Friday, January 15, 2016

Stick Out Your Neck

Our next Looney Tunes is called The Ducksters... which seems to be a bit of a bad title in retrospect.  If you're expecting a cartoon about the seemy underworld of duck gangsters, you'll be disappointed.  If, however, you'd be open to a parody of 1950s game shows on the radio, you just might be in for a treat.  It's a capital excuse for director Chuck Jones to get more violent than he usually does, anyway.
But blogs like this are all about people's deepest secrets, and The Ducksters has great personal affection for me, because I played some of the audio of it over the phone for a girl I was going to school with at the time.  I think I was younger than ten at the time.  Yeah, technology's fun.  And, like most people, I have absolutely no good ideas for how to use it.  I can't even remember if we had a VCR at the time!
Well, if the opening bit doesn't do anything for you, then the rest of the cartoon probably won't.  We start with Porky Pig tied to the track leading up to a buzz saw.  Porky quickly says "The cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney!"  And just before he gets sawed in half, Daffy swooshes over to gingerly turn the saw off.  Boy, they don't make saw switches like they used to.  The abuse goes on from there.  Unlike Boobs in the Woods and My Favorite Duck, Daffy's not trying to hinder Porky's enjoyment of the great outdoors.  Porky is on Daffy's turf now, in a role that perhaps suits Daffy best: a television game show host.
And so, Daffy gets to heap abuse upon poor old Porky under the guise of a quiz show.  Porky repeatedly tries to quit while he's ahead, dropping his bar as he goes, eventually saying "Can I go home now without my prizes?"  Boy, the audio guys must really like the sound of a bell getting dropped.  Which is fortunate, because so do I!  Now, I hate to imply that Carl Stalling wasn't the greatest composer ever of these or any cartoons of the era... but it seems like this job was a little bit easier than most.  Take the triumphant melody for Porky's big prizes: the rock of Gibraltar, and 600 gallons of genuine Niagara Falls.
However, the tables get turned on Daffy, and Porky finds himself a bit of spine.  I think it's because Daffy didn't offer Porky a terribly good prize; the loss of half of your teeth is not a good prize, even for this game show.  I wonder if the screenwriters of the time thought that these game shows were fixed.  Maybe the industry generally was aware of it, as Daffy's questions are sufficiently obscure.  This particular cartoon is from 1949, a few years before the scandal broke wide open.  (... 1950.  The title card says '49, though, right? XLIX?... ah, skip it.)
But show biz is show biz, and Daffy rather coldly calls on the next contestant when he thinks he's permanently removed Porky from contention.  Porky returns, bruised and thirsty for revenge, so Daffy is forced to give him the prize of... oh, whatever ... twenty-six million dollars and three cents.  Good comedy amount.  A mathematics prolegomena for any future game shows if there ever was one: never offer your contestants enough money to buy the game show's parent company outright.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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