Hanna-Barbera Productions (November 8, 1969 – November 29, 1969), Warner Home Video (September 1, 2009), single disc, 88 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital 1.0, Not Rated, Retail: $14.98
The Mystery, Inc. gang returns with 4 classic adventures from the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! show.
The Sweatbox Review:
When Scooby-Doo was good, it was usually great. Some of the most memorable Scooby-Doo episodes came from the show’s first season. The writers were fresh with ideas and the characters were quickly fleshed out (at least as much as they would ever be on the show). Part of what made these episodes so memorable was the originality of the episodes. Sure, they could be considered stale by modern standards, but many of these episodes were the first to approach a certain topic or setting. They were also highly visual episodes with visually striking villains or locales. The four episodes included in this third volume of the show’s legendary first season are some of the greatest for Scooby-Doo fans. We get master ventriloquists, vengeful clowns, a Transylvanian castle filled with monsters, and ancient Egyptian mummies.
First up in this set is The Backstage Rage (original air date November 8, 1969) which features one of the more inventive episodes of the show’s original incarnation. In this episode, Scooby and Shaggy are walking back home with pizza when they are distracted by a car dropping a violin case in the middle of the road. The two go to check it out and find the case filled with $20 bills. While Shaggy calls the gang to tell them of his new discovery, Scooby stays behind looking after the case. However, before they can show the case to the rest of the gang, a mysterious poodle shows up and distracts Scooby while the cash is recovered. Sensing a mystery, the gang decides to investigate and their clues lead them to the theater of a master puppeteer. There, they find a counterfeit $20 bill and a mysterious caretaker that shows them around backstage. The episode further develops when the gang returns to the theater and are chased by a series of life-sized puppets. While a bit far-fetched (the puppeteer just happened to have a puppet poodle in his car to fool Scooby?), the idea of the gang solving a counterfeiting ring operation is very interesting. I like it when the mysteries don’t only involve the gang finding out who is terrorizing the citizens of a particular town. In this case, this was an underground crime that the gang just happened to stumble upon. Their keen detective skills and sense of mystery is what leads them to solve the mystery in the first place. We also see Shaggy being very proactive and useful as he uncovers many of the most important clues to this mystery.
The second episode of the set is Bedlam in the Big Top (original air date November 15, 1969) where the gang stumbles upon a circus that is being haunted by “The Ghost Clown”. They are introduced to the mystery when they witness two circus employees getting into an accident when their tandem bicycle breaks apart and causes a crash. The two blame the Ghost Clown and vow to quit the circus. The gang then decides to investigate and find out that there is a Ghost Clown that has been causing accidents at the circus. The performers have been abandoning the circus in droves as they believe it to be haunted. As soon as they begin their investigation, the gang splits up and they are individually hypnotized by the Ghost Clown. This leads to some very funny sequences where we see Scooby-Doo performing a high-wire act, Daphne riding a unicycle while wearing a tutu, and Shaggy attempting to tame a lion. The Ghost Clown is a very memorable Scooby villain with his bright red costume and eerie grin. The mystery itself is minor and there’s really no opportunity for viewers to solve this one, but the chase sequences and lavish surroundings make up for the mystery.
A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts (original air date November 22, 1969)is actually a misleading title for an episode that features a vampire, a werewolf, and the Frankenstein monster. No one actually gallops anywhere in this episode, but that does not make it any less exciting. This is a great Scooby-Doo episode (and actually perfect for the upcoming Halloween season) mainly because it features some of literature’s most interesting and charismatic monsters. Most of the monsters showcased in previous episodes were original and not adapted from literature. It is actually amazing that it took Hanna-Barbera ten episodes before they tackled these famous monsters. In this episode, the gang gets permission to visit Franken Castle, a castle that was transplanted brick by brick from Transylvania by its owner. However, upon arrival, a gypsy fortune teller informs them that the castle’s caretaker has run away after being chased by ghosts. When they reach the castle gates, they are immediately confronted by a vampire, but they decide to investigate anyways. The gang runs up and down the castle looking for clues about the monsters’ identities. The rest of the episode features a long chase sequence where the gang gets split up and lost in the castle. One cool thing I noticed in the episode is that Shaggy keeps an extra pair of glasses for Velma. This episode is also of note because it is the first time we hear the legendary villain response, “I’d have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those blasted kids and that dog!” Overall, it’s a solid episode with a solid mystery.
