Thursday, December 18, 2014

They Put the 'Con' in 'Unicon': "Bugs Bunny: 4 Favorite Cartoon Classics"

Ah, the public domain extended play-recorded videotape. The catch in the craw of many a movie lover and VHS and DVD collector. I found this thing from a company called Unicon at a thrift store for a whopping twenty cents; it features four pieces of classic animation in one crappy looking collection:

"The Wabbit Who Came to Supper" (1942) Directed by Friz Freleng, Written by Michael Maltese
An early Bugs Bunny cartoon features the fatter version of Elmer Fudd discovering he is set to inherit three million dollars if he is nice to all animals, including rabbits. This is wonderful stuff, a cartoon I have seen a hundred times, and it never gets old. (* * * * *) out of five stars.

"Prest-O Change-O" (1939) Directed by Chuck Jones, Written by Rich Hogan
Two dogs hide from a dog catcher in a house haunted by a magician's rabbit- who was apparently an early prototype for Bugs Bunny. This isn't bad animation, but repetition sets in, and while the white rabbit onscreen may have been an inspiration for Bugs, it still isn't Bugs! (* * *) out of five stars.

"Have You Got Any Castles?" (1938) Directed by Frank Tashlin, Written by Jack Miller
This is another one of those short cartoons where characters from books come alive in a dark library and mix. It's all big fun, especially if you can pick out the in-jokes when it comes to the tomes' film adaptations, although I get the feeling the Cab Calloway-inspired segment might be a bit racist? (* * * *) out of five stars.

"Poor Cinderella" (1934) Directed by Dave Fleischer
Betty Boop shows up on this collection, probably because most of the character's appearances are in the public domain, as well. Billed as Boop's first color cartoon, the version on this video is either so washed out, or was recorded from black and white, that Betty's hair comes off as gray. The quality stinks, I would love to see this restored, or at least in color. (* * * *) out of five stars.

Quality is the problem with most of these public domain tapes, and it is a huge setback here. Anonymous companies churned out these EP recorded things at reduced prices, using whatever copy of the work they had available. While some of these tapes are the only way to see some of these films, the picture is awful and I can't imagine spending too much for "Bugs Bunny: 4 Favorite Cartoon Classics." The average star rating of the films is about a four, but for the overall product, I am going with (* * *) out of five stars.