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Case Number 16452: Small Claims Court

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Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970s, Volume 1

Warner Bros. // 1970 // 352 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 26th, 2009

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All Rise...

Not even the Funky Phantom can out-funk Judge Patrick Bromley.

The Charge

It's Saturday morning. Dig it, baby.

The Case

Oh, boy.

Having recently finished watching Warner Bros.' companion collection, Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s, Volume 1, I can say with a good deal of confidence that by the 1970s, the quality and originality of kids' cartoons had already begun its long decline. I accused some of the cartoons on the 1960s set of being merely product. I spoke too soon.

Having found success in the '60s, Hanna-Barbera (the studio responsible for the majority of the 'toons in both collections) was quick to adopt an "ain't broke/don't fix" policy. The result means two things: every cartoon features a group of kids solving mysteries, and every cartoon features a rock band. The cartoons on 1970s, Volume 1 are largely all clones of one another, beginning with Scooby-Doo and then diminishing in quality.

These are the cartoons found on Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970s, Volume 1:

Disc One
"The Space Car"—The Jetsons
This is a fairly classic episode of The Jetsons, as show I never liked as much The Flintstones. Its inclusion here is a little odd, since it was actually part of the original run of The Jetsons in the 1960s and ran in 1962. I'm sure The Jetsons were still on in syndication in the '70s, so in the interest of re-creating a real Saturday morning it makes sense. It's also available on The Jetsons: The Complete First Season box set.

"The Pest/Tarzan and the Colossus of Zome"—The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour
I'm glad Warner Bros. has included this episode from The New Batman Adventures, essentially an animated version of the old TV show—Adam West and Burt Ward even appear here as the voices of Batman and Robin, respectively. It's fascinating to see the jokey direction the cartoon was taken in, and notable most of all for the inclusion of "Bat-Mite," an annoying little magical sidekick that helped contribute to the tanking of the Caped Crusader's image until Frank Miller came around. There's no reason that the entire New Adventures series should ever see the light of day on DVD, so including here can give fans a taste of its badness without much overkill. Kids today will probably—and rightly—be pretty bored by it, and are sophisticated enough to enjoy Batman: The Animated Series from the 1990s much more.

The Tarzan cartoon is pretty silly stuff, too, but also provides a neat look into the kind of stuff on kids' airwaves in the early '70s. It's one of the least preserved cartoons on the set, looking somewhat faded and old and showing some print damage.

"Car Thieves/Zoo Story"—Hong Kong Phooey
I like Hong Kong Phoeey, but it, too, can really only be watched in small doses. There's two installments here, each running about 11 minutes apiece. That's just about enough.

"Assignment Ahab Apparition"—Goober and the Ghost Chasers
Probably the most shameless Scooby-Doo rip-off in the bunch, Goober focuses on a bunch of teens and a cowardly dog solving mysteries; the only difference is that Goober can turn invisible. This episode features another '70s staple, the guest star appearance. Here, it's the kids from The Partridge Family (minus David Cassidy, who must have known better).

"Speed Buggy Went That-a-Way"—Speed Buggy
I can't believe a cartoon about a sentient, talking car didn't last.

"Double Cross Country/The Infiltrator/The Stunt Show"—Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch
I can't believe a cartoon about sentient, talking motorcycles didn't last.

Disc Two
"Greedy Genie"—Yogi's Gang
Of all the cartoons included on Saturday Morning Cartoons set, this is one of the best. The Yogi Bear spin-off is like a Hanna-Barbera all-star lineup, featuring Yogi, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Quick Draw McGraw and more flying around in an ark (??) and having adventures. It's by no means a great cartoon, but it's neat to see all those characters together (and not in a Cannonball Run-style race) and, as it's unlikely to get its own release, makes a nice inclusion.

"Scotland Yard"—The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan
Another Scooby-Doo clone, only here the part of the talking dog is played by classic film detective Charlie Chan. Because what kids wanted in the 1970s were cartoons based on classic film series. The Chan Clan is a huge group of Asian siblings that solve mysteries and—wouldn't you know it?—also have a rock band. Jamie Farr (MASH) was actually one of the writers on this short-lived anomaly.

"Double Date"—Roman Holidays Essentially a Flintstones clone, only set in Ancient Rome. Hanna-Barbera had no new ideas in the '70s, did they?

"The Nemo's A No No Affair"—Josie and the Pussycats
This is actually the first episode of Josie (though it's mistakenly identified on the disc menu as an episode of Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, which didn't air until 1972 but sounds hilarious). It's already available on the Josie box set. Not much to say about this one; the songs are always fun, but it clearly set the mandate that every '70s cartoon had to involve kids in a band. I liked the movie better than I ever liked the show.

"The Ghostly Creep From the Deep"—The New Scooby-Doo Movies
The classic Harlem Globetrotters episode. I was never the biggest Scooby-Doo fan (which the movies sealed), but these big guest-star episodes always stick out in my head.

"I'll Haunt You Later"—The Funky Phantom
Yet another Scooby-Doo clone, only this time the talking dog isn't a dog or even Charlie Chan. It's the Revolutionary War ghost. Seriously. Like most of the cartoons included on this set, it's a fascinating curiosity but only as a one-off. Former Monkees drummer Mickey Dolenz supplies one of the voices, and the voice of the Phantom is the exact same as the one used for Snagglepuss. Like, the exact same.

So, there you have it. There's not a whole lot of actual watchability in these cartoons; unlike those included on the Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s, Volume 1 set, I can't imagine sitting down to watch these with my son. This collection is more for the adult collector and cartoon enthusiast, who may remember some of these obscurities or who, like me, is fascinated by some of what made it on the air in the '70s.

Like 1960s, Volume 1, this 1970s collection features all 16 cartoons in their original full frame aspect ratio. There's a disclaimer at the start stating that some of the cartoons have been compiled from the best available sources, and at times it shows. Tarzan probably suffers the worst, but other cartoons like Yogi's Gang and The Chan Clan certainly look somewhat faded and old. For the most part, though, everything looks good—Warner Bros. has done their usual fine job with the video. The mono audio track is perfectly serviceable, too.

Each disc has its own "Saturday Morning Wake-up Call" commercial, which provides an overview of the cartoons and plots contained on the disc (and it's narrated by Casey Kasem, no less). On the second disc is a pair of brief featurettes. The first, "Solving Crimes the Chan Clan Way," is an interesting discussion by the show's writers about the constraints of meeting the Hanna-Barbera requirements for what must and must not be shown in cartoons (there always had to be a band; none of the kids could get physical with any of the criminals). The second, "Heavens to Betsy Ross: The Spirit of Funky Phantom," is essentially a "what were they thinking?" piece where animators and writers both old and new wonder how the heck a show about kids solving mysteries alongside a ghost from 1776 made it on the air. They're right to question that.

For pure entertainment value, Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970s, Volume 1 falls short of the 1960s collection. But as a novelty, it's something of an improvement. I, for one, am glad it's been put together; where else are you going to find nearly all of these rare cartoons?

The Verdict

Not guilty, but recommended mostly as a curiosity. Bring on the '80s.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Portuguese)
• English (SDH)
• Portuguese
Running Time: 352 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• All Ages
• Animation
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurettes
• Bonus Cartoons

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