Thursday, September 04, 2014
The Land of Milk and Hammers
Our next Tom and Jerry is called The Milky Waif. We start with an exterior shot. Jerry Mouse is apparently moving up in the world! He's got his own door on the outside of a suburban house. A bit of a demotion from his pad in The Million Dollar Cat, but the rent's probably more reasonable.
In a slight twist, we start with Jerry asleep, dreaming about being chased by the cat. Jerry eventually kicks off the covers, and we can see him mimicking running from the cat. Dream Tom grabs Dream Jerry and starts hitting Dream Jerry on his dream head. In a genius of synchronicity, we hear a knock on the door with the same rhythm as the rhythm of Dream Jerry's beats to his dream head.
Jerry wakes up and sighs a sigh of relief. There's a second round of knocks. Jerry looks afraid. Oh, I hope it's not Jerry's country cousin with the guitar and the moustache and cowboy hat. Hate that guy. Switch to outside shot. Nope, it's a bundle of joy being left for someone else to enjoy. Jerry almost misses it! Well, that's what Jerry gets for living in such a nice neighborhood... of course, the bundle of joy's a little passive aggressive, too. Why, it just barges its way in, going around Jerry, no less!
You know, a great writer once wrote a note to himself, and it read "Orphan? Dame?" In this film's case, it's orphan. It's the path of orphan that we'll be taking this time, or so it appears. Time to DQ something different. Well, parenthood happens to the best of cartoon characters. Their careers don't always recover, like Betty Boop or Beany and Cecil, but that's the risk they take.
And so, as with Olive leaving instructions with the Jeep, we find that this little grey mouse is named Nibbles... and he's always hungry! P.S., feed him lots of milk. Guess they should've named it Anorexia, but that cartoon probably wouldn't have been as fun.
After we and Jerry read the note, Nibbles helpfully illustrates by licking his chops and pointing to his open mouth. Jerry thinks on it a minute, tiptoes over to his entrance to the house proper, and spies Tom sitting next to his bowl of milk. Jerry makes the mistake of showing the bowl to little Nibbles. Nibbles looks, puts two and two together, revs up his little legs, then slowly heads out to the kitchen to get that damn milk! Jerry just tries to stop Nibbles, as Nibbles is too young to appreciate the rules and the decorum of the house environment. It's just the one rule, really: fear the cat. But rules are meant to be broken, and oh, how that rule will be broken by the end of this film.
Jerry ends up hanging Nibbles from a small post by his diaper. Yup, he's basically giving Nibbles a wedgie. But you can't argue with results, so Jerry tries once again to quietly tiptoe up to Tom's bowl of milk.
Next scene: the kitchen floor proper. Jerry continues to tiptoe... hmm! Interesting composition. I wonder what they're.... HAH! Always with the jokes. This Little Nibbles is a single-minded chow hound. Apparently, Jerry Mouse is still too busy trying to tiptoe up to the bowl of milk to freak out. It happens! But when little Nibbles is using sleeping Tom's nose as a diving board to jump into the bowl of milk... oh, it's Freak Out Time.
Ah, kids. The baby mouse ends up waking up Tom. Thinking quickly, Jerry grabs the baby mouse and they both jump into the bowl of milk. Fully alert now, Tom looks around to see just wha-happan! Hey, wha happan? Tom takes a good squint at that bowl of milk... oh, well. At least he's got that sweet bowl of milk. Better get to work on it. It's quite deep! Won't keep forever!
Next scene: inside the bowl. Alas, Jerry and the little mouse have to hold their breath at the bottom of the milk bowl. It's too early in the pic for Nibbles to quickly engulf the entire bowl. We can see Tom's tongue lapping away and... yup. I must've been in a good mood when I first saw this scene, as it caught me by surprise. It's the old rule of threes. On the third underwater lick, Nibbles gets swept up by the giant tongue. Now I've heard that cat's tongues are engineered like Velcro, and that if they start to swallow something, their tongues help to keep things going down their throat instead of the other way. Good for juicy moles and voles, bad for fur and fleas. Jerry subverts the natural order of things as he usually does, and leaps out of the milk bowl, pries open Tom's mouth, reaches in and grabs Nibbles. And off they go! Tom takes off after the devious duo.
Next scene: some old school scrolling. Hanna and Barbera had a bit of a budget on this one, so the drawings are a bit nicer here, but they never forgot to use some good old fashioned horizontal scrolling in all their subsequent work directly for TV. I don't know why these cartoon mice are afraid of these cartoon cats, anyway. The mice can always outrun the cats, as is the case here. Nibbles gets an eyeful of the cat, picks up the running Jerry and takes off for the hole in the wall. Jerry seems surprised. Nibbles can get out and run faster than him! Just one last detail, however... Nibbles is holding Jerry up too high, and Jerry hits the wall just above the hole. Nibbles drags Jerry inside, and ... BAM! The cat knocks himself out cold on the wall... that's odd! Tom's head looks like it could fit inside the mouse hole!
