Sunday, May 01, 2016
Why Do Fools Fall in Skunk?
And yet, despite all the indignity of it, the Tasmanian devil manages to thrive. Which brings us to our next Looney Tunes, Pepe Le Pew(u) in For Scent-imental Reasons. Ugh. Well, I suppose someone had to come up with this character, so why not Chuck Jones. Hell of a track record, that guy, you gotta admit!
If this page is correct, they managed to get about 16 shorts out of Pepe Le Peu. But it adheres to a pretty strict formula. Skunk is introduced, everyone gets scared, Skunk finds love interest and antagonizes her for the rest of the pic. The love interest is usually created by accident, sometimes by design... okay, maybe it's unfair to be so broad about it. But I do like the beginning of this one. We start with a contented French shopkeeper, bicycling through the French countryside to his shoppe, a parfum shoppe. When suddenly...
...yup, you guessed it. Oh, wait. The guy runs to find a cop... or bobby in French. They take the lift back to the shoppe, but even the cop can't do anything about a skunk in a perfume shop! Oh, the paperwork involved... I mean, travaille de papier. See that? High school did come in handy after all!
The shopkeeper stands in the street, tearing his red hair out. When suddenly, a black cat rubs his legs. Voiced by Mel Blanc, apparently... is that the best he could do? Really? Whatev'z. Oh well. Even the best of geniuses have a bad day now and again. The shopkeeper grabs the cat, who gives the owner an affectionate lick. Love it!!! The shopkeeper, unlike Sam Smith, does have money on his mind, and he orders the cat to take care of the skunk... to catch the spider to catch the fly, perhaps I'll die so I don't have to finish this review.
And so, the shopkeeper throws the cat into the store. The cat goes sliding, and we see a bottle of white dye on the table that the cat is going to hit. And so, we have our Created Love Interest for the randy skunk. Good Lourdes. This thing is not for children. And yet, Pepe has probably taught millions of children around the world about romance.
As always happens in a Pepe Le Peu cartoon, Pepe grabs the Love Interest in a rather tight embrace and starts talking romantically. "Ah, my darleeng...," he usually says. The flowery talk is interrupted with a series of about four or five kisses. It's all the Love Interest can do to get away from the smelly beast. But ever hopeful, Pepe keeps trying to win the Love Interest over. It's kinda like how the typical nudist isn't terribly athletic... sorry to generalize.
Pepe has locked the unfortunate black cat inside the shop, but the black cat does have at least one trick up its sleeve. The cat finds a glass case that the skunk can't get into. The glass turns the conversation into something verging on Charlie Brown's teachers' voice. But the filmmakers are able to communicate it better than even a silent film. Pepe learns that he's unattractive because he stinks. Well, beautiful cats will do that to you. They'll have you suicidal... I mean, in denial. Whew! That was close. Oh wait... Pepe is suicidal now, and he's got the gun to help him out with it.
Ah, mind games. This seems a lot like what happened in Awful Orphan, but without a gun. Pepe acts like he's going to blow his brains out. I mean, he's got spirals in his eyes, for God's sake! SPIRALS. The kind that aren't spinning. A different kind of hypnosis indeed. Pepe walks out of view of the cat and fires a shot. The cat, fearing the worst, exits the cage and... oh, why didn't Pepe do it for real and save us a lot of heartbreak? And incidentally, what's all this interspecies breeding all about, anyway? You telling me there aren't any girl skunks in all of France? I guess he has to wait until "Tiny Toon Adventures" to find one or something. But that's an important part of the Pepe formula, I suppose. Pepe is an outcast among his fellow skunks, so he's got to move on to different species to find love. I understand that it informed Pierre Boulle's thinking when writing Planet of the Apes and all that.
Another important part of the formula. There's a big chase at the end. The Love Interest tries to run as fast as they can, while Pepe keeps to a strict tempo of hopping twice per second, with a sprightly musical accompaniment courtesy of Carl Stalling. Nothing short of musical genius, that guy. Usually the Love Interest runs out of steam, giving Pepe an opportunity to catch up. Not this time, though. The painted cat manages to keep up the speed of a bullet without breaking a sweat. However, it is a small perfume shop with a second floor, so hiding places are in short supply. The cat is at the open window, and apparently she's planning to jump to her death. Pepe even says as much! "She is planning to commit suicide to prove her love to me!" he says... something like that. But Pepe cannot tolerate this, so he goes over to the windowsill to grab a hold of her. Spoiler alert: Pepe's too late. The cat drops, so Pepe drops as well.
Next scene: the cat landed in a full rain barrel below... ah, Laurel and Hardy. That's their comedy turf, damn it. Even the Stooges knew that. Anyway, the cat is to rain barrel what skunk is to... a can of blue paint? Whatever. The cat emerges from the rain barrel, dripping wet, and snivelling from the instant cold she caught. Well, you can't argue with results, because Pepe doesn't even recognize her. He says, "Excuse me, but have you seen a beautiful lady skunk around here?" Wotta doof.
I usually always say this, so why not again... when you get right down to it, aren't men and women the same way, really? She's a pretty black cat, he's a smelly skunk, and somehow we gotta make this thing work. Compromise. That's the name of the game, and maybe the art of the deal. Hmm! Maybe it's time to read that. Anyway, Chuck Jones is the master of psychology, cartoon or otherwise, so maybe what he's trying to tell us with this next scene is something about the mystery of female sexuality... at least, in male's attempts to get to the bottom of it, so to speak. The cat, still inside the full rain barrel, gets an eyeful of Pepe Le Pew walking away, covered in blue paint, and slightly more muscular than he usually looks. Now I saw the same thing that the cat saw, and it didn't do much for me, except remind me to get the next installment of "The Smurfs" on Blu-Ray... the cartoon series, I mean, not the movies. Are the cartoons out yet?
Now, the cat saw this, and is suddenly in love, her heart literally trying to escape her chest. She follows Pepe, who's headed right back into the perfume store. She locks the door behind her and starts to make a move on the now shocked Pepe. Easy to believe, as this is probably uncharted territory for him. The cat ends up jumping twice per second, in pursuit of the now furiously running Pepe. "You know, sometimes it is possible to be too attractive!" he says. I saw this when I was much younger, and was rather shocked by his reaction, if my memory serves. Nowadays, of course, it's all part of the same continuum. It's like what someone said about the guy who chases girls and they said "Well, he wouldn't even know what to do with one if he caught one!" A toast to Pepe Le Peu... may this be the last one I have to review... oh, damn it. There's still Odor-able Kitty to do. Figures.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan