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Image Entertainment presents
Cut-Up: The Films of Grant Munro (1945-1983)

"We were developing what we thought were new techniques. It was so exciting that you could hardly leave the filmmaking area, you just wanted to stay there. "
- Grant Munro

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: February 05, 2004

Stars: Grant Munro, Norman McLaren
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:49m:09s
Release Date: December 09, 2003
UPC: 014381197020
Genre: compilation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

When it comes to groundbreaking and inventive animators, artists or filmmakers, the name Grant Munro may certainly not be as widely known as some of his contemporaries in the industry. He was never a marquee name like Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, or any of Disney's "Nine Old Men," which included Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis, and Ward Kimball. This two-disc retrospective of Munro's career, which covers the years 1945-1983, should do much to remedy that situation, as it collects thirteen of his most celebrated works (including two previously unreleased short films).

Describing the diverse scope and flow of Munro's work is extremely difficult to summarize, and it is like trying to pick up a blob of mercury with your fingers. A backcover blurb calls him "a combination of Joan Miro, Buster Keaton, Chuck Jones, Gene Kelly, and Felix the Cat," and that's about as apropos of a description as I could ever have come up with. Much of Munro's best known work was done when he was working for the National Film Board of Canada in the 1940s and '50s, where he teamed up with a number of like-minded creative types (primarily Norman McLaren) to assemble some incredibly imaginative and technically advanced short films that incorporated everything from cut-outs, traditional animation, line drawings, live action, documentary, stop action, and any combination of the above.

Refreshing streaks of imagination and invention run through just about every one of the titles on this set, whether it is the cut-out animation of the Rosie the Riveter-esque misadventures of The Three Blind Mice, who tout factory safety via numerous accidents, or Toys, where a stop-action army of G.I. Joes get into a very violent and explosive battle in a toystore window. Cut-Up shows one how Munro and McClaren were riding some kind of an underground cutting edge in their field, and the material here infuses a lot of surreal, and sometimes dark, whimsy while delivering a subtle underlying message.

Who's to say what kind of influence Munro had on future filmmakers, but in the mini-documentary Boo Hoo we hear the bittersweet ruminations of an elderly cemetery worker, and it covers similar ground that Errol Morris and Michael Moore would tackle years later. Munro even proves himself to be a fine comic actor in the short film Ballot-O-Matic, where he plays an innocently inept campaign worker named Simpson who nearly ruins the political career he is working for. For me, one of the standouts here is Neighbours, the 1952 Oscar winner for Best Short Film, which is a stop-action Cold War parable about a pair of friendly neighbors who turn into savages in a battle over a single flower. The message in this dialogue-free short is simple, but in the hands of Munro and McLaren it becomes a universal reminder that some things never change.

Cut-Up is an impressive and unusual retrospective, with the capper of this two-disc set being a pair of accompanying in-depth Grant Munro interviews that run well over two and a half hours (see below).
The films included on this set are:

Three Blind Mice (1945)
On The Farm (1952)
Neighbours (1952)
Two Bagatelles (1953)
Ballot-O-Matic (1953)
Six and Seven-Eigths (1958)
Christmas Cracker (1963)
Canon (1964)
The Animal Movie (1966)
Toys (1966)
Ashes of Doom (1969)
Boo Hoo (1974)
McLaren on McLaren (1983)

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All of the short films on this two-disc set are presented in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. As expected with such a compilation, one that spans decades, image quality varies a bit from segment to segment, but in general the prints have held up particularly well. Some of the color shorts look a little washed out (no surprise there), and actually don't look nearly as good as the black-and-white pieces do.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided via a respectable Dolby Digital mono track. There isn't a lot of depth to the sound mix, but the limited dynamic range doesn't really detract from the presentation, and with a number of shorts not having any formal dialogue at all, it isn't really that much of an issue. The unusual music and sounds employed by Munro and McLaren, however, do sound slightly tinny during some of the segments.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Grant Munro, John Canemaker, Dennis Doros
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills Gallery
  2. Audio Interviews
  3. Flipbooks
Extras Review: From a historical perspective, the extras spread across the two discs of Cut-Up are nicely done. Disc One contains an Audio Interview: Grant Munro Discussing His Life and Art with Film Historians John Canemaker and Dennis Doros (01h:24m:55s), which plays on a second audio track, as a traditional DVD commentary would. Recorded in January 2002, Munro recounts his upbringing, his family, his initial forays into the art world, and ultimately how he came to get involved with likes of collaborators Norman McLaren, Louis Applebaum, George Dunning, and Guy Glover.

Disc Two features all 13 films again, this time available with a pseudo-commentary entitled Audio Interview: Grant Munro Talking About His Films with John Canemaker and Dennis Doros. Canemaker and Doros get Munro to open up about each individual short (the discussions correspond to the film being shown), and in some instances the segments run longer than the actual film. Like the audio interview on disc one, Munro is full of great information and recollections, from production problems to artistic squabbles. Unlike a lot of lighter weight commentaries found on other discs, you just might actually learn something here from an innovator like Munro.

Wrapping things up on is an automated Stills Gallery (07m:49s), consisting of a huge stack of production stills, family photos, original artwork, and various promotional shots, as well as Flipbooks by Grant Munro (01m:20s), which includes test drawings from The Animal Movie.

A 16-page Press Kit (available as PDF) includes a filmography, history and comments about each film, is also provided.

Each disc is cut into 13 chapters (1 per film).

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

This two-disc collection of the works of innovative artist/actor/dancer/animator Grant Munro (and long-time collaborator, Norman McLaren), covering the years 1945-1983, is a must have for any historical fan of inventive short films. Image has issued this under the Milestone Collection banner, and much like the outstanding Phantom of the Opera release, Cut-Up is much more than a simple DVD of shorts—it is a history lesson.



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