Thursday, 28 July 2011

6. Box Car Blues (1930)

Hiya folks - this is another review for today - Box Car Blues which isn't really much of a dancing and singing short, it's sort of a climax short. As I will complete this review, I would've finished reviewing the 1930 cartoons - and onto the 1931 cartoons where I will review the first Merrie Melodie short in the near future.

Warner cartoon no. 5.
Release date: December 1930.
Directors: Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising.
Producers: Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising and Leon Schlesinger (associate).
Starring: Johnny Murray (Bosko).
Animation: Rollin Hamilton and Carmen Maxwell.
Musical Score: Frank Marsales.

The short starts off with a locomotive passenger train. It's a very cartoonie train that seems to have life and personality (not to be confused with the Disney train Casey Junior). It's a passenger train that has coaches. Inside we find Bosko and a pig friend in one of the boxcars and they appear to be migrants - or in other words: tramps. Bosko is playing with his harmonica to Cryin' for the Carolines - and the song was also a film title for the unpopular Warner series "Spooney Melodies" (title inspiration for Merrie Melodies) and Cryin' for the Carolines was known to be the surviving short.

Bosko and the tramp pig slide down the boxcar and hit the wall, (flatting Bosko like a pancake), and the long-show view shows us that the train is going uphill, at a very steep hill. There are even gags on the train going uphill and downhill. There is one, where it crosses a bridge, and the bridge is so sloppy and weak, that it wobbles when the train lands on it, and only barely carries the weight. Even another gag, where the hill is so, so steep - that the train itself crawls up like a caterpillar.

There is another gag, while the train is going uphill, and as the train crawls up - the train finds itself in a delay, with no rail tracks. So, there is a gag involved that's so extreme and crazy that I find unpleasant to watch. It involves the train pulling down the bark of the tree, with the tree's pants showing, and the tree's face pulls it back up and the train moves from the tugging from the branch's hands, and the train climbs up the rails like a ladder, and just as it's heading downhill, the last boxcar of the passage train falls off, and it's the passage train that Bosko and the tramp pig are in.

So, Bosko looks out from the roof that he's going downhill, and realizes that he's in trouble (and the pig, too), and this is the climax of the story. Bosko and the pig in danger. He is going by and calling for help, and in the meantime. A traffic lights poll is nearby, and the sign that reads "STOP" or "GO" chops Bosko's head off, and this is also another "head-cut open" gag (the first being Hold Anything).

As Bosko's boxcar is going backwards, and no-one is controlling it. Bosko is going through tunnel to tunnel, and nothing major yet is happening, except that Bosko is due to get himself hurt anyhow. Whilst, he's going through a lot of tunnels - he cries "MAMMY". This short is sort of similar to Sinkin' in the Bathtub except it's boxcars - not bathtubs. This scene is sort of a reuse and even parts of the boxcar disaster scenes are reused from that short. Of course, that line what Bosko shouted for help was muted by the censors - due to racial stereotype reasons.

As Bosko, has finished going through all those dark tunnels - the railroads where the boxcar is - get so wider that Bosko's legs spread out on one half on the boxcar, and Bosko's other leg is on the other boxcar in half, which would mean he could split in half. Notice an animation error - why isn't that fat pig there on one of the boxcars - if you would say he's on at the far end side, in either one; don't give me that talk because his fat body could even be noticeable if he was animated on the boxcars.

Not only is Bosko and the fat pig at risk - but also a cattle in the middle the tracks is also at risk of being run over by the boxcar, and that's why he runs for his life. Bosko also bumps onto a lot of rocks whilst going downhill, and also telephone poles, a bunch of telephone polls. Some of those gags (I believe) had been used earlier on Sinkin' in the Bathtub. I admit, I don't like the camera angles on the scenes very much - Bosko seems to high up on the screen, that we only see a bit of his face. Although, I suppose they didn't have great technology in those days and that's could be an "early process".

So, the boxcar crashes onto a telephone pole, and the cattle walks off safely, and Bosko and the pig make a happy landing. As they are seated, the pig holds up his umbrella to prevent him from being hurt by a rainfall of broken boxcar items. As the raindrops are clear, one falls and hits his head. So, Bosko and the pig wheel away in a cart and play the banjo, and continue being tramps.

The cartoon was a nice change from the singing and dancing, that had been produced quite often. This short is somehow reminds me of a remake of Sinkin' in the Bathtub because of the repeated gags and that there's a climax involving Bosko at peril, and the fact that Honey isn't in this cartoon. I felt the scenes with Bosko and the boxcar collision scenes just went on for too long - and we never really saw much of Bosko or the pig doing gags in this cartoon. In fact, there weren't many gags in this cartoon, except for about one or two silly ones. But, most of the boxcar scenes didn't really have gags in them at all.

That's all from my review, folks - I've now completed the 1930 cartoons and now I will be going on to the 1931 cartoons.

[2014 update: With not much to go on in this cartoon, it's a kick from watching shorts with the tendencies of just bombarding the cartoons with singing and dancing. We get a song, but we get a climax. Set in a boxcar, where Bosko and a pig character are portrayed as homeless people, with a lot of the short having scenes almost identical to the Oswald cartoon Trolley Troubles, which Hugh Harman worked on himself, especially as a lot of the climax rely on perspective animation. The climax scenes occur throughout the entire second half of the cartoon, making most of the scenes appear anti-climatic, and thus the short dragged to that effect. In all fairness, the boxcar scenes are uncanny in an entertaining way, but its a Bosko short I would skip.] 


  1. The tunnel sequence was borrowed from Trolley Troubles, a Disney cartoon Harman and Ising made in 1927.

  2. I think that is pretty obvious Jim. For all the times you've tried to contradict me on list serves you seem even more oblivious.