Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thugs with Naïve Bugs

Ah, the comfort of a known genre.  How I've missed thee.  Now, I doubt if all of Friz's works can be called classics, but surely Bugs and Thugs is one?


The credits spoil it, of course.  The spotlight, the sirens, and the safe with Friz's name on it.  There are a million stories in the naked city, but I think this one will manage to stay fully clothed... aside from Bugs, of course.
We start with Bugs' hole in the city; kinda looks like a Central Park rent-controlled hole.  But Bugs can afford it... or maybe the studio pays for it.  And those hole elevators that take you up to ground level?  Those don't come cheap.  Gotta be the studio footing the bill.  It's like Mitt Romney and the elevator for his cars... you know, Mormon stuff.
Next scene: Bugs is engrossed in his morning newspaper.  Ah, that takes me back.  All due respect to this Sesame Street clip, this one is the one I grew up with.  This gag's origins may go back further, but the Farrellys and the Zuckers have given it their CGI touches, of course.  As for further back, I'm thinking of the times in Hog Wild and Perfect Day when Ollie almost gets run over by a city bus, and by a car respectively.  He however wasn't engrossed in a newspaper at the time.
Next scene: more alienation to remind us that Bugs just isn't with the little people anymore.  Bugs goes to the bank to withdraw a carrot from his safe deposit box.  Well, communal gardens in big cities were unheard of at the time... okay, Howard Zinn can probably prove me wrong.  Well, Bugs doesn't seem to be hanging around in those circles, does he?  Anyway, AT THE SAME TIME... the bank gets held up.  Ain't that always the way?
...okay, I actually went back and watched it.  "Oh, uh... Taxi!" says Bugs.  A red car pulls up.  The world's shortest gangster gets out of the front passenger door and runs into the bank.  Bugs leaves that aside for now... he might've missed it, seeing as how short the guy is.  "Couple times around the park, Mac!" says Bugs to the car's driver, still thinking it's a taxi.  You know... this is the kind of thing that happened to the passenger in the first episode of "Transporter: The Series."  At least his ordeal was short-lived, compared to what Bugs is about to go through.
Next scene: Rocky returns to the red car with a large armful of bags of cash.  He trades some more bullets with the security guards in the bank, then gets in the car.  "OKAY!  TAKE OFF, MUGSY!"  Two things.  1) Shouldn't that be obvious to Mugsy?, never mind.  And 2) Rocky just doesn't sound at all like the Rocky we all know and love!  His voice is kinda like the Gangster-Tron 2800 or something.  What's with the difference in voice?  Must be the excitement of having to be the stick-up man yourself.  Rocky's usually managing his personnel to do all the dirty stuff.  And besides!  It's all for the payoff.  Mugsy guns it, and Rocky gets smashed up against the car's rear window.  Seatbelts, guys!  Seatbelts.
Next scene: Bugs emerges from under the pile of cash bags.  They don't feature the usual cartoon dollar sign ('$') ... which reminds me!  I've got JavaScript homework to get to.  Bugs, still in Taxi Mode, says "I don't mind sharing the ride, but... all this laundry!"  You know, I think Bugs does mind sharing the ride!  Harumph!  More Ivory Tower stuff.
As for blue-collar thousand-aire Rocky, well... it's Def-Con 3 time.  Rocky points his handgun at Bugs and says "How much do you know?"  Bugs says "Oh, I know lots of things!  Two and two is four... Carson City is the capital of Nevada..."  Need I go on?  So corny, so dumb.  Rocky interrupts Bugs again and says "Shut it!  Mugsy, this guy knows too much."  Now, if you found Bugs' part of this too cornball, I completely understand.  But if you don't like Rocky's contribution to this gag, well... you're a cold-hearted bastard, I'm sorry.  No two ways about it.
Next scene: This kind of parsing of gangster language goes on for the whole pic.  "Let's take him for a ride," Rocky tells Mugsy.  In response, Bugs dons the outfit he had in Racketeer Rabbit, something from a more fanciful era when cars were just barely replacements for the old horse and buggy.  All I know is, Racketeer Rabbit better be on Vol. 6 of the Looney Tunes.  Silly me, I thought it was one of the best ones, worthy of commentary and or a 1080p, 4k transfer, or whatever the hell they do to the old films these days... mostly crop the tops and bottom for HD, I'm guessing.  Or just do the title sequences in HD, then leave the rest. (ouch)  Okay, that was too far.
"SHADDUP!" says Rocky, pointing the gun anew at Bugs.  Bugs' response informed a certain comedy about thirty years later.  Well, let me put it this way.  Even though Bugs is told to "shaddup," he doesn't, of course.  Only a rarefied on-the-lam gangster usually gives Bugs an order like that.  Even Yosemite Sam's a better listener in comparison.  But nothing grinds Rocky's gears worse than some chowderhead who won't keep his big trap shut.  Rocky gives Bugs a poke in the chops with the automatic gun and says "SHADDUP SHUTTIN' UP!"  That really shuts Bugs up.  Fade to black.


