THE BOOTLEG FILES: “DAFFY DUCK & PORKY PIG MEET THE GROOVIE GOOLIES”

Yes, there really is a film called “Daffy Duck & Porky Pig Meet The Groovie Goolies.” And, no, the film is not as bad as you might imagine – it is much, much worse! If you thought “Space Jam” made a mess of the Warner Bros. cartoon icons, wait until you see this!

Back in 1972, the producers at Filmation Associates, an animation studio specializing in cheap-looking made-for-television fare, somehow licensed the beloved characters of the Warner Bros. cartoons for a one-shot movie. Warner Bros. was not producing original animation at the time, although some of the old cartoons were being successfully rerun endlessly in a package as “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show” on Saturday morning television.

The brains at Filmation decided to combine the Warners’ characters with the characters from “The Groovie Goolies,” which was a popular kiddie show in the early 1970s. “The Groovie Goolies” was basically a rip-off of “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” with a line-up of cartoon monsters engaging in endless jokes, sight gags and silly skits in the style of Judy Carne, Goldie Hawn, and the rest of the “Laugh-In” lunatics. There was even a Groovie Goolies version of the “joke wall” from “Laugh-In.” The humor was strictly at the knock-knock joke plateau, but for undemanding youngsters of that era it was more than adequate.

It is not certain how the idea for this film came up, but it was a terrible idea. For starters, Filmation’s cartoons were heavily verbose, short of genuine humor, absent of original ideas and painfully dull. The classic Warner Bros. cartoons were, of course, the polar opposite. None of the Warners’ writers or directors were called on by Filmation, so the Looney Tunes style was never considered from the start. However, Mel Blanc was hired for voice characterization. But either Blanc forgot how to portray his famous voices or the sound engineer was asleep at the console, for the Warners’ characters either sounded too high-pitched (Daffy Duck is virtually unintelligible in certain dialogue exchanges) or they are too gruff and lethargic.

Actually, the messed-up voice acting was the least of the problems. “Daffy Duck & Porky Pig Meet The Groovie Goolies” is a complete failure on every imaginable level – beginning with the cumbersome title, which is confusing since Porky Pig has an inconsequential role in the story and does not deserve to be identified as the center of attention.

“Daffy Duck & Porky Pig Meet The Groovie Goolies” opens at Horrible Hall, home of the Groovie Goolies. The monster line-up includes Frankie (a lumbering version of Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, complete with a Karloffian voice), Drac (a fuddy-duddy vampire), Wolfie (a hippie werewolf), Hagatha (a fat witch with orange hair) and Mummy (who is, well, just a mummy). They are watching a TV interview with Daffy Duck, who is a Hollywood movie star/director/producer at work on his latest epic. Daffy is being interviewed by Petunia Pig, who is given a voice that sounds too close to gossip queen Rona Barrett. Suddenly, the interview is interrupted by The Phantom of the Flickers, a creepy ghoul who resembles Lon Chaney’s “London After Midnight” vampire. The Phantom of the Flickers announces to the TV audience that he will sabotage Daffy’s movie and prevent any further Daffy films from being made.

This turn of events upsets Frankie, who gives the first of the exactly two funny lines in this one-hour film: “I’ve been Daffy’s biggest fan ever since the day I was assembled!” The monsters pile into a van and head to the Daffy Duck Studios to save the film fowl from foul play.

The studio is populated with nearly all of the Warner Bros. cartoon characters (Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner and Speedy Gonzalez are conspicuously absent). Daffy and his gang are unaware of The Phantom of the Flickers and they mistake the Groovie Goolies for stuntmen. The monsters are fitted into armor (Daffy is making a film about King Arthur) and are thrown from a balcony.

When The Phantom of the Flickers begins to do destroy the studios, Daffy suspects that the Groovie Goolies are the ones behind the mischief. Though strangely, the monsters are given roles in the King Arthur film – no one bothers to ask why a mummy or a werewolf are wandering around Camelot! Daffy is increasingly perturbed by the Groovie Goolies’ weird behavior – when Drac turns into a bat, Daffy mouths the film’s second and final funny line: “I’ve heard of flighty actors, but this is ridiculous.”

Yosemite Sam thinks he knows who is responsible for the damage to the production and he decides to take a posse (consisting of Porky Pig and Wile E. Coyote) to capture the Groovie Goolies, who themselves are chasing The Phantom of the Flickers. Yosemite Sam and his posse wind up stuck on a movie set ship that rocks them into violent sea-sickness. Yes, we almost get to see Porky Pig puke!

For no clear reason, “Daffy Duck & Porky Pig Meet The Groovie Goolies” abruptly switches to live action in the last 10 minutes. The Phantom of the Flickers escapes through Mad Mirror Land and he is pursued by Frankie, Drac and Wolfie. However, the live action Groovie Goolies bear no resemblance whatsoever to their animated counterparts – the make-up men were clearly not paying attention to their job. The live chase employs horrible stop-motion camerawork to simulate the monsters driving invisible cars (they sit on the ground and hold steering wheels perpendicular from their chests) and riding invisible horses (they stand bow-legged and bounce up and down). It is impossible to imagine that adults were responsible for this mess.

Eventually, the film shifts back into animation. The Phantom of the Flickers is caught and exposed to be Claude Chaney, a has-been silent film star and Drac’s uncle. Claude apologizes for his miscreancy and Daffy gives him a job in the King Arthur film. Daffy’s film wins the Best Picture Award the following night (huh?) but Daffy is yanked off the awards stage by armed guards when his acceptance speech turns too narcissistic (he only thanks himself for everything relating to the film’s success).

Fans of the Groovie Goolies may have been amused, but those who worship Daffy, Porky, Tweety and that fun bunch were horrified at the lethargic pace, dialogue-heavy screenplay and total absence of laughs. The Groovie Goolies were too sluggish to fit into the Warner Bros. environment while the Warners’ creations either had nothing to do (Elmer Fudd has one line of dialogue in the entire film) or were goofed up beyond help (Pepe le Pew was inexplicably given a strong sexual passion for a horse).

“Daffy Duck & Porky Pig Meet The Groovie Goolies” was broadcast as part of “The Saturday Superstar Movie,” an ABC-TV hodgepodge of hour-long endeavors stuck in the Saturday morning kiddie show programming. It was broadcast a few times during the 1972-73 season and then vanished. Although the half-hour episodes of “The Groovie Goolies” series wound up in syndication, this film was kept out of release. It hasn’t been presented on American home video, most likely due to the expiration of Filmation’s license on the Warner characters, although it did get a brief British video release.

Finding this title on bootleg video is a tough challenge. The version I picked up was in black-and-white, although inexplicably the original commercials from the broadcast were in color. The British video release is in color, though the live action sequence is deleted.

Though in fairness, this is one title that is not worth the bootleg hunt. Unless you are a Warners completist and need to see every single frame of film featuring the Looney Tunes gang, there is no reason to seek out this film. If any flick deserves to gather dust in the dark corners of the Bootleg Files, it is “Daffy Duck & Porky Pig Meet The Groovie Goolies.” What more can I say? Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

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IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material is not widely appreciated by the entertainment industry, and on occasion law enforcement personnel help boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and sell bootleg videos, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. The purchase and ownership of bootleg videos, however, is perfectly legal and we think that’s just peachy! This column was brought to you by Phil Hall, a contributing editor at Film Threat and the man who knows where to get the good stuff…on video, that is.

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Posted on September 3, 2004 in Features by
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