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Warner bros.
Marvin the Martian, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig in "Duck Dodgers." "Essential" features cartoons from 1937-2003.

A new collection of theatrical cartoons leads this look at golden oldies arriving on DVD this week.

"The Essential Daffy Duck" (Warner, 1937-2003, two discs, $26.99). Not everything here is "essential," including most of the offerings on Disc 2 from the 1980s, '90s and '00s. But the 13 vintage toons from the '30s, '40s and '50s on Disc 1 should please animations fans looking for a Daffy Duck starter kit.

The first disc begins with Daffy's debut in "Porky's Duck Hunt," which has never been on DVD before — and if the "Looney Tunes" moniker for these shorts is a variation on "lunatic," then early Daffy certainly qualifies. But as demonstrated by the progression of cartoons on this disc, he gradually morphs into a less manic character, if still aggressive and ... um … pigheaded (he said, mixing animal metaphors).

"Duck Amuck," "Duck Dodgers" and "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" are among the treats here. Noticeably absent is "Rabbit Fire," which has the famous "Duck Season/Rabbit Season" exchange, but that one can be found on other collections (including last year's "Essential Bugs Bunny").

Extras full frame/widescreen, 21 cartoons, featurette, bonus cartoons: "Daffy Duck's Easter Special," "Daffy Duck's Thanks-for-Giving Special," "Daffy Duck for President"

"The Falcon: Mystery Movie Collection, Volume 1" (Warner Archive, 1941-43, b/w, three discs, $34.95). This series of B-movie programmers that filled out the lower half of double features during and following World War II focuses on the exploits of the debonair amateur detective of the title, based loosely on Michael Arlen's stories.

In the first three films, Gay Lawrence (aka "The Falcon") is played wonderfully by George Sanders (who had previously portrayed The Saint in a similar film series). Then Sanders' brother, Tom Conway, takes over the series (as Gay's brother Tom) for several more pictures.

Snappy, enjoyable quickies for fans of low-budget mystery-thrillers, each film is an hour to 70 minutes in length and they zip right along. The second in the series, "The Falcon Takes Over" is adapted from Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novel "Farewell, My Lovely" (later remade twice as Chandler intended).

Extras full frame, seven movies (available at www.WarnerArchive.com)

"Trooper Hook" (MGM Limited Edition, 1957, b/w, $19.99). Nice little Western has a white woman and her son being rescued from Native Americans that have held her captive for nine years. Despite echoes of "The Searchers," released the previous year, this is solid storytelling that benefits from the star power of Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea.. (Filmed in Kanab, Utah.)

Extras full frame (available at www.classicmoviesnow.com)

"The Quatermass Xperiment" (MGM Limited Edition, 1956, b/w, $19.99). Popular sci-fi thriller (based on an English TV show and followed by a trio of sequels) has a spaceship returning to Earth with the lone surviving astronaut infected by a creature that plans to take over the planet. Some performances are better than others but mostly a nicely modulated yarn. (The first two sequels, "Enemy from Space" and "Quatermass and the Pit" are much better.)

Extras full frame, trailer (using the alternate U.S. title: "The Creeping Unknown") (available at www.classicmoviesnow.com)

"Death of a Scoundrel" (Warner Archive, 1956, b/w, $19.95). No one played a cad and bounder better than George Sanders, and he has a field day in this tale of a con artist who steals, forges, swindles and romances his way to the top. But it's all told in flashback, as he's dead when the film begins, and there's no dearth of suspects. Loosely based on the true story of Serge Rubenstein. (Sanders' real-life brother Tom Conway plays his brother here; the only other time he did so was during the hand-off of "The Falcon" series.)

Extras widescreen (available at www.WarnerArchive.com)

"Campus Rhythm" (MGM Limited Edition, 1943, b/w, $19.99). Perky Gale Storm is the draw here, playing a teen singer who runs away and changes her name so she can go to college. But her fame tracks her down. Weak story but Storm is great fun, foreshadowing her two 1950s hit TV sitcoms, "My Little Margie" and "The Gale Storm Show."

Extras full frame (available at www.classicmoviesnow.com)

EMAIL: hicks@desnews.com