Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the Blu-ray giftset reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I shared are the writer's own.
When Warner Bros announced a year of Scooby-Doo celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of the show, this is the release (along with The New Scooby-Doo Movies) that I had most wanted to see. The September 3, 2019 release is just short of the September 13, 1969 Saturday morning debut of the series on CBS. The complete first series is finally available on Blu-ray. The 41 episodes over four discs represent the first 25 episodes released over two seasons from 1969-1970. Then after a break for The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour and in 1977 Scooby's All Star Laff-A-Lympics - the show returned to the original format for one more season on ABC in 1978 with 16 more episodes included here.
The packaging is worthy of a 50th Anniversary release. This isn't just simply a repackaging of a show that has been packaged and repackaged for decades. The show hasn't disappeared from television, VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray over the years. While you can pick up different packages of episodes - this is the one that shows your true fandom. The box set comes in its very own Mystery Mansion. There is a mini Scooby-Doo Encyclopedia about the size of a CD booklet that has a fun breakdown of the main characters, supporting characters, and many of the recurring characters. This reminds me of the Marvel Comics guides that I loved as a kid. You get digital copies of the episodes and a Funko keychain of Scooby.
The extras are important for dedicated fans. I appreciate that they included ten different extras that come from previous discs and the website. If this is truly going to replace my previous releases of the series, I needed the extras from those. The most interesting of the bunch include "The Eerie Mystery of the Scooby-Doo History" (a nice breakdown of the creation of the series) and "The Scooby-Doo Gang In Their Own Words" (the voice actors have interesting takes on their characters). The new extras are even better.
"A Scooby-Doo For Everyone" is a fun journey through all of the different versions of Scooby-Doo. "50 Years of Scooby Snacks" is meant to show the different levels of Scooby collectibles and fandom but comes off a bit like a commercial for the new products. A trailer for a stage production that doesn't hold much interest. The best of the bunch is "My Life With Scooby - Frank Welker's Animated Journey". Welker is the spirit of the series, having been with it as Fred since the beginning and as Scooby for the better part of the 2000s. Welker respects the franchise, and it gives me the chills to think of all the pleasure he's brought to millions with his voice.
It's hard to be impartial with my review of the episodes. Along with Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo was the most influential cartoon character of the first 13 years of my life. Saturday mornings and syndicated repeats have the theme to Scooby-Doo Where Are You! as the soundtrack in my head. Especially these first 25 episodes have been repeated over and over to the point that I feel like I don't see anything new. Yet sitting through the discs this weekend, I'm surprised how I'm seeing these episodes through fresh 2019 eyes. Here are my thoughts on a few episodes.
"Hassle In The Castle" (S.1 E.3) - I could have started with the first episode but this third episode really feels like all of the elements are finally present. A quick aside, watching the intro. I have almost always written the title of the show as "Where Are You?" but it is "Where Are You!". One of my favorite parts of the show is how the Gang is off doing something else and they end up in the middle of a mystery. The group is on a boat ride that runs into a fog and ends up on a haunted island. The group is split up - as usual, Scooby and Shaggy are off looking for food. Velma pulls upon her reading and research to know the history of the island. As they try to capture the ghost, Fred comes up with a trap. But Scooby falls into the trap instead of the monster. The ensuing chaos helps capture the bad guy who reveals his plan of how he would have succeeded if it wasn't for the kids. This episode ends on the laugh of Scooby finding a gopher instead of the buried treasure.
"That's Snow Ghost" (S.1 E.17) - Museums, castles, and abandoned mines are among the popular settings for the mysteries. Over the last 50 years, my favorites have often centered around ski lodges. If nothing else, it's fun to see the group in different clothing. The Snow Ghost is obviously a Yeti and the group calls upon some Tibetan folklore. The plot revolves around the other stand-by of stolen jewels. The episode has some of the best action of the first season and ends in the always entertaining trope of Scooby and the Snow Ghost rolling down the mountain as a big snowball together. Scooby ends the episode in trouble with a squirrel.
"Jeeper, It's The Creeper" (S.2 E.4) - It's about a bank robber, zombie-looking character who disrupts a teenagers' barn dance. I remember liking this episode from the first viewing because the Creeper reminded me of a Marvel villain, Mr. Hyde, from the '60s. The episode is much more of an extended chase than it is a mystery. I don't find this style of episode as interesting as the more detailed plots. Once the dance is disrupted, the group is split up and each grouping keeps running into the Creeper. Eventually everyone falls into a hay-bailing machine which is more disturbing than funny as an adult watching. The other change in Season Two is the addition of a chase song in the middle of the episode. I usually find them overlong but this song "Daydreamin'" is one of the best ones. The series loves having Velma lose her glasses and mistake monsters for Shaggy or Scooby or just not see the villain. This episode turns that around by having her hit the Creeper when he tries to steal her glasses. This episode has consistently been voted as a Viewer's Favorite including showing up on a VHS called Scooby-Doo's Greatest Mysteries.
"A Scary Night With A Snow Beast Fright" (S.3 E.3) - The gang isn't at a ski resort but heads to the North Pole looking for a professor friend of theirs. The snow beast they encounter is more like a fur-covered snow dinosaur. As cool as that sounds, it's more in the tradition of Mecha-Godzilla robot. This episode is more boring than other snow episodes. But in this case, the trap does work and we discover that it's oil being smuggled out of the North Pole. There were only two possible bad guys and it wasn't hard to narrow it down to one ahead of time. This is often the problem with these 1978 episodes, not enough thought put into the mystery itself over the look of the monster.
"Don't Go Near The Fortress of Fear" (S.3 E.14) - The gang ends up in Puerto Rico. Just on a holiday to Puerto Rico (in later series, there would be more explanations as to how they could afford these trips as they are portrayed as struggling students in the first season), they find a museum has been robbed. The museum setting is great because of the types of historical monsters that they can bring back to life. The mystery revolves around items being run in tunnels back to an old fortress. There's no actual trap here although Scooby accidentally takes care of the bad guys. The mystery is again not difficult to figure out and there isn't even a decent monster as a reason for being in an exotic location. These episodes just don't have the same cache when viewed against the first couple season stories.
Don't get me wrong though, the series is a treat to watch. The monsters are fun, the stories might lack the depth you would want as an adult but they are enjoyable and the animation is wonderful. The solid colors are brilliant on the Blu-ray release and help set the mood across the series. I fell in love with horror and monsters and mysteries in my youth and this was certainly the gateway. This is a fabulous package and a celebration of 50 years of Mystery Inc. I can't recommend it highly enough.
"You know we got a mystery to solve / So Scooby-Doo be ready for your act, don't hold back"