Monday, 20 August 2012

195. Porky's Phoney Express (1938)

Title card courtesy of Dave Mackey.
Warner cartoon no. 194.
Release date: March 19, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Cal Dalton & Cal Howard.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig) and Billy Bletcher (Porky's Boss).
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Herman Cohen.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky is set on a task to ride the mail but struggles to get past the Indians.

This is the first cartoon to which WB animator Cal Dalton gets supervision credit, but for some reason he always had to have a co-director with him. To start off he had Cal Howard and then Ben Hardaway. This cartoon must've been made after Freleng left for MGM but released early as Friz's last cartoon was A Star Is Hatched. When Friz left, Frank Tashlin inherited his animators but Cal Dalton took over his unit.

The cartoon then begins as we find that the location is the middle of the American dessert. In the middle features a phoney express depot. Inside there is a call that goes on and there are a couple of animals as civilians entering the depot as they place their letters inside the mailbox. As there are several others placing their letters inside the mailbox the guy holding onto the bell then shouts out about the phoney express business, I guess. With the name of the service called 'phoney express' is a reference to 'pony express' which is a main service where you deliver letters via horses which is a pun that is referenced to the cartoon's title and even the depot that Porky works on.

As soon as all of the letters at the pony express depot have been delivered. After all of the mail and letters have been delivered into the mailbox; the guy holding onto the bell then pulls the rope as the mail delivery guy runs off riding a horse and as soon as he leaves there appears to be an in-joke as the postal clerk then shouts out, 'There they gooooooooooo!!!!' which is what you would hear at the start of horse racing as it is referenced here in the pony express.

After the sequence with the introduction of the mails depositing. We then find that there is an elderly person who is sorting out the mail in which he then flies them inside a pigeon hole as each of the pigeon holes are labelled for each direction it would need to travel to: North, South, West and East. I like that little electric guitar sound effect that we hear when he throws the mail over.

The gag is that when he flies them over to the pigeonhole, it's all unorganised again in which there appears to be another postal officer who hoovers up all the letters in which the sack is full of letters as the sack reads, 'MAIL'. The officer then dumps all of the letters inside a mail chute. A mail clerk then receives the heavy mail bag that lands on the back part of the horse. The rider then starts to ring the phone in which he dials the number, as he picks up the phone he responds back to it by replying, 'You all set, partner?' in which he then starts to hang up on the phone and ride on. I wonder if that was referencing anything because I don't see a gag there. The next scene then focuses on a sheriff that appears to walk like a cowboy with the curved legs then walks out of the depot -- with a door that is curved on the leg area so he would walk out fine. That background type gag was seen back in Tex Avery's Egghead Rides Again. He walks over carrying a bag of mail in which he then places it on top of the horse. The horse's back legs appear to be cycling on some strange machine that makes it move. As soon as the sheriff lets it go he then struggles to get on the horse as he tries to jump back on it but then eventually does go. Okay, I suppose that it was quite a funny gag as he struggles to jump on the horse.

We then find the boss of inside the depot is seen placing letters inside envelope and before it gets licked he then shouts out for Porky to come over. I do find the shout for Porky's name very effective. We find that Porky Pig is in fact in the depot as he is sweeping the floors with his broomstick as he is sort of humming whilst singing. He is then shouted over again in which Porky then follows towards him.

Porky then walks over to his boss as his boss uses Porky for a job in which he has to take his tongue out and lick the sticky part of the envelope so that it would stick and that sure must be a horrible job to do; as it's very disgusting and he could even cut his own tongue. After Porky licks the envelope - the boss then folds it. Porky then asks excitedly:

Porky Pig: How about me riding the mail sometime. Huh, boss?
Boss: You?! Riding the mail?

