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Case Number 06571

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The Best Of The New Scooby-Doo Movies

Warner Bros. // 1972 // 645 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // April 13th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Paul Corupe prefers animated Globetrotters that do showboating algebra.

The Charge

Jinkies!

Opening Statement

With 1969's Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, the animators at Hanna-Barbera hit on a unique mix of suspense, comedy, and mystery. Scooby-Doo and his ragtag group of teen sleuths quickly became a success with the Saturday morning cereal-chomping crowd, and after the original run of the show ended in 1970, H-B decided to capitalize on their hit and retooled the show in an hour-long format as The New Scooby-Doo Movies. Shows in this 24-episode season teamed Scooby with a host of animated guest stars who would help Mystery Inc. investigate each new case of ghostly misdirection. As Warner Brothers makes their way through the Hanna-Barbera vaults, some—but not all—of the episodes from The New Scooby-Doo Movies have found their way to DVD in The Best of the New Scooby-Doo Movies.

Facts of the Case

Self-confident Freddy, klutzy Daphne, brainy Velma, perpetually hungry coward Shaggy, and their anthropomorphic talking dog Scooby-Doo are the young sleuths who make up Mystery Inc. In their flower-powered custom van, the Mystery Machine, this teenage detective agency prowls the countryside in search of suspicious spooks and phony phantoms. Each episode, the gang finds themselves chased by a ghost or monster in a suitably creepy setting, but through some comedic hijinks and quick thinking, they invariably discover that the real perpetrator is a criminal in a clever costume, trying to scare nosy onlookers away from the base of their illegal operations.

A "best of" set and not a complete season as you might expect, The Best of the New Scooby-Doo Movies features 15 of the 24 episodes from what essentially amounts to Scooby's third season, spread over four discs:

• "The Ghastly Ghost Town" (with The Three Stooges)
The Three Stooges can't figure out why attendance at their amusement park is down, and when they meet up with Scooby and his friends, the gang decides to solve the mystery with the help of a giant robot dinosaur. 5/10

• "The Dynamic Scooby-Doo Affair" (with Batman & Robin)
Joker and the Penguin passing counterfeit bills? The Dynamic Duo and Scooby put their carnival funhouse hideout out of business, but there's still the mysterious supplier to take care of. 7/10

• "The Frickert Fracas" (with Jonathan Winters)
Jonathan Winters invites Mystery Inc. along with him for a restful stay at Maude Frickert's farm…but her recipe for fast growing chicken feed has attracted the attention of an eerie scarecrow. 8/10

• "Guess Who's Knott Coming to Dinner" (with Don Knotts)
After the Mystery Machine breaks down at spooky Moody Manor, the gang helps Don Knotts look for the missing owner. 7/10

• "The Spooky Fog" (with Don Knotts)
In the town of Juneberry, Scooby and Don Knotts round up some cattle rustlers. 7/10

• "The Ghost of Bigfoot" (with Laurel & Hardy)
The gang meets up with Laurel & Hardy at a ski resort that has lost all its customers due to Sasquatch sightings. 6/10

• "The Ghost of the Red Baron" (with The Three Stooges)
The Three Stooges return to take jobs piloting a crop duster, but the hoping ghost of the Red Baron is determined to stop them. 7/10

• "The Ghostly Creeps from the Deep" (with The Harlem Globetrotters)
The ghost of Redbeard the Pirate is intent on scaring Scooby and his new friends the Harlem Globetrotters away from a certain part of the swamp. 8/10

• "The Caped Crusader Caper" (with Batman & Robin)
Joker and the Penguin try to get their thieving hands on a flying suit, and it's up to Batman, Robin, and the Mystery Inc. gang to stop them. 7/10

• "The Lochness Mess" (with The Harlem Globetrotters)
The gang meets up with The Globetrotters again on the way to visit Shaggy's Uncle Nathaniel in Boston. Problem is, Nathaniel is being woken up every night by the ghost of Paul Revere, who has apparently teamed forces with the newly relocated Lochness Monster. 7/10

• "The Mystery of Haunted Island" (with The Harlem Globetrotters)
A trip to Picnic Island for some lunch with The Globetrotters goes awry when the boat actually ends up on Haunted Island. 9/10

