Warner Bros. // 1960 // 737 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // April 27th, 2004
They're a page right out of history!
Yabba dabba doo! At long last, after many years in the planning, The Flintstones are finally available on DVD! Does the classic series still stand the test of time? Or will it remain in the stone age forever?
Everyone knows the basic story, but for the uninitiated, here goes:
In the small town of Bedrock lives Fred Flintstone. He is an obnoxious loudmouth with a heart of gold. He lives with his wife Wilma. Living next door are their best friends the Rubbles. Barney is a sweet guy who tries hard to please Fred but often infuriates him. Betty is a chatterbox who often schemes with Wilma to shop till they drop or trick the boys into taking them out or buying some baubles.
A Light Backstory
The year was 1958. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera had produced their final Tom and Jerry short for MGM. The strain of producing enough CinemaScope shorts (which made the animation process twice as long as normal) to meet the high demand had taken its on the creative duo. They decided to leave theatrical animation altogether and try their hand with television. After a moderate success with the Ruff N' Ready Show, the duo was ready to try their hand at a prime time series. They made a deal with ABC; all they needed was a program. In 1959, a Belgian animation unit (that would later make the cult classic Pinocchio in Outer Space) tried their hand with a half-hour pilot titled The Flagstones. Hanna and Barbera did not like the end product, so a new approach was taken with the next pilot. Eventually, the show we know and love today was born and became an immediate success (by 1960s standards, that is).
Many have made a point of the similarity to the classic Jackie Gleason program The Honeymooners. I will not dwell on this well-known and exploited comparison. What I will talk about is the individual quality of the animated series itself. The animation was deceptively simple and low-key. To make it elaborate and fancy would distract from the sharp wit and humor of the scripts (often penned by Michael Maltese, responsible for some of the finest Looney Tunes stories). This is a program about comedy, made by and for those of you who can appreciate a different, more subtle type of comedy.
In addition to the strong scripts, the vocal talent makes The Flintstones really shine. Alan Reed remains the definitive Fred Flintstone; his tone and delivery make the snappy dialogue and witty humor work to its best advantage. Mel Blanc, the well-renowned "Man of a Thousand Voices," is a delight as Barney Rubble; like Reed, he knows how to deliver a hilarious joke in a serious, straight manner. Jean Vander Pyl and Bea Benaderet are the perfect foils for Reed and Blanc.
What is Different about The Flintstones in the First Season:
* Fred is fatter and dumpier looking than he would be in later seasons.
* Barney's voice is nasal in the first ten episodes; the more familiar voice would surface midseason.
* Dino first appears in the fourth episode as the snorkasaurus we love. Then he disappears until the eighteenth episode, in which he is lilac and speaks with a British accent.
* The plots are steeped in The Honeymooners style than later seasons.
* The Royal Order of Water Buffaloes is called The Dinosaur Lodge in the first season.
* The musical score is deliberately reminiscent of a soap opera; the next season would go for a more traditional score.
All 28 episodes from the first season are presented complete and uncut on four discs. From a scale of zero to five Dinos:
"The Flintstone Flyer"
Barney invents a flying machine, which Fred decides to use to trick his way out of the opera.
"Hot Lips Hannigan"
Fred tries to come up with a new gimmick for the local Dinosaur Lodge party.
"The Swimming Pool"
Fred convinces Barney to put half of his swimming pool in the Flintstone yard.
"No Help Wanted"
For his new job, Barney must repossess Fred's new television set.
"The Split Personality"
A bump on the noggin turns Fred into Frederick, a polite, mild-mannered snob.
"The Monster from the Tar Pits"
Fred becomes the stunt double for Cary Granite, the hot Hollyrock star.
"The Baby Sitters"
Fred and Barney babysit a neighbor's baby instead of attending the wrestling card.
"At the Races"
Fred and Barney bet their paychecks at a dinosaur race to raise enough money to buy the local pool hall.
"The Engagement Ring"
Barney must last three minutes with the wrestling champ to buy Betty a new engagement ring.
"Hollyrock, Here I Come"
Wilma and Betty win a trip to Hollyrock. Fred is cast in the title role of the TV drama, The Frogmouth.
"The Golf Champion"
Fred's refusal to pay his dues results in Barney retaining his golf championship trophy.
"The Sweepstakes Ticket"
Fred and Barney purchase a lottery ticket. Little do they know that Wilma and Betty have bought one of their own and that the two tickets are hidden close together.
Fred and Barney quit the daily grind of work and open a drive-in restaurant.
