Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Art of Self-Promotion

First of all, we obviously need to start by trashing anew the layout of Volume One of this here Golden Collection of Tunes that are Looney.  The menu says "The Awful Orphan," but the IMDb slightly disagrees.  More importantly, the cartoon itself disagrees!!!!!!!!!!  Let's just hope the proverbial Powers that Be get the Blu-Ray right.  And let's further hope that they just either (a) leave the vertical black bars intact, as opposed to lopping off the top and bottom of the picture in the service of HD, or (b) actually doing a new 1080p transfer of the originals... or whatever it's called... I guess it would take too long to explain to the layperson that your new HD television sort of turned its back on some fifty-odd years of television and ninety-odd years of cinematic treasures, not taking their aspect ratios into account.  So, to that end, we provide some measure of accommodation... yeah, too complicated.


Chuck Jones is the unrecognized, undisputed Master of Psychological Horror.  Narrow it to Cartoon Psychological Horror if you must, but take the antagonized human protagonist of One Froggy Evening, called the Citizen Kane of cartoons by those who know.  And that's just a one-off!... was a One-Off.  But Jones' satirical ambitions are dampened here with Awful Orphan as opposed to, say, the canine antics of Fresh Airedale... apparently not on the five DVD volumes.  Oh well.  I still have my memories for now!
But the Porky and Charlie Dog series was apparently not meant to be long-lived... some stories spawn more variations than others.  Incidentally, I don't know how to do all that fun "Word Cloud" stuff, but yes, apparently the word "apparently" would be one of the big ones.  Sorry bout that.  And so, (The) Awful Orphan is the middle child of this timeless series, trying to live up to the better plot structure of Little Orphan Airedale, while laying the groundwork for future installments.
And so we begin with the chaos on the busy streets of New York City, occasionally stopped by the occasional flash of brilliance.  A dog with a pointer?  Maybe this will be worth a minute of my time!  The dog runs through his pre-PowerPoint presentation, a master of the dramatic pause.  Carl Stalling's music finds the right tone of bombastic salesmanship.  Spoiler alert: like Ted Cruz after him, the dog is only trying to sell himself to the assembled crowd of now angry New Yorkers, unimpressed by a cartoon dog, a dog with a pretty strong flirtation with the English language.  Surely someone in that crowd would be impressed?  A linguistics professor?  An animal trainer?  Lousy bean pushers.  Fortunately for the dog, a Plan B is close at hand: the back of a Pet Shop van is open, and the dog sneaks inside it.  God bless New York City, whose citizens are as tough and sneaky as the city itself.
Next scene: the receiving end of the dog's pet shop van beginning is at hand, and it's long-suffering semi-suburban Porky, just trying to struggle with his rent controlled place.  His canary has arrived... or so he thinks.  I'm sort of reminded of that one Pete Hothead cartoon... I believe it was called Pete Hothead.  Of course, the satirical ambitions of that one are about as successful as, say, The Bear That Wasn't.  Porky heads for the phone, saying "I wanted a canary, not a monster!"  Lol.  The dog had stuffed himself rather fully into the canary cage, you see.  Lord only knows what happened to the canary, but this ain't The Bird Came C.O.D.
And so, Porky gets on the phone, and spoiler alert... I know, years too late for that... we get an homage to the telephone conversation in the appropriately titled Block-Heads... not worthy enough to be included in the (Memorable) Quotes section, of course.  I don't think Stan intentionally cut the phone wire in that one, but Ollie ends up thinking he's talking to someone in the lobby of his building and... ah, skip it.  Similar situation here, anywho.  The rather athletic post-WWII Porky thinks he's talking to someone at the pet shot, when in fact it's Charlie Dog, who did deliberately sever Porky's phone line, and is now attempting to use it as a phone receiver.  Lol.  Oh, but while Porky was born at night, it wasn't last night, and he does eventually figure out that the rather persuasive figure on the phone is actually the dog in the very same room as him.


