Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Who Was Bill Vigoda?

Craig Yoe's Archie history book is a good contribution to this neglected field of fanmanship (maybe not a word, but I like it better than "scholarship"), though as a semi-official history there are things it had to leave out as well as leaving in. (Starting, obviously, with the controversy about who created Archie and when exactly John Goldwater started claiming that he did it.) There are also some artists who didn't make it into the book, likely due to space reasons, and I thought I should try to give what background I can on some of them.

The one to start with would probably be Bill Vigoda, because he worked for the company for over three decades and drew the Archie character almost from the beginning. He's best known, of course, as Abe Vigoda's brother.

I don't know much about him beyond what I read in two of Jim Amash's invaluable Alter Ego interviews with comics veterans who knew him. He was one of the young artists who joined MLJ Comics and was working there when Bob Montana started doing the Archie character. His earliest credits -- again, like the others -- are on MLJ superheroes like the Hangman.

Joe Edwards, creator of Li'l Jinx, told Amash that he brought Vigoda over to MLJ, though this may be one of Edwards' claims that isn't backed up by other sources:

He lived near me in Brooklyn, and his wife Anita was friends with me, so she begged me "can you bring Bill in?" Bill was a terrific artist. "Well, I'll try to talk to Harry [Shorten], try to get him a position." So Harry looked at his work and said, "Well, it's not what I want right now." And I said, "Gee, the guy can use the work." When you've got a foot in the door, you can be stronger. Anyway, Bill was very broks... I brought Bill up there, and they were glad to get him because the war broke out.

When Montana, Samm Schwartz, Harry Lucey and others were in the army, Vigoda seems to have taken up some of the workload on the comic books. When "Wilbur" was spun off in 1944 as the company's first Archie clone title (John Goldwater believed, according to Joe Edwards, that they needed to get some imitations out there to head off the flood of Archie-alikes that their competitors were coming out with), Vigoda was the main artist, and that same year he became the main artist on Archie's title.

Vigoda continued to be the primary artist on "Archie," often signing his work, until about 1950, when a lot of the work shifted to George Frese. But the wild, slaptsticky, often rude '40s stories that many comics fans consider their favorite Archie material (yes, even Archie, which did more than any other company to get all the other companies censored, got toned down in the '50s), were frequently drawn and signed by Vigoda.

After 1950, though credits are spotty -- and signatures started going away in the '50s - I don't think Vigoda ever had his own book except for a few periods where he was a temporary replacement for some other artist. (When Samm Schwartz left to join Tower Comics, Vigoda replaced him on "Jughead" and also did most of the superhero spinoff title, "Captain Hero." But when Schwartz came back, Vigoda was taken right back off "Jughead.") He was mainly a utility artist, doing back-up stories, stories in Annuals and other special issues, covers that the main cover artists (in the late '50s and early '60s, mostly Lucey, Schwartz and Bob White) couldn't get to. He even did one issue of "The Fly" after Simon and Kirby left and before Richard Goldwater -- who didn't like the artists Simon and Kirby had lined up for the title -- signed full-time superhero artists who were to his liking.

Here, from Amash's interview with Richard Goldwater's assistant (and successor as editor) Victor Gorelick, is some more background on Vigoda:

I think [Paul Reinman] enjoyed comics. I'll tell you the guy who didn't enjoy it, and that was Bill Vigoda. Vigoda was also a fine artist and he was a sculptor. If you ever needed an example of a hippie, he'd fit the bill. He was the younger brother of Abe Vigoda.

He had a medical condition that kept him from military service, so he was around in the 1940s when the other artists went to war. Between him and Bill Woggon, who did a lot of Katy Keene comics, they did a lot of work for Archie. Vigoda used to do sketches on the backs of his pages and they looked like Burne Hogarth's work. He drew men with big muscles and sometimes nude women. In later years, I saw some of his oil paintings and they had some very strange content. A psychiatrist would have had a field day with that work!

One time I sent some Archie pages to the Comics Code. There was this woman who worked there and said, "I don't know what's going on in your artist's mind, but the artist who did this story drew something horrible on the back of the page. It should be taken out and erased." And on the back of one of the pages, Bill Vigoda had dreawn a nude woman impaled on a bull's horn. That was quite a piece of artwork, I can tell you.

He was married and had kids and couldn't make a living as a fine artist. He told me he felt stuck doing comic books because he had to earn a living. He was a very creative person and loved opera. He smoked a pipe when he drew and was a funny man. He had a great sense of humor.

JA: He's gone now, isn't he?

