Friday, December 12, 2014

The Color of Pain

...oh, now we're talking.  I was never a big fan of these Tom and Jerry shorts at first (...and I'm kinda still not), but after seeing Cue Ball Cat, it finally clicked that, yes, this is where Itchy and Scratchy come from.  Of course, Tom and Jerry aren't as violent... at least, physically, but psychologically?  Perhaps more so!  I suppose because the Tom and Jerry aren't a parody of anything, and of course represent well the MGM brand, and what it's really all about.


Ah, the pool hall.  Is there any more suitable location for a movie?  I mean, besides a bar?  Which, incidentally, often feature such tables... the dramatic possibilities.  Virtually endless.  One thing I like about this cartoon is that they get out of the house for a change.  How many of these things take place inside a house?  If only there were a blog that kept track of such things.  After all, I'm only planning on doing just the 40 on the DVD collection I have... okay, sure, there's I'm Just Wild About Jerry that takes place in and around a department store, but I don't think that one's on the collection.
Anyway, that's the location.  Now to re-introduce our recurring character.  We start with the cat, as usual, as is typical.  This time, however, all the cat wants to do is shoot a little pool!  Usually he's tormenting the mouse in some new, unique way.  Not this time.  The cat wants to grow up to be a pool shark... but the way he's going, he'll never make the tournament circuit, especially if you lift up the table so that the ball will go in.  Good Lourdes.  Amateur night all the way.  The second ball gets trapped in some sort of endless loop.  Ah, reminds me of good ol' Arkanoid... the second one, not the virtually featureless first one.  The cat pulls the middle hole over so the ball will go in.  That's your old fashioned animation right there, as David Letterman might quip.  This was long before Adobe Flash!  Long before it was even Macromedia!!
And then... third ball's the charm.  We go into the proverbial rabbit hole, but it doesn't go that deep and reveal the truth about our government, and that it's a little bit greedy.  Okay, a lot.  No, we find that, once again, surprise surprise, the little rat picks another inconvenient place to sleep.  Why?  How?  Der?  Does the mouse want to be woken up?  Does it WANT to?  The mouse wakes up just before the ball hits the bed.  The ball pushes the little rat down to the bottom of the table where all the pool balls reconvene.  The mouse gets mashed into a kind of capital 'I' shape, and to the sound of... bowling pins, that's right.  Well, pool balls don't sound quite as dynamic.... damn, they don't have it.  I'm reminded of the time Homer destroyed Flanders' pool table.  That sounded like real pool balls!  High-larious.
Anyway, back to this crap.  Okay, the mouse has a point.  Those kids oughta cut out that loud racquet and let him get some sleep.  Still... no other place to sleep in the entire pool hall?  Maybe right by the fire exit?  Or in the extra-comfy ball return tunnel?  And so, Jerry marches up to the roof level of the pool table... oh, that's where that music is from!  I remembered those eight notes at 1:32 in the proceedings.  Simple, memorable.  Sure, it's no Blue Rondo a la Turk, but it's good enough for this kid's matinee!


