The 1960s “Loopy De Loop” cartoons make their DVD debut this week and the New York-to-Paris race car farce “The Great Race” gets a Blu-ray upgrade.
“Loopy De Loop” (Warner Archive/DVD, two discs, 1959-65, two discs, 48 cartoons). Hanna-Barbera Productions is probably best remembered today for opening the door to cartoons on prime-time television with “The Flintstones,” which debuted on ABC in 1960. Before that cartoons were strictly kiddie fare on daytime TV.
But William Hanna and Joseph Barbera actually got their start in theatrical cartoons, most famously at MGM in 1940 with the creation of the cat-and-mouse hijinks of Tom and Jerry. Nearly two decades later, after leaving the studio to form their own company, they created another theatrical franchise, “Loopy De Loop.”
Loopy is a French-Canadian wolf that tries to change the image of scary wolves, though he is seldom rewarded for his efforts. The best entries in the series have a sort of “Fractured Fairy Tales” feel as Loopy tries to turn things around with Red Riding Hood and Bo Peep, among others. Loopy’s no Tom or Jerry, but the cartoons are nostalgic fun for baby boomers and children of all generations. (Available at warnerarchive.com)
“The Great Race” (Warner Archive/Blu-ray, 1965, vintage featurette, trailer). After his success the year before with “The Pink Panther” and “A Shot in the Dark,” slapstick/sight-gag expert Blake Edwards jumped on the bigger-is-better bandwagon that was churning out bloated comedies like “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines,” and came up with this parody of silent-movie tropes.
“The Great Race” is quite campy as it follows a motorcar race from New York to Paris at the turn of the 20th century, and though a few gags fall flat, most of the way it’s filled with hilarious bits of business, especially between Jack Lemmon as the villain and his sidekick Peter Falk. (Lemmon also has a second role as a foppish prince.) Tony Curtis is the hero, his teeth literally sparkling, and Natalie Wood is the comely heroine. Not a classic but very funny in places. (Favorite gag: The villain’s mustache freezes and Falk snaps it off.) (Available at warnerarchive.com)
“The Desert Song” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1953). Kathryn Grayson and Gordon MacRae star in this chestnut, the third incarnation of Romberg and Hammerstein’s operetta, which has a contrived story about Arab rebels called Riffs threatening a French outpost in Africa.
MacRae’s character is their secret leader, posing as a meek professor, and Grayson is a French captain’s feisty daughter. But forget the plot and just enjoy the songs, which Grayson and MacRae deliver wonderfully in their youth and in top form. (Available at warnerarchive.com)
“The Big Sleep” (Timeless/DVD, 1978; R for violence, nudity and drugs; audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). Strange remake of the Philip Marlowe mystery made previously as the 1946 Bogie & Bacall classic. Here, for some inexplicable reason, the action is moved to London! And it has just enough violence and nudity to ensure an R rating.
Robert Mitchum, in his second outing as Marlowe (following the far superior 1975 thriller “Farewell, My Lovely”), is good and the script does adhere more faithfully to Raymond Chandler’s novel than the first film (especially with all that snappy dialogue), but the editing is choppy, and it lags and sags too often when it should pop. Sarah Miles has the Bacall role and the supporting cast includes James Stewart, Richard Boone, Joan Collins, John Mills, Oliver Reed, Richard Todd and Candy Clark.
“Halloween: The Complete Collection” (Anchor Bay/Blu-ray, 1978-2009; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; 15 discs, 12 movies, deleted/alternate scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, bloopers, trailers/TV spots, photo galleries). If Guinness keeps records of the most reissued titles on home video, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” with Jamie Lee Curtis, the only real classic in the franchise, must be right at the top of that list. This set gathers together all 12 movies -- including the two Rob Zombie remakes -- and offers a bevy of new bonus features.
Of particular note is a previously unavailable (except for bootlegs) “producer’s cut” of the sixth film in the franchise, “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” (1995), which was filmed in Utah.
“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” (DarkSky/Blu-ray/DVD, 1974, R for violence and language, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, trailers/ad spots, photo gallery, bloopers). This tale of an inbred cannibal family terrorizing a group of innocents that stumbles into their home is a seminal horror film and remains extremely intense.
Yet, despite its reputation as a gorefest on par with “Saw” or “Hostel,” that is not the case (despite the many carnage-filled sequels/prequels/remakes). Oh, it’s gruesome, but nearly all of the violence is off camera or oblique, and there isn’t much foul language, either.