Tuesday, October 07, 2014

United 'Nuckleheads

Go figure!  Even a seemingly Isolationist kingdom like Tom and Jerry gets tired of the same old formula and looks to international politics for ideas.  Sure, it was three years after the end of World War II and the forming of the United Nations, but the world was a little slower to absorb such changes back then.  I mean, really absorb them.  Yes, it was a simpler time before television... a discussion I'll save for later.  Besides, I'm no Marshall McLuhan.
So let's dive right in to The Truce Hurts.
We start as usual with a big fight.  Crashing, objects thrown, what have you.  Alas, this can't be the whole cartoon, so eventually the players emerge.  The mouse runs out of the house and exits Stage Right.  Tom gets thrown out and hits the pole at the top of the stairs... you know, those wooden columns on a porch?  What's the term for... anyway, Tom picks up a frying pan and chases the mouse.  The dog comes out with a baseball bat!!!  He follows the cat and mouse.  And so, we get a perpetual violence machine.  The threesome stand in front of a garage door, that emblem of the American suburbs' most venerated post-WWII institution, and bash each other with their respective implements.  Jerry the mouse has a hunk of pipe and hits the cat in the leg.  The dog is to the left of the cat, but just can't seem to hit the cat in the head with that bat.  The cat clearly gets the best of the arrangement, hitting both the dog and mouse with his frying pan.
ACT ONE - Clearly the dog doesn't like this arrangement, and is such a whiny baby that he has to fall back on a time out... something like that.  But the dog does have the big idea, and is a persuasive debater, even convincing Jerry the mouse that cats can get along with mice!  Damn, he's good.  And thankfully, even though the dog says "Let's bury the hatchet!" this is not taken literally... not like an Itchy and Scratchy, anyway!!!!  And so, soon after, the peace treaty is drafted and signed by all three.  Note the last part carefully: "Whosoever breaks the treaty is a stinker"... nope, better get it right.  "With this truce we won't tinker... the one who does is a STINKER."  And once again, the dog is voiced by Billy Bletcher, perhaps one of the greatest voices in animated cartoon history... second only to Mel Blanc, of course.
ACT TWO - By inferrence, then, apparently the world is a stinker.  For, just like the world in ... what's that one I just saw where Popeye tries to keep the world asleep for Pappy... damn.  Had to check the blog again.  Just like the world in Quiet! Pleeze, the world grinds on blissfully unawares of what one or two or three cartoon characters decide.  In a stroke of genius, we see a sunrise of average beauty, and one teeny flower break off and float into the room.  The flower gets sucked up by Tom.  Is this the end of the treaty already?  Will he turn on his friends... oh, apparently not.  Nope, the truce holds firm.  The threesome are sleeping side by side by side.  Each wakes up separately, and carefully and tenderly tends to their neighbors.  The dog quiets the alarm clock and gets up to make breakfast!  Is this going to be like Porch Pals and those other Itchy and Scratch cartoons that made all of Springfield's children lose interest and go outside to play?
Well, the signs of unrest are everywhere, to be sure.  When the dog wakes up to go make breakfast, he props up Tom's head with... a pipe?  Really?  Seriously?  A tobacco pipe... not like the hunk of pipe Jerry was using earlier to raise bruises on Tom's leg.  I guess a tobacco pipe is... slightly better!  I guess it's payback for Cat Fishin' when Tom propped up the dog with a tiny stick.  Sure, it held until the dog almost swallowed the Nelson Muntz fish, but still.  And the way Tom is brushing Jerry's teeth is a little passive-aggressive, wouldn't you agree?  Even if you're not one of the Creepy Police's stormtroopers that seem to be everywhere on the web?  Also, does it make me a bad person to laugh at it when the cat and mouse help the dog into his chair?  I thought so.
And so, a bottle of milk is opened.  Ah HAH!  MGM's borrowing WB's sound effects!  Oh well.  WB owns all these now, so it's all good.  The unequal distribution of milk resources doesn't lead to the treaty being broken, and there are no signs of a buildup of enmity.  I guess that's good.  The mouse gets as much milk as the cat, for f.. God's sake!  After drinking the milk, the threesome shares a toothpick... just go with it.  I know, I know, it's not chicken.
And so, the real test of the truce begins.  Time to put on my lawyer's hat... most of you might want to skip this part.  Here's the whole text of the treaty:

The Dog, the Cat and Mouse agree...
To live together peacefully
With this Truce we won't tinker
The one that does is a STINKER

...and so, out goes Jerry into the stinking world of no law and order.  We find a no-account cat picking through garbage cans in the alley near the venerated House of Peace... actually, the buffet looks pretty good!  Well, you know how it is.  Movie stars only get to play in sanitized movie trash.  No errant nails or hypodermic needles here!  ...are those olives?  Dang, but I must be hungry.  Should've brought that swag from my car inside... ANYWAY!  The cat has made a plate out of a garbage can lid.  Note the arrangement of food on it; it comes into play later, in a stroke of genius.  This cat sees the mouse waltzing along as big as you please... and immediately grabs the mouse and puts it on its "plate."  You know, what a normal animated cat would do.  No time for batting it around a bit first, this cat's hungry and needs its protein.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, Tom gets scared from the porch and intervenes and saves Jerry's life... I know, you're way ahead of me.  CLEARLY this treaty isn't long and complicated enough.  No provisions for the world at large.  If the other cat were to sue for damages... and after hitting itself on the head with a brick after seeing Tom brush off Jerry and give him a big kiss, he might be tempted to... the treaty probably wouldn't hold up in court.
Next rogue interpretation of the treaty: Tom the cat finds himself in a rather similar situation as the mouse was just in, spoiler alert.  There's a no-account dog gnawing away on a bone, all big as you please... hey!  Isn't that the dog from The Counterfeit Cat that gets his headpiece ripped off?  Go figure!  Not as big a role here, alas.  The dog sees the cat, throws the bone away, and proceeds to turn Tom the cat into the feline equivalent of an unroasted pig, replete with curled tail and apple in mouth.  Clearly, it's a dog-eat-cat world out there.  Butch AKA Spike gets scared from the porch, and intervenes and saves Tom's life... fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your POV.  But for those of you waiting for that Tom and Jerry brand of violence, this new dog provides it.  Butch gives the other dog such a zetz under his chin that all of its teeth fall out.  Sure, that's bad, but at least they fall out in order.  Which is good!  Next, that darned apple.  And clearly the filmmakers were influenced by that Laurel and Hardy classic, The Hoose-Gow, and Stan's apple troubles.  Tom's still got that darned old apple wedged in his mouth!  Using no finesse, Butch pokes the apple into Tom's mouth and it ends up in Tom's throat.  Tom tries to swallow the apple, but somehow he just can't get it past his shoulder blades.  Ah, I just can't wait for Cue Ball Cat.  Alas, we're cheated out of a freaked-out reaction from the other dog.  What is all this craziness?  A dog taking care of a cat?  And not eating it?  Well, Butch/Spike's always been that way, really.  Butch just gets mad at Tom, and I don't think Butch would ever actually eat Tom, but that's just me and my boring interpretation of it.  Guess I'm just a VeggieTales kinda guy deep down.
ACT THREE - Now, where would a Tom and Jerry cartoon be without a horrible racist stereotype?  Well, your prayers have been answered!  ...okay, it's not in the online version, but if you've got the DVD, you get to see the yellow meat truck drive by and splash mud on the threesome, which turns them into... what else?  Colored gals!  I'm just naïve on the history of that one.  I guess the white filmmakers didn't want to just offend black men all the time.  Why not black women as well?  Anyway, let's move on.  We follow the meat truck a bit longer and... yup, the back of it is open a bit.  Quite a bit, in fact.  And... yup.  Out comes a package.  The threesome gathers round it.  The dog unties the string and... yup.  The biggest, reddest steak in the world unfurls right before their eyes.  Finally!  A real test of the treaty.
We cut right away to the steak having been cooked and placed on the table.  The dog draws dividing lines on the steak with chalk.  You can probably guess where this is going.  I was going to say that it ends much like The Fighting 69½th, but good luck finding that on YouTube.  Good luck finding it on the web in general!  My hyperlink will help a little bit.  Alas, the mosquitoes in Of Thee I Sting don't get to fight over the spoils of war.  For mosquitoes, human flesh is the spoils!
And so, with the steak gone down the impartial sewers, spoiler alert, Butch gives the treaty its last bit of respect by tearing it up and getting back to the fighting.  I guess that makes our threesome a trifecta of stinkers!  I guess some things never change.  Why, they're even beating each other up in the same way!  It's like that old story of the guy hitting himself in the head with something heavy and tough.  His reasoning?  Well, it just feels so good when he stops.  Cartoon characters beating each other up with heavy implements hurts, but apparently the truce hurts even more.
I seem to recall seeing this once on one of Ted Turner's channels, just before Cartoon Network got up and running.  Of course, it's all animé and Adult Swim and Genndy Tartakovsky now, but once upon a time classics like The Truce Hurts were on television.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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