Monday, September 7, 2015

On DVD: Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 70's, Volume 1 (2009)

Warner Home Video's Saturday Morning Cartoons compilations must not have sold very well. How else, then, to explain why some copies were reissued with "4 Kids Favorites" and pictures of 4 different characters, all of whom would appear on the DVD, on the cover, and redistributed to places like Walmart, Five Below, and other dollar/discount stores?

Part of the overall reason might be that some of the series represented on Volume 1 of the 1970's collection would eventually be released on their own stand-alone DVD compilations, such as The New Adventures of Batman and Josie & the Pussycats, and fans preferred to wait for those releases.

Anyway, this is what you get:

The Jetsons: This one's a bit of a cheat, since the 1962 series was in repeats on NBC during the 70's to fill time because the network didn't buy enough new series. "The Space Car", in which George (George O'Hanlon) & Jane (Penny Singleton) are mistaken for bank robbers after a vehicle mix-up, also has the title card from when the series was revived in the 80's, and they created episode title cards for the 1962 series episodes that were part of the package. We'll discuss this one another time.

The New Adventures of Batman: The series opener, "The Pest", was previously reviewed. Joker (Len Weinrib) steals a car that runs on water instead of fuel, with hazardous consequences.

Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle: Tarzan (Robert Ridgely, ex-Uncle Croc's Block) meets two warring armies in a homage to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Unfortunately, no individual episodes are now available on YouTube.

Goober & the Ghost Chasers: The series opener,"Assignment: The Ahab Apparition", set the tone, as Hanna-Barbera contracted with Screen Gems (now Sony Pictures Television) to use four of the kids from The Partridge Family, so they must've known this was a real dog.

Hong Kong Phooey: The kung fu pooch (Scatman Crothers) battles car & jewel thieves in two interlocking shorts, the overarching plot being Sgt. Flint (Joe E. Ross, ex-Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch) needing the precinct in top shape for the commissioner's inspection.

Speed Buggy: Speedy (Mel Blanc) and friends are out west to help Debbie's aunt fend off some cattle rustlers. Blanc also voices the sheriff.

Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch: Three short vignettes, all basically the same plot. Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch are entered in a race where the winner goes on a date with Wheelie's girlfriend, Rota (Judy Strangis). After that, a little bike wants to join the Chopper Bunch, but after Wheelie rescues him from quicksand, he turns on the Bunch after Chopper has him spy on Wheelie & Rota. Finally, Wheelie takes part in a stunt show, which Chopper stupidly tries to sabotage, with hilarious results.

Yogi's Gang: Yogi Bear (Daws Butler) and pals encounter the Greedy Genie (John Stephenson), who has convinced Yogi's hobo pal, Smiley, to look out for himself.

Amazing Chan & The Chan Clan: Charlie Chan (Keye Luke) and the kids are in England to rescue an important artifact attached to an ancient throne (previously reviewed).

Josie & the Pussycats: Alex Cabot (Casey Kasem) books the band for a gig in Pago Pago, but, predictably, the gang has to do some chores to pay passage when Alex comes up short of money. Before long, they're prisoners of a modern-day descendant of Captain Nemo (Stephenson).

The Roman Holidays: Gus Holiday (Dave Willock) poses as a teenager in order to take his landlord's niece to a school prom, where son Hap is in the band. This after summoning his bumpkin nephew in an effort to pair him up with the lass.

The New Scooby-Doo Movies: Scooby and Mystery Inc. team with the Harlem Globetrotters, one of three such team-ups, which marked the end of the 'Trotters' 1st go-round with Hanna-Barbera, only to return in Super Globetrotters in 1979.

The Funky Phantom: Jonathan Muddlemore (Daws Butler, recycling his Bert Lahr-inspired Snagglepuss voice) and his mortal pals meet a pirate posing as the ghost of Jean LaFitte. Ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz made his H-B debut as Skip, and tries to serenade April (Kristina Holland, The Courtship of Eddie's Father). 1st H-B series produced in Australia.

A Saturday Morning Wake-Up Call is heard on each disc, as Casey Kasem highlights the contents of the discs. If you were listening to Casey's radio shows around 2009, before he retired, well, that's what you'll get here.

Plus, there are commentary features on Funky Phantom and Chan Clan. In the latter, Jamie Farr, who was moonlighting from his other gig on M*A*S*H as a writer for H-B, discusses how the show came together. Fellow writer Eddie Carroll lets ol' long-of-nose do virtually all the talking. (Jamie got the nickname "long-of-nose" from Chuck Barris on The Gong Show)

As for the story behind Funky Phantom, let Paul Dini, Donovan Cook, and others explain it to you, in "Heavens to Betsy Ross: The Spirit of the Funky Phantom":



My own take: I'd seen the Batman, Josie, & Scooby-Doo Movies entries before, and this was the first time I'd actually sat through an episode of Roman Holidays. Part of the reason people are so down on the 70's is the fact that in a lot of cases, the writing was getting weaker, almost on auto-pilot, which, in hindsight, was not good.

Rating: C.

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