Most people think of Looney Tunes and immediately hear the sound of Porky Pig stammering, "That's all folks!" or Bugs Bunny wisecracking his way through another "What's up, Doc?" They probably don't connect the influential shorts starring Daffy Duck, Tweety and company with, say, politics or American history.
Yet that linkage is a key theme in "Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume 6" ($65), the latest and last in a series of exceptional DVD box sets that deliver some of the best and rarest 'toons from the Warner Bros. vault.
Like the five that preceded it, this "Golden Collection" offers its share of standard, delightfully Looney fare featuring the libidinous Pepe Le Pew, dim-witted Elmer Fudd and others. But we also get an entire DVD devoted largely to "patriotic" cartoons from the World War II era in which, among other things, Bugs Bunny impersonates Joseph Stalin and an animated Adolf Hitler invariably gets whacked on the head with a mallet.
I don't remember seeing these anti-Fuhrer features back when I munched on Froot Loops during "The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour" every Saturday morning. And that's exactly what makes the opportunity to revisit this propaganda-filled chapter in Looney Tunes lore so fascinating, especially for those who have made that wascally wabbit a focal point for serious cultural study. (Yes, there are such people, some of whom provide audio commentary on selected shorts throughout the set.)
The inclusion of several Bosko and Buddy shorts from the earliest days of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies should be equally compelling to the cartoon cognoscenti. Indeed, watching Bosko -- a dead ringer for "Steamboat Willie"-era Mickey Mouse -- chirpily croon "We're in the Money" during a 1932 cartoon takes on layers of meaning when viewed through the prism of 401(k)-crushing 2008.
In keeping with the "Golden" standard set by Warner Bros., the 60 'toons and extras -- which include bonus shorts, commentaries and a pair of full-length TV specials -- are a joy to behold. But the highlight of this particular volume has to be "Mel Blanc: The Man of a Thousand Voices," a fascinating, often touching documentary about the late actor who brought Bugs, Daffy, Tweety and hundreds of others to life.
If the tone of this set sounds a little mature, that's not an accident. Warner Bros. notes on the cover of each "Golden Collection" that the DVDs are "intended for the adult collector and . . . not suitable for children." For those seeking more kid-friendly fare, the "Spotlight Collection" discs offer more than 30 installments from the Golden box sets.