Friday, 17 August 2012

192. Jungle Jitters (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 191.
Release date: February 19, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Natives / Guard / Priest) and Ted Pierce (Queen / Salesman).
Story: Geo Manuell.
Animation: Phil Monroe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A travelling salesman is taken hostage by an African village.

This is the 5th cartoon which fell into the 'Censored 11' endorsed by Ted Turner, and set up by United Artists also the 3rd in that list to be directed by Friz Freleng. One of the three Censored 11 cartoons where it fell into the public domain.


The cartoon begins as we already hear jungle music over the screen credits. We find that there are a bunch of African tribes sitting down in an African village where they are playing some tribal drum music; (one of them wears a top hat). There is a whole group of African tribes performing a type of tribal dance making these creepy tribal noises. I don't particularly like Stalling's jungle music too much as I find it rather dark. I find that the designs of the natives particularly are very simplistic moving, I mean it's just simple designs.

We then find that there is a black tribe who is standing on top of a drum making drum sounds by hitting his behind but then he bangs his behind to make a beat in which we see he wears underwear. The timing of that scene with the black dancer banging his boxers just doesn't feel very funny to me at all and it's just a meaninglessness gag, but it does remind me of that gag that was sort of used in Sweet Sioux where the indian tribe are dancing and there are rhythm beat gags (like the Indian woman banging her belly like a drum). More tribal dancing then continues as we also find another African native who has a HUGE nose ring attached to her nose that he uses it to jump and it moves sort of like a skip-rope; okay I guess it's funny but it is stereotyping on their nose rings or what they wear. More dancing then continues even with that drummer standing on top of it just banging his behind.

We then find more natives performing their tribal dance around a tent. As they continue to dance around the tent acting rather wildly. The dramatic jungle music then stops in which the tribes holding their spears then attach it to the roof. They start to hold onto their spear and they move around like a 'Merry-Go-Round' style and they even play The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down which would've been Stalling's favourite cue (probably at the time) as he used it as the 'Looney Tunes' theme.

There are then these Africans then starts to blow whistles to blow it in a Merry-Go-Round style, although I don't particularly understand too much on why smoke comes out of their mouths, unless that was just a part of the gag. The whole gag was reused from the cartoon 'Sweet Sioux' in which that is where a couple of the gags originate from. Even the gag where one of the black character is trying to grab the ring (which is pierced into another black character's nose) which is in fact another stereotypical joke that just seems wrong in today's standards. Although back then with the 'Merry-Go-Round' going on one of the people sitting down one one of the horses would have to grab a ring but I guess back in the day it would've been funny but it's not only not funny here; but since I've already seen that gag before - it's not funny to me the second time. The smoke sounds then starts to slow down slightly in which the tent that tribes are riding on then start to fall apart and that's the end of the sequence.

 After the sequence where we see the "Merry Go Round" then we move to a different location that is outside the village. We pan towards what we find is a African tribe sitting down by a persimmons tree. He then starts to pick up the apple in which he starts to eat the apple. He turns to the audience in which his lips and face start to get thinner and goes, 'Of for goodness sakes!' This is a parody of actor Stephen Fetchit; and I don't see his appeal to the Warner directors back then. He sure has been the key person for black stereotype back in the 1930s, which is a shame.

We then start to find another tribe (but inside the village) and he is tying his feet with toilet plungers onto it. At first you might be thinking okay, but what is going on? But as he walks on he starts to walk up a palm tree by using the toilet plunger to climb it up. He then starts to look over as he is a watchman of the village looking out for any preachers whilst sitting on top of the canopy, and I guess he is just sitting there being a watchman as there doesn't appear to be a gag there, and if so - it would just show him rotating quite a number of times but it's not even amusing or I suppose that it isn't intended to be.

 After a view from the canopy, it turns out that he is in fact watching the village in which; we then see in close up of the entrance to the village - a hand. This is no tribe member as it is a preacher. He starts to knock to the door in the rhythm of 'Shave and a Haircut'.