GORELICK: Bill passed away many years ago. He became a diabetic and had a heart condition. He went to the hospital and they took a couple of his toes because of the diabetes. He never came out of that hospital. I was really devastated by his passing. I didn't really expect him to go. I was very close to many of the artists. He worked in the office, as did many other people. There was always a place for people to work there if they wished.

Vigoda was versatile, then, and he turned out a lot of pages for the company from the '40s until his death in 1973. I would not say he's one of my favorite humor artists, though. It sometimes seems to me (and Gorelick's interview quoted suggests this too) that he would have been happier working in a less cartoony style. His best work, in the '40s, was before Montana changed and streamlined the look of the characters, a style Vigoda and the other artists then had to follow. The Veronica in this Vigoda story, from Archie # 27 (1947), still looks like an improbably mature woman, and Vigoda gets a lot of expression out of this early Archie who still looks like a buck-toothed ugly kid. There's also some male nudity on page 7, surprisingly common for the '40s.

But by 1961, when he did this story in Archie Annual # 13, he was working with the cartoony Betty and Veronica and the more presentable-looking Archie, and he never seemed to be at ease with these versions. (Frank Doyle scripted this one; I don't know who did the '40s stories, though Bill and Abe's brother Hi was a comics writer and may have done some of them.) The girls have a rather square-jawed look, and Vigoda had a tendency to give all the characters this white-mouthed, uni-tooth look at all times.

His inker on that story, Terry Szenics, was also inking for Harry Lucey at the time, so the style can't really be blamed on her; Lucey's stuff also has the uni-tooth and other similar touches, but the devices are less over-used in his stories and the characters look more appealing.

Here's another Vigoda story (from Laugh # 164 in 1964; Doyle scripting again; I don't know who the inker was) I remember very vividly from my childhood, mostly because it was the first time I'd ever heard of the old "I walked into a door" excuse. (This was a story that Doyle re-did at least one other time, maybe more.) It's certainly not badly executed, but at the end, I remember thinking that Archie's pain looked real and, well, painful, rather than funny.

Also, I seem to have found two straight stories, from the same writer and artist several years apart, where Archie gets angry and frightens the girls off. Never mind, where's the Archiedickery site?

My suspicion that Vigoda would have been happier doing serious comics is strengthened when I see some of his occasional ventures into horror stories. There was a Captain Hero story, which I can't find, about monsters who come out of the telephone, and Vigoda drew some of the most horrifying monsters I've ever seen in comic books; it was written as a spoofy comedy, but Vigoda drew creatures who weren't supposed to be funny, just really scary. I had nightmares about them as a kid. And here's Vigoda enjoying himself on one of Sabrina's short-lived forays into EC-style horror comics (Doyle, a "Dark Shadows" fan, seemed to enjoy this sort of thing too):

So in writing about Vigoda, I'm not saying he was an undiscovered great; quite the opposite. There are undiscovered greats, in Archie-style comics and every other type of comic, and some of them are starting to be discovered. Vigoda, I think, was more of a solid contributor whose work was at its best when the "house style" was more realistic and less cartoonish. His '40s work is his best by far, so the stuff to check out is the stuff he actually got to sign.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When It Comes to Bull Event

Fans of bad musicals have a particular soft spot for Whoop-Up, a 1958 show that seemed to demonstrate just how wrong a producing team could go when they decided to do more than produce. Specifically, Feuer and Martin, the most successful musical producing team of the '50s due to their partnership with people like Abe Burrows on Guys and Dolls, Can-Can and Silk Stockings, started moving more into the creative side of things: on Whoop-Up Feuer not only directed the show (he'd already begun moving into directing, though with assistance from Burrows on Silk Stockings) but he and Martin co-wrote the book, from a novel later adapted for Elvis Presley's film Stay Away, Joe.

And after successful shows with Frank Loesser and Cole Porter, they took a chance on young songwriting talent -- unfortunately, the young songwriters, Moose Charlap and Norman Gimbel, turned out a mostly awful score. (Charlap had written the better songs in Peter Pan, though he and lyricist Carolyn Leigh were fired during the tryout. Gimbel was a mediocre pop lyricist mentored by Loesser, but despite the mentorship he remained a mediocre pop lyricist. A successful one, mind you: "Girl From Ipanema," "Killing Me Softly With His Song" and many TV themes.) Even the titles are bad: "Love Eyes," "Till The Big Fat Moon Falls Down."

