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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
Sale Price: $24 Last Price: $36.98 Buy now! 3rd Party 24 In Stock
Release Date: February 27th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1992

The Tune

Overview -

Blu-ray review by: Justin Remer
Deaf Crocodile adds Bill Plympton’s first feature, The Tune (1992), to their growing catalog of great animation reissues. Plympton’s cracked animations have been a staple of offbeat cartoon showcases like MTV’s Liquid Television and Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival, and they also have garnered two Oscar nominations. The new restoration looks excellent and the disc includes those Oscar-nominated shorts restored, plus much more. Especially for animation buffs and “sick humor” enthusiasts, this release comes Highly Recommended.

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
This special limited edition spot gloss slipcover (designed by Alessa Kreger) is limited to 2,000 units
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
70
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.33:1
Audio Formats:
English 2.0 Mono
Release Date:
February 27th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

It’s not easy to boil down what Bill Plympton does. His hand-penciled grotesqueries combine the nerdy absurdity of The Far Side, the cynical and macabre gag-ery of Mad magazine, and the reality-bending of Salvador Dali. Like a lot of humorous cynics, there’s a bruised sentimental core that gives the bitterness more bite. Most of his shorts have the blackout-gag structure of a Looney Tunes cartoon or a slapstick-heavy Three Stooges two-reeler squeezed into a faster single reel.

Plympton’s first feature, The Tune, is a musical journey not unlike Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz. Fledgling songwriter Del (Daniel Neiden) must wander a surreal landscape in search of a hit tune on his way to meet his boss, music biz honcho Mr. Mega (Marty Nelson), so that he can afford to live happily ever after with Didi (Maureen McElheron, who also wrote the songs). Along the way, Del runs into any number of characters with their own songs to sing. Maybe all this music might help Del find his own tune.

Even considering The Wizard of Oz as a model, The Tune is extremely episodic and plays much more like a classic musical revue than an integrated narrative with songs. Plympton essentially treats the story as a clothesline to hang a series of slapstick shorts and musical numbers on. A few of these scenes had even already been released as standalone shorts: Dig My Do, with an Elvis-impersonating dog singing about his bouffant hairstyle; The Wiseman, in which a blathering guru morphs and mutates; the reality-bending dance Tango Schmango; and Push Comes to Shove, which is built on violent and ridiculous one upmanship between two deadpan men in suits.

The lack of a strong story makes The Tune feel oddly long for a 70-minute movie, but each of the discrete songs and skits are creative and funny enough that the shagginess is quickly forgiven. The Love Sick Hotel sequence, which imagines a spot for folks to nurse their lonely hearts before dying gruesomely, is probably the highlight of the feature-exclusive material. Also in the running is the Broadway-style number that introduces Del to the town of Flooby Nooby. In both, Plympton’s ability to riff fifty or sixty gags in quick succession is beautifully realized.

Maureen McElheron’s song score effectively drives the film, hopping genres from folk to blues to surf rock to Broadway and beyond. Her ballad, “Be My Only Love,” is a tearjerker that comes as a tender surprise after the wacky film that precedes it.


Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Tune comes in a standard-sized keepcase that includes a booklet with an essay by Walter Chaw. A limited edition spot-gloss slipcover is still currently available on the Vinegar Syndrome website. The disc loads directly to a full-motion main menu.

Video Review

Ranking:

This AVC-encoded 1080p 1.33:1 pillarboxed presentation is sourced from a new restoration from the Academy Film Archive, and it is jaw-dropping. Bill Plympton's approach is decidedly homemade and hand-drawn, but the details of Plympton's pencil work and the vibrancy of his colors are really accentuated in this long-overdue zhuzh. Some specks of dirt are present here, but one suspects they might have been photographed during the initial animation process rather than being the product of damage to the film. Either way, they are barely noticeable in motion.

Audio Review

Ranking:

The soundtrack appears in its original mono mix, presented here as LPCM 2.0. The soundtrack itself is fairly spare. Not a lot of attempted ambience, with focus on dialogue and some featured SFX. The songs are the flashiest element here, and they are given enough oomph to drive the film's many musical numbers. Otherwise, the soundtrack reveals no audible signs of wear and tear or other distractions. One subtitle option is provided: English SDH.

Special Features

Ranking:

Deaf Crocodile offers a pleasing selection of some classic Plympton shorts, plus new and old supplements about the making of the film.

  • Your Face (HD 3:21) - A music video of sorts, in which a serious-looking man in a business suit sings a Maureen McElheron song as his face mutates and morphs. Plympton’s first Oscar nominee, and beautifully restored by the Academy Film Archive.

  • How to Kiss (HD 6:41) - A mock instructional video that transforms the act of kissing into body horror. But, you know, in a funny way. Transferred from an SD video source, but of solid quality.

  • Guard Dog (HD 4:49) - A yappy bulldog anxiously barks at everything because he assumes it will all kill his master. Another Academy nominee and restoration.

  • The Flying House: Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend (HD 8:31) - A restoration and coloring of a 1921 Winsor McCay short, with added music and voice performances by Patricia Clarkson and Matthew Modine. Plympton produced this in 2011.

  • Two audio commentaries - The first included commentary is ported over from the 2004 DVD and it features director Bill Plympton and songwriter Maureen McElheron. Their discussion is fairly chummy and full of behind-the-scenes info on the production and promotion of the film. The second commentary is from Plympton associates – and fans – Adam Rackoff and James Hancock. Their chat is also quite lively and plays like a well-informed podcast about Bill Plympton and the film.

  • Interview with Bill Plympton, Maureen McElheron, and Daniel Neiden (HD 56:02) - Deaf Crocodile’s Dennis Bartok conducts a Zoom interview with director Plympton, composer McElheron, and lead performer Daniel Neiden. They talk about their influences and early days before getting into the making of The Tune. They have also all reteamed to work on the upcoming film, Slide.

  • Trailer (HD, 1:28) - Newly made trailer from Deaf Crocodile.

  • Trailer for Bill Plympton’s upcoming new feature, Slide (HD 4:31) - Bill Plympton describes his new film, a musical noir western, which is seeking distribution. This is followed by a slide guitar driven sizzle reel.

Final Thoughts

It's wonderful to have this milestone in independent American animation back in circulation. The Academy's restoration revives the colors and emphasizes the offbeat technique of this weird but winning musical. Admittedly, the film creates an image of director Bill Plympton repeatedly taking a basket full of oddball gags and tossing them at the wall (or, I guess, the sketchpad) to see what sticks, but fortunately most of the gags do. If you're a Plympton fan, or you want to be, this release is a no-brainer must-buy. Highly Recommended. 

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