It turns out that the preacher is in fact a caricature of the character Elmer Blurt from The Al Pearce Show who was a pretty popular character in radio back in the 1930s. He speaks to the audience when he has no answer from the door, 'I guess nobody's too home. I hope, I hope, I hope'. The voice of Elmer Blurt here is caricatured as well as his catchphrase 'I hope, I hope, I hope'. I do not think that this is in fact Mel Blanc's voice as it doesn't sound like his dialect to me but correct me if I'm wrong. The guard who opens the door as he speaks continuously 'Hold up, hold up' - that's a Blanc voice. but the preacher holding the briefcase tries to get access through the door tries to go through the door but the door slams before he could make it inside. The preacher tries on several more doors that keep opening (with the guard shouting 'Hold up, hold up') but every time he tries to go through he ends up crashing to the door. Okay, I guess that it is worth a bit of humour and the fact that the preacher is based of a radio character but that's probably it for me. The preacher then starts to ring the doorbell as he is trying to enter the village, there is a boxing glove that pops out of the doorbell and socks him. Okay, since I think that the preacher is a dumb fool that is in fact a pretty funny combat to him. The preacher then presses the doorbell again where he hides himself from being punch but instead he gets socked in the stomach - like one of them situations that Goofy faces.

The preacher then starts to come up with another idea as he plans to knock through all of the doors to see what happens. He knocks in rhythm again to 'Shave and a Haircut'. All of the guards then open up the doors at the same time to see who is in there, but the preacher tries to enter as he tries entering the doors but he slams before even making it. Well, even if it's not racist or stereotypical - it's not what I find particularly amusing in my opinion. Some of these sequences are a little bit tiresome in the 1930s (in my opinion) where these characters think so hard but fail; it's what made Goofy popular, in my opinion.

He then hides back, but the guard then opens his door - the preacher then dashes into the scene and uses his foot to block from from closing the door, he then asks the guard; 'Good morning ma'am, sir. Is the lady of the house too home'. He then does that Elmer Burt chuckle which he was famous for in his radio shows (and also a popular reference in the cartoons too). He is in fact a travelling salesman as he explains to the tribe in what he is carrying in his suitcase as he describes it as 'useless utensils'.

As he explains in his suitcase about what he does as a salesman; the guards from the entrance of the village then look down at the salesmen while he talks about what he has over to try and show to the village. As the guards watch him, they think of him as food as they start to lick their lips as they plan on eating him.

They start to visualise on what he would look like as a food as we watch the preacher talking about some sales he has bought but they picture him as a chicken talking which means that he is in trouble. I wouldn't find that particularly too funny as it would be rather dark since he's going to be gobbled up by African tribes; I would find that scary. While he continues to talk (and the guards are not listening) they then drag him inside the village as they are planning on eating him, they also drag his hat inside as well - as I guess...in fact I may ask...why did they need the hat? Not as though they're going to eat it? In the next sequence after the fade-out; we find that the salesman is already tied up inside the boiling pot. While he is stuck in the boiling pot looking utterly confused and thoughtless (well, couldn't he at least try to escape?) there is a village black woman who is cooking the food and adding some extra bits to go with the food. As she is about to place some onions in, a sign then pops out reading 'Hold the onions' - and yes, I've seen that as early as maybe 'Pigs is Pigs' and it isn't particularly funny anymore. I don't know how much original gags I've seen so far in this cartoon; it's all reused but hey; I'm watching all the cartoons so I'm bound to know quite a lot more than a typical member of the audience who won't know.

In the meantime while the preacher is inside the boiling pot - trapped; a couple of the villagers then start to go through his suitcase taking out which he was trying to pitch sales to in the village. They take several things out that is in his suitcase but since it's so small and I start to question that HOW the hell did he get everything to fit in his suitcase like a hoover, as well as lampshades?

A villager then starts to walk around with the hoover but is unsure on how it would work. He then turns on the hoover but the hoover then starts to suck his whole hut made from straw. Okay, that was pretty amusing that I thought personally and yeah finally I see some originality. Another tribe then enters his own hut as he finds that he is carrying a box and also has lightbulbs. Not knowing how it would work he then begins to start placing the light bulb in his ear in which he then starts to sit down in this type of box (and somehow he can be able to get the power on). He places a lampshade over himself and then he reads his own magazine. He has formed himself a lamp. If I recall, I even remember THAT type of gag used three years back from Buddy in Africa. But I guess since it's such a rarely seen cartoon, but I still remember seeing that gag so I can't be amused, but hey - I'm a geek.

