By 1966, spies were all over the map in popular culture, from the James Bond extravaganzas to the spoofy adventures of Maxwell Smart on TV's popular Get Smart. So it's not surprising that the TV networks wanted an animated spy cartoon for their Saturday morning line-ups, and Cool McCool fit that bill nicely. With a distinctive production design, some clever stories and dialogue, good voice work and a snappy, cool theme song, Cool McCool was a hit with kids, and ran for three years on NBC. Chuck McCann Presents: Cool McCool - The Complete Series is a nicely packaged three-disc box set that contains all twenty episodes of the series, along with some fun extras for the fans.
Debuting on NBC in September, 1966, Cool McCool had a heavyweight pedigree behind the cameras; it was created by Bob Kane, of Batman and Robin fame, and Al Brodax, a legend in animation who worked on various other famous cartoons for King Features, including Popeye, Snuffy Smith, and Beetle Bailey, and who would go on to produce The Beatles' Yellow Submarine. Voice work was done by Bob McFadden (who voiced Cool as a Jack Benny take-off), with legendary Chuck McCann (who was a huge local TV star in New York before he went west to do thousands of voice overs, such as Sonny, the "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" bird) and Carol Corbett filling in the majority of the supporting voices.
Cool McCool was designed as a three segment half-hour show, with a Cool McCool segment opening and closing the show, with a Harry McCool and the Komedy Kops segment in the middle. Cool, who now looks like the inspiration for Inspector Gadget, wears a trenchcoat and a big pompadour of jet black hair, with a matching moustache - which just happens to be his radio transmitter. Cool uses various gadgets to catch his criminals, but his Coolmobile is the main one: a car that can also fly. Cool's superior, Number One, is never shown; he's always hidden by his chair, and we only see puffs of smoke coming from behind it. It's not surprising that Number One is often upset with Cool because, as you would expect in a spoof, Cool is a bumbling incompetent. Despite Cool's oft-repeated motto, "Danger is my business," Cool usually solves the various crimes by accident. And for his troubles, and despite his protestations to the contrary ("That will never happen again,"), he's ejected out of Number One's office at the end of each episode, flying through the air to land in his Coolmobile.
Cool's enemies are a colorful gallery of villains who could have come right out of the pages of Batman. They include: The Owl, who looks like an owl, but who flies through the air by the aid of two small owls carrying him; The Rattler, a snake-like villain who controls plants to do his evil bidding; Hurricane Harry, who can inflate himself with a tremendous amount of air to blow Cool off his feet; Jack-in-the-Box, who's naturally dressed as the springy toy; and Dr. Madcap, who uses his various assortments of deadly hats to undermine law and order. For the middle segment of the Cool McCool shows, the focus turned to Cool's father, Harry McCool. After the first Cool McCool segment, Cool would be seen strumming a banjo, reminiscing about his father, providing a segue for Harry's short. The Komedy Kops, who completed the joke by being named Tom and Dick, were based on the Keystone Cops comedy shorts, and provided a fun, nostalgic break from the 60's spy shenanigans of Cool McCool.
Cool McCool plays quite well today, particularly because of the input of Bob Kane, who's listed as the story editor for the series, as well. The mixing of the James Bond genre with the superhero villains of Batman is a natural fit, and gives the stories an almost surreal, outsized feel. I particularly like the opening credits, that have a nighttime, Gotham City feel to them. When Cool, seen from above and at a distance, walks across a lonely, dark street, with the snazzy, twangy guitar-riff theme song playing in the background, as the distinctive credits pop up, it's apparent that we're watching a cartoon with some thought put into it. A nicely stylized approach to the animation (reminiscent of some of Jay Ward's stuff) provides a lot of interest for animation buffs, as well. The scripts aren't laugh-out-loud funny, like say, a Looney Tunes cartoon, but they are often sly and witty (again, like Ward), and actually play better to adults than to the kids. McFadden's voice work as Cool hits just the right combination of dumb posturing and utter incompetence (using Jack Benny as the take-off was an inspired choice), and McCann, as usual, is expert at getting comedic mileage out of all of those voices. I love vintage animation, but I had never seen Cool McCool before. That's why Ink & Paint's Chuck McCann Presents: Cool McCool - The Complete Series was such a nice surprise.
Here are the 20, one-half hour episodes of the three-disc box set, Chuck McCann Presents: Cool McCool - The Complete Series, as described on their slim cases:
The Big Blowout: Hurricane Harry threatens to blow down the cities of the world unless he gets a million-dollar ransom.
