Friday, September 26, 2014

The Cat Concerto, or Rhapsody Rabbit: Which Kicks More Ass?

For all the purists out there... ah, they're not out there.  And if they are, they don't care about this little blog of mine.  Screw it.  But it is how to teach the controversy, isn't it?  Pitting two forces of nature like Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry against each other?  After all, even Chuck Jones went over to the dark side and started making some Tom and Jerries.  Apparently, Warner Brothers shutting down their cartoon department in the 1960s was too much of a blow for him, personally and professionally.  Still, there are some similarities betwixt Cat Concerto and Rhapsody Rabbit.  It can't be denied.  For one thing, they both use the same music!  ...hold on, gotta look it up on the innertubes.  How sad that is... Hungarian Rhapsody #2 in C-sharp major!  Go figure.  And second, both piano players get interrupted by a mouse.  Of course, according to the IMDb, Rhapsody came out on November 9th, 1946, while Cat Concerto came out FIVE MONTHS AFTER!!!  Busted!  Apparently, MGM could not allow an animated-character-at-Carnegie-Hall gap.  Well, they got an Oscar out of it, so they must've done something right.  Or maybe it was a weak year in general.  Disney didn't spread enough samolians around to ensure a victory for... Squatter's Rights?  Seriously?  He didn't seem to give much of a damn about the rights of his employees!  Oh well.  Let's get into the heat of the controversy here.  Spoiler alert: I gotta side with Bugs on this one.................

SING US A SONG, YOU'RE THE PIANO CAT

Arguably, the intro of The Cat Concerto is a bit more lush.  Better backgrounds, two layers of them, moving at different speeds.  The well-dressed cat emerges and polite but enthusiastic applause erupts from the audience.  Tom prepares by rubbing his hands with a rag.  Now he's ready to play... but his fake cummerbund has other plans in mind.
The animation may be better here, but somehow the sound quality wasn't given the George Lucas treatment for the DVD, unlike Rhapsody Rabbit.  And so, the playing begins, and it's all quite lovely and regal.  No room for laughs?  So it would seem... until the mouse is introduced.  As with Solid Serenade, Jerry the mouse thinks he can just set up shop any old place to get some much needed beauty rest.  The internal workings of a piano being played, however, have other things in mind.  Another check mark in Concerto's favor: they seem to get the piano's internals right.  The hammers have a little more freedom in Rabbit.  Of course, maybe it's a different kind of piano!  I don't know!
And so, Jerry is rudely awoken by the piano hammers and, at 2:19 in the proceedings... is he getting hit in the crotch?  Brutal!  But he recovers quickly and taunts Tom by pretending to conduct him.  Well, a primadonna player like Tom can't handle that, so under the piano keys with Jerry, where his head gets smooshed.
Jerry interrupts again at a specific moment in the song, by manipulating the piano hammers himself.  Tom looks surprised, looks inside the piano, and grabs the Allen wrench conveniently next to Jerry, bonking him on the head with it.  Jerry has to step up his game at this point.  First up: a giant pair of scissors.  Jerry tries to cut off one of Tom's fingers.  Terrific.  Real good example for the kids to emulate.  Why not run with them while you're at it?  Next up: Jerry removes two of the piano's white keys and puts a mousetrap in their place.  Tom manages to avoid the trap for a little while, but apparently he wasn't looking and... yup.  Bam!  Into the trap his "finger" goes.  He's got human hands now.  Well, a cat would need human hands to play a piano, wouldn't it?  I like how Tom's finger swells up to cantaloupe size because of the mousetrap.  Oh, someone on the staff based that on real life!  Reminds me of... never mind.  Anyway, as in Rabbit, there's a connection between mice and jazz, if only because jazz is a rebellion compared to the old guard of the 18th century and earlier classics.  I kinda like Jerry's jazz lick better than the jazz in Rhapsody, but really, why pit the music against each other?
For the third act, such as it is, Tom regains control of the piano, and the piano hammers give Jerry mouse a pretty thorough bashing, even after Tom stuffs Jerry into the hammers and bending a handful of them out of shape.  But Tom can't win these things, right?  After Jerry finds comfort on a piano ledge, it's time for him to take control.  He rips out two of the hammers and starts hammering away the finale of the song.  Tom struggles to keep up, and I mean really struggles to keep up.  For some reason, he's working himself up into an awful lather of a sweat, and his clothes start ripping to pieces.  Jerry, on the other hand, seems to be drawing strength from this, and plays the finale three times total, until Tom is completely passed out on the piano.  So basically, Jerry goes Long-Haired Hare on Tom's ass, just not quite to that extent.
Basking in his clear victory, Jerry of course puts on a tiny tuxedo and gets into a tiny spotlight, and the audience applauds him.  I dunno.  A long time ago I actually thought this was better than Rhapsody Rabbit, but perhaps it's unfair to compare.  Still, this isn't their best Oscar winning short IMHO.

