Sunday, 30 December 2012

235. Porky's Movie Mystery (1939)

starring PORKY as MR. MOTTO
Warner cartoon no. 234.
Release date: March 11, 1939.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig - Mr. Motto) and Billy Bletcher (Invisible Man), Sara Berner (Operators) and Danny Webb (Police Chief).
Story: Ernest Gee.
Animation: John Carey.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: The phantom is becoming a threat to Hollywood with crime scenes occurring - only Porky - aka Mr. Motto can solve the mystery.

After the title card appears with a silhouetted hand appearing at the screen - we see the typical title card that reads "starring Porky". But wait, it isn't just that -- it then fades into an Asian looking Porky that reads "as Mr. Motto". Knowing this - I just think this will just ruin the cartoon itself as Porky is already being played as a stereotype and even his voice will just sound different - and it just wouldn't feel like a Porky cartoon to me.

Anyway, there is a description that follows on reading: Any resemblance this picture has to the original story from which it was stolen is purely accidental. Which is of course a spoof of those title cards which were really common for the 1930s and 40s cartoons.

So, the cartoon then starts off as we hear the radio sitting as we listen to a Walter Winchell parody on the radio named Walter Windshield. The announcer begins with his usual catchphrases that was heard on radio like 'Flash!'. He announces of a mysterious phantom that has been haunting the Hollywood studios and we view 'Hollywood' as it is beaming with bright lights and also causing many misadventures over at the Warner Bros. lot.

We then hear the sounds from Stage 13 of a woman screeching which there is a crime scene that has occurred. The figure in a black cloak then steps out of the theatre and laughs rather evilly as he is covered - not revealing his identity. The part where his shadow steps out of the stage door is very good staging.

Afterwards - it follows on with some montage shots of the police officers in the wireless room trying to detect the figure. The news of the phantom already screams the front pages as the studio police are on the hunt for the phantom - and we see some animated shots of the police cars on the lookout in the streets. There is also a small scene with recycled animation of police cars from The Blow Out which appears to be a rather notorious recycled animation for the 1930s WB cartoons.

The case begins as the front page of the newspaper begins with the police officers interviewing suspected movie stars to have been involved in the recent affairs. The really cool effect is seen as we only see the shadow of the studio detective interviewing Frankenstein who is the first suspect. I like how the silhouette is pretty much satirising the dramatic stagings of live-action mystery films.

As Frankenstein is seated; and listening to the questions. He then grabs out his fingers by his teeth and he ends up biting his nails like a typewriter. Mmm, this sequence is certainly 'nail biting'. Mmm, I never thought Frankenstein had really long nails - but perhaps it could be described in the Mary Shelley book? I dunno. The gag itself is very amusing - especially the part with the huge shadow and it turns out to be a dwarf officer who is yelling which is amusing since Frankensteins could crush him easily.

After the scene - it has been proven Frankenstein is obviously not the phantom. Another headline is added where it reads, The Phantom Still At Large! and we follow on a scene of the phantom figure tiptoeing through an empty room. He comes across the swirly stairs - he looks around to see anybody around, and then rushes up the steps. Cool piano cliches on the stepping scenes.

Afterwards, the figure then arrives at the top of the attic - and still runs around the pole for the stairs which is rather cool. He walks through the attic and steps through the door of the upstairs room, and he enters his own hideout - which is the dressing room for The Invisible Man - and he IS the suspect.

The Invisible Man then removes his cloak and of course - we know he is invisible as we only see him wearing a hat, gloves and a pair of shoes. He reveals to everybody watchingg that he is indeed the Invisible Man - who is "a phantom to those guys". He then grabs out an apple as he munches it and we can see the effect of the apple being eaten inside which is awesome. Afterwards - the apple then digests inside the stomach and plops back as an apple. He announces the secret for his crime was because of him being used in only one picture and was then dropped. He reveals much more of his gruesome plans as he plans to wreck all of Hollywood.

Afterwards - the public is already afraid and fearful of the phantom that they are determined in bringing in Mr. Motto to solve the scene. Of course - Mr. Motto was a fictional character who was a detective and was very popular from the 1930s all the way up to the 1950s. We then see a crowd as they are rather afraid and from what we visualise - they are demanding for Mr. Motto to be hired.

Of course - the crowd was some stock footage there, and its certainly cool to be used for comedy here, and exaggeration in animated cartoons by adding some real footage inside.

After all of the humpuss about bringing in Mr. Motto to help solve the case - the newspaper headline announces that he won't be available. The headline reads: Sorry, Motto on Vacation. That is certainy very amusing - added a headline there who it sound disappointed. Reminds me of these headlines you would get from tabloids.  The news of Motto on vacation already causes an uproar that even the studio sergeant phones his agent to take him off vacation, "I don't care if he is on vacation -- get me Mr. Motto!" which is a cool voice done by underrated voice talent Danny Webb. Meanwhile the world's signal and wireless then go asking for Mr. Motto.

