Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tex Avery, Sara Berner, Billy Bletcher, John Brown, Daws Butler, Pinto Colvig, June Foray, Stan Freberg, Paul Frees, Frank Graham, William Hanna, Richard Haydn, Wally Maher, Jack Mather, Pat McGeehan, Don Messick, Dick Nelson, Robert Emmett O'Connor, Kent Rogers, Connie Russell, Bill Thompson, John Wald (voices, etc.)
Written by: Heck Allen, Jack Cosgriff, Rich Hogan
Directed by: Tex Avery
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 138
Date: 02/18/2020

Tex Avery Screwball Classics - Volume 1 (2020)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Screen Wolf

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After years of being resigned to limbo, Warner Archive has finally, officially released a collection of Tex Avery cartoons on Blu-ray, with more (presumably) to come. This high-quality edition comes with 19 cartoons, including many of Avery's most acclaimed and best-known masterpieces, as well as four Droopy cartoons, four Screwy Squirrel cartoons, and two George & Junior cartoons. The lineup is: 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 (1950), 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).

Six are essential. Red Hot Riding Hood is one of the greats, opening as a traditional "Little Red Riding Hood" story, but stopping when all the characters address the filmmakers (and the audience), saying that they're sick of this same old story, and they want something new or they'll quit. Who Killed Who? is one of my favorites, an insane, positively surreal take on a murder mystery. Bad Luck Blackie is one of the greatest of ultra-violent dog-cat chase cartoons. Symphony in Slang has a man at the Pearly Gates telling his life story entirely in slangy visual puns. Screwball Squirrel is the first appearance of Screwy Squirrel, and one of Avery's zaniest post-modern shorts, constantly reminding viewers that they're watching characters in a film. And Dumb-Hounded is the first Droopy cartoon, still hilarious for its juxtaposition of calm, slow stillness and crazed motion.

Other essentials, like Blitz Wolf (1942) and King-Size Canary (1947), will hopefully appear on future releases. Like many other Warner Archive releases, there are no extras here. Viewers can watch all the cartoons in one binge, or select individual titles. The disc also comes with a warning about politically incorrect content, which, thankfully, has been left intact rather than censored.

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