The adventures of Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose rank as some of the funniest comedies ever created with jokes delivered at a fast and furious pace. Each story had the same template: our heroes trying to foil the nefarious plans of villains Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, spies from the country of Pottsylvania. The show’s only rule seemed to be anything for a laugh. The characters were aware they were in a cartoon and interacted with the faceless narrator, played by William Conrad in his finest role.
While fine for children, adults would catch most of the humor of puns and topical references. The DVD presents three complete storylines when the show ran on NBC where it was called The Bullwinkle Show.
“Wossamotta U” from Season 5 (1963-1964) is 12 chapters and runs about 45 minutes. It tells the tale of Bullwinkle joining a college football team so bad they hadn’t scored a touchdown 22 years. He turns the team around, giving Boris the idea to fix the big game and make a ton of dough. One of the best gags takes place as time is winding down. Rocky is in the end zone waiting for Bullwinkle to throw him the ball. To disrupt the play, Boris paints a rock to look like a football and hurls it at him. As the segment concludes at yet another cliffhanger, the narrator announces the next chapter of the adventure is called “A Rock for Rock” or “To Each His Stone.”
“Treasure of Monte Zoom” from Season 4 (1962-1963) finds Boris and Natasha hot after the treasure, allowing nothing to get in their way even if it means blowing up the town dam. When the narrator reveals some pertinent information to the audience, Boris makes the cartoon run backwards so he can hear it. Also from Season 4 is “Goof Gas Attack.” Pottsylvania attacks America with their new secret weapon that turns everyone stupid. Since Bullwinkle is only one unaffected, it’s up to him to save the day by himself. Both these stories are eight chapters and run about 30 minutes.
While I laughed hard the entire time, presenting the stories uninterrupted was very odd. The cliffhangers sign-offs, like “Wager at Dawn” (taken from the title of a Western film, Rage at Dawn) or “Early to Bet,” ruined the flow. They were still very funny, but we stop only for a moment before being given a brief synopsis when there hasn’t been anytime to forget.
It’s also disappointing that all the supplemental material from the shows has been cut. There’s no “Dudley Do-Right,” no “Fractured Fairy Tales,” no “Peabody’s Improbable History.” There’s not even the classic bit: “Hey, Rock. Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.” Some characters are getting their own best-of discs, so the material won’t be lost, but I am curious as to the reasoning for this. Sure, individual discs will be cheaper than season sets, but are there really fans who don’t like the stories interrupted by meetings of “Rocky and Bullwinkle Fan Club”? Shouldn’t that disqualify them as fans? Where’s “Mr. Know-It-All” when you need him? Unfortunately, we know where he’s not.
This DVD has a great special feature. “Classic Live Intros” were used for NBC’s “The Bullwinkle Show” in 1961. Bill Scott, the voice of Bullwinkle, was very outlandish, supposedly talking “thousands of children to pull the knobs off of their TV sets so as to be certain no to miss next week’s broadcast.” Not surprisingly, NBC was not happy and the next week when the Bullwinkle puppet told the “audience to glue the knobs back on,” it was removed for animated segments. A great bit that will bring back memories of what life was like has Bullwinkle tell kids how they can have a TV in their room: “Just drag mommy and daddy’s set into your own room and lock the door.”
While you can’t go wrong buying these individual best-of sets, the purist in me wins out and suggests you hold out for the entire season.