We didn’t have a Blockbuster in my town until I was in high school, and until then, there were only two other ways to get a movie that you didn’t buy at the mall. You could visit the tiny rental store called Dollar Video (which surprisingly survived until 2010) or check out the town’s library.
My mother would walk us (it was just down the road and around the corner) to Dollar Video every Saturday morning and let us each get one movie or video game. I can still smell the bubble gum and plastic video cases that hit you in the face when you walked through the door. Even though I spent many, many dollars at Dollar Video, they never had the one video I must have watched 100 times as a kid. I’d find that one at the library.
One day, knowing I was a big Ghostbusters fan, my Mom brought home a movie from the library. When I had to take it back three days later, I immediately checked it out again. And again. And probably again. I must have taken that one home more than any other movie from either place in town. It was “Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters.”
“Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters” is a 1988 Looney Tunes compilation movie starring Daffy Duck and other classic Looney Tunes characters. In the 80s, Warner Bros. was combining newly-animated footage and linking them with classic Warner Bros. cartoon to make one longer movie, such as “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie” and “Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island.” “Daffy Duck’s Quackbuster’s” was the last in the compilation series and the final theatrical release until “Space Jam” almost a decade later. It was also Mel Blanc’s next-to-last performance in a Looney Tunes project before his passing.
Quackbusters uses the following cartoons to piece together the movie: “Night of the Living Duck,” “Daffy Dilly,” “The Prize Pest,” “Water, Water, Every Hare,” “Hyde and Go Tweet,” “Claws for Alarm,” “The Duxorcist,” “Transylvania 6-5000,” “The Abominable Snow Rabbit,” “Punch Trunk,” and “Jumpin’ Jupiter.”
“Night of the Living Duck” and “The Duxorcist” were two all-new cartoon segments. Both were used again in a 1992 television special called “Bugs Bunny’s Creature Features.”
The film was released in theaters on September 24, 1988, and was finally released on DVD in 2009. The DVD included three bonus shorts: ‘Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th and a Half Century,’ ‘Superior Duck,’ and ‘Little Go Beep.”
Each short is slightly modified, through selective editing, redubbed lines, or completely re-done animation to fit the “Quackbusters” narrative. Short scenes, 30 to 60 seconds in length, were also created specifically for this film to transition between the shorts to keep the overall storyline going.
The movie opens with my favorite scene, the short “Night of the Living Duck,” created just for this feature. A grand opening sequence shows the kooky, crazy, and spooky comic books spread across Daffy Duck’s room. These titles contain a variety of things like ‘UFO Today,’ ‘Mad Magazine,’ ‘Famous Monsters,’ ‘Pachyderm,’ ‘Horror D’oeuvers,’ ‘Creeps in the Deep’ and even a name tag to a ‘Star DREK’ Convention from 1978. Daffy is in bed reading ‘Smogzilla’s Hideous Tales #177’ and becomes over-anxious, searching his room for the next edition when a clock falls off a shelf and hits him in the head.
His following dream sequence is my favorite scene in the entire movie. He’s awoken and shoved on stage in front of a group of monsters seated in a lounge bar. Looking around the room, you’d find Dracula with Elvira look-alike brides, Frankenstein and his Bride, The Human Fly, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wolfman, Skeletons, Madusa, a Cyclops, a Mummy (in a Fez hat), Alfred E. Neuman, a lunatic with a chain saw, and Smogzilla himself.
Daffy winds up drinking an entire bottle of ‘Eau de TORME,’ which gives him the soothing vocals of “The Velvet Fog” Mel Torme himself. This joke was for the parents watching, and one I doubt kids today would get without Google. Gaining confidence, Daffy begins working the room and strikes up conversations with several of the more famous monsters before accidentally insulting Smogzilla. He wakes up from his dream screaming, back in bed, which leads to the opening credits for the film.
We return with scenes from the 1948 short “Daffy Dilly,” where Daffy, a street salesman, accepts a job to fulfill the last wish of a dying millionaire named J.P. Cubish. Cubish is offering an inheritance to whoever can make him laugh one last time. Daffy outwits the butler and finally reaches the old dog and becomes Cubish’s entertainment by becoming a target for getting the classic pie-in-the-face. Cubish dies laughing, and his entire estate is left to Daffy, so long as he uses the money to do good in the world.
Ever the selfish duck, Daffy decides to do whatever he wants with the money. Cubish returns and slowly but surely starts taking his money back. Daffy Daffy decides to create a ghost-hunting business to rid himself of Cubish and keep what’s left of the inheritance. In a spoof of Ghostbusters, Daffy opens his office, but he wants other people to do the work for him in typical Daffy fashion. Daffy gets Bugs Bunny to agree to join him, despite the rabbit’s desire to go to Palm Springs on vacation. He searches the phone book to find himself another stooge, landing on Porky Pig.
We wind up in a heavily edited version of 1951’s “The Prize Pest,” while Daffy recruits Porky by scaring him with novelty fangs and a split-personality joke. Porky, now in the office, has brought his pet scaredy-cat, Sylvester. Sylvester is tossed out onto the ledge of the 13th (ha-ha) story window. This leads into the first commercial for Daffy’s Paranormal hunting group, featuring bits from the 1952 short “Water, Water Every Hare” that has Bugs Bunny outwitting a mad scientist and the giant red-haired monster we come to know as Gossamer.
In Daffy’s advertisement, he uses the great tag line: “Spooks Spooked, Goblins Gobbled, UFO’s KO’d, Aliens Alienated, Vampires Evaporated, and Monsters Remonstrated.” He then provides the phone number, 555-5925, or 555-KWAK. KWAK… I assume because he’s a duck and a phony scientist.