The cast album is a bit of a cult item for several reasons. One, so many of the songs are so cheesy and in some cases tasteless. Two, it's got the great Susan Johnson in one of her few true lead roles. And three, the CD of the cast album went into print and out of print in about five minutes, making it a semi-legendary collectors' item. It's been said that Larry Lash from Polydor released it on a bet.

Also, because it was a Feuer and Martin production and they had never had a failure yet, hopes were high for Whoop-Up, which meant many artists were sent into recording studios to record cover versions of the new show's songs. Lash's CD release of Whoop-Up included these as a supplement: weird '50s arcana like Rosemary Clooney duetting on "Flattery" (one of many imitation-Loesser duets written in this era) with her husband José Ferrer, or Connie Francis trying to sound sultry and suggestive on "Love Eyes."

But the greatest find of the album, and possibly the weirdest cover version of all time, was of one of the very worst songs in a musical. "Nobody Throw Those Bull" was a song for the French-accented father (Romo Vincent) of the male lead, explaining how proud he is of his son's bull-riding prowess. This is probably not a promising subject for a song under any circumstances. With Gimbel, Charlap and the very generic orchestrations by Phil Lang (Broadway's all-purpose purveyor of a certain type of basic, un-adorned arrangement) it sounds like this:

You wouldn't think this would be a song anyone would cover for a pop version, but novelty songs were still around in 1958, and somebody at the record company got the idea of giving it to Maurice Chevalier. The result is almost indescribable. Chevalier always tries to sound happy, but he also sounds raspy and bored, like he's working overtime to keep that smile in his voice. What he does isn't exactly singing; it's more of a heavily-accented, barely-notated cry for help.

To end this post on a somewhat more positive note, a better song -- though nothing special at all -- is "When the Tall Man Talks," a showcase for Susan Johnson's singing voice, perhaps the greatest Broadway belt voice. Even the worst songs she gets (the worst is "Men," a blatant ripoff of the pattern numbers in Music Man) sound better with her full, warm, beautifully controlled voice.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Name "Sloat" is Fun To Say

I recently read the book "Soon to be a major motion picture: The anatomy of an all-star, big-budget, multimillion-dollar disaster" by the late Ted Gershuny, a maker of low-budget horror movies who interned on Otto Preminger's next-to-last movie, Rosebud. It turned out to be one of Preminger's worst films, and essentially ended his career (he made one more movie, The Human Factor, but he couldn't get studio financing for it and wound up having to spend a lot of his own money). I don't think the book did much business, given that it came out five years after the making of a film that nobody remembered or liked. But it seems to be frequently referred to in biographies of the director, since it's one of the most in-depth chronicles of one of his famously turbulent shoots.

As usual with Preminger, he bought the rights to a big potboiler novel with a topical edge: a French best-seller about the attempt to free five rich girls kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists, and the attempt by all sides to use the media and public opinion to their advantage. Also as usual with Preminger, he fell out with an actor during the making of it: Robert Mitchum was the original star, but he walked off the picture and was replaced by another fading star with a drinking problem, Peter O'Toole. And like most of Preminger's later movies, it flopped, and deserved to flop.

Preminger made lots of movies that don't work; two of them, the infamous Skidoo and the somewhat less infamous (but if anything more ridiculous) Hurry Sundown just came out on widescreen DVDs for the first time. Rosebud is less entertaining than usual for a bad Preminger movie, though. Even though it's a fairly expensive movie with lots of location shooting, I recall it looking cheap and small in a way that a lot of mid-'70s movies do when they don't work. (The James Bond movies of this period, Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun, also have that look: they're not cheap movies, but they look a little tawdry in a way that The Spy Who Loved Me or Star Wars or Superman -- big-budget movies of only a few years later -- do not.) But the picture was always doomed, because Preminger essentially began making it without a script.

Like Skidoo, Preminger's Rosebud disaster is tied to his desire to bond with Erik, his son by Gypsy Rose Lee. He finally met Erik in the late '60s and adopted him, and Skidoo is often seen as his effort to connect with his newfound son and his generation. With Rosebud, he decided that this would be Erik's big break as a screenwriter. Rosebud probably wouldn't have worked even with a better script (Preminger's previous movie, Such Good Friends, has an Elaine May script, and it still doesn't work), but Rosebud never had anything close to a workable screenplay, and it headed into production without even a decision on who the villain would turn out to be.