• "The Exterminator" (with Don Adams)
Get Smart's Don Adams guest stars as a pest exterminator, and the gang agrees to help him spray an old haunted mansion that belongs to aged silent horror film star Lorne Chumley. 7/10

• "The Weird Winds of Winona" (with Speed Buggy)
While Tinker from the Speed Buggy team fixes the broken down Mystery Machine, the sleuthing teens join forces to uncover the secret behind mysterious winds that plague a small town. 7/10

• "The Haunted Candy Factory" (with "Mama" Cass Elliot)
The Mamas and the Papas singer Cass Elliot becomes the butt of a steady stream of fat jokes as Mystery Inc. tries to uncover who has been haunting a candy factory she just bought. 7/10

• "The Haunted Carnival" (with Dick Van Dyke)
A trip to Dick Van Dyke's deserted carnival turns up a team of spooks intent on scaring everyone away. 8/10

The Evidence

The original two seasons of Scooby-Doo, Where are You?, previously released in an earlier animation wave from the fine folks at Warner Brothers, are easily the best produced for the character, a fitting showcase for one of Hanna-Barbera's finest concepts. Although each show pretty much followed the same standard template, even today, the early episodes remain extremely comfortable, like your favorite pair of slippers. I can't say why H-B decided to offer viewers a drastic new twist with The New Scooby-Doo Movies, but needless to say, it rarely works as well as the original, excellent series.

With only a few dozen shows under Scooby's collar, it's alarming to see how quickly the show's writers ran out of ideas, as they shamelessly reuse and recycle ideas, plots, and even jokes during this season. Four of the fifteen episodes here take place at a haunted mansion, while another three transpire at a haunted amusement park, and three feature haunted mine shafts. Almost all of the remainder of the settings (ski resort, swamp) have appeared before, as have most of the concepts behind this season's surprisingly underwritten scripts. In short, these episodes feel like third-generation imitations of the first season, with stories stretched perilously thin over the new, extended running times. The result is that these episodes are only as good as their particular guest stars, which makes this a very sorry entry in the Scooby canon indeed.

The Three Stooges, who make two appearances this season, are hands down the worst guests of all. Voiced by new actors and clad in matching yellow jumpsuits, a crackdown on cartoon violence completely neuters everyone's favorite knuckleheads, who are left grasping for comedic straws—bad puns, childish behavior, and lame sight gags. I'm sorry, but if nobody's nose gets caught in a plumber's wrench, then it's not the Three Stooges. The same can be said for Laurel and Hardy, who are rendered terminally unfunny as bumbling cartoon characters cowering in the corner with Shaggy and Scooby. In other cases, the very nature of the guests throws the show's time-tested structure into chaos. When Scooby meets up with Batman and Robin in "The Caped Crusader Caper," they find themselves battling the Joker and the Penguin, with not a ghost or a hideously masked smuggler to be found. Even worse, many of the shows from this season are so focused on their guests that they fail to introduce potential suspects for the "whodunit" aspect of the show—very frustrating for those who like to solve along with Scooby.

Sometimes, however, the cosmic forces align, and The New Scooby-Doo Movies pulls off a halfway decent show. The Harlem Globetrotters are ideal comedic guests who have a group dynamic that meshes well with The Mystery Inc. gang. All three of their episodes are set highlights, including the excellent "The Mystery of Haunted Island." In addition to using the team to advance the story, this episode is one of the few that isn't mercilessly padded, fitting the mystery into the first half-hour and then switching focus to hijinks at a basketball game at the end. The always enjoyable Jonathan Winters episode is a near classic, as Winters contributes the voices for both himself and Maude Frickert in "The Frickert Fracas." This set's big surprise is Dick Van Dyke's natural and humorous voice acting performance in "The Haunted Carnival," another stand-out for Scooby's ill-fated third season.

Wait a minute—Dick Van Dyke? Laurel and Hardy? Cass Elliot? These are curious choices for guests in a Saturday morning cartoon program aimed at children, who may not be familiar with these stars. Maybe that's why many of the season's guest stars weren't real-life celebrities at all, but tie-ins with other H-B cartoons. Besides guest spots by well-known series Speed Buggy and Josie and the Pussycats (not included on this set), H-B had also been producing an animated Laurel and Hardy since the late 1960s, and the short-lived The Harlem Globetrotters, which featured animated versions of the real life players (but not their voices), had premiered in 1970. After their guest spots here, they would later be brought back as shape-shifting heroes in 1979's The Super Globetrotters.

