Saturday, 4 August 2012

182. The Case of the Stuttering Pig (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 181.
Release date: October 30, 1937.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Guy in the Third Row) and Billy Bletcher (Lawyer Goodwill).
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Volney White.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky's lawyer tries to cheat out of Porky's uncle's will by transforming into a monster and to capture his family.

This is the first WB cartoon where it directly parodies Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The cartoon's title is a pun to the 1937 Warner Bros. film The Case of the Stuttering Bishop; which was only released a few months prior to the cartoon's release. I wonder if the cartoon had a working title. Also the first cartoon for story man Melvin "Tubby" Millar to get screen credit who would work for Tashlin, Avery, Norm McCabe and Clampett in his black-and-white years. He was already a regular story man at the studio for a few years (beginning in 1934) before the cartoons got screen credit.

During the credits we hear the music of William Tell Overture in the theme where it plays a storm. The cartoon begins with a house on top of the hill and there is a dangerous and heavy storm occurring. The wind is howling, the rain is flowing and there are trees being blown to the side with some very good effects animation. The lightning effects are done by two cels (white and black) to give it a flashing effect; which was a very good technique that were done by Frank Tashlin.

The rain for this sequence is of course rain filmed in a studio from live-action but I think it was done when placed after animation cels to give it a stunning effect. The effects animation of the window shutters are a very marvellous effects; but however I am starting to question though if AC Gamer did effects animation. Sure; he was known as one but if he was then how come his credits were with Freleng and must've been in the Freleng unit whilst never credited with the other units but I'm not too sure though. After the William Tell piece has finished in the storm shots. We find some more shots that Tashlin heavily focused on with obscure camera angles. The interior shot of the house focuses on the grandfather clock and the pendulum is swinging.

After some good experimental Tashlin-esque shots; we then find that the people who own the house are Porky Pig and his family. We find that Porky has got four children in his house and their names are in order: Patrick, Peter, Percy and Portus. All four of them are sitting in their own individual chairs rather afraid of what is to happen.

During this camera PAN through the entire family; we find that all the members of the family are frightened, even Petunia Pig; the wife of Porky in this cartoon. As we PAN to Porky Pig, he is the only happy character seated which I guess makes it rather funny since he's the odd one out. That was a pretty good camera PAN to make the gag work. But what also makes the gag work with the camera pan was that notice how that the children sitting down are actually being seated in height order. After that PAN, we then start to hear a knock on the door in which it scares Porky; there is a quick cut to Porky as he makes a take and jumps up in the air. The family are on top of a ceiling lamp in which their heads pop out of the lampshade and this time in head size order (smallest to biggest; Petunia to Patrick). Porky however doesn't match with the other heads which also makes him the odd one out. Mmm, I find it interesting that now Petunia has arrived on this cartoon about 7 months after 'Porky's Romance' - I guess she was popular enough to return briefly.

Porky then stutters on top of the lampshade in the ceiling nervously, 'Who's there?'. A voice then comes from outside the door as it's a rather soft voice; the voice says 'Why it's only me, your good friend Lawyer Goodwill. Would you please let me in?'. Okay; so it's Porky's lawyer in this cartoon.

Porky then walks over to the front door chuckling realising it was only his faithful old lawyer of his, "Okay. Just a minute" answers Porky as he walks over to the door to open it for Lawyer Goodwill. As Porky opens the door; the storm then blows Porky and his family behind as well as his furniture. Lawyer Goodwill arrived already in his raincoat and then he closes the door behind him. I like the weight of the animation of where they are blown back and the lawyer's struggle to enter. Lawyer Goodwill's head is not seen as his hat is covering it. Goodwill then grabs out his hat and empties the amount of rain and water out so it splashes onto the floor. The lawyer's head then appears after emptying his hat and it feels quite strange that it appeared but cleverly animated. The lawyer then walks over to the family; 'Now children, come, come. We've got business to attend to'. Of course the lawyer is seen here as a very warm-hearted, soft-spoken lawyer who is no harm towards Porky or his family here.

In the next sequence; we find that Porky's family and the lawyer are seen seated on the dining table.  The lawyer then shows to the family the will of their uncle; Uncle Solomon. The lawyer continues, 'We are here to read the will left by your late uncle, my good friend, Solomon Swine'. The lawyer gets a little emotional when looking at the portrait of him that makes him look like Oliver Hardy; he had recently passed away; 'Rest in bones'.

The lawyer then stops sobbing over the loss of their uncle and his friend and continues about the will, 'I have the will right here. You can read it for yourselves'. The family then look over to see what is written from their uncle's will: I will and bequeath all my property to my niece and nephews. Love and kisses, Uncle Solly. P.S. Bury me not on the Long Prairie! Of course; the P.S. message is meant to be a joke as it's a title cowboy folk song. The family are awed about the will as the niece and nephews get his own life insurance. The lawyer interrupts the moment; 'P.S. Tut-tut - there's more to read'. Another P.S. note then reads: However, in case anything happens to my heirs my entire fortune goes to my good friend Lawyer Goodwill - Uncle Solly. Of course that would only happened if their children would've got kidnapped or killed, or what

The lawyer then makes it clear to the family; 'You see if anything happened to you. I would get all this property'. The lawyer then grabs his bag as he leaves for the door. The lawyer then starts to make an exit to the door; 'However nothing will happen'. He then closes the door; but opens it again to make the final remark; 'I hope'. Of course we find that the lawyer has a really sweet personality to him. I don't know if this is Bletcher voicing the lawyer with a sweet voice.

There is a really neat Tashlin technique of Lawyer Goodwill walking down the front steps of the porch. Notice how that when he walks down the stairs you see him gone from the screen for a while; but you find him a few seconds later you find that he appears on the screen walking around the other part of the house in which the camera starts moving. That must've been complicating to stage and layout but I like how this is viewed from the eyes of a still camera in which Goodwill appears again after walking down the steps. The lawyer is then walking down to the basement of the house; but dashes back to hear any sound in the house before walking down. Mark Kausler credits that scene to the credited animator: Volney White.

The lawyer appears to have a secret laboratory in which he takes off his jacket as we start to find out more about the darker side of Lawyer Goodwill. After taking off his jacket; he replaces it with a black jacket of what he would wear done in the laboratory. Goodwill then reaches his lab table and brings out two glass cups on the table and looks over at the shelf.

Lawyer Goodwill's hand then pops over to the shelf (nicely animated) as he grabs out a potion called 'Jekyll and Hyde Juice' which sounds like a cool name for a wicked potion; as it references Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Lawyer Goodwill then starts to pull off the cork out of the bottle by biting it off; giving it a good socket plop effect when the cork is pulled off. Goodwill then starts to pour the potion into the glass cup in which he then starts to mix it together with both cups. Some very interesting effects with the water changing cups; but it was no effects animator though. Lawyer Goodwill then looks at the glass for his potion in which he is planning something evil towards but we can only figure out what his plan is but we only know that he is up to no good; since the label of the potion does give it away. I like how scenes were laid out and staged which gives it

After mixing the drinks; Goodwill then starts to take one glass in which the potion also have foam on top like a soda drink. Goodwill then starts to take a drink from the potion and he breaks the glass breathing heavily. We are waiting for a dramatic moment after drinking that potion as we are expecting him to change like in the novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

After breathing heavily for a while; we then hear silence for a while (and dramatic music stops) in which it turns out that the experiment didn't work and there is a still pose on Goodwill. His eyes blink after the plan didn't work out well. Goodwill then raises his shoulders in a "Oh well" type attitude in which he tries again. Lawyer Goodwill then pours another part of the potion in which he pours it into the glass again. Goodwill then walks over to the milkshake machine to mix the drink; and of course milkshake machines were brand new upon the film's release. After mixing it like a milkshake which is a rather clever-idea type gag; Goodwill then has the milkshake-type foam on top of the glass which would make a really good formula. Goodwill then starts to guzzle down the entire potion down his throat in which he breaks the glass, and that's when the action begins.