The Phantom of the Opera House: The Komedy Kops try to discover the identity of a pesky phantom, who is plaguing a theatre.
Fine Feathered Friends: The Owl organizes the birds of the nation into a crime syndicate.
If the Hat Fits....Watch It!: Dr. Madcap sends out his evil hats to steal treasures for his love Greta Ghoul.
Horsehide and Go Seek: A thief steals a valuable baseball and Tom, Dick and Harry are on the case.
The House That Jack Built: Cool and Breezy infiltrate the home of Jack-in-the-Box, but wind up trapped in a circus arena.
The Odd Boxes Caper: Jack-in-the-Box escapes from prison to stalk Detective Sherlock Klitz.
The Vanishing Shoehorns: Tom, Dick and Harry discover that Mighty Morris, the strongest man in town, is also a shoehorn thief.
Garden of Evil: The Rattler has developed a venom ray that makes any living thing hate the closest thing to it.
Rocket Racket: Jack-in-the-Box uses a huge magnet to capture rockets launched at Cape Carnivorous.
Here's Pie in Your Eye: The Komedy Kops run into a spy from Plintz' Pies, who hopes to steal their competitor's secret recipes.
Queen's Ransom: Hurricane Harry kidnaps Queen McQueen and is holding her for one million-dollars ransom.
The Big Brainwash: Dr. Madcap and Greta Ghoul develop a dangerous hat to brainwash Cool.
The Woodchopper: Woodchopper had downed six sycamores on Cedar Street, and Tom, Dick and Harry give chase.
Shrinking the Slinker: The Rattler kidnaps Professor B. Fuddled and steals his shrinking formula.
The Box Fox: Armed with giggle grenades, Jack-in-the-Box robs an armored car and has everyone in stitches.
Gym Dandy: A practical joker pulls pranks on the Komedy Kops in a local gymnasium.
Bagging the Windbag: Hurricane Harry announces that he intends to blow up the world until it pops like a balloon.
Will the Real Coolmobile Please Stand Up?: Dr. Madcap has created a phony Coolmobile to befuddle Cool.
Big Top Cops: Someone is sabotaging the circus, and the Komedy Kops go to work at the circus to search for clues.
Owl on the Prowl: The Owl manages to steal secret formula G-22 from Number One and Cool.
Sniffin, Snoozen and Sneezen: Hurricane Harry threatens to put the whole world to sleep with sleeping smoke incense.
The New Car: After having their bicycle taken away, Harry McCool and the Komedy Kops must learn how to drive a car.
How Now Foul Owl: The Owl has a mockingbird imitate the voice of Number One and McCool falls for the ruse.
Caps and Robbers: Dr. Madcap creates a duncecap to make Cool his slave.
Three Men on a House: Harry McCool and the Komedy Kops are ordered to whitewash the jailhouse.
The Romantic Rattler: The Rattler steals a secret government truth telling machine and tries to extract secrets from McCool.
Jack in the Boxer: Jack-in-the-Box poses as paparazzi to steal a starlet's valuable necklace.
Fowl Play7: On a steep hill, the Kops lose control of their bike and crash into a truck loaded with chickens.
Love is a Gas: Dr. Madcap invents a love gas to romantically woo victims into submission.
Who Stole My 32 Secret Agents?: Dr. Madcap captures 32 secret agents so he can apply his brain-drain cap to learn their secrets.
The Jet Set, Yet: The Flying Demon swoops down and steals a key to the city, forcing the Komedy Kops to convert their bike into a jet.
The 500 Hundred Pound Canary Caper: Banks are robbed by a 500 lb canary and McCool brilliantly deduces it's the work of The Owl.
Fun and Games: Jack-in-the-Box goes into the toy business and manufactures dangerous games and toys.
McCool Jazz: A crow flies into a piano factory and turns on the player pianos, causing a racket that the Komedy Kops must stop.
Mother Greta's Wrinkle Remover: Dr. Madcap discovers a compound that removes wrinkles, but it works for only 24 hours and leaves the user with a speckled face.
The Sombrero Affair: McCool takes off for Mexico to capture Dr. Madcap and Greta Ghoul, who have robbed the Potts Gold Company.
Dog Tired: A little old lady reports that her puppy Wuppy is missing, and the Komedy Kops are assigned the task of finding it.
The Moon Goon: The Owl is hiding out on the moon with Brown Crown, and McCool must rocket to the moon to retrieve it.
