Sunday, October 04, 2015
Before the Coachella Valley Music (and Arts) Festival was The Thing to Do.......
Now, I know some people just absolutely hate the commentary feature of DVDs... but mostly because they paid so much for laserdiscs with that feature back in the day. Thirty minutes to a side, my ass! Was the picture quality really just that good? But these are only seven minute films, and they've got some bonafides here. Chuck Jones, for example, talks about the goofball head of the studio who had many rules, one of which was "No bullfight pictures!" We may never know the reason for this guy's hatred of bullfighting; PETA didn't even exist back then, so it probably wasn't because of his love for animals, and hatred of any cruelty against them. Flying in the face of his advice, Chuck and someone else went down to Mexico to see a bullfight to get a better sense of what they're all about. Just for this picture, apparently! In the case of a picture like Bully for Bugs, the commentary can be a good addition. I don't think this is the best Bugs cartoon of all time, but it's a solid entry in Bugs' repertoire, of course, and I found the commentary interesting. Maybe I'm just partial to the bullfighting antics of Popeye in all the cartoons I saw previous-like... oh, right. The IMDb Trivia page. For those of you who don't have the DVD.
The plot is pared down considerably from a Popeye bullfighting outing. There's only one bull here, and the human matador is ill prepared to take it on. The bull smiles at the matador, much like the Grinch that Chuck Jones would animate later on, and slowly prepares to charge at the matador at full speed. And then, the bull takes off, leaving a "cloud" of detached hooves in his wake, much like the cloud of hairpins left behind in all those Chuck Jones cartoons where Bugs Bunny does battle with an old witch voiced by June Foray.
I remember this one, of course, as most of you might, from all them Saturday mornings, when they would show the lopped-off versions without the usual WB intro. Seems like they just cut right to Bugs tunneling into the ring and popping out. I was watching this with a close relative of mine last week, and as Bugs was digging his way into the bullfighting arena, they said "RABBITS DON'T DO THAT!!!!!!" Boy. And I thought I was a critic! There's probably an interesting story behind how Bugs came to start doing that in his pictures. Was it just in the Chuck Jones ones? Or did Friz and those pesky McKimson boys use it as well? Reminds me of that story Gilbert Gottfried told somewhere about the comedian who did impressions, and he would introduce his impressions using the ruse of a car broken down on the side of the road. "Here comes John Wayne! Maybe he'll help!" the comedian would say. Ultimately, it's just one of those things. Sure, Bugs could take a plane to go places, but digging his way through the ground's just more populist. Plus, there's the added bonus of incompetence. Bugs pops up out of the ground thinking he's in one place, when in fact he's someplace else. How else is he supposed to say he should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque? On a 747? I don't think so!
And so, Bugs runs afoul of the bull, Bugs says "This means war," and Bugs gets his revenge. One of the gags is taken rather directly from Rabbit Punch, where Bugs hooks a giant slingshot to the bull's horns, and sends a large boulder flying right at the bull's face. But Jones and screenwriter Michael Maltese were just ripping themselves off, so it's okay.
No, the older I get, the more I side with Bugs' foes in these things... well, not the opera singer. That guy was a tool. But a bull? He's just doing his thing in his little arena there. I think the final score is something like Bull: 3, Bugs: 23. It's an unfair fight, and even physics conspires to help out Bugs and his hastily assembled Rube Goldberg-esque final torture device. Of course, to call it Rube Goldberg-esque may be a little unfair, as there's only about four or five parts to it.
Good double bill with: Long-Haired Hare, the similarities of which are probably too numerous to mention
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan