Tuesday, August 26, 2014

All Quiet on the Animated Front

Not the 1989 Mike Grimshaw classic... it's on YouTube, but somehow I can't provide the link.  I just... I just can't.  Arguably, that and our next Tom and Jerry cartoon Quiet Please! do have similar plots, if not titles.  One thing that does distinguish the Tom and Jerry team from the average cartoon: at the beginning of Quiet Please!, (get those scofflaws now!) it is announced that Quiet Please! won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Short Subject.  Hmm!  I don't know if Walt Disney ever did that... he didn't on Lend a Paw, but they do announce that the film is dedicated to a charity cause... sheesh.  What a comedy killer!  Ferdinand the Bull doesn't boast the Oscar win.  Sure, there's Oscar boasting with The Old Mill, but it seems to be well after the fact.  Disney got an Oscar for Der Fuehrer's Face, ...I thought it was spelled 'Fuhrer', for one, and two, we still don't know which side of the war Disney himself was on.  Anyway, I'm probably violating some copyright law by even talking about Disney cartoons, so I better quit while I'm ahead.
Arguably, the Warner Brothers shorts with that Blue Ribbon opening implies they're in Oscar territory, and Bugs did mention that Friz got an Oscar for Knighty Knight Bugs (even though Friz himself actually won for The Pink Phink),but they don't delve into temporal specifics as the cat and mouse do.  As for why Quiet Please! is in stilted rhomboid shape, well... small price to pay to see it for free on the YouTubes, right?*

* SPOILER ALERT: Probably too steep a price to pay.  This review might still be free, though; I'll keep you posted.

...okay, let's get right into it.  And they're off!  We start with the bulldog trying to sleep.  Unfortunately for him, this isn't a documentary about the sleeping habits of the domesticated canine.  And soon enough, we hear some stuff breaking off screen.  The dog wakes up looking annoyed, and yet somehow we see the resignation on his face, that he's been through all this before, probably several times.  The cat's trying to hit the mouse with a frying pan.  In the cat's adrenalin-induced fury, he hits the dog quite a few times, in addition to not hitting the mouse at all.  They exit the stage, and the dog tries to bury his head in the pillow.  Next, the shotgun.  The dog's going through basic training again!  The cat uses the dog to prop up the shotgun for a few of the shots.  The cat throws the gun into the air and takes off after the mouse, Stage Left.  Now, c'mon, folks.  Even the most jaded sophisticate amongst you will probably appreciate where the gun lands?  No?  Not at all?  Not even as irony?  Irony with actual iron?  Boy!  Tough crowd.  And then, for the Third Act of this First Act... the axe.  (HAH!  The blogger's auto-spellcheck doesn't have the word 'axe'.)  The cat shows a little decorum and hits the dog with the side of the axe head rather than with the blade part of it.  To be fair, the mouse is standing right next to the dog's head.  You think the dog would be upset equally at the two of them, but no.  Sympathy for the mouse, always.  The cat and mouse once again exit Stage Left, but this time, the dog's had enough.  The dog reaches off camera to Stage Left and grabs the cat, even though the cat's probably a half mile away at this point, judging from the duo's speed.  Once again, I call upon the hipsters... really?  Nothing?  Even that has been done to death?  Well, I guess I appreciate you reading this blog post and all, but I gotta say... it kinda sucks to be you right now!  (Might as well go for the Beyoncé reference)


