Warner Bros. // 1971 // 175 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // October 28th, 2009
Peanuts is the standard bearer for comic strip quality and Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the strip, was an unmitigated genius of the form. For half a century, Schulz entered the hearts and minds of three generations, four panels at a time, and has become an indelible part of pop culture. Beginning in the 1960s, producer Bill Melendez turned Schulz's strips into animated television productions, the finest comic strip adaptations ever made (unless you count the greatness of the Garfield Saturday morning extravaganza) many of which have become classics in their own right.
Here we have the first of two collections for productions that aired during the 1970s. While none of these specials are the timeless classics that It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas have become, each represents brilliant family entertainment that appeals to both an adult's intellect and a child's sensibility. Six Peanuts specials are spread over two discs, making up the first half of the disco decade:
Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971)
Lucy's crush on Schroeder has become unbearable, but Schroeder doesn't care. He's too busy playing his beloved Beethoven to worry about who lounges on his piano. Lucy, however, scheming to win his affections, signs him up to play a concert at the next PTA meeting. He's grateful, and Lucy's thrilled, but when Schroeder finds out he can't play any Beethoven and must play dirty ol' rock music instead, he becomes more worried about selling out than spending time with Lucy.
You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972)
After Lucy conducts a poll with her classmates that reveals Linus as the frontrunner for student body president, he decides to run. Lucy is conducting a successful campaign for her little brother, but in a speech Linus looks the fool when he decides to ad-lib his thoughts on the Great Pumpkin. He's no John Edwards, but can Linus still pull out an election that once looked like a shoe-in? The program is notable as the first animated appearance of Snoopy's alter-ego, Joe Cool.
There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown (1973)
Spring has sprung and school is coming to a close, which means that Charlie Brown is on the verge of failing his grade. He has one last chance to pass and it comes in the form of an essay on their coming field trip to the art museum. Unfortunately, distracted by the attentions of Peppermint Patty, he goes into the grocery store by mistake, believing it's where they're supposed to be, and writes his essay with confidence.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
Charlie Brown is stuck when Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over to his house for Thanksgiving dinner. The trouble is that Chuck's supposed to go to his grandmother's house, but Patty will not listen. Now, with no ability to cook, he enlists the help of Snoopy and Linus to make a meal for their guests. When Patty sees the kind of food she's been served, she is not the most grateful guest in the world.
It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown (1974)
Woodstock has just built himself an awesome new nest but, after leaving for just a few minutes, he returns to find it stolen. Distressed, he knows there's only one person he can go to, and that person is a dog. Donning his Sherlock Holmes gear, complete with bubble pipe, Snoopy is on the case, interrogating each kid that could have been involved in this nest-napping.
It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)
Easter is coming up and everybody is excited...except for Linus, who is convinced they can sit back and let the Easter Beagle take care of all the holiday chores. Although everybody mocks him on the grounds of the Great Pumpkin, Linus stands undeterred. To lend him some credibility, Snoopy helps by stealing the eggs that Lucy has hidden for the Easter Egg hunt to prove the Easter Beagle is real. Meanwhile, Patty hilariously attempts to teach grandly inept Marcie how to dye Easter eggs.
These Peanuts specials retain their appeal for the same reasons the comic strip has. For kids, the antics of the gang -- especially Snoopy and Woodstock -- are frantic and funny. For adults, these characters are some of the most anxiety-ridden personas in history. Our worries haven't changed all that much over the years, and the themes of loneliness, failure, and heartbreak resonate just as profoundly today as they did in 1970. Charlie Brown, history's most lovable loser, fails and fails, yet we continue to root for him through countless cringe-inducing situations. Lucy's the girl we all love to hate, the big sister who antagonizes everybody and then expects their help when the chips are down. Linus, with all his Freudian issues, carries his blanket and sucks his thumb, but still can lend shockingly correct philosophical advice; if only he wasn't going on about his weird holiday ideas. Snoopy and Woodstock live in their own world, as a Laurel and Hardy style pair. Their plots, while often completely separate from the kids, are the most traditionally funny and a good break from some very uncomfortable situations.
This first collection of specials are uncut and, despite their age, look fantastic, full of brilliantly saturated colors. There is some dust and grain on the prints, but they are three decades old and look better than ever before. The sound is equally fine. Though presented in mono, the single channel dialogue is perfectly clear and the music of the great Vince Guaraldi sounds fantastic. This is especially true for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, where the composer -- taking a nod from Miles Davis -- turns electric for Snoopy's fight with an anthropomorphized lawn chair. The only bonus feature is a short featurette entitled "Woodstock: Creating Snoopy's Sidekick," an excellent look at the creation of that little bird, from his origins as a hippy antagonist for Snoopy to his evolution into the beagle's only confidante. It adds a lot of depth to a character who is generally only heard speaking in sound effects. I would like to have seen more on the extras front, but the programs are so good it doesn't really matter.
Are you kidding? Peanuts 1970s Collection: Volume 1 is near perfect family entertainment. Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2009 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* IMDb: Play It Again, Charlie Brown
* IMDb: You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown
* IMDb: There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown
* IMDb: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
* IMDb: It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown
* IMDb: It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown