This fifth volume in the LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION series is indeed a dream come true for the obsessive fan *AND* the casual viewer who remembers the golden days of having Warner Brothers cartoons not only on prime time TV but shown in all incarnations on local TV on weekday evenings.
Disk one, BUGS BUNNY & DAFFY DUCK is like reliving the days when "THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW" was part of prime time viewing on our TV airwaves, with cartoons that need so badly to be seen in this kind of quality, neatly blending the truly classic and the offbeat to give a well-rounded impression of how these characters developed over the years. "BUGS BONNETS", a cartoon that lends new meaning to the term "clothes make the man" (or even bend the gender), is one of those offbeat, subtle titles that I so often recall seeing on TV, but only on "THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW", and we get to see Daffy Duck in transition, his "fun period" as the commentary tracks stress, with cartoons like "PEST IN THE HOUSE" (perhaps his finest performance), "STUPOR-DUCK" (with its great intro by Daws Butler mimmicking all the "SUPERMAN" adventures in much the same way that "SUPER RABBIT" had done) and "YOU WERE NEVER DUCKIER" (a cartoon that pairs Daffy, oddly enough, with feisty Hennery Hawk, a kind of link to the little guy's "foist" cartoon, "THE SQUAWKING HAWK" in which Hennery goes out on his very first hunt for chickens after refusing to eat his "woims", and we realize that he still doesn't know what a chicken really is. Even nicer is the fact that, if you missed your chance, like me, to have the entire "STUPOR-DUCK" music track in any format, as it once appeared on the cassette only of an audio collection called THE CARL STALLING PROJECT, here's your ultimate chance to have the audio and the video in one place!!
Disk Two gives us some terrific FAIRY TALE fractures, long before Jay Ward had done it with Bill Scott, and the restorations here are eye and ear-popping!! Yes, it truly pops the ears to hear the restorations on toons like "THE BEAR'S TALE" and "LITTLE RED WALKING HOOD", not to mention (but you know I'll mention it anyway) "HOLIDAY FOR SHOESTRINGS" because of its splendid music track and, now, fully restored title card and overall visual and audio. On the first two disks, we get parts one and two of "EXTREMES AND IN-BETWEENS", a special on the career of Chuck Jones originally run on PBS. I missed this one, but am now glad it is neatly housed in this set as "BUGS BUNNY, SUPERSTAR" was in the fourth volume, giving Robert Clampett his own platform to tell of his days at Termite Terrace. Chuck Jones does indeed do himself justice in this long overdue documentary and we also learn of what it really takes to make a clever animated cartoon. Upon seeing this special we long for a shot at "THE DOT AND THE LINE" on some collection in the near future and, perhaps, this is a hint of what's to come.
Disk Three gives us a well-rounded glance at yet more Robert Clampett cartoons, oddly beginning with a title that was finished by Arthur Davis but still has Clampett's "stamp" and howl and overall twisted sense of humor about it, "BACALL TO ARMS", also including true classics like "THE WISE-QUACKING DUCK", "WAGON HEELS", both versions of "HARE RIBBIN'" and that hilarious impression of Bugs and Elmer Fudd as aged adversaries looking back at their "careers", with the hapless hunter still chasing Bugs with his "wightning quick wabbit-kiwwer".
It is the special feature section on this disk that shines, though. Aside from the alternate "director's cut" of "HARE RIBBIN'" mentioned above, you get two PRIVATE S.N.A.F.U." shorts and three "HOOK" cartoons pushing war bonds and what to do after the term of duty, with great voice work here by Arthur Lake; makes you wonder why he didn't do more voice work for the studio in the homefront cartoons.
But it is the fourth disk here that is the fan favorite for this reviewer! This is an entire disk labeled "THE EARLY YEARS" and we truly learn just how some of the earliest characters and traits in LOONEY TUNES stars blossomed. The disk opens with "ALPINE ANTICS", a fun cartoon which shows what the studio's finest unsung animators could do with Disney-like characters, taking them in their own direction, "I'VE GOT TO SING A TORCH SONG" which takes the BUSBY BERKELEY number and does a fantastic job of starting up the list of caricature-laiden cartoons as time capsule of the various entertainers and celebrities of the day (and this cartoon actually features restored footage that did not appear as part of the BUSBY BERKELEY collection's special feature) and "MILK AND MONEY", one of those early PORKY PIG cartoons, giving the viewer a chance to see Porky before Mel took over as his voice, when Joe Dougherty, a real stutterer, gave Porky his vulnerable and naive charm. Other highlights here include "EATIN' ON THE CUFF" (a Robert Clampett clasic about a little moth that falls for a honey bee and even integrates live action in to the cartoon) and "WISE QUACKS" (a cartoon in which Daffy Duck, an expectant father, nervously ingests a little too much of the bubbly and, somehow, the poor kid gets left behind, strange and dark and truly a lost LOONEY TUNES treasure), "SCRAP-HAPPY DAFFY" (showing Daffy Duck's over-the-top patriotism with a great reference to that one-eyed sailor in hopes that a can of spinach could save Daffy and the day) and "WHOLLY SMOKE" (a parable on the perils of smoking as only those at Termite Terrace could deliver it)!! There are others as well, like "PORKY AT THE CROCCADERO" a tour de force for Porky Pig who wants to become an entertainer in the worst way and, eventually, does, mimmicking entertainers of the age like Cab Calloway in much the same way as the first LOONEY TUNES star, Bosko, had done with Maurice Chevallier in a cartoon called "BOSKO IN PERSON", only Porky had a jazzier score, thanks to Carl Stalling. It is a top-notch disk from beginning to end and a fantastic finale to one of the best sets I've bought this year!!