Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Devil and the Deep Blue Cat

For some reason, I'm resisting giving this one four stars out of four, but it probably deserves it.  Maybe I can eventually convince myself to soften my heart.  Of course, it's no Pluto's Judgement Day, but I'll let someone else review that one.  I have enough troubles with Disney's copyright lawyers as it is.


Ah, Heaven and Hell.  Is there any duet of locations more suitable for the various animated mediums?  So ripe with possibilities, so much easier to visualize in a cartoon than in a live-action film... at least, back then.  The way Heavenly Puss explores the Great Beyond is through the usual Tom and Jerry formula, but with a few slight twists.  We start with the duet living in rather deluxe accommodations.  And as you can see, Jerry's got a little golden rope around the top of his hole in the wall!  Alas, this doesn't mean that he's an equal in the eyes of Tom.  Wealth and privilege hold no truck in the animal kingdom.  To make matters worse, Tom's only pretending to sleep while Jerry nervously tiptoes around Tom and up to the table to find some delicious edibulates to munch upon.  But no sooner does Jerry reach for the slices of hard boiled egg, when Tom strikes ... and in a rather upper-crust way, I might add!  Tom goes after Jerry with a rather sword-like knife.  He's using the good china, for Gawd'z zake!  Yes, it's the Middle Ages all over again, and Tom thinks he's some kind of knight or something, but he's not rescuing maidens from dragons' lairs.  No, this is more of the dungeon-type stuff.  Death to the peasants and rodents!  Jerry takes off running and tries to make his getaway up the stairs.
Tom catches up to Jerry, and sees Jerry pitifully climbing up the stairs.  But Tom is an old-fashioned Sadist, and likes to have as much fun with Jerry as possible, so Tom tries to literally pull the rug out from under him.  Blue bloods have blue carpet, go figure.  Jerry is resisting as best he can, when fate intervenes... in the form of a piano.  This is a situation Confucius never encountered in his long, wise life: beware the piano at the end of the carpet you're pulling.  Now this is the stuff of highlight reels.  I seem to recall Tom being shown this footage in a later cartoon.  Well, it was some rather ball-busting animation to produce, so why not reuse it at least once?  Or maybe I'm thinking of that Wile E. Coyote cartoon where he does his own play-by-play... damn, can't find it.  YouTube doesn't have everything after all.
...hmm!  Google Chrome isn't refreshing my text as often as it used to!  Interesting.  Anyway, you can tell this is the non-comedy portion of the proceedings.  Normally when a piano falls over, it makes some kind of music, doesn't it?  Maybe not Chopin or Ludwig van, but something!  Not this time.  And this is not one of those flukes where the piano maybe stops in mid-flight, gets turned sideways and just blocks the stairwell.  Oh no, it's headed all the way down.  Jerry the mouse runs out of the way at the last minute.  And Tom, well... he's not so lucky.


