QUACKBUSTERS

From the Boston Phoenix (September 15, 1989). — J.R.

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Recyclings of Hollywood history are very much with us, but this postmodernist conflation of seven vintage Chuck Jones cartoons, one each by Friz Freleng (Hyde and Go Tweet) and Robert McKimson (Prize Pest), and with 60 percent new animated material masterminded by Greg Ford and Terry Lennon, succeeds where such previous compilations as Bugs Bunny, Superstar and Daffy Duck’s Movie fail. In an attempt to revive the long-dormant Warners cartoon tradition, Ford and Lennon wrote two new Daffy Duck cartoons, Night of the Living Duck and Duxorcist. Drawing on the currently popular horror genre, they expand these two with vintage Warners cartoons deftly woven together. And so, in lieu of Ghostbusters, they offer Quackbusters.

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The new material suggests they may have been a little anxious about tampering with the sacred Warners animation vaults. Daffy inherits the fortune of millionaire I.B. Cubish and starts a ghostbuster business, hiring Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig as “associates” (read: “dupes”) to carry out all the dirty work, with Porky’s cat Sylvester brought along as an office pet. But Cubish’s ghost expects Daffy to be an honest businessman (businessduck?) and public benefactor, so every time Daffy displays unethical, venal behavior, the cash in his Acme safe dwindles.

Not wanting to squander or dilute their own Warners legacy, Ford and Lennon deck out their selections with new material that manages to be topical while paying tribute to the Hollywood cartoon’s tradition. They also adroitly match old cartoons with new contexts. At one point in the plot, Sylvester is deposited by Daffy on the window ledge, where Hyde and Go Tweet, complete with Tweety Pie, is soon underway; this concludes with Sylvester crashing through a brick exterior and then back, mid-gag, into Daffy’s office in the new footage again.

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Intertextual hijinks also riddle Night of the Living Duck, which begins with Daffy plowing through his collection of horror comics and into a dream where he finds himself in a nightclub performing for an exclusive clientele of famous monsters. Daffy prepares for his number by drinking a bottle of Eau de Torme (calling to mind the late James Agee’s rude remark that Mel Torme “reminds me of something in a jar but is, unfortunately, less quiet”) and then, in Torme’s actual voice, sings a ditty called “Monsters Lead Such Interesting Lives”. Typically, Ford and Lennon keep ever in view the nostalgic movie past that these Warner characters evoke.

— Jonathan Rosenbaum

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