The preacher is inside the boiling pot where he realises that he is starting to boiling up and realising his fate. He starts to worry as he hears the sounds of the tribes banging on the table in rhythm wanting him as food. After the tribe start to bang on the table wanting to eat him - we then start to go off at ANOTHER location where I thought we were focusing on the salesman. He move to a hut where it is called 'The Palace'.

We pan inside the palace hut and we find that on the throne is the Queen (even the titles pop up on the screen to identify that to the audience). It turns out that she is also caricatured as another radio reference as Tizzie Lish (also from 'The Al Pearce Show') and there appears to be a lot of references from that radio show that is featured in this cartoon which makes this cartoon just appear unoriginal to me. She then greets to the audience, 'Hello folksies!' During the loud bangings the Queen is disturbed as he hears the sound of her tribes wanting food, she asks; 'What's going on there?' the guard who appears to reply back in another reference (a Chinese stereotype) that I'm not sure what it's from then replies that they're having a salesman for dinner; and yet this is another stereotype - the voice is not a black stereotype but a Chinese reference coming from it?? How bizarre can this cartoon go?

The Tizzie Lish Queen starts to go overwhelmed with joy as she hears the sound of the salesman being a man. She responds, 'A man?? Well bring him in!' She then starts to put on some perfume so that she can look good when he will be around. As she is spraying herself with perfume; she is humming to the tune 'Vieni, vieni'.

After getting herself ready for his arrival; the guards of her palace then bring the salesman into her palace and throw him towards her throne chair. Then love heart bubbles start to spring out of her as she is already in love. Okay, but I think that it is another character reference to her character where she acts like she's in love. She asks the audience's idea for him as she thinks, 'Kinda cute, dont'ya think? or dont'ya?' She then starts to ask the salesman about what he's doing in the village. He then starts to respond in her question in which he is about to show her what he has in the briefcase. 'My lady I have here a marvellous device that you can afford not to afford'. He then chuckles in the typical Elmer Blurt laugh. He then starts to bring out a toaster as he placed in some bread. Of course it may sound like a typical type of toaster where the toast pops out but it turns out that actually it can spread butter on it, too. I wouldn't consider that 'marvellous' - I've seen devices from a long time ago that I think would be more marvellous than that toaster.

He then comments on the toaster, 'It's just too marvellous' and then he chuckles. Hang on a minute when I'm actually watching this cartoon - notice that in fact the Queen here is in fact a reference to the character from 'The Al Pearce Show' in which she is a caricature of Tizzie Lish. The salesman here is also a reference to Elmer Blurt also from that show. So the main characters are basically character parodies from that show??? I don't know if I'm losing my mind or going crazy, but I think this cartoon has too many references there which I don't particularly like.

The Queen of course isn't listening to what the preacher is saying about his sales to try and convince her to purchase it. She is more interested in looking at him admiringly. She then pictures him by replacing himself as someone like Clark Gable (who appears but speaking in the salesman's voice) and we see Gable shown. Of course; Clark was famous being a womaniser at the time and also one of the most handsome actors of the 1930s and 1940s so that's why he would be pictured there. After we see Gable there, then we pop back to the salesman who still talks into the idea of the toaster to her.

The salesman then continues talking about the toaster talking of the cost of it and mentions that it is a rather cheap price. The Queen then starts to think of him again but instead as Robert Taylor in which he pops up. Taylor was also famous for his looks back then as well so he's referenced here.

As the preacher continues to blab about his sales and much (which is rather tedious) the native guards then starts to lick their lips as they find him rather tasty to eat. They then start to picture him as a chicken; and this is all going crazy. First the Queen shows her love for him, and now the guards are planning to eat him. What's gonna happen next? After his speak; the Queen just can't get enough of him in which she shouts; 'We'll get married right away' and this would also be trouble for the salesman but hey; better than being captured by African tribes. She starts to pull the curtains together in which she then starts to appear in her dressing dress. This cartoon so far is just madness, there really isn't a detailed and coherent synopsis for this - it just keeps on changing and too much is happening and I don't like that.