This is probably a good place for it, even though it's a little early, mathematically speaking.  Scene: a crows' eye view of the rolling countryside, as the red car of doom... Red Car of Doom slowly cuts it in half.  Bugs gets away with the joke that they couldn't in It's a Gift when he says to Mugsy "When you see a nice clean gas station would you pull over, please?"  (link: Hah!  I didn't just imagine it) The idiot man-child that he is, Mugsy nods and pulls over.  Bugs starts to walk away, but returns to ask for a nickel.  Oh, rabbits and their lack of pockets, and the things that pockets usually contain.  Sad to see that this whimsical cartoon seems to be more like an actual police drama.  Bugs gets on the phone to the police.  Mugsy acts quickly, probably directed by Rocky.  This is probably the highlight of the flick, when Bugs says "OVERHEAD VALVES!!!!  WITH CALIFORNIA LICENSE PLATES!!!!!!!"  I gotta ask my car buddy about overhead valves now.
The car drives off, with Bugs still clutching his end of the phone.  The phone line stretches out, and to bring it back to the realm of comedy, a policeman pops out the other end of the phone, getting dragged along the highway for a bit.  Hmm!  Like Rocky at the end of Racketeer Rabbit, the policeman's pants seemed to have turned into open-in-the-back overalls!  Oh, these things just aren't for kids, I tell you darlings.
Next scene: the railroad crossing from Close Encounters of the Third Kind... sorry, that seems to keep popping up for me.  Bugs gets a rare opening to do an imitation of Mugsy, and takes it, of course.  Wotta smart-aleck.  Rocky tells Bugs to get out and see if the coast is clear.  Well, the sign's moving, so... but whatever.  I guess it's the act of relegation that's important, especially amongst gangsters.  Oh, you'll just never guess how it all plays out in a million years.  Never guess...
Next scene: Bugs is repairing the car at gunpoint.  True, Rocky's standing a good few feet away, but nevertheless, the gun is indeed out.  Bugs asks for a lunch break and... well, gangsters were never one to respect a union's work contract, now, were they?  "KEEP WOIKIN', RABBIT!" says Rocky.  Notice the state the characters are in.  Bugs is all covered in motor oil, and the gangsters' clothes are all wrinkled and torn.  Could've been a lot worse!  Could've been a whole lot worse.  They should be thankful, but no.  Just upset.  Mugsy's so upset, he also tells Bugs to keep woikin'.  Rocky punches Mugsy in the gut for his insubordination.  Talk about kicking the dog!  I think I'll just leave aside that Mugsy takes Rocky literally with the whole "button your lip" comment.  So corny, so dumb.
Next scene: future screenwriters take note, for these Looney Tunes screenwriters were a cheeky, subversive lot.  Despite being in that horrible train wreck, Bugs has pretty much got the car back to new.  More cartoon magic.  However, the front passenger side wheel is missing.  "I'm afraid you're stuck!" says Bugs.
"We're not stuck, rabbit... YOU'RE stuck!" says Rocky, without missing a beat.  Next scene: at gunpoint again, Bugs holds up the car and runs along, acting as the makeshift missing wheel.  Now, sure, car guys might grimace, noting that the axle's still going to be spinning, but I guess they stop it for Bugs.  You know, movie studio stuff.  Milt Franklyn's score helps underscore the urgency of the situation.
"Let's take the scenic route," says Rocky.  More wickedness.  Hard to say what's more cruel: the ending of Daffy's Boobs in the Woods, or this scene.  I'm thinking this scene, because hey.  When Porky turned Daffy into his car's motor, at least he had an official permit to do so!  Plus, Daffy didn't have to run alongside the car, holding it up.  Of course, there was the matter of the choke.  Well, at least it was the big finale.  We've still got the Third Act here.  I still think this is more cruel.