This time Goodwill is breathing heavily and seriously. I like how the camera gets closer and closer upon the heavy breather to make the action more intense so that was some good camera ideas being brought here; and definitely an idea from Tashlin. We then truck back as the music gets more intense and the heavy breathing starts to get more intense until...

Lawyer Goodwill then changes into a nasty looking villain very quickly; and I think the transforming scene was planned out very perfectly. It was done very quickly but I feel that it was done in a rather frightening way. The villain (who was then Lawyer Goodwill) turns out to be a fraud towards Porky's family as he breaks the forth wall, 'You wouldn't think I was Lawyer Goodwill now, would you?' Goodwill then starts to move over to the camera much closer when saying 'would you'. Goodwill then starts to makes vows; 'I'm going to get rid of those pigs and you can't help them either!' The villain then pops closer to the camera as he shouts; 'You bunch of softies! Yeah, you in the third row! You big softie!' then starts to laugh evilly. I really like the animation of when the villain keeps on coming close to the camera as it shows some very good broad staging. The voice of Goodwill as a nasty villain is of course the voice of Billy Bletcher; and I feel that this isn't any old voice of his and he definitely puts on a very unique voice for the villain compared to what he usually does.

As the scene from the villainous Goodwill; we fade into Porky's home where the family are inside the lounge. The siblings are standing up rather pleased they're at home. Porky remarks; 'Here we are all safe and sound in our own little house'. After that remark (which will cause superstition); Goodwill's hand then pops up in a single-shot of the power switch which appears to be in the basement.

The power then goes out; but pops back again in which the biggest sibling; Patrick has vanished (and I like how there are X marks on where they stood - as though X marks the spot). Porky notices that Patrick went missing which shocks the other family. The power switch then goes off the second time but as it turns back on; we find that the second biggest child Peter has also vanished. Porky calls out that Peter has gone missing; (and the other family members get more shocked). The power switch goes off again but back in a millisecond in which Percy has gone missing; Porky again calls out his name as he did with the other missing kids. The power switch then goes off again for the final time as we find the last and smallest sibling Portus has gone missing which means the entire children have been wiped out in each very brief "power cut". The power goes off again (excuse me) for the final part THIS time with Porky and Petunia now missing; hence their X positions on the couch which gives the design of the room a more interesting view.

Oh it turns out that Porky and Petunia weren't missing as we got tricked by how the director wanted it present. Porky and Petunia were hiding behind the couch after the power went off. Petunia and Porky both shake but Petunia holds on Porky afraid:

Petunia Pig: Gee Porky, I'm scared'.
Porky Pig: Don't be frightened. You're with me. We'll find them.

Porky then holds onto Petunia's hand as they step out of the couch to go and look out for their kids. Porky then starts to try and call for his kids, 'Hey fellas, where are ya?' There is a long background pan as we exit the living room to the basement; then we dissolve into the basement as we find Goodwill laughing; the pan continues as we find that the siblings are in the stocks tied up; and there are spare ones for Porky and Petunia. Goodwill then continues; 'and as soon I can get Porky and Petunia up here.  I'll do away with all of you - like this'. The villainous Goodwill then starts to pantomime a cut throat. Goodwill even comments to the audience; 'And if that guy in the third row comes up. I'll fix him too'. Of course the recurring gag of the short is referencing the guy from the third row which is very funny and very original in this story; and it gives me the perspective that the other directors at that time were funny too; not only Avery.

Meanwhile Porky and Petunia are out in the hallway looking out for their "missing" children. Porky calls out several of their names to try and find them but no luck. Suddenly; a frame from a wall then opens and Goodwill captures Petunia. We then find that Goodwill then creeping up towards Porky who is behind him. Porky then thinks he's holding Petunia's hand (but instead holding the villain's hand) as he shushes him.

Porky then starts to realise whose hand he's holding on until he turns around and goes in that crazy, very funny eye and facial take towards the villain and dashes off. Porky then starts to make a complete dash up the stairs very fast away from the villain. As he makes it up to the top he then holds onto Goodwill who has already made it up there before he did without effort which makes it even funnier to me. Porky is seen holding onto Goodwill in which he believes he's holding onto Petunia; 'Gee, Petunia - I saw the most awful-looking man all big and black with big teeth, and a great big, long black nose and...' Porky makes a slow turn towards who he is holding onto in which he goes into that goofy take realising he is holding onto the monster Goodwill. Porky then starts to run straight back down the stairs again with fright in which he runs over to the laboratory in the basement.