good double bill with: Holiday in Mexico
***

RHAPSODY IN RABBIT

Now we're talking!  Sure, it's not a Bob Clampett Bugs Bunny, but it makes up for it with more jokes than a Dave Barry paragraph.  Bugs emerges from Stage Left to thunderous applause, of course.  He's dressed in his finest tux with way-too-long tails, looking every bit the part for Carnegie Hall.  That is, until he starts removing his gloves.  The audience seems a bit confused, but eventually they settle down and prepare to enjoy some sweet, shweet music.  That is, except that one guy who can't stop caughing.  Bugs takes care of him, though.  Lol.
I never realized Bugs was such a terrific piano player.  Why... even his two front teeth are piano keys!  However, even the best of experts can get carried away at times.  Why, Bugs' fingers get all tangled up together during one challenging section of the piece.  But he's nothing if not an iconoclast.  Why, he starts skipping up and down the length of the piano as he plays!  Bugs gets into the music, even if we don't to the same degree.  Why... no, gotta break this bad writing pattern I'm getting into.  Phew.  There's a clever part with a phone, although some of you will probably find it too cute or "precious."  Bugs is playing two notes quickly and the phone rings.  "Who?  Franz Lizst?  Never hoid of him," answers Bugs.  Well, all the people who contributed to Warner Brothers cartoons didn't always get credit, like the in-betweeners and such.  AND Franz Lizst.  AND the voice of Elmer Fudd.
Act Two: even with a character as dynamic as Bugs Bunny, he still needs a foil.  Enter the piano-playing mouse.  This is why the Hungarian Rhapsody is perfect for this cartoon.  Bugs quickly lays down a mousetrap, plays a little more of the song, then turns around and waits for the telltale snap.  I hate to spoil it, so I won't, except to say that the mouse doesn't end up in the trap.  Bugs makes one more desperate attempt to catch the mouse, but the mouse evades capture in this three second-or-so sequence.  Nice sequence, but Bob Clampett would've definitely made it more elastic, somehow.  Bugs finally nails the hole in the piano shut.
After seeing a pinup in the sheet music, we quickly move on to Bugs finishing up a somber portion of the music, and getting thunderous applause for it... okay, let's just dwell on the pinup for a second or two longer.  Some wiseguy in the audience whistles like a wolf!  Bugs grins nervously and turns the pages.  You know, there's probably a... I gotta hear the commentary now... drat.  I think it's Friz's voice talking about directing the piano player.  Oh well.  The next part is the mouse trying to look at Bugs' hands or.. something.  Not exactly over Bugs's shoulder, mind you.  Not literally, just metaphorically.  Bugs starts playing the piano like a prisoner guarding his lunch at lunchtime.  Lol.  The mouse makes an exit, and then Bugs wraps up the somber portion of the music, and enjoys a little bout of applause for his efforts.
After that, the mouse is playing the piano.  Everyone wants to be in showbiz.  I don't think technically that the mouse is playing the same notes that the mouse is hitting on the keyboard, but oh well.  We can't expect an animated mouse to be that fast, can we?  Bugs plays along, then takes the fight to the mouse.  I hate to spoil how the battle turns out, but let's just say that the top of Bugs's head is a piano key as well as his teeth.
On to the joyous half of the Hungarian Rhapsody.  Happy gags, and lots of them!  Bugs using his ears to play the piano!  Bugs scooping up the keys and throwing them back!  The piano acting like a typewriter... see, kids, in the last century we used typewriters instead of word processors and... ah, skip it.  As for the poor mouse, well, the mouse seems to be trapped in the piano's guts, and here come the hammers!  The mouse runs like hell from the hammers.  The hammers recede.  The mouse catches his breath.  And... here come the hammers AGAIN!!!!!!!!  The mouse runs like hell from the hammers.  The hammers recede.  The mouse catches his breath... this could go on for years!  I gotta stop saying that.  I'm alienating my best friends...
Sorry, Jerry Seinfeld, but I gotta ask... where was I?  Oh, right.  The big finish.  Bugs turns to a particularly daunting page of sheet music.  We get a brief glimpse of it, but I did manage to grab a still-frame of it.  It's got comedy notations on it, like "Spaghetti" and "Dom DeLuise-isimo"... oh, wait, he's a bit early for that.  Bugs gives a brief prayer, oils his hands with a tiny, loud oil can, and starts to play... but wait!  What's this?  The mouse has his own tiny piano!!!  The little pipsqueak... literally!  He's got a suit and everything!  Little bastard.  Well, he did more work than Jerry did, that's for sure.  The mouse gets the big finish, but Bugs gets the last three notes, as he mutters something under his breath... obscene, I hope.  Well, Tom and Jerry got the Oscar, but it's the Bugs cartoon that will endure, if only for me.  Well worth the DVD revisit.

good double bill with Friz's Rhapsody in Rivets
****
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

1 comment:

black eyes said...

The Cat Concerto, or Rhapsody Rabbit: Which Kicks More Ass?
its interesting article for me and my czn i read half you article the cat concerto tom and jerry and half i read after tow days