By Steve Daly
Updated October 31, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Looney Tunes: Photofest

You can hardly buy a DVD without a cross-promotional spin these days. Plugged product du jour? Warner Bros.’ ”Looney Tunes: Back in Action” movie, coming soon to theaters (and yes, Warner is a subsidiary of EW’s parent company). But hallelujah! Promos merely hover around the edges of The Looney Tunes Golden Collection, a smartly organized four-disc set that marks the DVD bow of a library already strip-mined for VHS and laserdisc. Menus take you to the main event faster than earlier formats could: 56 hilarious, intensely colorful seven-minute shorts (most made between 1940 and 1958), restored from abridged TV versions to all their uncensored glory.

That means you can freely enjoy watching Bugs Bunny abuse any number of opponents — with dynamite, firearms, mallets, and, most amusingly, his devastating wit. Just about every favorite character makes an appearance, including cranky Daffy Duck, fusspot Porky Pig, and those indubitable friends of Carson, the Goofy Gophers. Forget Quentin Tarantino. The great Warner directors (primarily Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, and Robert McKimson) invented cartoon ultraviolence half a century ago — and nobody made it funnier.

There’s plenty of historical perspective woven into the package too. Buffs Jerry Beck, Mike Barrier, Greg Ford, Stan Freberg, and Leonard Maltin offer smart testimonials in commentaries and documentary segments. And that’s not nearly all, folks: Vintage clips of the Warner auteurs speaking for themselves are far more illuminating than any rounded up previously. A must for newbies and cognoscenti.