Okay, so that was just an opening appetizer.  Time to dig in to the main course that sets the tone of the rest of the pic.  The bulldog is once again voiced by the positively terrific Billy Bletcher.  The guy could do it all: Taxi Boys shorts, cartoons... the master of the 2D and the 3D.  We just saw a Castle Films cartoon called The Big Bad Wolf. (actually, this one was about the Little Bo Peep wolf, not the Three Little Pigs wolf)  On the DVD menu it said "BID Bad Wolf."  Go figure.  Oh, those Chinese, or Koreans, or whoever makes these cheap DVDs.  Love it.  The more idiomatic, the better... where was I?  Oh, right.  The bulldog, as delicately as an animated bulldog can to a cat, explains that he's trying to take a nap... and if he hears one more noise, he'll skin the cat alive.  "GOT IT?" asks the bulldog.  The mouse, smiling, nods for the cat in absentia.  My viewing companion wondered aloud about that whole getting skinned alive thing.  Clearly they're not a die-hard Tom and Jerry fan like I ... sort of am.  This is still one of the nicer things that happens to the cat.
After coming to a stop from being thrown by the dog, the cat seems to have gotten the message.  Is this the end of the cartoon as we know it?  Will the dog get its much needed and once requested beauty sleep?  Bore-ring!  Re-enter Jerry Mouse.  I hate to spoil the visual gag, but Jerry gets Tom's blood boiling anew, and the chase is quickly resumed anew.
Damn, that mouse is fast.  Tom's trying to catch up, but then he gets scared by something, and uses every part of his lower legs to slow down before hitting the dog... especially his rather large, prominent glute muscles!  Good Lourdes.  The mouse has got the frying pan... I'm assuming the same one from earlier, and a spoon to hit it with to boot.  The dangerous smashing weapon has now just become a percussion instrument as well!  Why do these things never get used for cooking in the cartoon movies?  Jerry Mouse hits the cat once for good measure, then goes back to its previous stance like a guy practicing karate.  Tom knows when he's beat, so he retreats to around the corner, waving goodbye before disappearing out of sight.  As it happens, the mouse isn't as omniscient as it pretends to be, and Tom gets the drop on it.  And so, with no spoon or frying pan to wield, Jerry Mouse does the waving goodbye this time, and takes off anew round the corner.
For this next episode, we start with the mouse tripping the cat with an extension cord... damn, that mouse is strong.  Time for Tom's next shock... is that the same footage?  I mean, hunk of animation?  Probably.  No expense was spared at MGM back in the day... someone's going to kill me for using that phrase... but the cartoon department apparently had to cut a few corners.  Audio too.  Every time the mouse barks like a dog, it's always the same two barks, and every time the cat yelps in pain, that's usually the same one.  Anyway, what the cat got scared by was that Jerry the Mouse is exercising its Second Amendment rights and has picked up the shotgun.  Is the axe next after that?  Is this tit for tat on every weapon the cat used on the mouse?  Jerry the Mouse shoots the shotgun, but Tom the Cat stops the bullets with its paw-fingers.  Kids... do NOT try this with a shotgun, as you will probably at the very least lose the arm of whichever hand you try it with.  Anyway, back to the cartoon violence.  For Jerry Mouse's next trick that causes the cat to emit the same scared yelp it so often does, the mouse starts to tip over a grandfather clock.  Damn, that's one strong mouse!  It doesn't even take some special strength pills or anything!  Maybe off camera.  The cat apparently doesn't have the time or the energy to stop the grandfather clock, so it just puts its fingers over the dog's ears while we hear the enormous crash off-screen.  Lol.  Once again, I appeal to the hipsters in the audience... nothing?  Will nothing move your jaded heart to even an ironic laugh?


Well, these Tom and Jerry cartoons may be short on laughs... but they do apparently try to appeal to the sadists in the audience, even if they can never go public with that information about themselves.  For Jerry the Mouse's next trick... it's light bulb time!  One after another they fall.  Damn, but that mouse is practically on par with a human when it comes to throwing light bulbs!  But God bless him, the cat catches every last one of them.  Unfortunately for the cat, his tail is close to this weird power outlet near the ground that looks like a mouse hole in the wall... okay, bad example.  That's a semi-circle.  The power outlet is a full, tiny circle in a golden plate in the wall.  Apparently, this is the way power outlets used to be.  And darn perfect for sticking a cat's tail into!  Jerry puts the cat's tail into the power outlet, and the light bulbs start lighting up... and alternating, too, no less!  But the mouse takes some pity upon the cat, and gets a metal roller skate, rolling the cat away and out of the outlet.  At no point does the mouse get shocked.  Someone's not playing fair with these cartoon physics, but that's okay for the teeny things in these cartoons.  The mouse did get beat up a little bit in that golf one a week or so back.
..where was I?  Sorry, I seem to have taken ... you know, one of those breaks where your eyes are closed and your throat makes this noise like a door opening and shutting real fast... Anyway, here's something the hipsters will appreciate.  SPOILER ALERT: Now, normally when an animated cat's holding a bunch of light bulbs and being pushed along on a roller skate, if you're at all like me (scary thought, I know), you're probably thinking, Hey!  There must be a staircase nearby for the cat to fall down with!  And normally, you'd be right.  In this instance, however, it would take the action too far away from the dog, where the main conflict of the plot has been concentrated.  So, the cat instead falls over the dog, and the light bulbs start crashing all around them.  C'mon, hipsters.  I don't blame you for a minute if you don't want to agree with me on anything at all... but that was pretty funny, wasn't it?  Didn't see it coming, anyway, probably... RIGHT?  I mean, CORRECT?
The groggy dog starts to wake up.  And so, it's one of those rare occasions when Tom is forced to speak.  Tom starts singing the dog a lullaby.  Fortunately for Tom, he's delayed his live skinning for a few minutes, anyhow.  The dog falls back to sleep.  In another diabolical twist that you'll probably see coming, Tom engages in some light-to-medium chemical warfare.  Tom gets a bottle of "Knock-Out Drops" and starts feeding it to the groggy dog.  Tom pops the top of the dog's nose open and pours in some of the drops... ah, cartoon dogs.  All the extra features they come with.  Tom pours the rest of the bottle into the dog's mouth, and ever so gently gets the dog to gulp it down.  Now, sure, you might be thinking, but The Movie Hooligan!  What about that scene they cut out of the Bugs Bunny classic, The Big Snooze?  Well, the lawyer part of me (The Lawyer Hooligan?) would argue that, in Tom's case, it's an act of self-defense.  With Bugs, it's clearly an invasion of Elmer's privacy... albeit an hilarious one.  And besides, the bad guys will always be able to get sleeping pills.  There's no federal law strong enough to stop that.  In any event, the knock-out drops are a tad bit funnier than sleeping pills, and probably harder to cut out of the Tom and Jerry cartoon.
The only question now is: where to break between Acts Two and Three?  I guess I'll play it safe and break at the Custard Pie sequence.  Sorry... SPOILER ALERT.  Anyway, now that the dog's out cold, time for Jerry to come in with a new deviltry: a toy drum, which he's beating loudly.  Tom's surprised at first, but clearly he can't wait to show Jerry why the drumming won't work.  Tom shows Jerry the bottle, and Jerry decides to give up... or does he?  Jerry writes out a will and hands it to Tom, giving Tom a reason to speak a second time.  Basically, the will says that Jerry gives Tom all his worldly possessions, which include, and apparently are limited to, one custard pie.  This was before plots got all complicated and recursive, so we never do find out how a mouse came to possess a custard pie, but it's a remarkable enough episode to cause Tom the cat to speak an unprecedented second time.  You'll just never guess what happens to the pie.  Never in a million bajillion years...


