May 20, 2020

On Blu-ray--Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 1

There’s no better balm for tense times than the rowdy, absurd slapstick of Tex Avery. Made for a general audience, these 'toons aren’t always appropriate for the kids, though they aren’t likely to destroy their innocence either.

Newly released on Blu-ray from Warner Archive, Tex Avery: Screwball Classics Volume 1 is an eclectic, eccentric collection of his shorts. Though Big Heel-Watha is cringe worthy in its approach to Native Americans, for the most part the collection has timeless appeal. From a racy retelling of Red Riding Hood to a fast-paced, goofy take on murder mysteries, the common thread among them is that everyone and everything is a little off-center. In some respects, the concept is not that absurd.

My favorite short of the collection was Symphony in Slang, which features a hep cat at the gates of heaven trying to explain himself to heavenly hosts who don’t understand his hip language. They envision his story in strictly literal terms, which results in a lot of silly, but amusing visuals.

Also amusing: the sprightly elves of The Peachy Cobbler who create magical shoes for their owner, including a pair of heels that do a striptease.

The set also features a couple of recurring characters. Screwball Squirrel is a more sociopathic less charming version of Bugs Bunny; you actually feel sorry for the gallery of doofuses he destroys with glee. Droopy Dog is more loveable, defeating his enemies by keeping his chill and waiting for the fools to bring themselves down.

This disc was a wild ride: laugh-out-loud funny and a treat for the eyes. I’m looking forward to volume II.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

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