Genius Products // 1959 // 132 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // October 5th, 2007
"Do you realize that a squirrel just came out of the shower, called us
'ladies,' and acted as if a moose went by?"
"And there's a good reason for that."
"His goggles were all fogged up."
Once upon a time, a moose asked a squirrel to watch him pull a rabbit out of his hat, and a cartoon legend was born. The Best of Rocky and Bullwinkle: Volume 2 collects three more of the Jay Ward-created comedy duo's old-time-movie-style serial adventures. If you're looking for Mr. Peabody, Dudley Do-Right, or Fractured Fairy Tales, you're in the wrong place (they each have their own "Best Of" sets). If, however, you always thought Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends could have used more forest animals and fewer Canadians, this trio of tales (with tails) might just be for you:
Wossamotta U: A failing University puts its football faith in newly recruited "forward-passing phenom" Bullwinkle, whose skills on the field turn the school's pigskin troubles into silk purse victories, beating teams like Purdy Poly and Watchmaker's Technical Institute (or, as it's known, "Tick-Tock Tech"). Their undefeated record is threatened, however, by the machinations of notorious gamblers (and all-around no-goodniks) Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale.
Treasure of Monte Zoom: Boris and Natasha are back, in a series centered around a famous race car driver's lost treasure, which is at the bottom of a lake just outside Rocky and Bullwinkle's hometown of Frostbite Falls, MN. With the dastardly duo planning on blowing the dam to drain the lake, can our interspecies heroes stem the rising tide, save their burg from disaster, and foil the thieving spies?
Goof Gas Attack: In the hallowed halls of learning and research, America's most brilliant scientists and thinkers are suddenly and inexplicably getting stupid. In order to track down the source of their affliction, the U.S. Government entrusts the ensuing investigation to an individual (ok, well, a moose) with enough built-in stupidity to be immune from the mysterious attack. On their way to D.C., however, recruit Bullwinkle and his squirrelly pal run into trouble when they're targeted by the plot's Pottsylvanian perpetrators and end up stranded in McKeesport, PA with their old friend Capt. Wrongway Peachfuzz.
This is hilarious stuff. Par for the series, the jokes come fast and furious, ranging from clever wordplay, to fourth-wall-breaking absurdism, to the groan-iest of puns. The biting satire will seem familiar to fans of The Simpsons (Matt Groening has credited Ward's show as a big influence). If there were an life course in comedy, Rocky and Bullwinkle would definitely be on the syllabus.
Depending on your point of view, the dividing up of Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes is either a triumph of consumer choice or yet another sign that today's ala carte society is heading straight to heck in some sort of basket. I fall somewhere in the middle. While there are advantages to presenting the stories in an easy-to-digest format, it lacks a certain "purity" (seeing cliffhangers immediately resolved, for example, sort of defeats the purpose). Still, for casual fans, it's the perfect way to enjoy the rapid-fire punnery of the show's star attractions without having to invest time and money in the season sets. On the other hand, the full-season DVDs don't cost that much more: you can get each of them (currently available through Season 3) for only about twice what you'll pay for this "Best Of," making it hard to recommend as a good value. On the other other hand, The Best of Rocky and Bullwinkle: Volume 2 clocks in at nearly double the 70-minute runtime of Volume One, and it's got three stories that are (as of now) unavailable on any DVD set. With the fate of later season box sets up in the air -- the third season came out over two years ago -- this might be the only chance Mooseketeers get to relive these classics.
The disc's lone extra is about five minutes' worth of the live-action puppet intros from The Bullwinkle Show in 1961. They're quick, funny, and -- like the show -- a little subversive: Bullwinkle warns viewers about the show's hypnotic power to make them buy whatever the sponsors are selling; he even encouraged kids to pull the knobs off their TVs so as not to miss the next show. The video quality is poor, but not awful -- it is, after all, just a moose puppet against a curtain. As a historical artifact (they were quickly replaced with animated intros) it's a nice addition to the DVD. As Bullwinkle says: "Remember, when you tune in next week at this same time for Bonanza, you'll still see The Bullwinkle Show!"
Consistent with the full-season sets, the video quality of the main episodes is poor, with uneven color, dirt, scratches, and occasional lines through the image. It's almost painful to see a seminal show get such a lousy treatment. There might very well be no better source material out there, but someone should really pony up and remaster these things. C'mon, without Bullwinkle J. Moose we wouldn't have Homer J. Simpson. We're talking about a national treasure here! Credit should be given to the packaging, however, which captures the jam-packed spirit of the show, with inside jokes and "impress your friends (if you have any)" facts, alongside ads for the other "Best Of" and full-season sets.
Will buying these chop shop sets send the message that putting out full-season sets are a waste of time? I don't know. Maybe. Should worrying about that keep you from supporting this classic cartoon? Definitely not. Vote with your wallet and let them know you want more Rocky and Bullwinkle. If you're a diehard fan and would rather wait for the full seasons, be my guest. In the meantime, buy The Best of Rocky and Bullwinkle: Volume 2 for a friend or family member. For the price of a few cups of coffee, you too can help save wildlife from extinction.
Review content copyright © 2007 Erich Asperschlager; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 132 Minutes
Release Year: 1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Bullwinkle Puppet Intros"
* Official Site