The Complete Uncensored Private Snafu

War is hell, so it only makes sense that our government would do whatever was in their power to make it less so. That included sending our men overseas newsreels from home, along with other filmed entertainment.


privatesnafuIn order to keep morale up, the Armed Forces commissioned Warner Bros. and several other animation houses to create a series of cartoons based around the character Private SNAFU. The cartoons were designed to entertain as well as educate, and were designed and animated by some of Hollywood’s best talent. For those not in the know, SNAFU stands for Situation Normal, All Fouled Up.

At least that’s the G- rated version. Those in the Armed Forces had another euphemism for the word fouled. You get the idea, and the point is driven home in the first cartoon in the series, “Coming! SNAFU!” When the narrator gets to the “F” in SNAFU, there’s a big hesitation (driven home by the animation on screen), and then finally the word Fouled appears. Those in the Armed Forces knew better.

They also knew what they were watching was propaganda, but as long as it was entertaining, they didn’t care. As a matter of fact, the Private SNAFU cartoons became so popular with the enlisted men that there was unrest when it didn’t show up with the newsreels. Now more than 50 years old, the cartoons are finally available for the public to see, and even though they depict racial stereotypes, they’re still quite humorous, and at times risque (at least for the time). Warner Bros. lent the talents of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Bob Clampett among others to animate the cartoons, which depicted the lackadaisical Private SNAFU as he tried to find a way out of performing his duties. The messages were less than subtle, but they did manage to make their point without being too preachy.

Some of the cartoons used rhyme to make their point, like the hilarious “The Goldbrick,” which shows what happens when one member of a unit decides to take the war off. Or “Rumors,” which emphasized that no one can be trusted with secret information. “Infantry Blues” is also a hilarious look at the old adage, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” SNAFU learns that each branch of the service comes with its own risks and responsibilities.

Shot in black and white, the cartoons depicted Germans, Japanese, Russians and Italians as stereotypes. Some might find these images offensive today, but that’s too bad. They were issued during a time when both sides were depicting each other as caricatures, so fair is fair. Some of the cartoons are also a little racy for their time, but not for their intended audience. One of my favorite bits has SNAFU sleeping under a Betty Grable calendar, with each exhale blowing up her skirt.

Now that’s honestly funny. Those familiar with the artists will recognize their distinctive styles. As a piece of history, “The Complete Uncensored Private SNAFU” is a blast from the past that helps us understand a time and place that no longer exists.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ X ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Delivered in their original black and white and in full frame, the cartoons look sensational considering that they’re over 50 years old. There is some expected wear and tear on the original negatives, but not enough to make them annoying.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

The Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is effective, and gets the jobs done.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ X ] Poor

No closed captions or subtitles.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ X ] Weak

There are no extras, just a genuine slice of American History perfectly preserved.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Historians and fans of animation would be amiss if they didn’t add a copy of this DVD to their collection. Now if they would just release those hilarious Venereal Disease shorts on DVD.

VITALS: $24.99/Not Rated/130 Minutes/B&W/28 Chapter Stops/Snapcase/#ID5533BKDVD

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: THE COMPLETE UNCENSORED PRIVATE SNAFU

BIRTH DATE: 1993

HMO: Image Entertainment



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