Coming Up Shorts! with… Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

“Hello, all you happy people.” – Droopy

Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m focusing on various cartoons from MGM that were directed by Tex Avery. The shorts I’m covering were all a part of the Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1. While the shorts have not been released in chronological order, those in this set were originally released theatrically between 1943 and 1951.

Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the cartoons included in this set (for my comments on the individual cartoons, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):

Tex Avery Classics

  1. Red Hot Riding Hood (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 14 seconds)
    • The re-telling of Red Riding Hood, making Red a nightclub performer, Granny a nightclub owner, and the Wolf a womanizer.
  2. Who Killed Who? (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • We have a murder mystery, with a detective looking to find out who committed the murder while avoiding his own death.
  3. What’s Buzzin’ Buzzard? (1943) (Length: 8 minutes, 12 seconds)
    • Two very hungry buzzards decide to try to eat each other, to hilarious effect!
  4. Batty Baseball (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)
    • For this short, we have a very screwy baseball game.
  5. The Hick Chick (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 10 seconds)
    • Hick rooster Lem ends up fighting with a city slicker for the affections of his girlfriend, Daisy.
  6. Bad Luck Blackie (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 8 seconds)
    • A little kitten is being chased by a dog, when he runs into a black cat that volunteers to help.
  7. Garden Gopher (1950) (Length: 6 minutes, 11 seconds)
    • Spike the dog has to deal with a troublesome gopher when he tries to bury his bone.
  8. The Peachy Cobbler (1950) (Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)
    • After an old cobbler gives some bread to some hungry birds, a group of elves help him catch up on work while he sleeps.
  9. Symphony In Slang (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 45 seconds)
    • At the gates of heaven, a young man arrives speaking only in slang, and, unable to understand him, the main official turns to Noah Webster for help.

Screwy Squirrel

  1. Screwball Squirrel (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 24 seconds)
    • Screwy Squirrel faces off against the bird dog Meathead.
  2. The Screwy Truant (1945) (Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)
    • Screwy Squirrel avoids going to school while being chased by the truant officer dog.
  3. Big Heel-Watha (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • Big Heel-Watha has to hunt don Screwy Squirrel to find some meat for his tribe.
  4. Lonesome Lenny (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • A big, lonely dog (who is too strong for his own good) chases his new little friend, Screwy.

George & Junior

  1. Hound Hunters (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 18 seconds)
    • George and Junior try to work as dog catchers, but a small dog keeps eluding them.
  2. Red Hot Rangers (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 59 seconds)
    • Forest rangers George and Junior try to put out a fire started by a lit cigarette.


  1. Dumb-Hounded (1943) (Length: 8 minutes, 1 second)
    • The Wolf escapes from prison, and Droopy must hunt him down.
  2. Wags To Riches (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 11 seconds)
    • Droopy inherits a mansion, and Spike attempts to do him in so that he gets everything.
  3. The Chump Champ (1950) (Length: 7 minutes, 14 seconds)
    • Droopy and Spike compete in a variety of sports.
  4. Daredevil Droopy (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)
    • Droopy and Spike compete to get a job in a circus.

As usual, I remind you that, when it comes to theatrical shorts, my own knowledge is generally Wikipedia level at best (not to mention whatever I find sometimes through Turner Classic Movie’s website), so I may not necessarily get everything right. Anyway, here goes. Tex Avery was a well-known animator and director from the golden age of American animation. He started out working as an inker and animator at Universal’s animation studios on some of the “Oswald The Lucky Rabbit” cartoons. During this time, he lost the use of his left eye when, in a bit of horseplay apparently common there, he was hit in the eye by either a thumbtack or wire paper clip thrown at him. Less than thrilled with his salary there, he ended up being fired. He next worked for Leon Schlesinger at Warner Brothers, where he became a director with his own unit, where they would help establish Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny, along with introducing Daffy Duck. However, he had issues with Leon Schlesinger, and he quit, briefly working for Paramount before he signed with MGM in 1941. There, he would make use of his own style, whether it be the fast pacing of the shorts, or the characters sometimes breaking the fourth wall, or making fun of the fairy tale tropes that Walt Disney made use of. He would do his shorts at MGM up through 1950, when he had to take time off from being overworked. He returned to do two more cartoons before leaving MGM entirely for the Walter Lantz studio at Universal (which would be short-lived because of salary issues yet again).

The set of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 is comprised of shorts made by Tex Avery during his tenure at MGM. The shorts included are, as I said before, not necessarily included in chronological order. The main reason for that is what shape some of the elements are in, as many of the original negatives for MGM’s pre-1951 cartoons had been destroyed in a 1965 vault fire. But, for the nineteen shorts included in this set, Warner Archive Collection used 4K scans of the best available archival elements, and the results are fantastic! Every short looks so colorful, and it makes for easy viewing! This set contains many classics, including Red Hot Riding Hood, which turned the Little Red Riding Hood story on its ear, and gave us “Red,” as well as the Wolf, who was a frequent character in some of the shorts. We also got the likes of Screwy Squirrel, with four out of five of his shorts being included. And, my personal favorites of the set, the four Droopy cartoons. I remember those the most vividly from my own childhood (although I have some recollection of some of the stand-alone cartoons as well), and it’s great seeing them looking better than I’ve ever seen them look! I very much enjoyed this set, and I can certainly say that I look forward to seeing and enjoying Volume 2 (which has sadly been delayed by the pandemic, but, at least at the time of this writing, it’s being worked on and coming)! To borrow another quote from Droopy to describe my feelings about this set:

“You know what? I’m happy. Hooray.”

Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. The whole set has a runtime of two hours, eighteen minutes.

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TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… Abbott And Costello Go To Mars (1953)

For the first half of today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, we have their 1953 comedy Abbott And Costello Go To Mars.

After accidentally breaking a window, orphanage groundskeeper Orville (Lou Costello) hides in a truck.   He soon finds himself taken to a secret base where a rocketship is being developed.  The truck driver, Lester (Bud Abbott), catches him, and, believing him to be a spy, takes him to Dr. Wilson (Robert Paige), the head of the base.  Dr. Wilson doesn’t believe him to be a threat, but he asks Orville to stay, just the same, as a result of the project’s secrecy.  So Lester gets him to help load up the rocket, but, in the process, they accidentally launch, with just the two of them on board.  Trying to figure out how to steer the rocket, they end up going in and around numerous landmarks.   When they hear on the radio that the government has called out the army to shoot the ship down, Lester and Orville decide to head for space.  Orville accidentally hits another button, which results in them landing.  Lester and Orville assume they have landed on Mars, but the reality is that they have landed in New Orleans during Mardi Gras!  Donning their spacesuits, they go into town and encounter the various “Martians” (again, people wearing various costumes).  Meanwhile, a pair of escaped convicts, the highly educated Mugsy (Horace McMahon) and his less educated friend Harry (Jack Kruschen) come upon the rocketship as Lester and Orville are leaving.  Mugsy and Harry put on some spacesuits themselves and go into town, where they proceed to rob both the bank and a clothing store before returning to the rocket.  Lester and Orville hear about the robbery at the same time as some of the townspeople and have to run, since they match the description of the thieves.  They get back to the ship, where Mugsy and Harry force them to take off.  This time, they actually head for space, although they end up heading for the planet Venus.  Before they land there, Lester and Orville regain control of the ship, but, upon landing, they discover that they are out of fuel.  Orville is sent off the ship to look around, and he discovers the planet is inhabited entirely by women!  They are led by Queen Allura (Mari Blanchard), who had previously banished all men from the planet.  However, a celestial light comes over Orville, and so the queen’s subjects want Orville declared king.  Meanwhile, Lester, Mugsy and Harry are captured, but Lester is freed by king Orville while the other two are sent to the dungeon. Queen Allura keeps Orville on a tight leash, threatening to banish him if he even thinks about cheating on her!  Will Lester and Orville get out of this ordeal and get back to Earth?

For me, Abbott And Costello Go To Mars continues the downward trajectory of the later Universal Abbott and Costello films. There are a number of things that bother me about it, but the casting of the Miss Universe 1953 contestants as the inhabitants of Venus bugs me the most. I mean, according to the movie, the inhabitants of Venus are supposed to have banished men nearly 400 years before and become a more advanced civilization, both in technology and science (having discovered the secrets of eternal life and youth, etc.), and yet, based on the script and performances, I just don’t feel like that’s actually the case. For me, they act more like I would expect the stereotypical beauty contestants to behave. Most don’t seem as intelligent as I would think, and they look like they could be easily conquered if the planet were invaded. It would be one thing if they were just acting that way around the men to fool them, but when they behave that way around each other, that just doesn’t work. Seriously, if they were more like Amazons than beauty queens, they would have looked tougher to conquer (that, and the script would need to be changed to make them more intelligent).

Of course, the casting of the Miss Universe contestants is hardly this film’s only problem. It doesn’t help that, in spite of the film’s title, Bud and Lou’s characters never actually go to Mars; instead they just visit New Orleans and Venus. I would also say that it feels at times like some scenes and characters are otherwise unnecessary, such as the opening with Lou’s character at the orphanage, Martha Hyer’s character of Janie Howe, etc. Now, maybe I am being a little harsh on this movie. I personally just don’t care for most science fiction films (particularly from this era of film), and adding Abbott and Costello when they are not in their prime doesn’t help. I know I previously gave a poor review for the similar Road comedy, The Road To Hong Kong, but, when all is said and done, I still go back to that film far more than I generally want to with this film. Now, it does have its merits, and I enjoy seeing it here and there, but it still feels like one of the worst Abbott and Costello films, and I therefore cannot bring myself to recommend it.

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory as part of the 28 film The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection, and is one hour, seventeen minutes in length.

My Rating: 4/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953)

Lost In Alaska (1952)The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures CollectionAbbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Wags To Riches (1949)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!

(Length: 7 minutes, 11 seconds)

Droopy inherits a mansion, and Spike attempts to do him in so that he gets everything. Very fun cartoon, with more hilarious gags as all Spike’s attempts on Droopy’s life keep backfiring on him. A cartoon I have seen many times, and one that just doesn’t grow old! Even more fun, now that it’s been given a great restoration!

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring cartoons by Tex Avery (and the eventual post on the entire Volume 1 set), along with other shorts!