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As far as classic cartoons are concerned, I have always been partial to Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny and the whole Warner Bros. gang. This isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed the antics of MGM’s cat and mouse pair- Tom and Jerry. Tom and Jerry are the cartoon characters that elevated senseless violence to a whole new level, offering the archetype that is so unmercifully parodied on THE SIMPSONS, with that ultra-violent cartoon within a cartoon pair- Itchy and Scratchy. Even though I’ve enjoyed Tom and Jerry cartoons, there has always been one thing that bothered me about the series- the mouse is always portrayed as the hero. As far as I know, almost everyone look upon mice as household pests, while cats are the family pets whose job it is to rid homes of mice. It is for this reason that I can’t understand why Jerry Mouse was always allowed to give Tom the business for simply doing his job.

This deeply philosophical thought brings us to TOM AND JERRY’S GREATEST CHASES ($25), a Warner Home Video DVD collection of 14 vintage cartoons from the 1940’s and 1950’s- including several Academy Award winning animated shorts. Sitting down to watch the collection allowed me to see many of the cartoons that I’ve haven’t seen in years. I have to admit that the experience of watching these cartoons caused me to laugh out loud and thoroughly enjoy myself. Of course, as Tom and Jerry’s antics became more violent, the more I laughed (yes, I am a sick individual). Watching the cartoon violence contained in these early Tom and Jerry cartoons, made me realize that THE SIMPSONS’ Itchy and Scratchy really aren’t all that far off the mark. TOM AND JERRY’S GREATEST CHASES features the following cartoons: The Cat Concerto, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse, Jerry And The Lion, Jerry's Diary, Johann Mouse, Kitty Foiled, The Little Orphan, Mice Follies, Mouse In Manhattan, Salt Water Tabby, Tee For Two, Solid Serenade, Yankee Doodle Mouse and Zoot Cat. Of course, the Academy Award winning The Cat Concerto is my favorite for its mix of high culture and hilarious low humor. As an extra-added bonus, the folks at Warner Home Video have included The Worry Song from ANCHORS AWEIGH, which features the animated Jerry’s dance scene with the legendary (and live action) Gene Kelly.

Warner Home Video has done a nice job with their DVD release of TOM AND JERRY’S GREATEST CHASES. All of the cartoons are in their proper full frame aspect ratios, although future collections may have to include a few CinemaScope cartoons. The transfers for the cartoons really can’t be faulted, although the film elements used to make the transfers do show signs of wear and tear, indicative of their age. There are scratches and other markings on the prints that genuinely remind one that they are watching cartoons that are in the neighborhood of a half a century old. I would imagine that pristine film elements no longer exist and the cost of restoring these cartoon shorts must be prohibitive. Despite the flaws in the prints, this is as sharp and clear as these cartoons have ever looked at home. There are instances where film grain is quite apparent, but again this is an example of the transfer bringing out the limitations in the source materials. Colors are especially well rendered, usually appearing more vibrant than they have appeared outside the days when IB Technicolor prints were circulating through theatrical venues. There are no problems with distortion or bleeding of the intense colors on this DVD. Blacks are solid, reproducing accurately throughout the 14 different cartoon shorts. This well authored DVD doesn’t exhibit any noticeable signs of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital monaural sound is acceptable, but the age of the materials, as well as sound recording technology from fifty years ago is a limiting factor. Fidelity is in the low to mid range, with no bottom end. Additionally, the higher frequencies are somewhat clipped. For a presentation that relies upon mildly orchestrated music and few sound effects, there really isn’t anything worth complaining about.

The interactive menus include music, but are a relatively basic affair. Through the menus, one can access each individual cartoon, as well as The Worry Song from ANCHORS AWEIGH.

Since Warner Home Video has opened up the vaults of classic cartoons with the release of TOM AND JERRY’S GREATEST CHASES, I look forward to the days when we will be seeing Warner Bros. collections with those classic characters. Perhaps we’ll even get to see cartoon collections featuring certain extra gifted directors like Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones and Tex Avery.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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