And so, Jerry emerges to politely ask Tom to please play at another table, and quietly.  There's about thirty tables in the place!  Jerry looks around but doesn't see the cat or... whoever it was that disturbed his slumber.  Might have been a person, he doesn't know.  Only the audience knows for sure.  And then... the nightmare begins.  There's Tom, giving the same dirty look to Jerry that Jerry was given to pool players unseen.  Frightened, Jerry takes off in a linear fashion down the diagonal length of the pool table.  Now the fun begins.  Tom gets the cue ball and sends it Jerry's way.  He's turning into a pool shark already!  He put some serious spin on the ball so that it catches up to the mouse, yet has enough spin left to return to the cat like some kind of spherical boomerang, buzzing like a bee all the way.  We get an awesome, epic, semi-game-changing "shot" of the mouse sliding up Tom's pool cue.  The mouse is now close enough for the cat to eat, but it's still early in the pic, so the cat blows on the mouse with a rather anthropomorphic gust of wind, and it's time for more mischief at the mouse's expense.
Now, here's where the logic completely breaks down.  Tom's got a line of about seven or eight pool balls all lined up in a straight line, ready to go.  He hits the balls, and off they go.  Surprisingly, the mouse doesn't get out of the way!  It's Popeye all over again: Popeye has to endure pain and suffering for five minutes, then gets to inflict it himself in his spinach-induced furies for about a minute.  With the cat and mouse, it's about equal throughout.
And so, the mouse gets run over by about twenty pool balls.  We see twelve bounce off the end of the pool table and come back after poor old little Jerry.  Jerry manages to outrun the balls this time, but when he gets to the end of the table, he stops, and the pool balls stack up under him, lifting him up to Tom's eye level.  And how many pool balls are there in this stack?  Only six!!  Busted.
Alas, Tom's standards aren't so high.  After all, you go to pool with the balls you have, not the balls you would like to have, or the balls that your neighbor has.  I mean, that's just math.  And Communism, frankly... okay, we've got actual numbers now.  Tom starts off with a queue of seven pool balls.  After a flurry of stars and one of those white pointy explosion shapes dissipates, as often happens in these proceedings, the mouse gets run over by EIGHTEEN pool balls!!!!!  Eleven balls bounce off the corner of the table, and as we follow Jerry, we can only see five balls in the shot.  This isn't one of their Cinemascope shorts, so five's probably about right for a shot that tight.
And then we come to the stack of six pool balls.  Boy, I must be hungry.  Remember when ice cream cones used to be that tall in cartoons?  Nummy numb.  And so, Tom hits the six balls, then one extra hit for the mouse proper... but, what's this?  The mouse is hanging on to the end of the pool cue in an act of non-violent resistance.  But this proverbial British Empire of a cat's got the perfect pool-based torture for that, and the cat rubs one of those blue chalks on top of the mouse's head.  Reminds me of a funnier scene from Laurel and Hardy's classic short, Brats.  Enjoy it now, 'cuz it probably ain't going to be up too long after posting the link.
And so, the mouse sticks to its guns and clings to the pool cue, even though the cat is obviously about to hit the ball.  But I guess it's all part of the larger strategy: the more pain and humiliation the mouse is forced to endure, the more pain and humiliation he can give back to the cat.  And how!  But for now, the forces of gravity are on the cat's side, and the eight ball is the cat's all-too-willing participant.  The mouse runs along the top of the eight ball as it spins in circles.  The cat uses the ball triangle as a hoop for the mouse to jump through.  The cat lights the triangle on fire and makes the mouse jump through it!  And yet, the lion and the cat were enemies in the previous cartoon.  Well, lions have no sense of irony, so it would seem.  Even the forces of thermodynamics are colluding with Tom!  There's a little patch of unburnt wood so the cat can hold the burning triangle in comfort.  In the final insult, Tom hits the eight ball out from under Jerry with such great force, that the ball bounces off the far end of the pool table, onto the mouse's ass.  It bounces back, and yet, the mouse goes hungry!  Where's the justice?
And so, the mouse ends up with an eight on its ass.  Well, needles to say, that is indeed the last straw.  Jerry needs to get his own justice, and take the law into his own tiny mouse hands.  For an opening salvo, he pulls back Tom's pool cue, then lets it go right in Tom's face.  The tables have now officially turned.  And yet, Jerry runs away like a coward.


Tom picks up the eight ball and chucks it at the mouse harder than Randy Johnson... who's the famous pitcher?  Stengel?  Koufax?  Anyway, surely the eight ball will hit the mouse tried and true again?  After the great partnership that the cat and said eight ball have had up til now?  Alas, it wasn't meant to last.  The ball bounces back and hits Tom in the face.  Tom's face caves in, of course.  I haven't seen an impact that hard since the finale of Wagon Heels... I mean, A Tale of Two Kitties.  A slightly more politically correct choice, but not by much, arguably.  And evidently, Tom's head has engulfed the eight ball.  Tom's face reappears, but it's so small!!!  Is this the end of Tom as we know it?... oh, apparently not.  Back to normal.  Tom now chucks two balls at the mouse.  How's the mouse going to react to this?  Maybe duck out of the way?  No, see, that's the sensible option.  The super-strong mouse instead gets its own pool cue and hits the two balls with the cue as though it were a giant baseball bat.  These balls hit Tom in the eyeballs.  After reemerging from behind the pool table, we see that Tom's giant eyelids have accommodated a new set of eyes.  But tis a mere summer romance.  The filmmakers wait long enough for that odd mix of laughs and groans, and then the cat shakes its head, making a weird percussive noise, and gets those pool balls out of its eyes.  I tell you darlings, the older I get, the more I feel that cat's pain.
The cat winks at the audience before throwing the next ball.  I don't know why; we know he's not really going to beat that mouse.  Well, the cat's now caught the pool balls with its eyes and its head, but surely he can catch it with a baseball glove over one paw, right?  ...spoiler alert: nope.  The cat's got a cannonball wound on its hand.  Anyone got a tube of cannonball wound ointment?  The nice touch, of course ,is that you can see the blue-grey of what's left of the cat's paw on the edges of the hole in the glove.  And yet, Oliver Stone tries to do the same gag in Natural Born Killers and the lily livers over at the W.B. threaten the dreaded NC-17.
Well, that tears it.  The tear in the glove and paw tears it.  Tom chucks the one ball at Jerry as hard as he can.  No wink to the audience this time; that time has passed.  Jerry hits the ball so hard with his pool cue that the cue snaps in half.  And so, Tom has to try and catch it, of course.  Well, at least the baseball glove is intact once again, even if the logic of this cartoon isn't.  I mean, how high is the ceiling in that place?  A mile?  Two miles?  If we tried shenanigans like that, the ball would just bounce around like in that Tron sequel that I only saw part of.  So high-tech, so yawn.  Man, I'm getting tired just thinking about it.  Anyway, Tom weaves his way through the labyrinth of pool tables and sure enough, after the pool ball comes back through the atmosphere after going around the moon, Tom catches it, only now it's the size of a grapefruit, but at least its velocity is such that the baseball glove is not disintegrated.  Tom lands in an old timey sodey pop dispenser.  The machine burps him out, bottle cap and all.  Alas, the Hays Code didn't protect us from all burps.  Then again, it's a rather strange-sounding burp.  I can only imagine its aroma.
After waiting for the laugh, Tom heads over to Jerry's table again.  Jerry dives into the pocket, and gets an accompanying musical flourish: note A, up one note to note B, then back down to note A... man, did I lose all my crucial musical education.  Tom gets the same flourish, but an octave lower.  Boy!  This one's memorable for the music for me!  How narrow I've gotten... thanks, Internet!  Anyway, this next gag I remember.  Tom reaches down into the pocket for the little rat, but the rat's playing chess to the cat's checkers, as always.  The mouse gets the cat's tail, pulls it into the hole behind the one the cat's exploring... perhaps I didn't phrase that right.  Anyway, the mouse gives the cat his own tail, which of course the cat all too gleefully confuses for the mouse.  The cat pulls and... a Mobius strip?  We almost get an endless loop here!  Fortunately for the cat, it stops after about four iterations.  Doubly fortunately, the cat's able to get out of the pocket of the pool table.  Now, Ted Danson in Creepshow?  Can't get out of the sand!  Get on that, MythBusters.