Back on the window ledge, Sylvester finds Tweety Bird as we move into the next short, “Hyde and Go Tweet” from 1960. This is a retelling of the classic Jekyll and Hyde, as Sylvester chases Tweety into the office of “Dr. Jekyll,” but Tweety hides in a bottle of “Hyde” formula. The remainder of this scene alternates between Sylvester chasing tiny Tweety and a monster-sized Tweety chasing normal-sized Sylvester. Sylvester has grown paranoid but wakes up in a panic realizing it was all a dream. As he recovers, the sight of the real Tweety sends Sylvester crashing through a wall as he flees.
We move to our next scene from 1954, “Claws for Alarm,” as Daffy sends Porky and Sylvester off to the town of Dry Gulch. It’s a haunted ghost town, with a haunted hotel overrun with murderous mice who do whatever they can to kill Porky. The already paranoid Sylvester is continuously on the lookout to protect his owner. He puts himself in harm’s way of everything from noose-hangings, razor-blades, and a shotgun. Still, each time Porky misses the murder attempt and only finds Sylvester in a compromising position. Sylvester eventually snaps the next morning after hearing Porky may extend his stay due to how relaxing and restful his night was. He bashes Porky over the head and drives off as fast as possible.
Back at the office, Daffy takes on a case for himself in a segment made just for this movie, “Duxorcist.” In a direct spoof of Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters, Daffy ends up at an attractive female duck’s home. She, along with many of the appliances in her home, is possessed. Daffy finds a book that suggests he keeps the spirits amused, and he begins telling them awful jokes, and they eagerly flee her body. Without a host body, the evil spirits turn towards Daffy, sending him running.
When he makes it back to his office, a million is all that is left of Daffy’s fortune. Porky calls in from Dry Gulch (with a big bump on his head) for his next assignment. Daffy sends him off to the Superstition Mountains, a wild goose chase meant to keep him and his rattled cat Sylvester out of Daffy’s hair. The phone rings again, this time from “Outer Transylvania,” and Daffy pins this job on Bugs Bunny, who again is disappointed he won’t be in Palm Springs.
The next short is “Transylvania 6-500” from 1963, where Bugs finds a female two-headed vulture that grows interested in him, as both a meal and perhaps even romantically. Bugs casually walks on by as he heads for the castle, where he is greater at the door by Count Blood-Count. Bugs only would like to make a phone call, but Count Blood-Count insists he stay the night because “resting is good for your blood.” Bugs, tired from his trip, agrees to stay. He tries to fall asleep in his room and begins browsing a book of ‘Magic Spells and Phrases’ without noticing the creeping Count Blood-Count. Bugs accidentally turns the Count into a bat reading the phrase “Abracadabra.” While the Count’s bat version is flying, he reads “Hocus Pocus” out loud and turns him back into human form, sending him crashing into the moat. The Count returns to Bug’s room, and it leads to a back and forth of magic spells, most of which wind up with The Count getting severely injured, in a cartoonish way, of course. Bugs mixes in bizarre sounding words, like “Newport News” and “Walla-Walla, Washington,” making The Count a two-headed vulture. The female two-headed Vulture from the beginning of the short runs off The Count with romantic interests. Bugs calls home with nothing spooky to report, much to Daffy’s dismay.
In desperate need of income, Daffy joins Bugs in another ghost-hunt after a call comes in from the Himalayas. ‘The Abominable Snow Rabbit’ from 1961, one of the more famous shorts in the movie, has the opening altered slightly to fit the plot here. Bugs continuously tricks the Abominable Snowman into thinking that Daffy is a bunny rabbit. Pretty much everyone has heard the line, “I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him, and name him George” line before. A cat-and-mouse, or Snowman-and-Duck, chase goes back and forth until the Snowman chases Bugs into a warm environment and melts away.
The last recycled animation for the film was a 1953 short titled ‘Punch Trunk.’ A baby elephant causes panic in the city, except for a funny scene involving a drunk who tells him to buzz off. Daffy seeks an opportunity to cash in using his “supernatural expertise” and gets interviewed on a Nightline with Ted Koppel spoof named Frightline with Zed Toppel. As Daffy downplays the baby elephant sightings as just “illusions” of the insane in the city, the elephant walks onto the set behind him. Daffy is laughed off the air, his business in shambles.
Daffy returns to his office and finds his money completely empty, with a note from J.P. Cubish saying, “You Lose Duck.” A singing telegram arrives and provides Daffy with notice he’s being evicted from the premises for non-payment. The building is then condemned and suddenly destroyed around him.
A few short scenes were created as an epilogue, such as Bugs Bunny finally enjoying his vacation in Palm Springs, where the newspaper headline alerts him to Daffy’s bankruptcy. The short ‘Jumpin Jupiter’ from 1955 is edited down and identified as “The Superstition Mountains,” where Daffy last sent Porky and Sylvester. They are still lost, and Sylvester is as scared as ever. Daffy Duck, in the final scene, is back to being a street vendor. He manages to sell a small wind-up toy of Gossamer for $1, but the money instantly vanishes, and J.P. Cubish laughs as Daffy shakes his fist towards the sky.
All in all, Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters still holds up nearly 35 years later. It’s worth watching just to enjoy the last of the Looney Tunes films that mix classic shorts and new material to make a cohesive storyline. You can also enjoy the final performance of the great Mel Blanc, and that alone is worth your time. You can’t go wrong throwing in this DVD or finding it streaming for quick 90 minutes of Halloween entertainment with the spooky ghosts, vampires, monsters, and more.