Scene: night time.  Setting: house on a cliff... and I mean, right on the cliff.  Spoiler alert: the house doesn't fall off, but all hell is about to break loose inside.  Still, I'm reminded of a similar scene in Malice.  I'm still not sure what the movie's about... a project that Aaron Sorkin had lying around, and what the hell, why not make a quick buck off of it... but I do remember the slightly striking visual.  Sick at sea!!!!
Wow.  Love that back porch to nowhere.  Bet the view's great!  Anyway, now that they've driven all the way to this lone, isolated house, now it's time to do away with Bugs.  What will it be?  Sleeping with the fishes?  ...I guess that's the only romantic mob death from the era.  No, a simple shooting will suffice now.
But as has happened throughout this whole sordid affair, the parsing of language is important.  Rocky tells Mugsy, "Take this rabbit into the other room and let him have it."  "Okay, Boss!" says the dippy Mugsy.  Next scene: the other room.  Mugsy's got a sinister laugh, he does!  Yosemite Sam gets that same laugh from time to time, but he doesn't sound completely dippy.
Next scene: Bugs holds out his strangely human hand and says, "All right, Mugsy... let me have it!"  Even Noam Chomsky has to admit... genius.  American Imperialist genius, sure, but genius nevertheless... see, he made a name for himself in mathematical grammars way back when and... oh, skip it.  Bugs at least shuts Mugsy down for a second, so he has to reiterate a little more emphatically.  "You heard what the BOSS said!  Let me HAVE it!!!" he says.  Mugsy hands over the pistol, saying "Oh, uh... Okay, but uh...."
Next scene: the main room of the house.  We hear a muffled shot, and see some muffled smoke.  Plus, the door bends from the shot, lol.  Mugsy emerges from the room, a little dazed, a little covered in soot.  Ah, cartoon violence.  I was just thinking earlier about how violent Casino is.  I still go back to the guy who only saw Casino, and I told him about GoodFellas.  He hadn't seen GoodFellas and was hesitant to.  "Is it violent?" he asked.  Plus, Sharon Stone isn't in it, either.  Two strikes against it.  Also, the violence in Munich seems a hell of a lot more realistic than the average movie.
Mugsy finally passes out, falling on top of Rocky.  AGAIN with the short jokes!  I think I know who must really hate this cartoon... oh, never mind.  "GET OFF!" says Rocky, giving Mugsy a very, very strong punch.  Mugsy flies off of Rocky and falls backwards onto his back.
Now it's Rocky's turn to neutralize bugs.  Next scene: the doorknob rattles in Bugs' side of the door.  Tricking Rocky is going to take a more sophisticated ruse.  Now, for those of you out there who've seen Racketeer Rabbit, what happens next won't probably be much of a surprise.  In fact, you might just want to skip to the 'Epilogue' part of my incoherent, probably Zika-fueled ramblings... okay, let's get back to it.  Bugs makes a siren sound, then at 4:54, well... I guess it's supposed to be the police car's brakes.  Gerard Mulligan might call it an allergic reaction to his medication; love that guy.  Hard to believe he was ever in showbiz!
Bugs then acts like an Irish cop... I know, I know.  Bugs bursts out of the room.  "The COPS!" he says.  Rocky gets caught up in the fake frenzy, running around like he's on the weed.  "Hide me!" says Rocky.  The only thing large enough for Rocky is the stove, which he runs into willingly.  Clearly, Rocky's just a small timer and hasn't bribed enough congressmen or senators.  In The Fifth Element, it was Bruce's fridge that was used to hide people.  Mugsy is now fully awake and soot-free, and wants to be hidden too.  "It's not fair!" he cries.  He sounds a bit like Sylvester the cat to me.
"I must be dreaming!  It couldn't be this easy!" says Bugs to the audience.  It is pretty sad.  It's like a presidential candidate trying to win over a group of people by telling them "What the hell do you have to lose?"  Bugs stuffs the much larger Mugsy into the stove by stamping his ass with a toilet plunger.
Next scene: Mugsy is completely turned around inside the stove.  Damn Hays Code.  "Now don't move until I tell you to!" says Bugs, and closes the stove door.  I don't think they could even if they wanted to!  Anyway, Bugs continues his one man show, as Rocky and Mugsy listen to what's going on... guess I better do this as though it were a play.