The chase is on again.  Jerry the mouse tries another devious trick, which scares Tom anew.  Jerry fakes the dog growling.  Tom's scared at first, but lifts up the dog's chin to find Jerry.  Jerry barks twice, making the same barking sound he usually makes... but then he bites Tom on the nose.  The chase begins anew again.
Jerry's down to his last tricks.  He tries yelling in the dog's ear before taking off running again.  He then takes a page from the Book of Stooges and stabs the dog with a pin.  The pin gets ruined and bent out of shape... that dog must have iron in its blood!!
The chase is briefly paused for a bit with a couple of hammers.  For some reason, I wanted to skip over this one, probably because it's no big surprise what happens... the mouse bashes the crap out of the cat's toe or tail.  Yawn.  Which leads us to the last gag: the mouse has managed to stick a very very very very large stick of dynamite under the dog.  Its fuse is burning, and Tom is frantically trying to get the stick out from under the dog.  Apparently, trying to put out the fuse is futile.  Very few times in cartoondom have cartoon characters ever been able to just stick their fingers on a lit fuse to stop it from burning.  Spoiler alert: our instant case is no exception.
And so, Tom continues to struggle with the large firecracker.  But then... the dog is awoken from its knock-out drop-induced slumber.  He sees the cat and starts to growl.  With the benefit of hindsight, Tom is at a fork in the road.  The dog is apparently unaware that it's sitting on a very very large firecracker.  Completely unaware.  Should a) Tom try to point this out to the dog? or b) quietly stick the firecracker under the dog and walk away?  You'll never guess what Tom decides to do... never... okay, he picks b).


Needles to say, Tom should have picked a) for his own benefit, but God bless him for picking b).  The "camera" holds still as the dog rolls up its new-fangled sleeve, revealing a navy tattoo, then runs off to Stage Left.  There are sounds of crashing and clutter, but we're spared the gruesome visuals... or are we?  Surely if it were a Disney cartoon they'd show the beating?  You know, job creation.  Anyway, the cartoon ends as it should, with the cat wrapped in bandages and rocking a big rocking bed back and forth with the dog in it.  Reminds me of that Monty Python sketch with hospital patients in an Army basic training-type course.  "Fractured tibia, Sergeant!  PROPER LITTLE MOMMA'S BOY, AREN'T WE?"  ...am I the only one?  I thought so.  And of course, we find the mouse snuggled up with its protector, for the sake of real life mice that have been killed by real life cats since the dawn of time.  Finally, the tide is turning in the mouse's favour!

...oh, right.  The Oscars.  Well, it was indeed an interesting year for animated shorts!  Every big studio had a contender: Disney, of course, and George Pal with... JASPER and the Beanstalk?  A perversion of our classic children's literature.  No wonder that didn't win!  And... Walter Lantz had an Oscar-worthy entry?  That's a shock.  The only one I've seen is the Warner Brothers' entry called Life With Feathers about a male bird that's upset about his wife leaving, so he decides to get Sylvester to eat him.  Sylvester is just about to, but gets suspicious about it at the last second.  The bird does a reverse Tweety and keeps trying to fly into Sylvester's mouth.  The plotting alone was indeed worth a nomination, although I originally found the cartoon kind of annoying as a precocious youth.  As for Quiet Please!, well, something about the Oscar win elevates it a bit above the norm... although I'm not sure why.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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