Wacky Races: The Complete Series (DVD)
Mix The Great Race
with the slapstick humor of Road Runner
cartoons and the wildly inventive minds of Hanna-Barbera, and you've got the 1968 animated series Wacky Races
. You remember the lineup: the Slag brothers in the Boulder-Mobile; the Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe, with a dragon in its belfry; Prof. Pat Pending (ha ha) in the Convert-a-Car; Red Max in the Crimson Haybailer biplane; Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly in the tank-like Army Surplus Special; the Ant Hill Mob in the Bullitt-Proof Bomb; Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chugga-Bug; Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth the beaver in the Buzz Wagon; the Belle of the Brickyard, Penelope Pitstop, in the Compact Pussycat; Peter Perfect in the Turbo Terrific; and our hissable villains, Dick Dastardly and his snickering muttering dog, Muttley ("Sassa frassin'...") in the Mean Machine. In each 11-minute episode, the physics-defying cars compete in different areas of the country ("See-Saw to Arkansas," "Rhode Island Road Race," "The Carlsbad or Bust Bash"), so evenly matched that any car has a chance to win despite the evil schemes of Dastardly and Muttley, who always seem to come to a Wile E. Coyote-type end (writer Mike Maltese worked on both series). There's never really a plot, but just a string of situations and gags before someone finally crosses the finish line to earn the checkered flag.
The DVD set contains all 34 episodes of the series, looking reasonably good. Four members of the original creative team appear on a commentary track on four different episodes, and their discussion is less interesting for what they have to say about Wacky Races ("What was that car again?") than for their memories of working for Hanna-Barbera ("we did things off the top of the head"). There's also pop-up factoids on two episodes, a 20-minute recap of the series' history, and a look at the two spinoff series, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. That a relatively short-lived series could inspire two spinoffs, toys, comic books, a CD-ROM game, and other souvenirs is a testament to its ability to capture the Saturday-morning imagination and create a lot of fond memories. --David Horiuchi