Two Fats and a Fink: The Maharajah of Mish Mash is scheduled to be given his weight in diamonds, but Hurricane Harry plots to kidnap him and take his place.
High Jokers: Harry McCool and the Komedy Kops take to the air in a bi-plane to catch a man who stolen candy apples.
Rockabye for Rattler: The Rattler steals an armored truckload of gold right out from under McCool's nose.
High Jacker Jack: Cool and Breezy set out to stop Jack-in-the-Box, who's littering the town with his booby-trapped boxes.
Time Out: Harry McCool and the Komedy Kops that the town clock is missing, and they must do what they can to recover it.
The Wind Goddess: Hurricane Harry takes to the desert to steal an ancient Egyptian idol, The Wind Goddess.
Hot McHot: Hurricane Harry discovers how to inhale the power of the sun, then blow out air so hot it melts anything in its path.
Monkey Dizziness: An organ grinder's monkey steals a lovely woman's hair ribbons, and the Komedy Kops give chase.
A Growing Problem: The Rattler covers the entire surface of the earth with vegetation.
Oh Say Can You Seed: The Rattler commits crimes with seed grenades, which covers their victims with clinging vines.
Green Dragon: A series of robberies grip the city and in each case the thief leaves his mark, the stamp of the Green Dragon.
What Goes Up... Must Come Down: Hurricane Harry "statuenaps" the Statue of Liberty, and Cool must bring it home.
Birds of a Feather Flop Together: Cool disguises himself as a bird to infiltrate The Owl's gang and prevent his crimes.
A Lot of Ballooney: The Komedy Kops arrest a balloon salesman who vows revenge by creating life size balloon replicas of the boys.
The Box Popper: Jack-in-the-Box escapes from prison and uses a deadly variety of boxes to commit new crimes.
Owl's Well that Ends Well: McCool learns that The Owl is on a crime rampage, and he takes to the Coolmobile to stop it.
Goat Chasers: Harry McCool and the Komedy Kops chase a goat that's eating everything in its path.
A Tree is a Tree is a...Tree?: The Rattler trains his plant to commit robberies at a flower show.
The Whistler's Mommy Case: The Rattler places his magic plants in a museum so they can steal valuable art treasures for him.
In the Dough: Roland Bun's bakery has been robbed, and Harry McCool and the Komedy Kops must find the nut who is stealing pecans.
The College of Crooks: Cool's investigation leads him to Benedict Arnold College, where he is trapped by all five of his arch enemies.
Looking terrific after over 40 years, Chuck McCann Presents: Cool McCool - The Complete Series is presented in a bright, colorful full-frame transfer. Sure, some of the animation is rough, but that's the original source material, which, except for the occasion scratch or dirt speck, looks surprisingly good.
The English mono sound mix accurately represents the original broadcast presentation.
There are some really valuable extras on this box set of Chuck McCann Presents: Cool McCool - The Complete Series. First, each and every episode is introduced by Chuck McCann, who gives a fun overview of what you're going to see. Looking fit and healthy, McCann's intros help set the mood for fun, while providing more opportunities for McCann to ad lib some fun voices. There are two full-length commentaries for episodes one and eight, with host Wally Wingert and Chuck McCann. McCann is always entertaining, and he has some great stories to tell about the show and about his own career. On disc three, there are two interviews with McCann, again hosted by Wally Wingert. On the twenty minute McCann on McCool, McCann and Wingert talk about the production of Cool McCool, with some valuable background on the series. On the twenty-seven minute Chatting with McCann, Wingert hosts an informal Q & A with McCann and some of his friends, where McCann discusses his long career in radio, stage, TV and films. Especially valuable are extended clips from McCann's cult New York TV show. McCann even works one of his old puppets for the crowd. He's had, and continues to have, a tremendously varied and successful career, so it's great to hear his informative stories in such energetic interviews. Also included is a music video from Wingert called The School of McCool, which features a cameo from McCann. I can't say much about the song, but I will say there are some seriously good looking girls in the video, so at least from that standpoint, it succeeds. And finally, there are some trailers for other Ink & Paint DVDs.
Sly and witty, with a beautifully stylized production design, Cool McCool is a fun 1960s animated spy spoof that plays very well today. The Chuck McCann Presents: Cool McCool - The Complete Series box set is nicely set up, with some terrific extras for vintage animation buffs. I recommend Chuck McCann Presents: Cool McCool - The Complete Series.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.