It seems like the film went into production largely because the Patty Hearst kidnapping suddenly made the subject topical. "We were hooked," Gershuny writes. "Rosebud was contemporary, vital -- now. All they had to do was finish the script." But they never really did. For most of the book's length the Premingers are trying to figure out who the bad guy should be: in the novel the kidnappings are organized by a self-hating Jew, in an early draft it was a German, then they came up with an English bad guy whom they named "Sloat," and finally decided that he should be a crazy Arabist, a Lawrence of Arabia gone wrong. No one was happy with this, though Preminger did get Richard Attenborough to play the part at the last minute as a personal favor.

The book is not brilliantly written and is not a full-scale account of every aspect of the production; it's mostly from Gershuny's point of view, and mentions the things he observes. Whether Mitchum quit or was fired isn't really revealed, and it's not really the point. We just see a drunk, bored Mitchum arrive, do his patented I-don't-give-a-damn routines, including this bizarre moment with Lalla Ward, one of the five ingénues:

Lalla informs him over lunch that he has been acting silly, which makes him lean across the table in the hotel and fix her with his menacing gaze.
"Heeeyyy..." he drawls.
"You -- want -- me -- to -- kill -- you?"
"Well, no, actually, I'd rather you didn't."

Another famous moment during the shoot was when Peter O'Toole got a fake bomb threat, which turned out to be a joke played by Kenneth Tynan. O'Toole went to Tynan, making sure to bring backup, and beat the critic up. In the book, we get this incident from the point of view of people who have to be on the set every day; it's something that happened offstage, and from the crew's vantage point it's not so much horrifying as interesting, a sign that the calm, reserved O'Toole has more rage in him than his performance has been showing.

That's one thing I found interesting about the book, that it's very much focused on the crew, and a particular kind of crew -- the people who worked on big international productions, going from project to project and country to country. In 1974, many countries essentially had no national cinema: the British film industry was collapsing, and most countries were not what they were during the '60s. (One exception: West Germany was doing better than it was in the '60s. Preminger's assistant on the film is Wolfgang Glattes, the likable epitome of the efficient West German.) Some movies benefited from the international approach: I'm not a big fan of Cabaret, but it was a success, and the production's mix of American, British and German was perfectly suited to the subject. Other movies from the same era, though, showed the strain we might have expected from the mishmash of styles and languages among the cast and crew.

A movie like Rosebud, financed by United Artists, doesn't have the financial problems that other, similar co-productions have -- in one chapter we meet Judd Bernard, one of those producers who mostly scrounges for money to make little movies that don't get much distribution. Preminger, for the last time in his career, can raise the money he needs from a studio, but he's still making a film with no national identity: since there's no "home base" where the interiors are shot, every location brings with it its own mix of actors, crew approaches and linguistic problems. A love scene early in the picture is bad enough because of the bad writing but even worse because of the actors' problems with English.

All this makes the book a look at a type of filmmaking that gets its money within the studio system but mostly spends it outside. In the '70s the studio system was starting to re-assert itself, but the way to make a big movie was often to get the money and talent wherever it was available, go where the tax breaks were (there's a lot of talk about the correct national identity for tax purposes) and the sheer logistical issues involved in making a movie in several countries at once. Preminger is equipped to handle that, at least, having done it before. But it's a type of moviemaking that seems devoid of glamour to anyone who participates in it -- it doesn't even have a costume coordinator (Preminger's wife Hope usually did this) because most of the actors are just told to wear what they usually wear.

That everybody knows it's going to be a bomb -- or almost everybody, since there are occasional moments when something goes right and people revert to a natural state of optimism -- makes the situation grimmer. But crew members in the book talk about good productions (like Lawrence of Arabia, the gold standard for what can be achieved when a studio says "here's your money, now go to another country and make it") with somewhat similar memories. Movies have almost become big television shows, where the key thing is just to find appropriate places to shoot and people who will shoot them there. The production described in Rosebud combines the pressures of indie and studio filmmaking in an almost depressing way. It sort of makes you understand why the glitzy soundstage film came back in such a big way later in the decade. Though of course the international co-production is still a huge part of the cinema and always will be.

I first heard about the book in a Preminger biography, where Preminger's widow objects to the way Gershuny portrays him. I'm not entirely sure why. Preminger actually comes off better in this book than he does in most, including that biography (Foster Hirsch's). We do hear about Preminger's famous red-faced temper tantrums, of course, but if anything, the book downplays this side of his personality and plays up his dogged professional side, his determination to get the movie finished on time and on budget. Preminger cuts and simplifies things ruthlessly; by the time they get to the final destination, Israel, he's throwing out any attempt to make this a coherent movie (it can't be) and is just trying to stick to his schedule. He does it, too, as he usually did.

