Sunday, August 09, 2015

The Feast of the Spiders

Our next Fleischer short, Trapped, varies slightly from the usual story formula.  Sure, it seems to start and end in a similar fashion to the others, but Koko's journey in this one takes him far, and into deep trouble, and Max, supposedly right there at his artist's desk, never felt farther away.
But it all starts out innocently enough with a live-action mouse.  As with the Mexican jumping beans, Koko is once again freaked out, so Max tries to play the calm, assertive father figure, assuring Koko that he will attend to the mouse, while at the same time shoving Koko back into place as Koko tries to run away... either away from danger, or towards a supervisory position.
Max apparently grows weary of pushing Koko out of the way, so Max draws a playmate for Koko: a creepy spider with a Mutt and Jeff face.  The whole nine yards: moustache, hat, shoes.  The spider makes some untoward advances at Koko, and Koko jumps out of the way.  Koko tries to make sense of the motivations of this human-animal hybrid...  I mean, what does it want?  Does it want Koko to sign up for a magazine subscription?  Or does it just want to eat Koko?  The answer may surprise you.
Meanwhile, Max gets an old-fashioned rat trap for the mouse, replete with a bit of cheese and everything.  I dunno; call me cynical, but something tells me that the mouse isn't going to fall for it.  Well, for one thing, it wouldn't be funny.  Concurrently, the spider is busy trying to build a web around Koko... I had some friends in middle school exactly like that.  Of course, Koko's older and wiser than middle school age... maybe... and he isn't interested in playing anyone else's game, so Koko jumps his ass right out of that web, and takes off, Stage Right, Snagglepuss style.  The creepy Mutt and Jeff spider gives chase.
I don't know why, but I find myself rooting for the spider to catch up to Koko!  Something different to root for.  And so, the spider does, and the spider hooks his line onto Koko's outfit, then tries to reel him in like a fish, quite literally.  The spider's proverbial web slinger has a reel on it like on a fisherman's rod and reel.  Koko sees from afar what the spider's doing, but all he can do is keep running to the right.  The spider clearly outwits Koko, as the spider uses a second line for vertical advantage against Koko.  The spider climbs up, secures Koko's line, then uses his weight against Koko to send Koko up into the air.  Koko tries to grab onto a plant in vain, but fails.  Koko ends up flailing around, with the spider holding on to Koko's ankles.  Pathetic.  The phrase "epic fail" will probably come to your mind.  Meanwhile, Max is watching for the mouse.  The mouse emerges from the box with a mouse-sized hole in it.  Incidentally, kudos to the set designer on this picture!  Earlier, we see the mouse make for the hole as it climbs around the box.  But now the trap's in place... will the mouse go for it?  I hope not... but the film does look like it's been edited; at about exactly 5:33 on the DVD, to be more precise.  Kinda the way Disney used to do with his "nature documentaries" from long ago.  They just had one on TCM, and I remember the flatulent mud that sounded like The Love Bug at one point... and I mean, the original movie with Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett.  I can't vouch for the sound effects in the Lindsay Lohan monstrosity.
And then, the spider and Koko make like a trapeze act for a while.  Koko's buttons swing around in the breeze; Lol.  Eventually, however, after a botched ingestion attempt by the spider, Koko gains the upper hand.  Koko's now above the spider on its string, and Koko whips out his old friend, The Knife.  Yada yada yada... and DOWN GOES SPIDER!  Alas, the spider grabs onto a branch, and it's back to work trying to get Koko.  Meanwhile, the live-action mouse avoids the trap a second time.  The ratio of mouse to Koko is small; that is to say, the ratio of Koko to mouse must be high, therefore.  About 5 to 1 by now, maybe more.  And so, the spider finds himself at Koko's level.  Koko's unable to climb up the spider thread.  The spider angrily reaches out for Koko, and unfortunately for Koko, he can't stay out of the spider's grasp forever.  And then... a Fist Tornado breaks out!  What is this?  A Popeye cartoon?  Koko loses his hat, but is able to reach out of said Fist Tornado to grab it.  The Fist Tornado subsides, and the two parties start swinging towards each other.  Koko keeps kicking the Mutt and Jeff spider in the face, but it's to no avail.  Why, Koko's as weak as Jean Claude Van Damme apparently is in all of his fight sequences!  With all due respect to Lance Henriksen, why is he an equal opponent of Van Damme at the end of ... whatever?  Hard Target, I think it's called?
But eventually, the spider's out cold!  Koko cuts himself down, but only to land in another web below.  Wotta doof.  Another spider emerges from a secret door in the adjacent tree... or maybe it's the same spider from before, all revived and ready for more revenge.  Or maybe it's a twin brother.  Love that plot device: Bad Company (2002), Homegrown, Screwball Squirrel, can't get enough of it.  And so, to cut to the chase, Koko's tied up tighter than Frodo in The Return of the King, and being put on a platter for the big spider's feast.  The only thing is, Frodo was unconscious and Sam had to come and save him.  In the instant case, Koko's all too conscious, and no Bimbo to save him!  But Koko eventually, and at the last possible second, of course, gains enough mastery to avoid the spider's carving knife... at least, at first.  Then, Koko squirms around like a cartoon worm on the spider's dining room table.  Clearly, he's not enough to feed ten hungry spiders.
Eventually, Koko makes his escape, and he decides not to fool around with the web anymore that caught him earlier.  Now he uses it to safely and quickly plummet to the Earth's surface... but this tree is so damn tall!  What's going to happen?  Will Koko simply snap back up into the eight arms of danger?  Or will he make it to the ground?  The answer may surprise you... okay, it's the latter, but not quite, as Koko's a few inches from the ground.  Ain't that always the way?  Koko risks the fall to terra firma, and makes it, and once again he seems to stare angrily at Max and vow revenge.  Which is why it's time to go back to the mouse!  Wotta gyp.
Rather than vow revenge on Max, which would be more than deserved in this case, and I dare say slightly more deserved than in the Jumping Beans one, Koko decides to go after the mouse, and make it real his summer dream that he saw in his mind earlier about having the mouse by the tail.  Welp, you gotta hand it to the filmmakers, because they must've put some sweat and tears into this one; getting the right footage of the mouse to use, especially.  I guess it's no great shake, but audiences at the time must've been a little wowed.  Koko does indeed grab the mouse by the tail, and ride on its back like a bull rider, if only briefly.  I think they reused some of that footage a li'l bit.  Alas, as I predicted, it's Koko who ends up getting caught in the mouse trap, but in a comedic way.  Koko sits on it just so that he gets his ass caught in the trap.  Good comedy injury. 
Max picks up the trap and dumps Koko back into the inkwell.  Kind of an anticlimactic ending.  And on top of that, they left some unfinished business on Max's desk.  What's with the rope on Max's desk?  I remember from the documentary on the Popeye DVDs where they showed a clip of Max in his office stuck in a giant spider web.  What happened to that footage?  Where is it?  What film is it in?  I guess when it comes to spiders, one Koko short just won't do.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

1 comment:

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