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Shout Factory presents
The Milton the Monster Show: The Complete Series (1965-66)

Professor Weirdo: You're kind, cheerful, trustworthy, gentle, tender, friendly and courteous. You're a disgrace to the family.
Count Kook: Besides, you're a fire hazard.

- Bob McFadden

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: March 19, 2007

Stars: Bob McFadden, Dayton Allen, Herb Duncan, Larry Best, Beverly Arnold
Other Stars: Zel DeCyr, Hetty Galen
Director: Hal Seeger

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (ethnic characterizations, mild gunplay, spooky themes)
Run Time: 09h:33m:00s
Release Date: March 20, 2007
UPC: 826663103670
Genre: television


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

DVD Review

The mid-1960s were a good time to be a kid with a fondness for monsters. Famous Monsters of Filmland was in its prime, classic horror was on the late show and not one but two horror comedy series, The Munsters and The Addams Family, were running in prime time. And on Saturday mornings, ABC carried the adventures of Milton the Monster and friends. I rather dreaded revisiting this beloved series on DVD after forty years, since so many things fondly remembered from childhood don't hold up. But I'm pleased to say that this program still manages to inspire laughing out loud, thanks to some clever writing and outstanding characterizations.

The title character appears in each episode in at least one cartoon; in about a third of them there are two Milton the Monster cartoons. The premise of Milton is pretty charming: Professor Montgomery Weirdo and his assistant Count Kook are determined to create monsters, but they accidentally add too much Tincture of Tenderness to their new creation, making him a soft-hearted and gentle monster (who both looks and sounds like Jim Nabors). This is unacceptable to a horrific family, and grouchy Professor Weirdo spends much of his time trying to get rid of Milton, who doesn't live up to previous creations Heebie (a Phantom of the Opera-clad skeleton) and Jeebie (a one-eyed, one-fanged furball wearing galoshes). Many of the episodes also detail Professor Weirdo's running feud with neighboring Professor Fruitcake, who keeps trying to steal Weirdo's monster recipes with his creations such as Abercrombie the Zombie. These 34 cartoons are full of wordplay and character humor that's enjoyable to adults as well as children. A few gags are predictable, but on the whole it's quite fresh and often much funnier today than its prime-time models.

Every episode also includes one cartoon featuring Fearless Fly, which is Seeger taking the concept of Paul Terry's Mighty Mouse to an even greater extreme. Mild-mannered Hiram Fly becomes the super-powered Fearless Fly courtesy of a set of glasses that channel energy into him through "the sensitive muscles in his head." In about two-thirds of the episodes, Fearless Fly is up against archenemy 973-year-old Doctor Goo Fee and his sidekick Gung-Ho. This brings up the most problematic aspect of the series today: its rather crude ethnic characterizations of Chinese, Native American and Mexican characters. Of course, this was also the time period of such characters as the Frito Bandito. For historical purposes, it's good that the cartoons haven't been censored (there would be little left of Fearless Fly if they had done so), but responsible parents may want to address these characterizations with impressionable children. Most of the rest of the episodes feature Fearless Fly tangling with Professor Weirdo; episode 16 here, Fearless Fly Meets the Monsters, appears to be the origin of Milton. While the character conception is the same, visually he has much more resemblance to the Universal Frankenstein monster, and is named George rather than Milton. Perhaps this was a pilot cartoon for the series? Heebie and Jeebie aren't yet in their final form either; they would eventually swap voices. The Fearless Fly cartoons get very lazy and repetitive towards the end of the series; the last half dozen cartoons feature Dr. Goo Fee lining up a super-powered fly to fight Fearless Fly, Fearless losing his glasses and getting into trouble as the weak Hiram, then finding his glasses for the finale. The Dr. Goo Fee episodes also seem to be out of order; the first meeting of the two antagonists appears in episode 5, The Goofy Doctor Goo Fee. Whether they are meant to come before or after the Professor Weirdo stories, or to be mixed together, is uncertain.