The entrance to Jerry's mouse cave is small again. The stragedy continues. Jerry decides to try a slightly different approach, and he quickly builds a superstraw out of many straws... hmm! I wonder if there are any rebels out there amongst the straw manufacturers who ever tried to make a straw that could easily plug into another straw like Legos. Maybe they have 'em in the Big Gulps at 7-11, I don't know. That's just how elitist and out of touch I am with the common folk. And of course, the engineering nerds out there will scoff at how small Jerry's pile of straws is. Oh, it's laughable at best and criminally negligent at worst, I tells ya! But that's cartoons for you, just a rainbow of deception and logical inconsistencies. Most people focus on the fun part of that rainbow, like those guys who did the whole Wile E. Coyote Cartoon Physics treatise. Anyway, we find Tom asleep with his paws around the milk bowl. Lol. Oh, Tom. Poor beleaguered Tom. If there's one thing he gets to do a lot, it's have an angry look on his face, and usually with one eye squinted... but I might be wrong about that. Maybe it's that his head is perpendicular to the screen, so you can only see one half of his face.
And so, we get a shot of success, as Nibbles happily slurps away at milk from the superstraw. Next scene: Tom gets a very devilish idea, judging from his expression. And it is indeed. He turns the mouse's straw against the mouse, and Tom sucks Nibbles into the straw, and Nibbles begins the long journey towards Tom's stomach. Why, that cat could suck a golf ball through a garden hose! Good Lourdes. Time for Jerry to once again spring into action. Naturally, Jerry gets there in time before Tom can eat up poor little Nibbles, and is strong enough to do so as usual. Jerry unhooks the length of straw with Nibbles in it, and blows on the straw, shooting Nibbles back into the mouse pad... I mean, mouse hole... in the wall! Mouse hole in the wall. Mouse cave, what have you.
And so, having saved Nibbles a second time, Jerry makes the run back to his hole in the wall... but Tom actually beats him to it! How could this be? Here's why... Tom knows the studio won't let him ever really catch Jerry, so might as well have a little fun with the little bastard. Tom does a downright mean trick, breaking the 3.5th wall and pulls the hole over a little bit, so that Jerry runs into the wall instead of through the wall to safety. Boy, English is hard! Anyway, at last. Tom has Jerry in the clutches of his paw-hands. Fortunately, Nibbles has found a giant hammer. Nibbles comes out of the wall with it and hits Tom on the tail with the giant hammer. The hammer is easily about ten to the eighth power times heavier than the mouse wielding it, but no matter. Can't argue with a great gag, right? A great hitting-a-cat's-tail-with-a-hammer gag... note to kids. Do NOT hit your cat's tail with a hammer!
And so, the cat goes flying up into the air... I swear there was one Tom and Jerry cartoon where they use a hammer bash one time to illustrate the inner workings of the central nervous system, where a pain bubble slowly works its way up to the brain, and the brain processes the message, and an "OW!" is sent to the cat's mouth. This isn't that one, unfortunately for us. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, but Movie Hooligan! The hole in the wall's right there! Why didn't the two mice go back into the hole and be safe from the cat? I was thinking that as well at first, but there could be any number of reasons. Number one: manners. Somehow it just wouldn't have been polite. The cat might also start bashing in the whole wall to get at the mice, perhaps with that hammer if the mice didn't already hide it! Number two: kinesthetics. All that looking up made them tired, and they'd have to carefully step backwards into the hole in order to do it. But most likely of all, it'd be boring! Der!! Duh!!!
Anyway, the chase is on again. Jerry's holding Nibbles aloft as he runs, and Tom can't seem to catch up to them. Another sad day indeed. And then comes a moment I've been overthinking a little too much over the last few days here. The trio stops at the milk bowl. Jerry holds Nibbles over the milk, and Nibbles takes a sip. Jerry then holds Nibbles in front of Tom's face, and Nibbles spits all the milk into Tom's face. I mean, sure, Nibbles is hungry and all, but you just never know how you're going to behave in the heat of the chase. The chase continues.
Next scene: the two fugitive mice run into one of them ironing board closets! Oh, how many more cartoon characters have to run afoul of the old ironing board? Even Roger Rabbit couldn't avoid it in his very first short, Somethin's Cookin' at the beginning of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Anyway, it's time for a tasteless blackface joke. Jerry takes on the voice of the black girl that seems to occasionally appear in some of these Tom and Jerry shorts as the house servant that beats the cat up before it can catch the mouse. The point being, it's a good thing they put on a disguise, otherwise Tom would've bashed them with a frying pan. Nibbles exposes his cover when his white diapers fall down, exposing his grey glute area amidst the rest of his body covered in black shoe polish. The chase is on again.
Inspired by Tom's frying pan, Jerry now has a frying pan standing up in the doorway... at mouse level, of course. Boy, the screenwriter really did their homework! Nibbles runs by, and Jerry pulls back on the frying pan and lets it go right in Tom's face. Frying pans back then must have had elastic handles or something. And then, a truly sadistic action by Jerry: Jerry grabs Tom's tongue, stretches it out, then hits Tom on the top of his head so Tom bites his own tongue. "OW!" says Tom. Jerome and Thomas continue their part of the chase, with Tom grabbing furiously at the ground to get some quick velocity.
