Saturday, June 13, 2015

When Alliterations Attack

Yes, it's time for another one of those old-timey silent cartoons where several precious screen minutes are devoted to a hand drawing the characters.  I'm starting to think that it's either a) out of respect, or b) know, once upon a time, people thought acting was a form of witchcraft!  What does that say about filmmaking itself?  Well, electricity seems to have demystified a great many things in our world.  Now people look at movies and wonder how to get in on the goldmine, come hell and or high water.
But movie conventions are nevertheless slow to change, and everyone wanted to be the next Winsor McCay, even if their efforts were less than stellar in spectacle, both in terms of story and penmanship.  And so we get stuff like Bobby Bumps Puts a Beanery on the Bum.  Alas, I'm no cartoon historian, so I can't put li'l Robert Bumps in the proper historical context, but his run on the silver screen seems to have been ten years, much like Colonel Heeza Liar.  And don't kid yourself!  This Beanery film is a hot property, so hot that they can't keep it on YouTube due to multiple copyright violations.  So, there you go.  A little more civilized than Napster.  Back to the DVD I go!!! (grumble grumble)
And so, we spend most of the First Act just filling in the backgrounds.  If you get to see it, you'll know what I mean.  I guess Koko didn't move around as much when Max was drawing him, so that's slightly different.  Also, with one gesture, the animator fills in all the extra detail to the background by dumping ink from the inkwell onto it.  The animator also writes out words for Bobby Bumps to obey, like "Get Off My Hand" and such.  So, so far there's no black title cards for the dialogue... until we get to Act Two.
And so, when Bobby Bumps becomes an integral part of this world, the eternal gift of thankless, low-wage labor greets him, but Bobby is proud and he jumps at the chance all to eagerly.  Pulling up the ladder behind him, Bobby takes a job as a dishwasher at a local hash house... and by local, I mean the one that the animator draws in front of Bobby.  Of course, the "Help Wanted" sign was vaguely worded, saying "Boy Wanted to Help in Kitchen."  And soon after the introductory episode, where Bobby seems to be washing all of America's dirty dishes, with his helpful Little Rascals-esque canine companion helping out, Bobby gets his first of many chances to increase his skills repertoire.  The main cook goes on break from juggling the fried eggs, and he asks Bobby to take over for him.  Needles to say, this is supposed to be a comedy, and not an Horatio Alger-type drama/economics pipe dream.  Oh, and this version of Bobby Bumps on the DVD has a music soundtrack as a little added bonus, although if ever puts this back up on YouTube, he'll pro... they'll probably find some different music to add to it.
And so, Bobby Bumps finds himself caught in the gears of the cafĂ© machinery.  Fresh eggs are laid just for him to cook, and the waitress is no help, of course.  She's just waiting on the eggs.  Bobby's eyes get lightly singed by the frying of the eggs, and he tries to flip them over like the bearded, moustached maestro from earlier, but it's just not the same.  The dog ends up eating the eggs, then throwing us a knowing wink... is this film coming on to me?  And then, a disembodied voice from off screen ups the ante when it says "Turn them eggs over," which gives the dog a chance for another laugh.
Now I know I'm turning into a crotchety old man because the next scene cuts to the lunch counter proper, and I'm getting a little grossed out by the waitress pulling her chewing gum into a long string, then eating it back up again.  Ah, to be young again... didn't I use to do that not so long ago?  The one customer in the place gets grossed out, but not by the gum.  Hey, if I gotta suffer through this thing, you do too.
Next scene: the asylum is truly in the hands of the inmates now, as the dog is busy making holes in the donuts... or the bagels, I'm not exactly sure.  But the cook is back, doing his egg shtick, and it's time to set up the Third Act.  It's time for Bobby Bumps to establish his Robot Cred.  The cook scolds Bobby for not jumping when he says "Jump," and when Bobby arrives, the COBOL cards are issued... I mean, the instruction is given: "When I call you, you drop whatever you'r doin' and come at once, understand?" (sic)  Dang!  Was this guy texting or what?
The dog has another bit with a cat, but I'm going to skip over that because I'm pro-cat.  The animator seems to be on the cat's side as well, only at the last possible minute.  The dog saves Bobby's bacon in a way I won't spoil, but you can probably guess how the cook's earlier edict is going to play out.  See, Bobby's got this big ol' stack of dishes, at least twice as tall as Bobby himself, and then... yup.  Bobby drops whatever he's doing and comes at once when the cook calls.  Having heard the clatter, the cook drops what he's doing and jumps into the room with Bobby.  "You dropped something, yes?" asks the cook... I knew it!  Eastern European, I'll bet.  The animator aides and abets Bobby's escape from the cook, and helps Bobby to humiliate the cook by handing him the keys to the inkwell.  The cook gets a rain of black ink down upon his person, and a tiny rat shows up from Stage Right to do... whatever.  Best cameo in a cartoon ever.
But before we wrap up this review, I'll take a brief moment to acknowledge the "dropping" gag.  Now, Bobby Bumps probably didn't originate the gag; it probably started in Vaudeville or something, who knows.  Also, I swear that this Bobby Bumps cartoon was featured on at least one documentary about the silent film era.  It seems to have become the Bobby Bumps cartoon of record in that regard.  But the gag has spawned a rich legacy.  The most recent example I can think of is the following SCTV skit with Rusty van Rettick.  And, of course, the Stooges.  Here's the gag in Three Loan Wolves... I guess that's it.  God bless you, 69789Darius!  The gag is also apparently in Snow White and the Three Stooges (1961)... either that, or it's that flaw in Google search where you get two unrelated things smooshed together with ellipses.  Yeah, that's probably it.  Doesn't have a word for that yet?  I'm also reminded of the stack of dishes that Stan Laurel was holding in Our Wife, but the scenario was a little bit different, if not completely so... I guess that gag wasn't as influential as I thought.  Never mind!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

1 comment:

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