Somehow I thought Tom was hardier than that!  Oh well.  It's the plot this time.  And so, having been mashed in between the piano and the wall... another way-too-perfect coincidence... Tom's soul takes that long escalator to heaven.  I don't want to run afoul of Led Zeppelin's copyright lawyers, as I hear they never sleep and are compensated well for policing the internet.
...man, that's a long escalator ride!  And there's no comedy mishaps like in that one Buster Keaton film, oh no.  This is all deadly serious sh... stuff here folks.  Tom gets on that escalator at 1:46 and steps off at about 2:17, but keeps going... what is this?  The airport?  Actually, sort of!  Tom eventually comes to a stop and runs over to the golden gates, looks through and sees a bunch of trains.  "Heavenly Express," it's called.  Well, heaven's constantly getting a makeover to reflect modern technology then, isn't it?  Take Defending Your Life, for example.  And instead of St. Peter letting people in, we've got an old grey-haired cat.  Surely that's the voice of Anthony Hopkins?  Such gravitas!... nah, apparently it's just ol' Huckleberry Hound himself, Daws Butler.  Heartland gravitas, then.  Powerful stuff.
And so, we get to a few test cases ahead of Tom.  You don't want to just go right to Tom cold.  The first cat got in a fight with a bulldog.  He gets a pass.  Aye, tis a fine death.  Makes getting pancaked by a piano look like a pile of puke, as Moe Syzslak would say.  Okay, sure, if it's on a city street and your proverbial animated cartoon piano movers drop a piano on you, that might be okay.  But this is fat cat through the eye of a needle time!  I probably should've hyphenated all of that.  I mean, for God's sake.  Your own piano in your own home?  Merciless.
Now, the second cat has a big red lump on his head.  He gets a pass?  Tom gets, like, ten of those in any given cartoon!  I doth protest.  The third cat is a flat one, of course.  Another questionable death.  You don't want to have cats or people in heaven that aren't paying attention to where they are at any given moment, do you?  I'm just picky that way.  Now, Tom was flattened too, so you're probably asking yourself, but The Movie Hooligan!  Shouldn't Tom's soul be flat as well?  The answer: no, because Tom is the protagonist, our entryway into the world of this cartoon proper.  It's the other cat's job to be flat.
Now, here's a truly morbid, Modernist touch for you.  For the hipsters in the audience, this is for you: a bag of drowned kittens is next!  I'm still having nightmares!  Again, like Defending Your Life, there are age limits on the process.  Gotta give kittens a free pass.  So adorable.
Finally, we get to Tom (Thomas).  Trying to sneak in, of course; that figures.  I guess if Tom could just go right on in, there'd be no cartoon.  The struggle is more interesting.  Probably why in The Polar Express, most of our time was spent outside the train.
So here's the deal: Tom can't get into Cat Heaven because of the shabby way he's treated Jerry over the years... this is Cat Heaven, right?  Maybe it's actually Mouse Heaven in disguise?  Seems to be Mouse Heaven rules!  But, Tom does live in the home of one of the "job creators," so Daws Butler gives Tom one last second chance.  "The Heavenly Express doesn't leave for another hour," he tells Tom, and if Tom can get Jerry to sign a Certificate of Forgiveness (...Form 1040-H?) then he can go into Cat Heaven with a clean slate.  Otherwise... Tom will be sent to Dog Hell, populated by one Billy Bletcher.  Man, that guy can do it all.  But what about Cat Hell?... I know, I take these things too literally.  Reminds me of that episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee I was watching tonight. Seinfeld asked "Why is it called the restroom?  You don't rest in the restroom!"  To which I reply: IT'S JUST A NAME!!!! THAT'S ALL... NOT ALL NAMES DESCRIBE WHAT THEY ARE NAMED FOR ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY ALL THE TIME.  WE DON'T CALL TOILET PAPER 'ASS PAPER' EITHER, DO WE?  Okay, back to the cartoon.