A prowler is terrorizing Bedrock. Wilma and Betty are taking judo lessons, much to Fred's chagrin.
"Girls' Night Out"
Fred and Barney decide to take Wilma and Betty to the carnival after they demand a night out.
"Arthur Quarry's Dance Class"
Fred and Barney secretly take dance classes under the guise of Joe Rockhead's Volunteer Fire Squad.
"The Big Bank Robbery"
Fred and Barney are wanted men after a huge sack of stolen money falls into Fred's lap.
"The Snorkasaurus Hunter"
Fred and Barney go hunting for snorkasaurus ribs after they refuse to pay the butcher.
"The Hot Piano"
Fred unwittingly purchases a stolen piano for Wilma's anniversary gift.
Fred accidentally hypnotizes Barney into thinking he's a dog.
"Love Letters on the Rocks"
Fred is convinced that Wilma is having an affair after stumbling on an old love letter of his.
Fred switches places with an escaped millionaire, who is an exact double.
"The Astra' Nuts"
Fred and Barney accidentally join the Marines.
"The Long, Long Weekend"
The Flintstones and the Rubbles are taken for a ride by Fred's buddy Gus.
"In the Dough"
Fred and Barney substitute for an ill Betty and Wilma for the local bake-off.
"The Good Scout"
Fred decides to teach Barney and his Cave Scouts a thing or two about surviving in the wild.
"Rooms for Rent"
Wilma rents out a room to a young beatnik, angering Fred in the process.
"Fred Flintstone: Before and After"
Fred goes on a diet for thirty days with the promise of one thousand dollars if he loses weight.
Warner Bros presents the show in a full frame transfer. The condition of the prints is barely better than what you catch on cable. Grain is present throughout, especially during the opening and closing credits. Scratches and specks appear throughout. Hot white lines rear their ugly heads periodically. Smudges and dark grime often appear on the characters. Warner should have given these episodes a full restoration as they did with the Looney Tunes shorts. While I concede that some of these defects are permanent, the grime and grain would have certainly been alleviated greatly from a clean-up effort. The only saving grace of the transfer is the color, bold and beautiful at all times.
The audio is a slight improvement. A simple Dolby Digital 1.0 mono mix is provided for all 28 episodes. Overall, the mix is quite pleasant. Dialogue and music are balanced quite nicely throughout. Some light crackling noises and loud pops are disorienting and prevent me from giving a higher score.
Since The Flintstones is a beloved, immortal program, you would think that Warner Bros. would come up with some worthwhile extras for this commemorative set. Wrong! They all turned out to be a series of bitter disappointments. The first featurette, entitled All About the Flintstones, is a bust. For starters, it's too brief to offer any groundbreaking information. What information they do offer has already been heard before. The second featurette, Wacky Inventions, is a cut-and-paste job. The bizarre inventions featured in the series have been assembled into a seven-minute featurette and backed with narration and music. After you have finished watching 28 episodes, you do not want to see a mere pastiche. I would have preferred a well-researched documentary instead of these two pieces of fluff.
The keystone of the package is The Flagstones, the long-lost pilot. Alas, it is not the infamous 1959 Belgian-made pilot, but three minutes of test footage. The footage is in very rough shape, with tons of test marks and scratches. I admit that it is interesting to note the minor differences, both vocally and visually. However, by claiming this footage is the lost pilot, they have committed a bait-and-switch.
Vintage television commercials and promotional spots featuring our favorite Bedrock citizens are the high point of the set. Some segments are in black-and-white (as the series itself was transmitted in 1960) and several are missing the original soundtrack. After watching them, I was left scratching my head at the omission of the infamous "Winston Cigarette Break" commercial (especially since an Entertainment Weekly review of this box set claimed it was included).
Commentary tracks on favorite episodes are becoming all the rage. Why not include a track on select episodes?
The retail price of $64.99 makes it difficult to recommend this set as a blind buy. Die-hard fans will have no problem plunking down their hard-earned dough. However, the lack of restoration and meager extras make it hard to justify spending so much money on this set. I'd definitely recommend waiting for the price to drop before making this set a part of your collection.
The series itself is found not guilty of all charges. Warner Bros. is urged to go the extra mile and finance a lengthy restoration of all Flintstones episodes. They are also sentenced to the same "Extras 101" class to which I often send the tardy studios.
Review content copyright © 2004 Bill Treadway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 737 Minutes
Release Year: 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* All About the Flintstones Featurette
* Wacky Inventions Featurette
* The Flagstones Lost Pilot
* TV Spots and Commercials