Things take a turn for the worse after Tom's last failure at the pool table.  Time to get modern industrial inventions into the act.  These were the old days, of course, with more government regulations about keeping fire hoses in pool halls.  No wonder they all went out of business!  This hall's got an industrial-strength, firefighter-strength hose in the place!  Tom unhooks the hose, turns it on, gets next to the pool table, and unleashes the water.  Then he puts the nozzle into the pocket and watches as fountains rise from all the other pockets.  Process of elimination, folks.  And then... SUCCESS!  Jerry is flushed out at the other corner of the table.  Of course, Tom's not ready to just grab and eat the mouse just yet.  Why not try to hit it with that thing... you know, the thing amateurs use to help them aim at the ball?  A sticky wicket!  That's it!  And then... time for the callback gag.  Tom swishes at Jerry... but where did Jerry go?  Why, he's hanging on to the end of the thing!  Jerry reaches for the wire scoreboard, then takes the sticky wicket away from Tom.  Alpha mouse time.  Also, I like how the filmmakers are using every part of the pool hall to maximum comedic advantage.  In further Alpha mouse action, Jerry is now using the sticky wicket to walk across the scoreboard wire.
The cat's obviously impressed and jealous, and his first reaction is to throw a pool cue at the mouse, javelin style... oh, and the hose water has stopped flowing.  It's either a plot device, laziness on the animator's part, or the cat just wasted all the water in the place.  Nice going, Tom... nice going.  Just try and wait for the Fire Department before you cause your next inevitable fire, okay?
And now... the part that will haunt your nightmares forever.  Tom pitches his first javelin slash pool cue at the little rat... I mean, Jerry, the poor, long-suffering mouse narrator.  The wire the mouse is balancing on acts like a table saw, and sounds like a table saw as the pool cue is split in half.  Let me just see if the YouTubes has that Laurel and Hardy where their car gets cut in half... oh, wait, that's the part where Hardy gets hit in the face with a giant sink.  Close enough.  Man, do I have a love hate relationship with that sink hit.
The next pool cue just barely misses the mouse, but it does leave the mouse with a glowing red ass like a tiny baboon or something.  Well, if there's one thing Jerry Mouse hates, it's when anything happens to his ass: the eight-ball incident, this, what have you.  Well, instead of pulling back on Tom's pool cue, Jerry pulls back on the scoreboard wire and launches the sticky wicket right at Tom... how did the mouse do that, exactly?  The mouse can fly now?  Or hover?  That'd be much worse.  Now, in case you didn't think of it yourself, the end of that sticky wicket looks exactly like giant 'duh' buck teeth.  Which is what the cat ends up saying once the sticky wicket is completely inside the cat, mostly in its tail.  Tom once again rises up above the level of the pool table to show us his latest injury.  Oh, I'll just never look at pool tables the same way ever ever again.
Alas, that last move cost Jerry his superior aerial position above the cat, and is now running down the length of the pool table again.  And once again, Tom calls on the Spirit of Minnesota Fats, and summons his minions in a straight line once again to chase after Jerry Mouse.  Tom smites the end of the queue of pool balls, and off the chase goes once again.  Reminds me of a similar situation in The Yankee Doodle Mouse, when Tom sent a line of glittering Roman candles after Jerry Mouse, except that this time the pool balls sound like an oncoming train.  Jerry and the pool balls do their version of the hallway gag.  I made a link collage of that previously... but where?  Where oh where could that thang be?  I'm thinking my review of Loose Loot... nope!  Figures.  My empire lies in ruins.  My ancestors rise from their graves, only to have me have to bury them anew... actually, they want to switch spots.  How weird is that?
For a brief moment, Jerry thinks he's in the clear... but the pool-ball-ipede sneaks up in front of him... Jerry's looking behind himself.  The eleven ball is the head of the pool-ball-ipede... and it frowns at Jerry!  GINIUS!!!  Four stars.  Jerry takes off towards Tom with the angry pool balls close behind.  Which leads us to the next part that will haunt your nightmares forever.  Jerry jumps on Tom's mouth, briefly giving him a dog-like muzzle, and the whole act emits a crashing sound with a slight crunch of glass at the end.  Jerry pries open Tom's mouth, and in go the pool balls!  There's seven of them total this time... and I guess the cat's lucky that that's all he used, because they all enter the cat's throat, each one somehow causing a gulping noise.  And just like the sound of a glass filling up with water from the tap slowly increases in pitch, each successive gulp noise gets slightly higher in pitch... you know, now that I think about it, the time that Tom had to swallow an apple is probably worse.
Not having learnt his lesson from pulling himself through the pool table and back out, Tom is reduced to poking one of the pool table's pockets with a pool cue.  Tom starts trying to shove the pool cue into the pocket... you know, just to see how far in it will go!  Well it only goes in a couple of feet, so he gets one of those...
...meat thermometers?
Yeah!... am I the only one who remembers that?  Anyway, Jerry notices that the pool cue is now headed rather directly for the cat's... um... posterior.  What's a mouse to do?  Well, any other mouse would probably do nothing, but Jerry, ever the Sadist, ties a pin cushion pin to the end of the cue.  You know, just to give the pool cue that little extra zing.  And zing it does.  Tom's face turns red... well, before that happens, the pin gleams in the light.  You know, like knives often do in the movies.  And ever the Sadist, Jerry tugs on the pool cue a couple of times.  You know, as though the cat were fishing or something.  But there's no reeling in the fish this time.  No, this is a push type deal here, not pull.  And push Tom does.  Now, any ordinary cartoon would just have the cat squeal in pain, but this is near the end, and we do need a big finish, so rather than wait for the laugh, Tom sits there with the red face a few seconds so the audience all get uncomfortable at the same time.  And then... skyward he goes, screaming like a man in pain.  Jerry gets into the shot and looks skyward to admire his handiwork, then exits Stage Left as the cat plummets back to earth.  The long-suffering cat falls into the pocket, right on top of the part of the pool cue still sticking out, but because the cat landed with such force... I assume his arms and legs are broken... the cat is unable to lift itself out of the pocket.