The final episode on the disc is Scooby-Doo, and a Mummy, Too (original air date November 29, 1969), where the gang visits an exhibit that is opening for the mummy of Ankha. The mummy has an associated curse that goes along with it (as all mummies do) that allegedly turns anyone that violates the tomb into stone. There are many other artifacts that go along with the exhibit including a rare Egyptian coin with a scarab symbol. Later that evening, the curse appears to be working when the gang discovers a stone statue of the professor of the exhibit at the museum. A mysterious mummy is also haunting the area and seems to want to recover the Egyptian coin that is currently in Shaggy’s possession. The rest of the episode features the gang gathering clues about the mysterious mummy and finding more people turned into stone. The episode is very entertaining and after a vampire, Frankenstein monster, and a werewolf in the previous episode, it was fitting for Hanna-Barbera to use a mummy for their follow-up episode. Overall, this is another entertaining episode for the show.
Is This Thing Loaded?
As with previous releases, there isn’t much included other than an episode of Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!, as we are treated to the third episode from the show, High Society Scooby (Original airdate October 7, 2006). In the episode, Shaggy and Scooby get word of a plot by Dr. Phibes to kidnap three scientists. Shaggy’s uncle informs him that the scientists will be at a high society country club for an awards ceremony and that they must be protected. Shaggy and Scooby then infiltrate the club and follow the scientists around protecting them from Dr. Phibe’s goons. If you like this latest version of the Scooby-Doo franchise, this episode might be right up your alley. I always found this version of the show to clash with the original concept since there is rarely a mystery. This show is a straight-up comic adventure show. It’s certainly not a bad show or episode. It’s just nothing like the original show.
There are also trailers for Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: Season 2-4, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
This third volume is in line with previous releases and is featured in a standard black keepcase. The cover features Scooby-Doo and Shaggy getting chased by the mummy. A stand features the rest of the Mystery, Inc. gang as stone figurines, in line with the story of the corresponding episode. Overall, it’s a very basic and satisfying package. There were no inserts included in my copy.
Ink And Paint:
The show is being released in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio in line with the original broadcast of the show. The colors are vibrant and the animation is basic, but characteristic of the Hanna-Barbera style from the late 1960s. Hanna-Barbera employed simple, reusable animation, but in these episodes they did a great job with the character designs for the villains and new sets. Bedlam in the Big Top must have been a particularly fun episode to animate with the fun costumes, eerie villain, and colorful sets. While featuring very simple sets (most sets are only sparsely decorated, for example), they always convey a sense of eerie gloom and mystery. As for the quality of the print, there are some scratches and grain here and there, but nothing uncommon for a 40-year-old show (the show turns 40 next Sunday, September 13!).
This release features basic English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 tracks. We also get corresponding subtitles for the same three languages. Overall the quality is adequate and in line with previous releases of this kind.
The four episodes contained in this set are being released as part of Warner’s plan to have smaller, single-disc, volume sets for fans of the original show. All of them are contained in the previous season one release from a few years back. As I mentioned in previous reviews of this series, these volume releases are perfect for the collectors that want to introduce their kids to the original show without exposing their cherished season sets. The episodes contained in this release are some of the show’s best and most memorable. The mysteries are entertaining, the character and set designs are impressive, and it features some pretty memorable monsters. While some of the villains are not original to the Scooby-Doo canon, the ones that are (the Ghost Clown, the Puppetmaster) easily hold up to the same standards of entertainment. The mysteries only add to the fun.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?