Obviously, the biggest problem with The Best of the New Scooby-Doo Movies is that Warner has left off almost half of the show's episodes. Let's take a look at what was omitted:

• "Wednesday is Missing" (with The Addams Family)
• "A Good Medium is Rare"" (with Phyllis Diller)
• "Sandy Duncan's Jekyll and Hyde" (with Sandy Duncan)
• "The Secret of Shark Island" (with Sonny & Cher)
• "The Haunted Horseman of Hagglethorn Hall" (with Davy Jones)
• "The Phantom of the Country Music Hall" (with Jerry Reed)
• "The Haunted Showboat" (with Josie and the Pussycats)
• "Mystery in Persia" (with Jeannie and Babu)
• "The Spirited Spooked Sport Show" (with Tim Conway)

As to why Warner Brothers went this route instead of just releasing the whole season as expected, the most logical answer seems to be rights issues. It's certainly possible that there were problems with the music in Jerry Reed's episode, or perhaps Paramount wanted too much for The Addams Family, who also starred in their own H-B cartoon series during the 1970s. Maybe re-licensing all the celebrity cameos was too cost-prohibitive—this might also account for this box set's disproportionate price tag. Still, neither of these justifications explains the exclusion of no-brainers like Josie and the Pussycats and even the Sonny and Cher episode, which found its way to a VHS release in the 1980s. What gives, Warner?

The transfer is on par with most of the other entries in the Hanna-Barbera animation line—riddled with dirt and source artifacts, but still highly watchable, with bold colors and a crisp appearance. Sound is also quite good considering it's only in mono; music and dialogue are always clear, but like many of these sets, recorded a little low. Now we get to the DVD extras, always a point of contention on these H-B releases: The Best of the New Scooby-Doo Movies has easily the worst selection of supplemental features on any of these sets yet, none of which are particularly worth watching, or in the case of the "limited edition" cel, keeping. "The Hanna-Barbera Kennel Club Roasts Scooby-Doo" is a five-minute comedy bit laced with highlight reel clips that features Huckleberry Hound, Astro, and Hanna-Barbera's other dog characters affectionately teasing their canine cousin. Smells like Cartoon Network filler to me. "Uptown with Scooby-Doo and the Harlem Globetrotters" features Otis Key and Michael Wilson, two current Globetrotters, pretending to gab it up with Scooby and their animated forefathers via clips, and teaching the viewer acrobatic basketball tricks. I'm not exactly sure what the point of this is, and it's a pretty specious inclusion as an extra.
Last and quite least is "Girls Rock!" a 10-minute tribute to the characters of Daphne and Velma. On the Scooby-Doo: The Complete First and Second Seasons box set, there was a brief "documentary" that featured interviews with average people (who all appeared to be Cartoon Network employees) answering such deep probing questions as "Who is your favorite character?" While recent sets have shown that Warner Brothers have been trying to add more substantial extras, this collection of soundbites from nameless "fans" is almost more embarrassing than the earlier doc, an assemblage of shallow insights into the show like "Boy, that Daphne likes fashion" and "Have you ever noticed that Velma loses her glasses a lot?" Features like this are just salt in the wound that is easily one of the worst Hanna-Barbera sets released so far.

Closing Statement

Despite the fact that this incarnation of Scooby-Doo is plagued by poor scripting and a distinct lack of originality, it was followed up four years later by The Scooby-Doo Show, a new half-hour show that returned to the formulaic—but distinctive—course charted by Scooby-Doo, Where are You?. Here's hoping that a (complete!) season set of this version is already in the works, and we might be able to push this lackluster DVD aside and get a proper Scooby fix before party crasher Scrappy-Doo makes his inevitable appearance.

The Verdict

Guilty—and they would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those meddling DVD reviewers!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 82
Audio: 85
Extras: 42
Acting: 82
Story: 67
Judgment: 68

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 645 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Animation
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• The Hanna-Barbera Kennel Club Roasts Scooby-Doo
• Uptown With Scooby-Doo and The Harlem Globetrotters
• Girls Rock!
• Animation Cel








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