Probably a tad late for the Act Break, but we'll leave aside the legal ramifications of the fact that Porky reasonably ejects the intruder from his household, only to have said intruder come right back in through Porky's front door.  Well, he's still nicer than, say, that one Evil Realtor from the movie Unbreakable... I think Bruce Willis had the big fight with him towards the end, right?  Or as John Kasich would say, the "middle" of the picture.
Now, I can't vouch for what they teach in salesman school, but I imagine the more advanced classes teach you how to think on your feet, and how to use the words of the sucker that... I mean, the person you're trying to sell the product or service to... not necessarily against them, but rather with and for them.  See, that's why I no longer believe in the complement that someone's a "good listener."  You know who else is a good listener?  The NRA... I mean, the NSA.  Always get those two mixed up.  Also, I had a roommate who once told me that I'm a good listener, but they ended up getting drunk on my holidays away from work, so I'm a little suspicious of that so-called complement.  No, the happy medium is the husband who watches football all the time, but never forgets the various anniversaries and what not.
As usual, I'm taking the long way to get to the point.  The dog heard Porky's plaintiff wails about wanting a canary, and uses that in his sales pitch.  "Didja ever see a bird retrieve a dog?  Of course not!" says the dog.  Of course, if the dog had a special harness, or a very thick collar, one of the larger members of the Accipitridae, given enough training, could grip a dog by the husk and... dayamn!  What, do they have the whole movie on this damn page?  Speaking of persuasive counter-arguments, I'm further reminded of the line "They're VERY GOOD scissors!"  ...nope, don't have that on there either.
Now, I'm a jaded, tired old man, but I can't help but get a chuckle out of the dog's next amazing feat of self-promotion.  The dog tries to sell himself as a good pointer.  I believe the dog says "Now watch this... There it is!  There it is!  There it is!"  I guess what I'm trying to say is... you gotta getcha self a chandelier!  My man Porky has slightly less tolerance for the dog's brilliance, however, probably because he's the direct recipient of it, and he performs a little mind-jitsu on the dog.  "There it is!" says Porky, pointing out into the hall by the front door.  "Where?" asks the dog, looking into the hall.  Well, the logic's just that effective, no question about it.  Porky kicks the dog in the ass, and hard, and slams the front door on him a second time.
But as Jesus once said, "When I close a door, I open a window... probably the one above the door.  Why do all the big cities seem to have those?"  And so, as Daffy once said to Elmer, trying desperately to get him to shoot Bugs in the face... just one time, is that asking so much?  Even with a water gun.  Nope!  Never happened... the dog comes in through the... you know, one of those windows over the door, and says to Porky "Okay, let's try this from a different angle.  Dogs are a comfort to have around."  Of course, the dog has to put Porky through a little anguish to get there, but Porky ends up sitting in his chair, pipe in mouth, book in his very hand-like hooves... guess we'll just skip over that.  As always with these films over 60 years old, we need the services of an expert to tell us that this was the look of comfort for... someone.  Masons?  Kiwanis?  The height of domestic sophistication to have a red fez, glasses and a smouldering pipe.  And there's the dog, sitting at Porky's hind feet, with those big sad eyes.
But is Porky at all grateful for this desperate dog's efforts?  No, of course not!  And about 20 seconds after the dog's second breach of Porky's perimeter, he's getting thrown out again.  Same thing happened in... probably Little Orphan Airedale where the dog demonstrated rigor mortis to the point of Porky being able to pick up the dog by its tail, and throw it out by it.  Real dogs are probably as sensitive about their tails as real cats, but cartoon dogs' tails can't be stretched out as far as cartoon cats.
Next attempt: the dog gets all costumed up as an abandoned baby, left on Porky's doorstep.  As it would seem, Porky doesn't buy this ruse for a New York second.  Boy, what a sarcastic pig.  Porky acts like he's falling for it, though.  That's unusual for Porky, isn't it?  But given what he's been through, and this is his home, after all... it's understandable.  He had to show more grace on that awful game show he was on, precisely because it wasn't home.
