Penelope Pitstop returns to your TV screen in this DVD release, the third part of a trio consisting of WACKY RACES, DASTARDLY AND MUTTLEY IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES and THE PERILS OF PENELOPE PITSTOP. In the days of their release upon the public, they heralded Hanna-Barbera's return to gag-laden slapstick comedy that began with such series as YOGI BEAR and HUCKLEBERRY HOUND.
The plot is simple: Our semi-hapless heroine Penelope Pitstop, fresh from her tenure in WACKY RACES, is heir to a vast fortune of millions (which probably enables her to travel the world and have adventures, if this series is any indication). Unfortunately, her legal guardian Sylvester Sneekly, in his guise of the Hooded Claw, is determined to destroy Penelope and gain her fortune for himself. Hot on the trail to aid Penelope Pitstop are the Ant-Hill Mob (also from WR) and their loyal car Chugga-Boom, whose desperate attempts to rescue Penelope from the clutches of the Hooded Claw often wind up with the Mob having to be rescued by the strangely resourceful Penelope (who surely must be used to this sort of thing--after all, she DID race with Dick Dastardly).
By today's standards, this cartoon is dated, predictable and rather lame; however, it's lame in a way that can be described as unrepentant. It NEVER pretends to be more than it is, and it often manages to acknowledge its own goofiness simply by playing everything deadpan-straight. In this age of grossouts, fart jokes and pretentious self-referencing in cartoons, this is downright refreshing.
The voice cast features such HB stalwarts as Mel Blanc, Paul Winchell, Don Messick and Janet Waldo, who voices Mlle. Pitstop. Kudos must go to both the venerable Gary Owens as the Narrator, whose breakneck color commentary on the action provides a manic Greek chorus to the proceedings, and the uncredited Paul Lynde as Sylvester Sneekly/Hooded Claw, whose ridiculous Evil-Villain laugh and sarcastic asides on Penelope's perils mine occasional comic gold within this series. (In a featurette contained within this set, Janet Waldo recounts how Lynde could often crack up the entire cast during recording with a simple three-word-line, using only vocal characterization, timing and inflection.)
There is one glaring flaw in this set, which has already been mentioned by another reviewer, and is also why I gave it only three stars: each episode begins with annoying syndicated theme music rather than the original Pitstop theme, which undercuts the enjoyment of the episodes. (The original theme music can still be heard over the closing credits; why the syndicated theme was used I do not know. It can only be chalked up to decisions at Warner Bros, the studio who needed to be convinced that people would actually buy a JUSTICE LEAGUE box set.) All in all, TPOPP is an enjoyable series on the whole, so just fast-forward through the opening credits and wait for the proper theme music at the end, or wait until this set is re-released properly instead.