Chief Justice Michael Stailey is a Harlan Ellison apologist.
Our reviews of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Season One, Volume 2 (published October 9th, 2011) and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Season One, Volume 1 (published August 7th, 2011) are also available.
When the crypt doors creak, and the tombstones quake…oh wait…wrong franchise. Hello, mystery lovers, and welcome once again to another installment of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. We have four more toe-tingling episodes on hand to discuss, so let's get started.
Angel: "I'm only good at two things: Spinning records, and being a stone cold fox!"
• "Battle of the Humunonauts"—The gang investigates the destruction of Crystal Cove's trendiest new hot spot by a big-footed green-furred beast, only to be attacked by its big-footed red-furred twin. Seeing a city revenue windfall, Mayor Jones (Gary Cole) and Sheriff Stone (Patrick Warburton) arrange for a high priced coliseum face-off, only to have our heroes trap and reveal the beasts actual plan. Meanwhile, Scoob/Shaggy/Velma triangle triggers the need for a group therapy session, the gang tries out new team uniforms, and Mister E. (Lewis Black) takes a more active role in their investigations.
Velma: "Sometimes, I feel like a side of mayo on a Shaggy/Scooby sandwich."
• "Howl of the Fright Hound"—When a demon dog rampages The Dinkley's Mystery Tour bus, Sheriff Stone arrests Scooby and remands him to the Crystal Cove Animal Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Understandably off their game, the gang's investigative techniques get sloppy, and are forced to seek refuge in an abandoned steel mill from The Terminator-inspired Fright Hound. Meanwhile, Velma gets an obsessive nebbish admirer, the gang is introduced to the nefarious Professor Pericles (Udo Kier), the underlying mystery takes a dark and devious turn, and Shaggy makes a big decision.
Daphne: "Weird…My mom is duck intolerant. Pâté gives her the squeakers real bad."
• "The Secret Serum"—Fallout from Shaggy's decision force a team split. The boys investigate the vampire (Beverly D'Angelo) that attacked Daphne's mom's charity auction, while the girl's track Mrs. Blake's (Kath Soucie) unusual nocturnal activities. But when the clues dovetail their detective work, the gang calls on Mrs. Dinkley's (Frances Conroy) extensive vampiric knowledge which reveals an rare life-extending formula. Meanwhile, Daphne gets a mysterious benefactor, we get cameos from Don Knotts, Mama Cass, and Ichabod Crane, and this may be the last case for Mystery Inc.
Harlan Ellison: "By the way, Jinkies is not actually a word."
• "The Shrieking Madness"—Officially taking a break from mystery solving, the gang undergoes the ritual of college prep, each visiting Darrow University of their own accord. Unfortunately for them, Cthulhu has invaded Crystal Cove in the form of Char-Gar Gothakon, an ancient evil so frightening Professor HP Hatecraft (Jeffrey Combs) only refers to it as "the beast that hath no name." It's going to take all of them working together to unravel this mystery before someone get seriously injured, or killed! Meanwhile, Shag and Scoob are devastated by a vegan burger joint, Fred learns the fine art of intramural wrestling, Daphne gets sucked into a radical protest group, Velma meets her hero—author Harlan Ellison (as himself), and Mister E provides Mystery Inc. with their greatest clue to discovering the truth behind the disappearance of the original Mystery Incorporated.
Let's be honest, some of these mysteries are being telegraphed way too early. Since part of the fun is trying to figure out whodunnit, spoon-feeding us the answer is counterproductive and insulting. The writers need to play up to their audience, not talk down to them. Another problem is that some of the pop culture references get a bit much. "Fright Hound" becomes an homage to James Cameron, loaded with Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Aliens references, although there is a brief Yogi Bear cameo that is not to be missed, and "Battle of the Humunonauts" is nothing more than a riff on Marvel Comics' Red Hulk/Green Hulk storyline.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the impressive production design continues to shine, though I did notice some odd artifacting on both "Howl of the Fright Hound" and "The Secret Serum," early on in both episodes. However, the magnificent use of color and lighting can be likened to Hayao Myazaki on a tight budget. The Dolby 2.0 audio track works well enough for what the show is, though one could always hope for a more impressive soundfield in the future. Once again, nothing in the way of bonus features.
Gripes aside, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Season One, Volume 3 gives us what may be the finest episode in franchise history. Lampooning HP Lovecraft while armed with the cranky sarcastic wit of the one and only Harlan Ellison is absolute genius, and the production team pulled it off beautifully. I can't think of another episode where the final battle put each of our heroes in serious harm's way. Top notch.
Hang in there. Fourteen more episodes remain in Season One, which means at least three more of these reviews.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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