The boss then starts to laugh in a Tex Avery laugh, and of course that is Tex himself making that laugh. After he then laughs imagining Porky trying to ride the mail he then gives Porky an answer which is a loud 'NO!'. Of course Billy Bletcher's voice is so typical in the villains but I feel that he is doing a fine job here as it doesn't sound too typical and I find it very effective to listen to.

After Porky Pig gets a reject from the boss himself; Porky just keeps at his work still sweeping the floor. Porky then starts to do an impression of the boss' face in which he looks rather moody and his lower lip sticking out. The boss turns out for any suspicions in which Porky just pretends as though he's just moving his lips up and down with his finger in a goofy way which is quite amusing. The boss then suddenly gives him the letter as Porky starts to pretend as though he is going to ride the mail and it will be his chance. Porky then starts to pretend he's using his broom to ride a horse as he's pretending to ride the mail but it angers the boss as he shouts, 'Don't do that!'

Meanwhile near the depot where Porky works (and it turns out to be a different one than the one we saw earlier on) as he stops his horse at the depot and he is carrying a bag of mail. After the horse stops galloping to the depot, the horse then starts to lose its breath and starts panting continuously. The mail rider then arrives at the spot delivering the mail in which it turns out that there are three arrows caught stuck in his rear end. He pulls them off one at a time and chucks them in a rubbish bin. He then comments on about the troubles when travelling, 'It's no use, boss, I can't get through. There's too many Injuns'.

The manager then responds to that as he bangs on the table, 'It has to get through! It's important mail for the red gulch. They haven't had mail in weeks'. He then starts to walk around until he then finds a box of horseshoes which gives him an idea. "I got it! Get an empty mail sack". He then picks up the box of horseshoes in which he continues to walk about his idea..."Porky is always talking about riding the mail. We'll send him out first. The Injuns will chase him and you can go through". Basically this means that they'll leave Porky to be carrying the mail which is full of horseshoes and use him like a fool to distract the indians.

As they laugh mischievously, the boss then shouts out 'PORKY!' Porky has finally had enough as he feels he is expected to lick the envelope again in which he throws his pan and broom to the ground and walks over frustratedly. I do find that the boss so far in this picture to be a very bad boss to Porky as he plans on using Porky to feel like an idiot when riding the mail as he is used as a sucker to deliver horseshoes (to whack the indians) so that the other mail guy can deliver the real mail from the sack of letters. I do think that the boss in this cartoon is pretty cool as he has a funny shouting voice and that he knows how to treat a character like a sucker which makes him a broad villain type which is pretty cool.

Porky then walks over as he sticks his tongue out to his boss. The boss encourages for that to not happen as he goes on, 'No. I'm going to let you ride the mail'. Porky then starts to jump about as he finds that his assignment has finally come true - only to let Porky end up being savagedbyby Indians which is one of the boss' setups - and make Porky feel like a loser...who will lick his envelopes?? That MUST be very important to him.

Porky then starts to jump about very excited about riding the mail and delivering messages as it is his passion. The boss then starts to look at the mail clerk in a smirky look towards Porky so that they are going to let him suffer. Poor Porky. Porky then starts to grab a mail sack but it turns out that the mail is rather heavy (and he is carrying the wrong mail sack as it turns out that it is heavier which means Porky could be in greater danger). Porky then says to his boss, 'You will not regret this day'. The boss then ends up chuckling in one of Avery's famous chuckles. He then responds to that sarcastically, 'I know that, Porky'. Afterwards as Porky has left the scene the boss and the mail guy then start to burst out into laughter as the boss bangs on the table as they are both killing themselves with laughter.

Porky Pig then steps out of the 'phoney' express depot in which he already has a horse for him to ride all the way to deliver some letters in which he places the sack on top of the U.S. mail box that is attached to the horse's back. The boss and the mail guy then laugh at Porky in which he picks up the bag (which would supposedly meant to be filled with letters) but instead a pile of horseshoes then fall out. Both of them come to a state of shock as they realise that they have made a bad mistake; now Porky is likely to be killed - not only that but looks like the boss would need to hire someone to lick envelopes.