In fact, the author clearly likes Preminger even though Preminger's anger and cutting sarcasm are sometimes trained on him. Andrew Sarris's The American Cinema was a recent book that Gershuny quotes, and American cinema fans were starting to realize that Preminger had a very distinctive style, and that his preference for long takes was about style, not so much about his famous cheapness. Plus Laura had become a key film of the nostalgia boom and the rediscovery of film noir. Preminger had been an independent filmmaker since the '50s, but as an all-powerful tyrant director who occasionally mentions old movie stars (he famously told Kim Cattrall "you remind me of Marilyn Monroe and Kim Novak, not in looks, but in the number of takes"), he's like the production's only link to old-fashioned moviemaking glamour, a larger-than-life figure in a drab production.

So as a young movie fan, and someone who is trying to learn about the complications involved with making a big movie, the author seems to be rooting for Preminger. It's Preminger's fault that the movie can't work, because he chose the writer and signed off on the bad script decisions. But once the film is under way, he's going to use every trick he knows to get it finished. We can see his frustration mount as the things he did successfully in other movies go wrong in this one: bringing in a political figure to act as a publicity gimmick (New York Mayor John Lindsay) brings only minor publicity and Lindsay can't act; Preminger favourite Peter Lawford can't remember his lines and does 13 takes of a scene, with Preminger urging him to just make something up and Lawford unable to do even that. But with all that, he's going to get it done. Throw out script pages, cut out scenes that can't be shot properly, but it's getting done.

That sets it apart from most other "disaster in the making" movie reports. Most such movies go way over budget, and that's what marks them as disasters. Despite having to replace a star in the middle of production, Rosebud kept costs low. The sense of mounting desperation comes not from the budget but from the fact that so few scenes seem to work while they're being shot. There is some hope that it will come together and be better than the script looks, but that hope is destroyed take by take, bad performance by bad performance. (Gershuny does point out in an afterward that Isabelle Huppert turned out to be much better after the film than anyone had anticipated. And the American girl, Kim Cattrall, did poorly in this movie but built a successful career anyway. So the trailer's statement that the girls are "stars of the future" isn't that crazy.) The feeling that you're running all over the place, putting together this huge international production team that will break up as soon as the picture's finished -- and all to have it come to nothing when the scenes are so bad -- is painful, but as much a part of moviemaking as the Heaven's Gate type of production. "On Rosebud," Gershuny realizes, "Preminger can make right choices, wrong choices, any choices. Things simply will not work." That's got to be more painful than just having a promising story that could go either way.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Movie Knowledge: At Historical Norms

Roger Ebert linked to Bill Mesce's post "The 'Gray Ones' Fade to Black", about a subject I've touched on a lot: people who came of age in the '60s, '70s and '80s did so at a time when television was filled with old movies as cheap filler programming, and so old black-and-white movies grew up unusually familiar with movies (and TV shows and animated films) made before they were born. Today, it's much easier to get programming that suits your particular tastes at any time, so it's much less likely that someone today will grow up watching Humphrey Bogart or Abbott and Costello.

Mesce goes into a lot more specifics about how television made old movies into a part of the cultural conversation for Baby Boomers and even successive generations. (There were lots of late movies when I was a kid in the '80s, and it was as late-night filler that I first saw everything from MGM musicals to Ingmar Bergman movies.) And he explains how and why TV stations, and then cable networks, mostly gave up the black-and-whites. It's worth reading.

Now, having said that it's worth reading, I feel a little uncomfortable with the implication that today's young people have unusually little knowledge of old movies. Probably the truth is the other way around: the '60s through the '80s were the exception. And even that era had huge gaps in its cultural knowledge. Silent movies didn't turn up on TV all that often, and as one of Mesce's commenters pointed out, today there's much more interest in Pre-Code movies than there was before. (The Pre-Codes inspired a huge amount of interest in part because a lot of them didn't play on TV very often.)

But anyway, movie studios have always known that young people -- and old people too -- would prefer something new. So have TV networks, publishing companies, popular song publishers. (When old stuff eclipses the popularity of the new stuff, that's a sign that the form is dying, like opera has been mostly dead for the last 50 years or more.) And there has always been an assumption that audiences won't get references to old stuff in the same form: one of the reasons Sunset Blvd. was such an unusual film at the time was that it was filled with references to the past of movies -- movies of less than 25 years ago! -- and the theme of the film is that the public and industry alike have forgotten all about people like Swanson, Stroheim and Keaton.

