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Paramount Studios presents
The Ren & Stimpy Show Uncut: The First and Second Seasons (1991-1993)

"They think I'm crazy. But I know better. It is not I who am crazy....It is I who am mad!"
- Commander Ren Höek in Space Madness

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: October 11, 2004

Stars: John Kricfalusi, Billy West
Other Stars: Gary Owens, Cheryl Chase, Bob Camp, Vincent Waller, Randy Quaid, Frank Zappa
Director: John Kricfalusi, Vincent Waller, Bob Camp, Ron Hughert, Chris Reccardi, Peter Avanzino

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (extreme gross-out humor, cartoon violence, some language in commentaries)
Run Time: 07h:02m:49s
Release Date: October 12, 2004
UPC: 097368776746
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-A- B+

DVD Review

One wonders whether Paramount really understands The Ren & Stimpy Show. The back cover of this package warns that this program "is recommended for mature audiences only." But mature audiences will have no interest whatsoever in the goings-on contained in this three-disc set. Immature audiences, such as most dOc reviewers, however, will bust a gut laughing at the first two seasons of this renegade Nickelodeon animated series created by John Kricfalusi.

The series contains the generally unconnected cartoon adventures of Asthma-Hound Chihuahua Ren Hek (generally voiced by Kricfalusi himself, as a Mexican Peter Lorre) and his "eediot" friend Stimpson J. Cat (Billy West, channelling Larry Fine). The two sick little monkeys get into one disgusting and appalling fix after another, frequently involving "magic nose goblins," extreme cartoon violence, slime, "underleg noises," stinky bodily functions, dangerous board games, and some of the most outrageous animation ever committed to celluloid. They're aided in these antics by the perpetually dissatisfied Mr. Horse, Powdered Toast Man (Gary Owens), and the notorious George Liquor, whose first episode Nick refused to air.

The style is a unique combination of the simple lines of the UPA cartoons of the 1950s, melded with the extreme distortions and rapid gag comedy of Tex Avery. The result works incredibly well, using the simplicity of the line work as a means for making the distortions come forth without any restraint at all. And lack of restraint is certainly a watchword for Ren & Stimpy. The program went through legendary censorship battles with Nickelodeon, resulting in significant cuts to many episodes, but happily all of them, including the oft-scissored adventures of Powdered Toast Man, are restored here (though in some cases with video time codes still on screen, where the film version doesn't appear to survive).

The censorship was clearly taking a toll by the second season, which not only was showing signs of the stress, but ultimately produced a parting of ways between Kricfalusi and his creation, which was taken over by Nickelodeon. But the nine hours of the first season are practically unrivaled for their sick humor and twisted world view. Every single episode is packed with deranged laughter, helped along by frequently inspired use of classical music, Stooge-like violence, and indiscriminate use of umlauts. Space Madness is excellent from beginning to end, while Stimpy's Invention has many classic moments as Stimpy fastens a "happy helmet" onto an enraged Ren. Perhaps the most utterly revolting segment is Ren's Toothache, with its uncomfortably close look into Ren's diseased mouth. The second season is somewhat weaker, featuring a fairly generic In the Army cartoon that lacks imagination. The episodes completed by Nickelodeon after Kricfalusi's departure are, not surprisingly, lacking in the edginess that makes the earlier episodes classics.

Although the episodes are uncut, about half of them have the title card replaced by Ren & Stimpy Classics. But that's a pretty minor complaint for having these episodes restored. All of the interstitial segments, including the silly but hilarious ads for "Log" and "Log for Girls," as well as the "Ask Dr. Stupid" segments, even though all of these are repeated to fill out running times on occasion. It makes one want to sing, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy while wearing unwashed lederhosen. Because "it's better than bad, it's good." The grades are for immature audiences' consideration only.

Note: It has come to our attention that at least five of the cartoons from the second season (Ren's Toothache, Haunted House, Big Baby Scam, The Cat That Laid the Golden Hairball and Son of Stimpy) are not, in fact, uncut, but apparently use prints from the Spike TV airings of the program, where small incidental bits have been scissored, seemingly for time, and without Spumco noticing. Random fades to black for additional commercials have also been added for the Spike TV airings. So the set is not quite as uncut as we initially believed. For further details, see the message board at The Loyal Order of Stupids. However, the censorship originally imposed by Nickelodeon has all been restored (to the extent elements still exist); for instance, Powdered Toast Man still burns the Bill of Rights and refers to Frank Zappa as the Pope and not the man in the funny hat. Make your purchasing decision accordingly.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture looks very good indeed, with very clean source material, brilliant color and sharply defined lines. The only possible drawback is that color, especially red, tends to bleed out from beyond the black line when viewed on larger screens. But almost no artifacting or aliasing is visible.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is similarly clean, with a Dolby Surround track free of hiss and noise. The dialogue is clear throughout, and the music has excellent range and presence, especially on the marvelous opening and closing themes performed by some of the animators and artists. Bass levels are strong, though there's not a lot of directionality to dialogue. Surrounds are primarily used for music.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 42 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (closed captioning only) with remote access
1 Featurette(s)
6 Feature/Episode commentaries by director John Kricfalusi, crew members Jim Smith, Vincent Waller, Eddie Fitzgerald
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Pencil test for Sven Höek
  2. Storyboard gallery
  3. Original pilot film
  4. Unaired episode
Extras Review: A surprisingly generous set of supplements accompanies these programs. Six cartoons (some comprising full episodes) get commentaries from Kricfalusi and some of the artists, directors, and storyboard crew. The most interesting discussions are devoted to the endless censorship battles with Nickelodeon; if those don't apply the participants seem to be at a loss of what to discuss, making these less than fascinating listening much of the time. A useful featurette includes interview segments that covers the development of the show and the voice casting. The originally-unaired George Liquor episode "Man's Best Friend" (which has since shown up on Spike TV) is here as well, though it's on Disc 2 and not Disc 3 as the cases would have it. Animation buffs will be interested in the full pencil test of the Sven Hek episode, complete with censored gags involving Stimpy's litterbox. The original pilot film,Big House Blues, which made animation film festival circuits for a while, appears in addition to the ordinary Nick version. The original is substantially longer and has a truly appalling gag involving Ren drinking out of a filthy toilet; even though censored by Nickelodeon, a segment from it nonetheless appeared in the opening credits. Finally, there's an extensive storyboard gallery covering many of the first season's episodes. The inspirations and evolutions of the shows can be seen through these storyboards, making them certainly worth examining.

Also, look for a commentary easter egg for Man's Best Friend.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Any fan of classic Ren & Stimpy will be overjoyed with this set. The transfers are excellent, and while some of the commentaries are weak, it's a very good package.

 


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