The Queen then starts to zip towards the salesman as she is holding his hand. A black priest then appears at the scene as he is about to wed them. She asks the Queen if she would choose him to be her husband, or not. She then comments, 'Oh this is so sudden' and this is another Tizzie Lish reference here - sigh -. The priest then asks if he chooses her to be his wife or not. Since he is stuck in a position, a guard jabs him at the back forcing him to as he responds in a Elmer Blurt voice, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc.' He finishes the ceremony as he pronounces them as man and wife and charges them admission; 'That'll be $2 please'.

The Queen then starts to pucker up her lips but the salesman refuses to do so. He makes a scared take (in which half of his clothes roll up) and he starts to run off. He then runs out of the scene and decides to hide inside the boiling pot. He responds to that scene, 'I hope they all get fed in digestion' in which he's hoping that they're not going to be hungry by eating him. He then starts to hide under the boiling pot holding his breath. Why that? He managed to have save the Queen, why not try and escape through the doors (since there doesn't appear to be any tribes about).

Overall comments: For one of my main opinions about this cartoon is that I have to say that (even though I didn't sound too steamed when reviewing) but I find that this cartoon is truly abysmal!! This is one of Freleng's worst cartoons that he's made in the era - EVER!! I'm not talking about it because of it being in the Censored 11; it has nothing to do with the stereotypes (there wasn't too much of it in this cartoon I thought) - it mostly is because the cartoon really has no controlled plot and it all just jumbles. The gags there are terribly pointless and mostly unoriginal as they are mostly recycled gags - but in a way - who's going to know? The cartoon has too much references on 'The Al Pearce Show' and even featuring the two main characters as parodies which I find makes the cartoon unoriginal by referencing it too much!! When I really think of it, much of the Censored 11 cartoons are really not worth the time; as there are really more funnier and watchable cartoons out there.

I find that this cartoon is so bad that I remember that even in the cartoon 'The Ducksters' which was made 12 years later they made a reference to that cartoon by calling it one of the 'obnoxious pictures'. I didn't find that the cartoon was particularly racist too much (except there's mostly black stereotype references at the beginning) the cartoon just sucked and flawed in so many ways. I really couldn't say much positive things about that cartoon as I didn't like the dated references (and it was featured too much). This cartoon just has some bad animation with a dumb story, and therefore - it deserves to be ignored. Well, since Freleng rarely would ever make a bad cartoon (well even in his early stuff they weren't good); all I can say is that we can't expect anything great from a director all the time but I wouldn't say it was just him - the story guys really didn't make the cartoon work at all. It feels like it was done lazily and effortlessly. Not even heated about watching this cartoon, it just is a bad cartoon - I feel as though I've explained enough and nobody could change my mind. My opinion and it follows.

6 comments:

  1. The natives are whistling and blowing steam because they're imitating a calliope.

    The gag with the lookout in the treetop is that his torso rotates while his legs remain stationary. I agree its staged poorly.

    The goofy tone of this cartoon is enough to suit me, but I can see why others wouldn't be bowled over by it.

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  2. I actually find several of Friz's story lines to be a bit on the 'soft' side in the final months before he left MGM, at least compared to where Avery, Tashlin and even the Jones/Clampett unit were at this point.

    That's not to say the others are bad cartoons; just that there are sections that can be X-ed out of them without having any effect on the overall story line, because (as Michael Barrier said of Tedd Pierce's 1940s cartoons for Jones), there's about five minutes of story in the seven-minute cartoon and the director's just marking time for the other two minutes. Freleng's story structure was far better from the moment he got back from Metro at the end of 1939.

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  3. I wonder what possibly possessed Freleng to make the salesman dog-faced.
    Pierce is doing his voice.

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  4. When the Tizzie Lish caricatured bird asks what the ruckus is, the African guard is doing a Chinese stereotype. Two stereotypes in one fell swoop.

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  5. Thanks for the information guys, and at least support as it is a piece of garbage.

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  6. I remember actually seeing thids..the "Robert Taylor/Clark Cable" visualizations were hilarious in context. Tex Avery would use that for "Dan McFoo", which introduced the voice fore Elmer Fudd.

    THis cartoon IS admittedly VERY obsessed by"The Al Pearce Show".:)Steve C.

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