Judge Clark Douglas is certain Lucy won't pull the ball away from him this time...
Our review of Peanuts 1970s Collection: Volume 1, published October 28th, 2009, is also available.
Happiness is another cool Peanuts collection, Charlie Brown!
Like many others, I have very fond memories of watching assorted Peanuts specials throughout my childhood. In particular, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving were viewed over and over again, but I was always enthusiastic to see the Peanuts gang turn up in any special. Looking at them with older eyes in the modern era, it's clear that some of the specials have become significantly dated and many of the later specials don't hold up quite as well as some of the earlier achievements, but they remain charming affairs. I'm not sure how well kids of today will respond to some of the specials, as their quiet pace contrasts considerably to the loud chaos typically found on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, but I like to think many young ones will still connect with these specials.
This particular collection gathers together six specials from the late 1970s, most of which have already been released on DVD in the past (with the sole exception of "What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown!").
Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown: Arguably the highlight of this collection, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown offers a tender exploration of the heartaches of youthful romance. Probably closer in spirit to the Charles Schultz comic strip than any of the other specials, this 25-minute outing follows characters through a complicated, somewhat unhappy Valentine's day. Lucy and Schroeder have communication problems, Linus' romantic attempt to woo his teacher goes very badly, and Charlie Brown doesn't get any valentines at all. The special quietly offers some lessons on love, suggesting that something genuine is considerably more valuable than something expensive or flashy. The characters are more or less given happy endings, but the special deserves credit for the honest way in which it acknowledges that sometimes having feelings for someone can lead to a lot of pain.
You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown: This special is a very lightweight affair, following the Peanuts gang as they engage in a variety of sports-related activities. We see Snoopy playing tennis with an automatic ball server, Charlie Brown and Lucy going through their old football kicking routine, Sally and Linus attempting to enjoy a game of tennis, and so on. The big event of the special is a motocross race, which quickly boils down to a heated competition between Charlie Brown and "The Masked Marvel" (aka Snoopy). The film attempts to wring a lot of humor from Marcie's interview techniques, as she gives her interview subjects roughly a half-second to speak. Breezy, pleasant and lacking the significant lessons or subject matter of most Peanuts specials, this one is easy to watch and just as easy to forget.
It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown: Though not many of the later Peanuts specials have enjoyed much popularity, It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown still pops up now and then (particularly in public schools) as it offers children a nice lesson on just what Arbor Day is about (it's not like there's an overwhelming abundance of animated specials on the subject). The special centers around a conflict between Charlie Brown and Lucy, as Lucy attempts to plant a garden…right in the middle of the baseball field where Charlie Brown spends much of his time. Though this special may seem insignificant in the overall scheme of things, it's noteworthy for being sort of a turning point for the franchise. Critics at the time regarded It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown as a low point, though this was due more to its use of an obscure holiday as its focus than due to any quality issues. Sadly, the special was also the final outing for composer Vince Guaraldi, whose jazzy scores played a large part in giving the Peanuts specials their unique feel (he died several hours after recording this score).
What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown!: Though the title of this special might cause one to believe that it's going to explore Halloween or nightmares in general, What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! is actually an unusual arctic adventure cooked up in Snoopy's wild imagination. After Charlie Brown tells Snoopy about how hard dogs have to work in the arctic, Snoopy has a dream in which he envisions himself as a character in a story not too unlike Call of the Wild. Snoopy is mistreated and forced to endure harsh conditions in this arctic dreamscape, though he tries to find ways to keep himself entertained. It's an odd special, to be sure. It's easy to see why it hasn't been released on DVD until now; I'm not sure how kids will respond to a special largely centered on poor Snoopy having to endure one terrible torment after another. Also, no familiar Peanuts characters other than Charlie Brown and Snoopy appear.
It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown: I distinctly remember enjoying this one as a kid, but really it stirred up longtime Peanuts fans upon its release. The legendary Little Red-Haired Girl had been referred to on many occasions in the comics, but was never shown or named. As It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown begins we see…yes, the Little Red-Haired Girl. "It's the little red-haired girl!" Charlie Brown exclaims. "You mean Heather?" Linus chips in helpfully. Just like that, the mystery was shattered. This violation aside (and granted, it's a pretty big one), the special is an entertaining tale of a football game that allows Lucy to push her place-kicking cruelty toward Charlie Brown to the absolute limit. The '70s funk on the soundtrack is awfully distracting after all the Guaraldi stuff, but overall the special is a decent one.
You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown: Another sports-themed affair in the vein of You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown. In this one, Charlie Brown decides to compete in the Junior Olympics at his school. Alas, the difficult decathlon is the only event left open, so he's forced to accept the enormous challenge. Peppermint Patty helps Charlie Brown train for the event, setting up a lengthy series of montages until the competition begins (it comes as no surprise that Charlie Brown's primary competition is The Masked Marvel once again). I'm not particularly taken with this special, but it works.
Video quality is decent enough, though you'll still find occasional scratches and flecks cropping up. Even so, it's evident that a good deal of work has been put into making these specials look clean and bright, as they fare much better visually than many animated specials of the era. Audio is more of a mixed bag, as the music and dialogue occasionally sounds canned or pinched. The only supplement on the disc is a featurette called "You're Groovy, Charlie Brown: A Look at Peanuts in the 1970s," which provides a quick overview of the specials featured in this set and the Volume 1 collection.
There's certainly a lot of double-dipping going on in Peanuts 1970s Collection: Volume 2, but it's an affordable way to pick up these specials if you haven't already.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• IMDb: Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
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