Disc Two is a collection of cartoons based on fairy tales, and it is the most eye-opening disc on the whole set. Tex Avery's "Little Red Walking Hood" is by far the best restoration. What we've all seen for years was a murky, red-tinted print. Here, in addition to the original titles, we get the cartoon as it was originally made...with stunning backgrounds rendered entirely in colored pencils! It has gone from just another early Tex Avery favorite to one of the most unique-looking cartoons in the Warner canon. Avery's "The Bears' Tale" also boasts a great restoration with original titles, as do Friz Freleng's "Holiday For Shoestrings" and "Trial of Mr. Wolf". The later Sylvester and Tweety efforts "Red Riding Hoodwinked" and "Tweety and the Beanstalk" are nicely cleaned up as well...especially "Beanstalk", which was often shown in edited, time-compressed and murky prints on television. If there was ever a testament to the necessity of film preservation, this jaw-dropping disc of 15 cartoons is a case and point unto itself! The fairy tale theme is carried through on cartoons from Jones, Freleng, Avery and McKimson, and all of them are classics. Except one. There is one cartoon on this disc I really didn't like. In fact, I found it teeth-gnashingly, stomach-turningly awful. Hawley Pratt's "Senorella and the Glass Huarache", the story of Cinderella as retold by a Mexican, was the final cartoon released by the Warner cartoon studio before it closed down and reopened again as DePatie/Freleng Enterprises. Unlike the Speedy Gonzales cartoons, the ethnic humor in this cartoon is not funny. It's not really offensive either. It's just not funny, and it's illustrated by horrible animation. But even this cartoon has wonderfully restored colors!
Bonus-wise, there's a great documentary on Robert Mckimson (though it's all too brief). There's also a thing called "A Chuck Jones Tutorial" discussing animation techniques used in Jones' cartoons, which is interesting, but clearly just a way to showcase some interview clips of Jones from the PBS special that were, for whatever reason, unused.
Disc Three is a collection of Bob Clampett's works. All are wonderfully restored in all their wild, bombastic, controversial and hilarious glory. "Bacall to Arms" is nicely restored but still as bizarre as always (legend has it the cartoon was censored before it was even released). "The Bashful Buzzard" looks better than ever but, sadly, its original titles appear to be lost forever. On the bright side, the original music cue to the titles WAS found, and a new title card was created with credits to accompany it. The short itself is presented as a Blue Ribbon, the recreated titles appear on the special feature. "Hare Ribbin'" is fully restored, and the original (though unrestored) "director's cut" with a slightly different ending is included as an extra. "Crazy Cruise", a "travelogue parody" cartoon started by Tex Avery and finished by Clampett is a real eye-opener. It includes some scenes I never knew existed. In one, a Friz Freleng caricature hunts for cannibals in Africa and winds up being lunch for a gigantic native, and in the famous final scene with Bugs Bunny fighting a vulture, it's revealed that the vulture was Japanese. That explains the "thumbs up!" and "V for Victory" WWII references. "Wagon Heels", the ultimate in Native American/frontiersman spoofs, reveals that 'Sloppy Moe" has a cedar-green beard, Injun Joe has a bright red nose, and the end scene has a sunset with characteristics we have NEVER noticed before! The commentaries here, by everyone from historians like Michael Barrier and Jerry Beck to animators like Eric Goldberg, John Kricfalusi (thankfully not obnoxious for once) and Mark Kausler, are very informative. If you want to know what's unusual about the backgrounds in "the Wacky Wabbit", notice things you never did about the horse in "Buckaroo Bugs", or find out why "The Daffy Doc" offended people, you'll find out here! There's also a collection of Private Snafu cartoons, a featurette documentary about Snafu, and cartoons with Snafu's Navy counterpart, Seaman Hook. Snafu is, as usual, priceless. Hook is surprisingly bland, but as rare as these cartoons are, I am thrilled that they were included here. A collection of music cues by Milt Franklyn reveals that they were toying with the opening title music long before Bill Lava's "modern" version from the sixties. Not surprisingly, they'll make you wish Franklyn hadn't died and they'd used these ideas instead of Lava's!
Disc Four, entitled "Early Daze", collects some of the studio's best black and white cartoons. These range from brilliant (Frank Tashlin's "Scrap Happy Daffy") to not-so-good ("I've Got To Sing A Torch Song.") Bob Clampett's "Eatin' on the Cuff" never looked so clear, and Tashlin's "Porky at the Crocadero" has all of its Cab Calloway gags restored. "Torch Song", though kind of a clinker, has some material restored to it that has never been seen before. "Alpine Antics", one of Jack King's Beans the Cat cartoons, is more fun than it has any right to be. For comparison, Tex Avery's first WB cartoon "Gold Diggers of '49" shows how he adjusted to the Beans series with ease, and greatly improved on the timing and humor, though not so much the personality, of the character. Clampett's "Wise Quacks" shows the early Daffy at his daffiest...this time as a nervous father-to-be with a taste for liquor. All of them are pristine and clear, and I applaud Warner Home Video for allowing an entire disc devoted to them. For icing on the cake, there's a very cool documentary about "Unsung Maestros", directors who had relatively brief stints at the studio, at least as directors. We also get THREE Bugs Bunny television specials from the late 70's and early 80's. "Bugs and Daffy's Carnival of the Animals" is a rather dry, pretentious thing by Chuck Jones. "Looney Christmas Tales" is the classic special that brought us the shorts "Bugs Bunny's Christmas Carol", "Freeze Frame" and "Fright Before Christmas'...here presented in original form with rarely-seen bridging segments. "Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out All Over" is another collection of new Jones shorts, "Spaced out Bunny", "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Bunny" and "Soup or Sonic".And then there are the alternate audio tracks, lots of commentaries, and other things I haven't mentioned. There are more restored title cards and missing scenes than ever before, there is no noticeable DVNR or artifacting, and it's clearly put together by people who care, for people who care. Like all the other volumes, this is a must-have. If you haven't bought it yet or at least asked Santa Claus for it, you're looney!
More images from LTGC 5: