Thursday, 20 December 2012

228. The Lone Stranger and Porky (1939)

This is a new start to the new WB year of reviewing the cartoons. Being a tough year as the cartoons are rather weaker - and even the travelogue parodies. All I can announce is...I CAN'T DO IT, I CAN'T GO THROUGH IT! I CAN'T! I CAN'T!!!!
So let's begin!

Warner cartoon no. 227.
Release date: January 7, 1939.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Narrator?) Billy Bletcher (Lone Stranger / Villain), Pinto Colvig (Villain's Horse) and Danny Webb (Injun in Mirror).
Animation: Izzy Ellis and Robert Cannon.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Parody of the Lone Ranger stories - with Porky trapped by a bandit.

First entry of the new year - 1939. According to Billy Bletcher in a 1978 interview; the cartoon won a plague for best cartoon in 1939. The cartoon is a parody of the Lone Ranger - who was a very popular character who had his own series in radio through the 1930s.

The cartoon already begins as we find the Lone Ranger (known as 'The Lone Stranger' here) as he shouts out 'Hi ho Silver! Away!" he rides through the desert in the theme of William Tell Overture and the credits roll in.

After the opening credits - we fade to the cartoon as the story takes place in 1865 after the American Civil War. Which is where the time period for the Lone Ranger stories is set around. During that slow pan through the countryside - we view a house where a wall features 'Wanted' posters.

We see some in-jokes of the staff as Bob Clampett's name is mentioned (somehow as Cob Blampett) and of course Ray Katz gets a mention as Ray Katz supervised Clampett's unit. During the pan - the narrator announces that the sky starts to turn rather dark until lightning strikes but then fades back as the Lone Stranger rides in town. That pan lasted for a very long time - the slow pan lasted about 30 seconds whilst the shot is roughly 36 seconds. Rather slow-paced, I think.

As described by the narrator, the Lone Stranger is described as the 'light of justice' as he rides along the desert path. That scene with him riding is all done in a cycle - and reused from the opening scene. The narrator then shouts out his famous line and shouts out; "the LONE STRANGER rides again!".

The narrator brings up about him being a mystery as nobody knows what he looks like other than being a 'masked marvel'. During another pan (or background shot) the narrator continues to discover nobody knows his own identification or hiding spot, and then the camera pans to his own hiding spot.

It is decorated with beams that indicate it's his hiding spot with a sign showing so. I also like how they place a mask through that house to give the Lone Stranger some personality - and that is amusing. Then the narrator makes a reference to mentioning Gold is Where You Find It but in the hiding spot you would only find Silver the horse.

We see that inside they are eating their supper. After finishing - they decide they're tired (and the narrator explains them the story) and off they go to sleep. A rather cool dash effect where they just go to bed snoring their heads off. The duvet moving up and down is cool timing. Even the house snores its head off outside which is typical of the 1930s - and the narrator even becomes a little personal and 'off' by wanting to sleep as well.

We pan through as some action finally goes on - after about two minutes of nothing. We find a stagecoach riding through the desert at night and Porky is the rider there. The narrator explains about Porky doesn't know a villain lurking around the area. During that sequence; there is just a moment of backgrounds on the screen. The narrator then starts to call out for the villain who is not seen. Rather childish but a little amusing.

The villain is finally spotted by the narrator as he is creeping up towards the stagecoach to begin a dirty crime. The narrator embarks on him and asks the audience, 'Whatever you do - please don't hiss the villain'. The audience just boo and hiss at him. That is the type of line that you would see or hear in plays.

The villain looks over at the edge of the villain watching the stagecoach approaching the area so he can commit a crime scene. He laughs rather evilly (in Bletcher's typical laugh). It appears that some prompt guy hands over a spear to the villain as he is about to set attack. As the stagecoach rides along; the spear stops at the ground where it forms into a traffic light with a bar reading "STOP" as well as a red light. The carriage stops as the group of horses bundle together on top of Porky. The villain then drops to the ground as he has Porky trapped.

The villain then drops as he creates a very heavy thud to the ground which causes the ground to gobble and Porky jumps out at the spot. He draws out his pistols and orders for Porky to stretch his arms 'higher'. The more he says 'higher' - it causes him to float in air which is rather cartoony - although these gags feel a bit mild for Clampett gags.

At that moment - the narrator then warns for the audience to not panic as the Lone Stranger's faithful injun scout is watching the scene through binoculars (when he is standing right beside them) which is definitely crazy.

He switches on his television broadcaster as the lights and signal all turn on with bleeping noises.  The noises are already coming from the Lone Stranger's bedroom inside the house. He scats out of his bed and dashes to the mirror and there is of course - a Snow White parody.  The Lone Stranger asks the question to him, "Magic Mirror on the wall - who needs my help most of all" which is a rather silly parody of the famous Wicked Witch line.

The smoke from the magic mirror already rises - which is clearly a parody itself of Disney's 'Snow White' where you see the smoke effects of the Magic Mirror. The smoke then fades away and I believe the Injun face is supposed to be a caricature of Walter Winchell. She shouts out in one of his trademarks, "Flash! Attention Lone Stranger and Silver! Porky Pig has just been robbed near Bed Fort (?).