After the iris out of the horrible discovery from the boss and the mail clerk --- we then iris in as we find that Porky is riding on his horse. Since the boss' scheme didn't go down too tell - this means that he is actually in fact riding the mail as he has the sack full of letters with him. Everything seems to be going rather fine for Porky safety-wise but then it comes to an Indian watching from the mountain. A couple of Indians are on the lookout for anybody that would be trespassing on their bit of property. One Indian looking up from the top of the mountain even starts to slide down and slither like a snake which I think is rather funny.

Also on the lookout then features an Indian and it looks like that he is using his hand to rest by his forehead to look out for any trespassers - at least it looks like that in the close-up view. The camera then trucks back as we find that the Indian is in fact using a back scratcher for the lookout and he scratches his own back whilst watching. Now that is a very clever idea for that gag; use a backscratcher to rest on your forehead.

The indian then discovers that Porky is riding on his horse as he is riding the mail and along the path and we can see that in a long-shot. The Indian then starts to whistle to those on the lookout. The funny and clever idea then pops up as there is an Indian riding a horse but there is a carriage where it is labelled 'Taxi'. That is a pretty clever idea and I like it. The Indian then steps into the carriage in which he directs to the Indian cab driver, 'Follow that horse!' which is of course a funny reference by maybe saying something like 'Follow that cab!'. The Indian then steps inside the carriage in which the carriage then zips along out of the scene, and I have to say that it is some pretty neat timing of the carriage leaving in a zip with just dust left at the scene to make speed more appropriate and suitable looking. As Porky is still riding at the scene, he then notices that there are certain arrows that come shooting straight past in which they cut off a part of his hat. Porky and the horse turn over to check but to their horror (and they go completely pale and I love the colour effect) the Indians are on the roll.

Porky Pig then starts to go into a fright as he discovers he's being chased by Indians, and shouts out 'INDIANS!' Porky then attempts to get his own horse moving in which Porky he uses the reins. It turns out that the horse has got hoofs that look like the shape of a toilet plunger and that's what traps him to the ground. He tries to get his horse to keep moving but he fails to do that as he turns around and the Indians are getting closer. I'm surprised that the Indians have missed their arrow shots on Porky and the horse.

Porky then starts to try and get his horse to move but then an arrow then arrives at the spot and shoots it straight at the horse's rear end which causes the horse to pull himself off the soil and gallop away from the Indians. Porky Pig then starts to grab out his pistol in which he starts to fire back towards the Indians. The firing shots of Porky shooting straight to the Indian then cause him to jerk back so far that he stretches back forward and then backward. Ahhhhh, a repeated gag that even Freleng used a couple of times and what he came up with. There is an Indian on the run that is just shooting arrows at Porky (and keeps on missing the horse) in which Porky then continues to shoot back but stretch forwards on his reins before coming back in which the chase then continues on with the Indians.

As the Indian is still shooting arrows straight at Porky and the horse, the bullet from Porky's gun (off-screen) then shoots the horse and the horse doesn't die but instead we find that the characters then stop dead from motion for a couple of seconds. It's a pretty cool technique that Dalton and Howard have used - even from the start but after they freeze they then collapse to the ground and are presumed dead. Pretty grim.

The other Indians that are after Porky then involve a dopey-looking Indian in which he is shooting with his bow and arrow but instead shoots it at the horses' head by mistake but the horses' head is so thick that it just bounces off since it's also thick which makes the gag funny. The next Indian that is seen is in fact riding a bicycle. As he is riding his bike, he appears to be sharpening his axe as the wheel is supposedly meant to appear to look like an axe sharpener. The Indian then tosses the axe out of the way but it as it misses Porky and the horse with their skin saved; it then starts to tear up the bag open in which all of the letters then start to fly out. Porky realises that the letters are flying out as he makes a complete turn from the horse to go and collect it. Of course and we realise that if Porky had taken the horseshoes inside the other mailbox back in the depot (which was supposedly the plan) then the axe would've probably cut the mail open and whack the indians with horse shoes.