Should this be Act Three? Probably. Well, just like Bugs Bunny helped to mentor the next generation in pulling fast ones on the bad guys, like Pete Puma in Rabbit's Kin, so it goes with Jerry. Of course, he might not realize it, but Nibbles can already handle a hammer. Let's try his luck with a frying pan! Not as good somehow. Of course, these are moving targets we're dealing with now. With the hammer, Tom's tail was sitting quietly as it often does. So Nibbles has to get the timing just right, as Jerry and Tom go whizzing by, in that order. Nibbles of course flattens Jerry twice, but Jerry's so far ahead of Tom that he's able to unflatten himself and take off running again. A third time would be sending the wrong message, so Jerry calls a time out. Tom stops and looks. Jerry angrily points to Tom's face, and Nibbles does his thing. Well, like Anthony Stabile said to Tommy DeVito, "You can't miss at this distance!" Nibbles aims the frying pan tried and true and flattens Tom's face, leaving a frying pan-shaped ring around it, so Tom's face looks like it's at the bottom of a crater or something. I'm not sure which racial caricature this is supposed to be, if any... Swedish? Dutch?
Next scene: Jerry and Nibbles crawl under a rug. Tom grabs an empty milk bottle and sits at the other end of the rug, waiting for one of the mice to emerge. Well, at least they broke up the monotony of the chase! And so, as decreed by the needs of the plot, Jerry is caught in the empty milk bottle, with Tom's paw over the open end of it. But before Jerry Mouse can prestidigitate a pin to stab Tom's paw with (like that Sylvester and Tweety cartoon), there's still the matter of little Nibbles, who waves at Tom in a manner just like Jerry sometimes does! Nibbles takes off back under the rug. Tom places a bunch of books on top of the milk bottle and dives under the rug after Nibbles. It's the number one rule in animated shorts: always respect the sanctity of the rug under which thee crawleth.
Nibbles gets out from under the rug, and has enough time to get a custard pie to hit Tom in the face with once Tom emerges from under the rug. It's the number two rule in animated shorts: never crawl under the rug if you're the bad guy. Never! It's this kind of underhanded thing that will happen to you! I mean, are you nuts?
And so, Nibbles is left relatively defenseless. Look at how Tom's able to catch up to him, for God's sake! Thank God they cut to a shot of the milk bowl. Nibbles runs around the milk bowl as Tom goes by. It's one of the fundamental things that apply! Not seeing Tom around, Nibbles gets back to drinking the rest of that milk. I wonder if the milk is a metaphor for something. As it happens, Tom's sitting there with a smug expression on his face. Tom grabs Nibbles in his paws. How sweet it is. Now to look at Nibbles... whuh? Where'd he go? And then... now Tom's the rug that Nibbles is crawling under! MAGIC! But Tom's smart, and he knows that Nibbles is heading for Tom's tail. So, Tom holds his own tail aloft, points a gun at it and, once Nibbles emerges... what could possibly go wrong? Wait a minute... did I miss something? Well, it is near the end of the film, which is usually when the gun comes out. Hey, it works in all those Jim Wynorski movies on Cinemax! Nine sex scenes, then a gun at the end. It's called Shakespeare.
Oh well. At least Tom's scream was a different one. And now, time for the fly swatter. I don't know why they even bother anymore. The aardvark tried hitting the ant with a fly swatter in ... I believe it was Hasty but Tasty. The cat's actually landing blows on the mouse with said swatter, but to no avail! The mouse's velocity is unchanged! Next scene: the kitchen proper, where Tom can't hit Nibbles to save his life. But at least their trajectories are a little more chaotic. That's kinda neat!
And then... Nibbles is in the proverbial corner, as the close-up suggests. Nibbles hides his head but leaves his tiny grey glutes exposed, but covered by the white diaper. Tom delivers another blow with the fly swatter. Well, needles to say, it's the last straw. Kinda like the spanking scene in True Grit, and in this case I refer to the John Wayne original, where he tells Glen Campbell "You're enjoying it too much!" Well, Tom's a cat, and it's just what cats do. They can't help that. They're like any other species that's too big. Just looking for a little excitement in life. A tiny vole that comes along? Excitement. And even though they've just batted it to death, or bitten into it too deep and some cat saliva has already killed them, they just have to bat it around a little bit more, or bring it into the house out of a sense of accomplishment. In this situation, however, Jerry morphs into Mighty Mouse. Maybe Minute Mouse to a lesser extent. Breaking through the bottle, Jerry runs over to check on something... yup, the red buttocks of discipline. Well, that tears it right there. You can chase Jerry's friends, try to kill them, and keep them from enjoying a little milk, but a spanking? That is indeed the last straw. After engulfing the spinach of outrage, Jerry delivers a superbeating to Tom, and then we cross-fade to the proverbial Marshall Plan aftermath.
...didn't the last Tom and Jerry end like this? Tom in bandages, caring for Jerry's friend?
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan