As a child, I was big fan of Saturday-morning cartoons (truly a lost art if there is one), and things were much simpler then. My favorite character was Scooby-Doo, and looking back, I remember three Scooby-Doo shows -- there was Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!; the Scooby show which featured real-world actors (some of whom were dead by the time I started watching the show), which was of course The New Scooby-Doo Movies, and then Scrappy-Doo came along and ruined everything. But, when one looks at a Scooby-Doo episode guide from the 1970s, there are several more shows to be had. Entering this confusing cycle is the newly released DVD, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete Third Season.
Based on research that I've done, here's what I now know about the Scooby-Doo line-up. First, there was Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, then came The New Scooby-Doo Movies (Laurel & Hardy? Seriously?). Following this, further episodes of what was essentially Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! appeared as part of The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour and Scooby's All-Stars (which included an episode of Captain Caveman. When these episodes went into syndication, they were simply called The Scooby-Doo Show. The Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete Third Season contains the final 16 episodes from this cycle.
As the plot of each show is essentially the same, I'll simply identify each episode by the monster which appears on that show. The episodes included are:
"Watch Out! The Willawaw" -- Giant flying owl plus two human-sized owls.
"A Creepy Tangle in the Bermuda Triangle" -- Skeleton Men
"A Scary Night with a Snow Beast Fright" -- A T-Rex that looks like it's wearing a short-sleeve shirt.
"To Swtich a Witch" -- Witch with green hair
"The Tar Monster" -- Tar Monster
"A Highland Fling with a Monstrous Thing" -- Loch Ness Monster and Highlander ghost
"The Creepy Case of Old Iron Face" -- A pirate in an iron mask who rides mechanical sharks
"Jeepers, It's the Jaguaro!" -- A monster with a gorilla's body and a jaguar's head
"Make a Beeline Away From that Feline" -- A were-cat...who wears a cape...
"The Creepy Creature of Vulture's Claw" -- A humanoid praying mantis
"The Diabolical Disc Demon" -- A ghost who looks like the lost member of Kiss
"Scooby's Chinese Fortune Kooky Caper" -- A glowing Chinese demon who looks like Beast from X-Men
"A Menace in Venice" -- A phantom in a cowl
"Don't Go Near the Fortress of Fear" -- A conquistador
"The Warlock of Wimbledon" -- A warlock named Anthos and his demon dog
"The Beast is Awake in Bottomless Lake" -- The Creature From the Black Lagoon with more exaggerated features
Again, I'm a huge Scooby-Doo fan, but even I have to admit that with over 50 episodes under its belt, the show had grown tired by the time that these shows aired. The show's "I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for these meddling kids and their dog" persona, which is so heavily spoofed today, had grown very formulaic. But, with this particular batch of shows, the writing also became somewhat lazy. There were a few episodes where the villain seemed to come out of nowhere and I had to rewind to see if that character had even appeared before the finale. Also, the plotlines seem to rely heavily on Scooby and the gang traveling outside of the U.S. in order to meet/help an old friend. (And they always manage to take the Mystery Machine with them. Who pays for all of this?) These changes in locale don't necessarily help the show's creativity, as some of the monsters here, such as the Were-cat or "The Creepy Creature of Vulture's Claw" are simply lame. In addition, there is an heightened element of slapstick comedy which I don't remember from earlier episodes.
But, any Scooby-Doo is better than no Scooby-Doo. While these episodes don't represent the cream of the crop, they still contain the basic elements which made Scooby-Doo great in the first place. The concept of a group of amateur detectives who have a talking dog is still a good one and the fact that this cartoon aimed at children attempts to have truly creepy monsters will always be appealing to me.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete Third Season zoinks itself onto DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The 16 episodes are spread out across two discs, with Disc 2 being a flipper. The shows are presented in their original 1.33:1 full-frame format. Given the fact that these shows are nearly 30 years old, the image looks OK, but there are some problems. Scratches from the source material intermingle with dirt and other particles contained in the animation cel which have been amplified by the digital transfer. This detailed approach also exaggerates "jitters" in the animation. On the positive side, the colors still look very good, from Daphne's pink tights to Velma's orange outfit. The image shows no video noise and only slight traces of artifacting.
The Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete Third Season DVD features a Dolby Digital mono audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track shows no signs of hissing or distortion. While the track is somewhat flat, it nicely represents the original audio.
The only extra contained in this set is "Hanna-Barbera: From H to B". This 21-minute featurette focuses on the inner-working at Hanna-Barbera, specifically the personalities and working styles of William Hanna and Joe Barbera as recounted by dozens of H-B employees. While "Scooby-Doo" is mentioned, this segment doesn't directly deal with the making of the show.
While some of the shows are embarrassingly dated and lame, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete Third Season is a welcome addition the Scooby-Doo DVD library. There's only one problem. Unless I'm missing something, there are still eight episodes unaccounted for. Hopefully we'll see those shows on DVD soon.