With the cat stuck in a tight spot, Jerry decides to play a proper game of pool... not that dinking around that the cat was doing with two or three balls earlier like a thief in the night.  No, Jerry's got the triangle out, all fifteen balls in place.  Note the smug satisfaction on the little rat's face.  The mouse confidently tosses the triangle aside, then puts a little of the powder blue chalk on the tip of the pool cue, then confidently tosses that aside.
And so, the mouse smites the cue ball and off the fifteen balls go.  In a slight show of respect, none of them hit the cat, but it does seem to be shaping up to an all-consuming hole in one, the kind even Tom Cruise's character in The Color of Money couldn't pull off.  But wait!  Surely there's one last act of cruelty the mouse can heap upon the cat?  Well, don't worry, all you Sadists out there, for your prayers are about to be answered.  One last ball is heading towards the cat.  The cat looks on depressingly as he anticipates a gentle tap on the chin or something.  But before that happens, the mouse runs up and hits the cat on the head with the pool cue... and hard.  The cat is yelling in pain with its mouth wide open... allowing the pool ball to fall right in.  The cat gets the ball stuck in its throat for a second, then swallows it.  So is that his eighth pool ball ingested today?  Or did he throw up the other seven earlier?  So many questions unanswered.  I guess that's what makes this a classic... still, I can't help but feel a little dirty.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

1 comment:

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