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Warner Bros. Home Video presents
Tom And Jerry's Greatest Chases (2000)

"Today, Tom was chasing me again."
- Jerry Mouse

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 27, 2000

Stars: Tom Cat
Other Stars: Jerry Mouse
Director: William Hanna and Joseph Barbera

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (extreme and outlandish cartoon violence is rampant, just the way I like it.)
Run Time: 01h:41m:00s
Release Date: March 14, 2000
UPC: 012569530621
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+B+B+ D+

DVD Review

Warner's new disc of classic MGM Tom & Jerry cartoons is a welcome addition to the DVD animation library. This disc presents 14 one-reel shorts from the mid-forties to the mid-fifties featuring the cat and mouse duo, each short ranging from six to eight minutes in length. The disc includes many favorites, thoughtfully presented in chronological order. Among the best of these are the Oscar®-winning cartoons, Yankee Doodle Mouse, The Little Orphan, Johann Mouse and one of my all-time favorites, The Cat Concerto. Yes, Tom & Jerry is a one-gag series, but with energetic and Tex Avery-influenced slapstick, one gag can often be plenty (just look at the Roadrunner cartoons).

There are some drawbacks to this disc. Whoever did the selection was obviously asleep at the switch. Two of the best T&J cartoons, The Two Mouseketeers and its sequel, Touche Monsieur Pussycat, are unaccountably omitted. Warner does, however, include a flashback compilation cartoon, Jerry's Diary, which is largely made up of clips from Yankee Doodle Mouse and Tee for Two. The originals of both of these are already on the disc, making this entry a complete waste of space. The later cartoons don't have the verve and ingenuity of the earlier cartoons, nor are they as deliciously knockabout. There's just nothing like a flatiron up side the head of a cartoon cat, you know? The title Greatest Chases doesn't seem properly applicable to the more cooperative cat and mouse found in the last few shorts presented here. There is little chasing to be found in those cartoons, although the ice skating episode in the last offering, Mice Follies, is highly entertaining.

The menu design also reflects a lack of attention; one of the selections is languages. However, the only option is English. Considering that few of the cartoons have any dialogue whatsoever (Johann Mouse has narration by the inimitable Hans Conried), this seems ludicrous.

Some, but not all of the title cards are windowboxed; it's not clear to me whether this is something added by the producers of the disc or whether this was how the cartoons originally appeared. The title card for Yankee Doodle Mouse could have used windowboxing, as substantial chunks of it are either cropped off or lost to overscan.

On the positive side, the cartoons generally appear to be complete and uncut; there are a great many explosions and resulting blackfaces left in, and the black cook also makes an appearance in The Little Orphan. These segments are all too often cut out of television presentations of these cartoons.

It has, however, come to our attention that a few seconds of cartoon explosion/blackface has been omitted from the cartoon The Little Orphan (see Termite Terrace for details). This omission appears to be unintentional and just an oversight on Warner's part, since so much other similar material remains intact. I hope that Warner will correct this omission on later pressings.

The cartoons themselves, particularly the first ten or so, are an absolute laugh riot. Hanna and Barbera were at the height of their powers here and these shorts easily stand up with the best of the usually higher-rated Looney Tunes. The combination of image and music is of the highest quality, and besides standard cartoon music, in Solid Serenade we're also treated to Tom's rendition of the classic jive tune, Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby? Scott Bradley, who did the music for all of the cartoons here, and over 300 MGM cartoons in all, deserves to be better known; from this disc it is clear that his talents were the equal of the much-celebrated Carl Stalling of the Looney Tune and Merrie Melodies shorts over at Warner. The sound is always interesting, incorporating classical and popular tunes alongside a jazzy swing. Bradley's contribution has to be seen as nearly equalling that of Hanna and Barbera.

The other shorts found on the disc are the beautiful Gershwinesque Mouse in Manhattan, the hilarious Zoot Cat, Salt Water Tabby, Kitty Foiled (which was a new one to me, and quite funny) and the only mildly amusing Jerry and the Lion.

(Rating of 'A' for the first 10, 'B-' for the last 4.)

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The image is disappointingly a slightly mixed bag. A full restoration should have been done on these shorts, and it wasn't. Unfortunately, Yankee Doodle Mouse, one of the best Tom & Jerries, is in the roughest condition, with lots of speckling. There is a neon green splotch on a firecracker that just looks awful. In general, all of the shorts have some speckling and scratching at the beginnings and ends. However, there are long stretches where the film is just perfect; this tends to be the case more so with the later cartoons. The only portion of the program that is truly unwatchable is the concluding section of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Mouse; the last few seconds are a complete disaster, scratched and beaten up just terribly. I don't know what happened to this print, but there has to be a better one out there somewhere.

On the positive side, the transfer is done with wonderful clarity. The delicate watercolor backgrounds come through as I've never seen them before. These settings, particularly in the 40's cartoons, are easily the equal of anything ever to come out of the Disney studio. Colors are always vivid and brand-new appearing. The line work is consistently crisp and clear. The films, even in their less-than-perfect state, are quite beautiful to behold. If there had been restoration done, this image would have received a solid "A" grade.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: In general, the mono sound comes through clear and without distortion. Scott Bradley's score is vivid and no hiss or noise is to be found. In general, there is nothing to complain about with the sound whatsoever on the cartoons. While there are no dazzling effects, the sound is natural and crisp.

I say "in general" because there is one appalling exception: The Cat Concerto. This has always been to my mind one of the best cartoon shorts ever made, a perfect wedding of classical music (in this case Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2) with animation and ingenuity second to none. Unfortunately, the music transfer on this one cartoon is simply awful (garnering an 'F' grade). It sounds like it was taken off of an old 78 (ask your grandfather). The music sounds canned, tinny, distant, noisy and whatever other kind of terrible you can imagine. My disappointment and anger at the shabby treatment of this Oscar®-winning short is hard to describe. Warner should have done better by this cartoon.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Excerpt of The Worry Song with Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse from Anchors Aweigh
Extras Review: The sole extra is the section of the Gene Kelly film Anchors Aweigh, where Kelly tells some children the story of meeting a king (Jerry) who has prohibited his subjects from singing and dancing, because he can do neither. Kelly shows Jerry how to do them, and they romp in a vivacious live-action/cartoon song and dance interaction that was truly groundbreaking in its day. The segment is presented in full. However, the colors are washed-out and unattractive, especially in contrast with the cartoons on this disc. The audio is also noisy and poor. While the content of this extra is excellent, the presentation leaves a great deal to be desired.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

If you like slapstick cartoon violence, the content and the image quality of this disc are easily worth the price of the disc, even with the drawbacks noted above. I would however, hope that if Warner Bros. chooses to issue a disc of classic MGM Droopy shorts that they will give them better attention than Tom & Jerry received.

 


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