The other available slots are rotated through a series of characters, none of which are terribly memorable. Flukey Luke is the best of the lot, featuring a cowboy in the city who fights crime through accidental means. The voice work is mostly uncredited, but some of it sounds like Larry Storch. These are occasionally humorous cartoons, though the character of Two Feathers is frequently embarrassing. At least he has a great theme song. A pair of weirdly named cartoons, Muggy Doo and Stuffy Durma, leave one wondering what was going on in the Seeger writers' rooms. Muggy Doo is a wisecracking fox who does odd jobs and gets in trouble; while Stuffy Durma is a millionaire hobo who would rather be riding the rails. The latter is a one-joke cartoon that isn't all that good in the first place. The last cartoon in the rotation, Penny Penguin only appears three times. It's a rather ill-tempered portrayal of a bratty little girl penguin who throws temper tantrums and aggravates her parents while causing trouble on every side. Even though it's rather cranky, it nonetheless gets off a number of good jokes that may fly right over kids' heads.

This set collects the complete series in 26 episodes; whether these are episodes as originally aired is open to question since they only run about 22 minutes rather than the then standard 26 or 27 minutes. Each episode contains three five-minute cartoons, so there might have been room for four cartoons when the show originally ran, repeating cartoons as necessary to fill time; solid information about this series is frustratingly hard to come by. Whether these are reconstructions or syndication version, they at least have the appearance of being complete, with the opening and closing theme music, commercial bumper and interstitials, and even the "next episode" teasers present in every episode. Oddly, a Milton cartoon in episode 21, The Moon Goons, bears the title card of episode 20's The Flying Cup and Saucer. It's not clear whether this is a mistake in the mastering or an error that dates back to 1965.

Even though the animation is fairly limited, the design is always stylish on all of the cartoons (I especially love the designs of Heebie and Jeebie), making them highly enjoyable to watch. Thanks to the hefty fantasy elements, surprisingly little of the show is dated, other than some references to Señor Wences and one cartoon that centers on punch-card controlled computers.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: It's quite a revelation to see these shows in color, since when I saw them originally all we had was a black & white set. The color is vivid and the backgrounds subtly shaded. The line work is very clean, other than minor aliasing during rapid movements. There's no sign of ghosting or edge enhancement, and I didn't observe any digital noise reduction, so if it was applied it was done carefully, without erasing any lines. There's some minor speckling in the titles and bumpers, which would have received the most usage, but the cartoons themselves look nearly flawless.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The programs are presented in 2.0 mono, which is quite clean for its age. Little noise or hiss is present. Music has reasonably good range, and dialogue is always crisp and clear. There are no complaints on this front at all.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 212 cues and remote access
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Boxed Set
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Live action short
  2. Bonus cartoon
Extras Review: While there are some interesting extras here, some history of the Seeger studio and the series itself, and especially the voice artists would have been welcome but it's not to be found. Instead, there's a 1954 live-action short (15m:29s) of Flukey Luke, with the characters wearing massive dog heads. It's pretty strange and has nothing to do with the cartoon version of the character. The actors move with timidity; it must have been hard to see anything in those heads. There's also a reel of test footage using the heads in a different scenario (5m:19s). More closely related to the series is a segment of silent home movie footage showing Seeger along with people wearing Milton and Fearless Fly costumes at the New York Toy Fair at some point in the mid-1960s. It's quite a production, and obviously successful; I remember having a fair amount of Milton merchandise, though no Fearless Fly stuff (indeed, I didn't even remember the character). Finally, there's another Seeger attempt at capitalization on a television show, Wilbur the Wanted, a cartoon version of The Fugitive featuring Wilbur the dog, wanted for the murder of bent-eared rabbit Moe Hare, who faked his death and framed Wilbur. The subject matter seems more than a little inappropriate for a funny animal program, and so far as I know it went nowhere.

Each disc offers access to individual cartoons and individual episodes, as well as a handy "Play All" button. There's also the ability to play all of the cartoons featuring a particular lead character, so if you want just the Flukey Luke cartoons, you can get them all at once. A very thoughtful feature.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

A classic set of cartoons that holds up very well today, and is funnier than most television comedies. The set looks beautiful, but more extras would have been welcome.

 


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