Officer: All right, rabbit.  Where's Rocky?  Where's he hiding?
Bugs (stands in front of stove): He's not in this stove!
Officer: Oh HOH!!!! So he's hiding in that stove, eh?

Lol.  Bugs gets two whoosh sounds: one when he's at the front door, and one when he appears in front of the stove.  Bugs then takes a couple of swords and sticks them into the stove... oh, wait, that's Racketeer Rabbit again.  I get those two mixed up for some reason.  Okay, back to the action... and by action, I mean words.

Bugs: Now look, would I turn on this gas if my friend Rocky was in there?
Officer: You might, rabbit, you might...
Bugs: Well, would I throw a lighted match in there if my friend was in there?
(stove explodes)
Officer: Well, all right, rabbit, you've convinced me.  I'll look for Rocky in the city.

And scene.  The slightly singed gangsters slowly emerge from the stove.  And then... the part that surely even the Coen brothers were slightly influenced by.  Don't forget the repetition, Ed!  The part that even the most wizened, jaded Neck Beard Hipsters would get a slight guffaw from, if only in theory.  The ACTUAL cops show up.
Now, you might think I'm a geek... I mean, you might think that the gangsters wouldn't fall for it a second time.  Both, actually.  But they really are small timers, and they crawl back inside the stove.  And the dialogue from earlier is repeated, but with an actual cop doing the 'Officer' part.  You might notice that the cop's reading of "You might, rabbit..." is slightly different.
And so, differentiation from Racketeer Rabbit has been achieved.  Well, almost.  The two gangsters burst out of the stove before a second match can go in.  "Oh, NO you don't!!!" says Rocky, probably.  They then crash through the window and run down the street after the cops... oh, right.  Racketeer again.  Actually, they end up groveling at the Irish cop's feet.  Anything to stay away from Bugs the Kingpin.


For Bugs, this was apparently a transformative experience.  While we don't know what exactly he did for employment before, we do know what he's doing now.  Why, he's opened up his own detective agency, of course!  It's a rich rabbit's hobby, I suppose.
Bugs gets a knock at the door.  A long-legged dame steps in.  A baroness, perhaps!  Probably a kidnapping case or some such, as often happens with ilk who hold on to the purse strings a little too tight.  A lotta interlopers hang around the campfire, struggling to get some warmth for their cold hands, you know!
... I mean, Bugs gets a call and rattles off a long, annoying alliteration.  Screenwriters take note: that's the kind of thing you have to do sometimes to pay the bills.  YEESH!!!!!!
I should probably address the reference to the Animators Guild, Local 839... not many guilds like that, were there?  Just New York and L.A., I imagine.  The number seems familiar to me, because I think they would include a reference to them on the old Saturday morning shows when they used to show these on T.V... hah.  Good luck finding that on YouTube... oh!  There it is!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan


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