Next scene: the stroke of genius.  I don't know if this was the dog's plan all along, but the dog seizes the opportunity to reprimand Porky for his behaviour... and frankly, it flashed through the back of my mind as well.  Okay, it's not The Omen, but even in that movie there's a hesitation.  After all, a baby that will grow up to become the Devil is still a baby, right?  The dog's next costume is that of an outraged woman/housewife, who says "I saw what you did!  You BRUTE!"  That's in reference to Porky kicking the basket with the dog as a fake baby in it.  The dog begins to beat Porky about the face, neck and chest with an umbrella.  Next scene: Porky standing on his proverbial indoor front porch, with that "WTF" expression on his face.  Porky starts banging on his front door.  Another point in the dog's favor: he's not the roommate from hell in Pacific Heights who changes the lock as soon as he gets in.  The dog opens the door and says "Mmmmmmmmmmmmyesssssss?" in that Mel Blanc way of his.
Which leads us to: the dog's next trick up his lack-of-sleeve.  Porky continues pushing his aggressive mantra of "Out! Out!! OUT!!!!!"  Frankly, he's starting to sound like a bacon record.  The dog finally decides that he's going to commit suicide.  I tell you, these things just aren't for kids.  But you can't argue with results, for Porky quickly changes his tune, and tries to get the dog to stop, but it's too late.  And... dayamn!  That dog jumped pretty far!  Porky goes to the window to see what happened... of course, he's pretty high up off the ground, so what would he expect to see?  I dare not spoil the surprise.  Fade to black.


The perfect place for an Act break.  Still itching for a fight, Porky tells the next knocker at his door "OUT, OUT, OUT!!!!"  It's not the dog this time... at least, not the one knocking on the door.  Sorry, SPOILER ALERT.  Well, hey, stop reading and go hunt down the film if you feel that way about it!  Anyway, yes, it's time once again for another Trojan horse, so to speak.  Just as with the covered canary cage, the dog gets himself smuggled into Porky's place.  Damn, but he's done his research and what not.  Porky's preparing to sit himself down and have something to eat... probably don't want to actually see that.  The filmmakers knew this intuitively as well, so they find dramatic potential in another diversion.  Porky's holding a knife for cutting up the meal he was anticipating, and Porky continues to clutch said knife, even though the meal turned out to be the dog.  (from earlier)  "Oh no... you wouldn't!  That KNIFE!" says the dog, exasperatedly.  Incidentally, for all you potential hucksters out there: there's a good tip in there someplace.  You've taken all those college-level acting courses.  Why not put them to good use in the salesman racket?
The dog starts to fake cry.  Okay, maybe it's real.  Always love it when Blanc does that.  The dog ingratiates itself upon Porky's tender mercies anew, and Porky seems to capitulate... or does he?  I can tell from his tone of voice that he's planning something.  Porky tells the annoying-ass dog that he's going to make it a "dog coat."  The dog starts to sing.  Again, I prefer the song from Little Orphan Airedale where the dog starts singing, "I GIT TO LIVE IN A DOG HOUSE!  I GIT TO LIVE IN A DOG HOUSE!!!"  Similar situation, similar outcome.  Well, when you come up with a series like this, you don't want to reinvent the wheel every time, you know.
To cut to the chase... I know, I know; far far too late for that... Porky gets a rare burst of that ol' cartoon speed that characters occasionally get.  Don't want it to happen all the time, now!  Porky quickly wraps the dog up and ships it off to Siberia.  Porky takes the elevator downstairs to the nearest postal box and dumps the package inside.  Boy, but those were the days.  I know all too well that that wouldn't fly these days.  13 ounces or less now!  That's the rule.  A fatty dog like that, there ain't no way it's getting past customs, for starters.