As Porky has made a complete turn, he then starts to grab out a fishing net so he can collect all the letters again. Porky has already managed to collect much of the letters (when it only looks like a few of them). As he runs towards the Indian he makes a complete stop realising that he's making the wrong turn. The Indians are charging straight at him but then Porky makes a turn around in which he runs off.

More of the dopey Indian then returns as he accidentally shoots the horse on the head with an arrow but it bounces off with a 'DONG' sound which is amusing. As another Indian is still on the way shooting arrows, there is a squaw's back in which a child pops up to give him some arrows for him to shoot straight towards him. It appears to look like an in-joke there where the Indian inside the squaw's back and he makes a mark on there but I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean. As the dopey Indian is still shooting arrows at the horse -- the horse can't take it any longer as it causes him to throw the Indian from him and tosses him straight to the ground. The horse then starts to show some attitude and shows off the muscles in his arms. Now that is one of them recurring gags in the cartoons that keep on happening until there is a fun conclusion to that - and I do like that in cartoons where it appears.

As Porky is still riding and riding away from the Indians; he then appears to notice something in the distance in which he causes his own horse to halt and skid. The Indians are still riding after him but they then make a stop in which they skid and look in complete surprise. It turns out that Porky has in fact passed the border where he has reached the Red Gulch area in which it is an Indian-free zone.

The Indians then step off their own horses as they stand on the line and act with annoyance of their fiasco. The crowd then cheer on Porky as he has made it into the Red Gulch Pony Express Depot. I like how that Porky hits his head when carried into the depot.

After the success of Porky for delivering the mail (hang on a minute, if he's back to the depot then how did he surpass those Indians?) -- we then discover that he is in fact in charge of the depot now. He stutters and shouts to his former boss, 'BOY?!' the old boss of his then walks over who is now doing Porky's old job by sweeping the floor and licking the envelope. Now that is just good justice for him as he has what he deserved. The boss is now a threat to Porky as he has ended up a wuss, the cartoon iris out as Porky winks to us audience breaking the forth wall.

Overall comments: Since that this is Cal Dalton's first cartoon where he was the director (though he had Cal Howard and also his first directed cartoon); it always appears to be that around fans of Warner Bros. cartoons - he has a reputation for making some very crappy and low-quality cartoons that are just copying the style of Tex Avery. I can see why people may think that, although I never particularly thought of them as bad directors. I think that Dalton's first attempt of directing in this cartoon in fact was a good effort. Personally I do find that the story part of the boss discussing the plans for Porky to carry the horseshoes was staged poorly because I thought for a minute that he was going to deliver the mail and the mail clerk was going to carry horseshoes to protect himself but again it makes sense since the boss was demanding about the mail being carried and uses Porky to make a fool which makes sense when it's shown in a coherent way.

I do like the boss of this cartoon as I find that he is a funny character and I like it when he yells at Porky every-time which is rather amusing. I do ask though that I wonder why Cal Dalton started off co-directing with Cal Howard for only a few cartoons but then Ben Hardaway joins in? I guess that maybe Howard left the staff. Although when I watch those cartoons with the screen credits - I do like to dub them as 'The 2 Cals'. I'm not sure how they both work but my guess is that Howard or Hardaway worked on gag ideas (since Hardaway was a gag man and ideas man) and Dalton maybe did the timing? Just a consideration. It appears to be that Dalton has inherited new animators after Freleng has left and I think they might have been assistants but promoted to animators when for some reason the Freleng animators went over to Tashlin.

1 comment:

  1. Gag with cowboy speaking on phone is that he's calling his horse who's right underneath him.

    Horse on kickstand is imitating an idling motorcycle.

    Indian child is "keeping score".