Television, art-house revivals (not to mention the arrival of old American movies in bunches overseas) and the early '70s nostalgia boom helped to change that, but it wasn't a normal state of affairs. Concentrating on new stuff, in a recognizably contemporary style, is the normal way. A contemporary style can be assimilated naturally. Experiencing older styles is like work. And that work is, in a way, harder for "entertainments" than for works that are supposed to be difficult. Last Year At Marienbad is recognizably an early '60s movie in style, and the modern viewer has to adjust to that, but it was always intended to be something the viewer had to work at. But a great American commercial film was supposed to be easily accessible, and as time goes by and styles change, it's no longer easily accessible. So the point of a great American commercial picture -- that it is both a simple entertainment and something with resonance beyond that -- is lost. For a lot of viewers it no longer works on the simple entertainment level, and until it works on that level, it won't yield deeper meanings either. A John Ford Western doesn't start to seem profound unless it first works as a conventional Western.

So I can't criticize people for not growing up as old movie buffs; I don't think that's normal. I think it helps to adjust accordingly, don't assume film students know who Humphrey Bogart is, explain who he is and why they should care, just as we would explain who any old dead guy was and why he was great. Explain the grammar of old movies and other things they may not expect. For example, and to go back to John Ford for a minute, his visual style makes more sense if it's explained the way he himself explained it to Steven Spielberg -- he was a painter who tried to set up shots with a painter's eye. People can learn about older ways of doing things, they just won't grow up being used to them, that's all. That was abnormal.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Looney Tunes Continue to Appear In Physical Media

TV Shows on DVD has the complete contents for the Looney Tunes Blu-Ray set.

It seems like an uneasy combination of a best-of set and a family-oriented nostalgia release: the first disc and the first part of the second disc are mostly made up of all-time favorites (covering most of the major characters and most of the major directors except Tashlin), while the rest of the second disc consists of the complete cartoons for a number of post-1948 characters: Marvin the Martian, Tasmanian Devil, Mark Anthony and Pussyfoot. This is where most of the new-to-DVD cartoons appear, since the bulk of Marvin and Taz's cartoons were held back from previous DVD releases, and "Feline Frame-Up" was never on DVD. (If "Cat Feud" counts as a Mark Anthony/Pussyfoot cartoon, then this disc doesn't have their complete adventures. But "Cat Feud" already appeared on one of the Golden Collection DVDs.) So it's mostly a high-def sampler of the DVD contents, but there are some cartoons and featurettes that suggest what we'd have gotten if the Golden Collections had continued. There's also one cartoon on disc one, "Lovelorn Leghorn," that wasn't on the other sets.

I'll buy the set. I think cartoons, properly presented, can really gain a lot from the high-def presentation. I worry that some of Warners' Blu-Rays have been inferior to the DVD versions, with too much tinkering and over-saturation apparently applied to increase the "wow" factor. (Artificially brightening All the President's Men, which is was never intended to look spectacular, probably creates the illusion that Blu-Ray is making it look different somehow.) Except for the ones that had DVNR, I was generally happy with the restorations of the Looney Tunes -- the colors weren't always the same as in the prints we're used to, but those prints don't always tell the story of how the films were supposed to look. But if the color saturation is increased for Blu-Ray, they'll look wrong.

It would be nice if for the Blu-Ray, WB could fix some of the things that were wrong with the earlier releases: "Rabbit of Seville" (along with a few other cartoons that aren't on this set) used a soundtrack that seemed to be pitched too low. And several other cartoons used the "Blue Ribbon" openings where original openings exist ("For Scentimental Reasons," "Scarlet Pumpernickel," "Fast and Furry-ous.") I don't hold out hope that these things will be repaired for high-def, but if they were, that would be an inducement to buy these cartoons again.

Whether there will be other sets beyond this one (and the Tom and Jerry set coming out before that), or whether this is just the last gasp for physical media, I don't know. Old films don't sell well on Blu-Ray. There was a time when the same could be said about DVD, but the difference there was that DVD eventually entered most homes, and fans of old movies started to buy them in that format. Blu-Ray is not as big an advance over DVD as DVD was over VHS. People who had movies on VHS would (and did) buy the DVD to get them in better quality copies and in the original widescreen format (though that doesn't apply to Looney Tunes; I certainly hope there won't be any cropped widescreen versions in this set). Those same people still have those DVDs, and they're not worn out yet, and the Blu-Ray versions are usually taken from the same prints that were used for the DVDs. I have to say that I see these collectors waiting for more non-physical options rather than Blu-Ray.