The Lone Stranger then makes his move as he attempts to pronounce his catchphrase but ends up almost losing his funny. Rather amusing he added some gas to his mouth so he could get speaking. He announces at his voice, "Hi ho silver!" He prepares himself and Silver arrives at the spot. They both leave the house to the rescue for Porky.

They leave the house in such a dash that they end up creating a really cool use of animation effects - definitely Clampett's own idea and ambition. They dash out where the house just appears to unfold itself and form into a bungalow or some sort. It looks very complicating - the animation and all and even explaining it. It is a very cool bit of animation which is very ambitious and also challenging. During the ride; the Lone Stranger asks: "Get movin'. Movies are your best entertainment!

During the ride they travel up and down hills and there is this Harman-Ising type gag where he just stays riding through the air (not moving down the hill) but rides on the horse whilst at the edge of a hill. The villain - having caught Porky then has his next plan which is to swing a branch at the Lone Stranger. After that smack - he ends up falling out of his horse.

This causes the Lone Stranger to flip a few times before he thumps to the ground. The villain laughs rather evilly and then grabs out his pistols and the shooting of the Lone Stranger already becomes so intense that there is dust covering up the scenery where it is a moment we would assume the Lone Stranger has already been shot.

However; after the dust clears away we find the Lone Stranger is still standing on a small bit of land as the villain has already missed him. Now that is certainly funny, and it even makes the narrator titter. The villain takes it as serious and shoots the narrator as he gasps, 'You got me!'. The Lone Stranger then leaps out of his gap as he begins to fight the villain in this sequence. Certainly haven't seen much of Porky at all in this cartoon.

The two horses then look across at each other as they begin to scat like cats - which is rather odd and wacky for Clampett. As it could only get weirder - they then begin to look at each other passionately with some sweet, romantic music heard in the background. Here Pinto Colvig has a kick as he has one line in the cartoon, 'Gawsh! Boy meets girl!' and he chuckles like Goofy (except, he's used that chuckle for other cartoons).

He already places the engagement ring towards Silver as they smooch on the lips leaving the scene. Certainly an off-the wall type gag. During the fight scenes of the villain and the Lone Stranger - he is then kicked off the edge of the cliff and makes his own fatal fall. A title card is quickly placed at the scene where it reads: Will the Lone Stranger be SMASHED on the rocks below? With a load of question marks scattered over the card.

The next title card then reads: What will it be Audience? The audience supposedly make a response as they shout "NOO!" and the Lone Stranger skids at the cliff and shouts out, "Correct. Absolutely correct!" He dashes back up the cliff as it already appears to be a habit of him saying "Hi ho Silver" when when he isn't riding Silver.

He arises at the edge of the cliff where he provides a big colossal punch towards the villain where it is so intense that his arms and legs disconnect before they join back. He is then socked out of the scene where he crashes into a group of rocks and the rocks form into a stoned prison where the villain steps out and weeps.

The Lone Stranger then finds Porky all tied up and as he plans to release him he calls over for Silver. He then discovers Silver already stepping out with a couple of ponies she already gave birth to - a little subtle joke there. As the ponies step through - one of the ponies is the bad guy with the moustache and laughs evilly as the cartoon fades.

Overall comments: Apparently it won a plague in 1939 for the best cartoon - and I have to say is it REALLY a good enough cartoon to win that type of award? I thought not. I felt as though this cartoon was rather 'off' for me. Most of the gags in the actual cartoon weren't too satisfying to me and there were an awful lot of those slow pans in background shots - which I thought slowed the cartoon down. A lot of the cartoon, itself felt very slow as though there is no progress going on. One of the backgrounds already last half a minute which is certainly slow (although Tex would concentrate on background pans that would be longer than thirty seconds in his spot-gags). Porky Pig is barely the star of this cartoon at all; as he merely only seems to have less than a minute of screen time in the cartoon (or even less). In fact, Porky doesn't even have any dialogue of this cartoon; so Clampett certainly hasn't paid attention to him in the cartoon - even though he was forced to direct cartoons with Porky in it. Sorry if the screenshots are muddy - it was a colorised colour copy that was translated to black-and-white and the colorisation is pretty poor.

I suppose the cartoon would've worked as a better satire if it were directed by the other directors like Tex Avery who could easily have turned out a better one as he was working on satires at that time. It's not as though Clampett was incapable or anything - but the fact that he had to direct Porky cartoons; and even having to add Porky to the story made it feel rather weak. In a way, it does feel like a Tex Avery cartoon with the gags and all - except Porky would be in it (not Egghead) and not set in colour. Much of the gags don't feel as ambitious or even as daring as Clampett's own ideas as they feel rather mild in the cartoon - save for a few gags like when they leave their own house. Despite this being a very weak cartoon, I imagine it must've been very popular at the time when the cartoon was released since the Lone Ranger was a very popular character back in the 1930s and I imagine that cartoon must have likely attracted a lot of attention of the time the cartoon was made - which is probably why it won that award. Also, 1939 would also be the first year where the WB Studio would receive their first Academy Award nomination since 1932. Supposedly, Leon Schlesinger boycotted the Awards before that and finally entered the cartoons to be nominated.

1 comment:

  1. The Injun in the mirror is actually SPEAKING like Walter Winchell. He's not a caricature of him. Also, the narrator is voiced by Billy Bletcher, not Blanc.