And so, the countdown begins, starting from the instant the package gets into the external box.  FIVE SECONDS LATER... a knock at the door!  Porky looks up in shock.  And... yup, it's the dog, back from Siberia.  If it had such a good time in Siberia, why go to all the trouble coming back just to harass Porky?  I guess it's like the Biden rule: it's about a principle, not a person... or a pig.  See?  Bipartisanship can happen, even under the most extreme circumstances!  The dog begins to tell his worldly tale to Porky.  "Oh, the places I've been and the things I've seen.  Such singings!  Such dancings!"  He then sounds a bit like Pepe Le Pew with the kissing noise.  Oh well.  That's coming up soon enough, as soon as I can get to it.
I guess the dog's a bit resentful of Porky, for even though he begins his joyous dancing(s)... you know, that same Russian dance they always do.  I believe it was also at the end of Hare Tonic, if memory serves!  Bugs and Elmer did it.  The dog keeps kicking Porky in the ass on the "Hey!" part.  The dog kicks Porky clean out of the apartment, thereby setting up the next big scene.
Next Big Scene: Boy, but that dog plays a mean game of arbitrage.  The phone rings, and the dog answers it.  It's a call from the upstairs neighbor (...also voiced by Mel Blanc?  How did he keep all these voices so bi- and tripartite in his head?)  The upstairs neighbour is angry about all the noise downstairs.  The dog offers to go upstairs and kick the guy's ass, and the dog hangs up the phone.  Meanwhile, Porky's banging away on the front door.  The dog answers the door and says "The man upstairs wants to see you.  He has something for you!"  So far, Porky hasn't fallen for any of the dog's tricks.  Boy, is he in for a treat!
Next scene: we can hear Porky and the neighbor, lol.  Meanwhile, the dog is lounging on the chair, looking at slides with a 3D viewer, LOL.  ROFLMAO.  Must've been the hot trend of the day back then.  And so, unlike the big scene where George "Babyface" Nelson fires his machine gun in the old timey bank in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a big hail of ceiling plaster falls from its place as Porky gets himself an old-fashioned neighbourly ass-whoopin'.  Oh, the next tenants' meeting will indeed be an awkward one.
"Does this belong to you?" the neighbor asks the dog when he returns a beaten Porky to his apartment.  Personally, I prefer the similar scene in... oh, never mind.  I gotta stop saying that.


It's close to the end of the film, so Porky finally gives in and really really agrees to let the dog stay.  Sure, he fake agreed plenty of times, but this time he really means it.  The dog's reaction to this news... may shock you.  "I dunno..." the dog begins.  What is this?  Life With Feathers?  The dog goes into his reasoning, and it's nothing short of genius.  Try and laugh to yourself when you find yourself in a similar situation with someone you love. 
The dog tries... I mean, starts to leave.  Porky's reaction to this might also be interesting to you, unless you hold an advanced degree in psychology, of course.  But apparently, it would seem that a transition from acceptance to ... totalitarianism?  Command and control?  Needles to say, Porky applies similar psychological pressure to the dog that the dog applied to Porky for most of the picture.  "You're gonna stay all right!  I'm beginning to like you!  BWA-HAHAHAHAHA!!!" says Porky, in that redundant, stuttering way of his.  Next scene: the role reversal is complete, with the dog in robes, smoking a pipe in the chair, Porky at his feet.  The dog tries to leave, but Porky growls, and the dog sits down.  But what if he has to... ah, skip it.  I guess I'm like the dog at the end of the cartoon, because I dunno... this cartoon's okay, but it's not one of the greats, I'm afraid.  Sure, it's been educational and all that, and there is the whole thing with the 3D slide viewer... but Chuck Jones did end up making a lot of cartoons, after all.  They can't all be gems, right?  Just like how Art Davis could never make a gem... oh, snap!  I gotta go.  So much TV to watch, so little time.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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