Irony of ironies!  My cat just stepped on the button that took me back to Yahoo and made me lose all my changes!  Well, she's still a sweetie pie anyway... where was I?  Oh, right.  A dream.  It was all just a terrible, terrible dream... OR WAS IT??? WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Remember how Wayne's World always used to do that?... ah, memories.  And so, Tom similarly breathes a premature sigh of relief, and finds the Certificate of Forgiveness (Form DD-214CF?) in his hand... paw.  The clock looms large overhead.  "Hurry Tom!" booms the authoritative voice of Anthony Hopkins... I mean, Daws Butler... Daws Butler?  Really?  Didn't know he could do grab-it-ass... I mean, gravitas.
And so, Tom goes to the proverbial gilded mouse hole in the wall with a giant apology cake, and not one of those cheap, Crisco numbers from Safeway, either.  No, this is the real deal Holyfield right there.  Wild guess, but I don't think Jerry's going to want to sign that Certificate right away... CALLED IT!  Actually, I saw this already.  Dayamn, but that tiny mouse makes short work of that rather large cake!  Must be like the ant that can lift 100,000 times its own weight.  Well, Jerry can eat about 736 times his own weight in cake right quick.  He should of... have known there'd be a price to pay.  And so, Tom, the cat that spent his whole life persecuting that innocent mouse Jerry, grabs him out of the hole in the wall, puts a pen in his tiny feet, and points rather sternly at the Certificate of Forgiveness.  After seeing that, why even bother with the signature?  That's proof enough for me right there!  Put Tom on the Cadillac Board... I mean, get his ass into Cat Heaven!
Like most average people, Jerry Mouse doesn't read the Certificate of Forgiveness yet.  All he sees is the pen in his hand.  You'll never guess in a million years what he does with it.  Never!  Well, it's one of those old-timey pre-ball point pen pens where you can squirt the ink out of it with a tiny lever.  If that isn't a hint, nothing is.  And so, Tom gets his blue face full of blue ink... seriously?  Blue ink for a signature on a legally binding document?  What next, tie dye and long hair for men?  Slippery slope, people.  Slippery slope.
Tom looks at the clock again.  Just like in Golden Yeggs and Slick Hare, the clock goes fast in these seven minute (one reel) cartoons.  Feeling the pressure, Tom decides to forge Jerry's signature himself or, depending on your point of view, tests the rigorousness of the system by seeing what would happen if he attempted to forge Jerry's signature... Huzzah!  The system is rigorous!  Pity be upon the fool who would actually try to do that!  Pity, I say! ...arguably, he's got a rather mischievous look on his face when the idea strikes him, but never mind.  People are always going to try to cheat the system, no matter how rigorous it is.  Look at Adam and Eve, for God's sake!  I know, I know, it's all Eve's fault.
Second bribe: Tom tries to tempt Jerry with a big hunk of Swiss cheese.  Jerry finally reads the document and sees what's going on.  To make matters worse, the cheese is contingent on Jerry's signature.  Why, the very idea is in my accounting textbook!  I believe they're called 'contingent liabilities.'... something like that.  We haven't gotten to that chapter yet.  But Jerry's old school and, indignant, Jerry rips that document right up into about sixteen or thirty-two little pieces, and snaps his fingers at Tom.  You go, Mouse Man!
Scared in his own right, Tom collects himself and prepares to smite Jerry with one of those fireplace shovels, used in both Miller's Crossing and Corny Casanovas.  And I thought Sam Raimi was the real Three Stooges buff!  Harumph!  But before the beating can occur, the Devil Dog appears and eggs Tom on... can the mouse see the Devil Dog too?  I think Jerry's looking at him.  Anyway, Tom has a quick change of heart, as just about anyone would if they saw something like that.
And so it came to pass that Tom taped the document back together again and came back to Jerry, begging and pleading on his knees.  I think this is how Microsoft cornered the market in... whatever they're famous for now.  Jerry's still a little skeptical, but you can't argue with results!  Jerry reluctantly signs the paper... but the pen's run out of ink!  This is like the ending of Back to the Future 1!  ...okay, maybe not exactly.  Tom gets the pen going again; I mean, Jerry's probably strong enough to do it, but Tom's got the fire of motivation behind him in this situation.  Jerry signs, and Tom grabs the document and takes off.  This is reminiscent of The Mission and how churches used to operate against native peoples in distant lands, despite the occasional extreme rapids rider on a cross.  Alas, the Heavenly Express has already left, and it's down to Hell for Tom.  Tom waves goodbye before dropping... inspiration for Wile E. Coyote, perhaps?  Chuck Jones: BUSTED!!!!


...I forgot Act Three!  Oh well.  Too late to go back now.  And so, Tom makes a mighty splash in Devil Dog's cauldron.  Alas, it all turns out to be a dream.  There's an Aesop fable here someplace: never fall asleep next to the fireplace, especially if you're a cat.  Relieved that it was all just a very vivid and horrible dream, Tom knocks on Jerry's door for real, scoops him up and kisses him like he'll never see him again... something like that.  The cartoon ends with Tom giving Jerry a big hug.  Jerry looks at the camera... or audience, if you will... and shrugs.  There's probably other cartoons that ended like this, and Adam Sandler's Click sort of did, and of course It's a Wonderful Life.  I think I finally figured out why It's a Wonderful Life is given the status it gets in The Hebrew Hammer.  You see, Jewish people apparently complain a lot.  Maybe it's a wonderful life, but there's still so much to complain about.  As for Heavenly Puss, well, this probably deserves four stars.  Maybe I'm just in a good mood, but I just can't get enough of this heaven and hell stuff.  Four stars.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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