Sunday, April 19, 2020

Tonight's Movies: Tex Avery Screwball Classics, Volume 1 - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

TEX AVERY SCREWBALL CLASSICS, VOLUME 1, was recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

The one-disc set includes 19 beautifully restored cartoons; the individual titles are listed at the end of this review.

I feel sure that I must have seen some of animator Tex Avery's cartoons in the past, perhaps as extras on MGM DVDs, yet I can't say that I remembered any of the titles in this set. I've recently been watching a couple at a time before watching a movie, and getting to know these cartoons has been a great deal of fun.

The thing that impresses me most about the Avery cartoons in this set is the eye-popping, gorgeous color, with a host of different color palettes and styles. Each cartoon is a visual feast; for a good idea of what I'm talking about in that regard, simply take a look at the amazingly colorful title cards shown at DVD Beaver. They're tremendously enticing!

The restored cartoons are not only visually stunning, they're also a lot of fun, with unusual "breaking the fourth wall" gags and some fairly sophisticated verbal and topical humor along with the expected "animals beating each other up" cartoon violence.

I've been particularly struck by how much of the then-topical humor now relies on the viewer's knowledge of the '40s, especially the homefront during WWII. Viewers who are unaware of things like ration points and rubber shortages, or names like Spike Jones and Kitty Foyle, will miss quite a bit of the humor, but on the flip side, viewers in the know will find the cartoons all the funnier. I actually laughed out loud at a couple of hilarious ration points jokes. (And with some difficulty obtaining various groceries these days due to the pandemic, I could also relate a bit more to how 1940s audiences must have felt!)

A couple of the cartoons weren't as clever as others, but on the whole it's a strong group which I liked a lot. My favorite was probably SYMPHONY IN SLANG, in which common slang phrases such as "raining cats and dogs" are interpreted literally. I was also charmed by THE PEACHY COBBLER, in which a bunch of semi-inept (and rather violent!) elves attempt to help a poor shoemaker. A pair of "bunny" shoes multiplying was just one joke that had me chuckling.

Other gems include RED HOT RIDING HOOD, delightfully set in Hollywood (the tuxedo-clad Wolf tries to lure voluptuous Red with "white sidewall tires") and WHO KILLS WHO? which works in some live action and fascinating visual perspectives, including audience members seeming to run in front of the cartoon screen.

A side note for those who notice the name Preston Blair in the credits: He was the brother-in-law of Disney's famed Mary Blair.

This beautiful set is a "must" for animation fans, and I'm certainly hoping for and looking forward to Volume 2.

The 19 cartoons included in this set are: RED HOT RIDING HOOD (1943), WHO KILLED WHO? (1943), WHAT'S BUZZIN' BUZZARD? (1943), BATTY BASEBALL (1944), THE HICK CHICK (1946), BAD LUCK BLACKIE (1949), GARDEN GOPHER (1950), THE PEACHY COBBLER (195), SYMPHONY IN SLANG (1951), SCREWBALL SQUIRREL (1944), THE SCREWY TRUANT (1945), BIG HEEL-WATHA (1944), LONESOME LENNY (1946), HOUND HUNTERS (1947), RED HOT RANGERS (1947), DUMB HOUNDED (1943), WAGS TO RICHES (1949), THE CHUMP CHAMP (1950), and DAREDEVIL DROOPY (1951).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray set. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

2 Comments:

Blogger Caftan Woman said...

"Eye-popping?" Did you say eye-popping related to Tex Avery? I dig your humor.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

LOLLLLL. I honestly hadn't thought about it at the time but it does work here, doesn't it? ;)

Best wishes,
Laura

9:58 AM  

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