Porky Pig then dashes down to the basement as he closes the door and locks it. He turns to find his actual family all tied up in the stocks and their mouths covered from bandanas so they wouldn't speak. Porky exclaims, 'Land sake's alive' as he tries to untie the family members. Just as he tries to untie then; there is loud banging going on from the basement as shows the no-good Goodwill is down there after Porky and his family. Goodwill then breaks the plank to which it locks the door and charges into the room as he shouts, 'Now I got you'.

The family are now standing by the wall cornered and afraid that they will be done for. Goodwill then walks over about to grab them threatening; 'I'll do a way with all of you'. Suddenly a heavy object falls to the ground out of nowhere in which he flies over to the stocks and ends up being trapped. Porky's family then ask curiously at the same time; 'Who did that?' A voice from nowhere then shouts, 'ME!'

Goodwill: Who are you?
Man from Audience: I'm that guy in the third row. You big sourpuss!

Now that is a very funny and clever way to end the cartoon as it shows the only person to stop the villain is the man from the third row. It was probably not what he expected but but least he got even with the villain.

Overall comments: I feel that when I watched this cartoon - Frank Tashlin really had the chance to show off the techniques that he could use; and when it comes to analysis on the obscure techniques he produces to this shorts; this cartoon says all you need to know. The opening shots with the rain and thunder were very well put together and it even feels very realistic as they shot live-action rain. I feel that the villain; Lawyer Goodwill is probably one of the greatest villains in the 1930's Golden Age cartoons. I love the character's build up on this cartoon; at the beginning we find that he is a pretty warm character; in the middle we learn to discover he is a fraud towards his family as he plans to cheat on their uncle's will; and we already learn at the end he is a fraud.

The transforming scenes were very good; and I even think that the character who was supposedly meant to be scary and Tashlin has successfully made his character frightening. The cartoon is probably one of the darker WB cartoons but I find that it's one of Tashlin's funnier cartoons and even one of his best. The 'guy in the third row' gags are just awesome and funny that it gives great satire through the cartoon and to the very end where the man gets even with the villain; so you could say an audience member was the hero of the cartoon. Of course; this is Petunia's 2nd appearance but she is married to Porky and not that lame-ass she was in Porky's Romance so I see that Tashlin is trying to make her work as a regular character - she certainly sounds better with her voice. I must say that I think this cartoon has probably one of Billy Bletcher's greatest voice performances he did in his career. Of course; almost every villain he plays has his voice sound exactly the same but he gives this villain's voice a different but appealing quality that really works. Overall; this short was a very good cartoon and Tashlin was at the top of his game when making the cartoon.


  1. "Tashlin at the top of his game." Couldn't have said it better myself.

    This cartoon is one of the very reasons why Tashlin is my favorite out of all the Warners directors. It's even better on the big screen (especially during the transformation sequence).

  2. This is far most one of my favorite Porky Pig cartoons. I have been trying to find this cartoon for a very long time. I appreciate this site. I would really like to find the full cartoon so I can watch it over over and over again.

  3. Another site claims that Porky and Petunia were actually brother and sister in this one, despite being boyfriend and girlfriend in their other four pictures together. As I haven't seen the film they were parodying, I don't know if this change was made to better reflect the source material, or not.

  4. In this cartoon the other pigs aren't Porky's children, they are his older brothers and Petunia is his sister as Uncle Solomon's will reads in your screenshot: " my Niece and Nephews." If they were Porky's children, they would be Solomon's great nephews and if Petunia was Porky's wife, she wouldn't be Solomon's niece. The lawyer also says of Uncle Solomon "Rest his bones" not "rest in bones." It's an expression like rest in peace. Also the heavy object that defeats the villain doesn't fall from the ceiling, it is a theater seat which the guy in the third row threw at the villain.