Meanwhile in a desert island we find that Mr. Motto (in reality, Porky) is resting in that peaceful island reading his book: Ju Jitsu which is of course an activity which is similar to karate, tiquando, etc. As he reads the book - we then listen to the sound of the phone ringing - of course the only signal that he has to use a phone is a coconut. He cracks it open and answers.

I have to say, and even if it is rather ridiculous but we are going to be listening to him with a Japenese accent throughout the entire cartoon - which in my opinion is rather pointless of having Porky play another character.

But with that said, I have to say I would have to give Mel Blanc credit since it must he difficult to put on a Porky voice doing an impression of a Japanese accent (and still stuttering). As he answers the phone - he hears about the phantom and agrees to travel to do his duty right away. He then turns on the propeller of his island as he travels over to Hollywood, and appropriately playing in the tune of California, Here I Come. Afterwards the island crashes at the pier like a rock -- which is just very, very bizarre. He then boards on his own plane and he travels over to California.

Meanwhile back at the station - the chief policeman is sitting in his office as he is doing some important work. The plane then crashes at the station as the policeman gets a fright. Porky Pig (I mean, Mr. Motto - as I have to call him that in this cartoon) steps out of the plane and is still reading his book. The police chief then greets him by quoting, 'How do YOU do?' from the radio character called the Mad Russian played by Bert Jordan.

I find it rather cool when they both shake hands that Mr. Motto just shakes his whole body as he hits the ground. He then stutters with his apologies - but then hushes him as he grabs out his magnifying glass so he can begin his mystery.

Mr. Motto then walks around the set as he investigates - the typical way: footprints. How does he know which footprint belongs to the phantom? Well anyway - the gag is there is no glass inside as he peeks his head through and that is funny. There appears to be a really terrible cut from the point of where he still investigates (and the director is sitting on the chair) and to the scene where the phantom ('The Invisible Man') appears as he laughs. Something has been cut there - but I wonder if that was a television or theatrical cut since this print I am watching at least doesn't feature a television logo inside so I don't know...

So anyway - after that abrupt and dodgy cut - we see the phantom once again (wow, scary) as he covers his identity and ready for another plan. As he is tip-toeing around the set believing he is alone - he then makes a scared take. He shouts out 'Mr. Motto' as he has managed to spot him. The way Bletcher has voiced it was executed very well.

To avoid getting caught - he comes up with a sneaky plan as he dashes out of the scene to put the cape in the bin (revealing himself as the invisible man) and then hides inside a poster disguising the rest of the clothing to be the poster of the woman.

As the Invisble Man pretends - Mr. Motto walks past the scene as he looks for any further clues. The Invisible Man then decides to risk himself ignorantly by kicking Porky in the rear end and dashing off. Then - the Invisible Man picks up an axe and plans on chopping Mr. Motto. He makes these quick jumps so he misses - even jumping out of his own trousers. There is some jerky animation that follows where the Invisible Man attempts to chop Mr. Motto but manages to dodge -- all jerky timing.

Porky is left to be corned at the wall but he realises he has only one other solution to save his life and fight the phantom. He reads through his jujitsu book so he can learn the techniques (and what he read on vacation). He performs the technique to him where the phantom is just dust as well as hands. Porky grabs out the axe successfully and then joins back into the fight as he continuously punches him.

Porky (I mean Mr. Motto) continues to swing him around until he then collapses to the ground. That sure must've been difficult to animate an action like that of an invisible character. The Walter Winchell parody enters the scene again as he is about to report what the next step that Mr. Motto is about to do.

He grabs out a spray of 'anti-invisible juice' where he is going to squirt it towards the invisible man to reveal the identity. Winchell then announces, 'Ladies and gentleman - the Invisible Man is---'. Hugh Hebert. He then reveals himself as he just claps merrily like he would normally do - and that is a very amusing final shot.

Overall comments: The cartoon is basically a satire of mystery and detective stories which had first been created by the likes of bards like Edgar Allen Poe or even Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White (a terrific book) - but here the mystery is only used for comedy purposes only and its a much more modernised story as the mystery is set in what was the greatest place of the 1930s -- Hollywood. Mystery and detective stories were very huge back around the 1930s as well as even the 19th century - and of course; still remains popular today. As it was Clampett's take on a mystery story - and starring Porky; I find that his take was a rather weak satire.

I have to say that I really do have mixed thoughts about Porky Pig being portrayed as Mr. Motto here. For one reason, why is Porky Pig even in this cartoon if he was just referred as Mr. Motto? could have worked a lot funnier if Avery had his role and used Egghead to satirise the mystery - but here, I just feel having Porky portraying another character just doesn't work - it doesn't even feel like a Porky cartoon to me - and it just feels rather pointless. The story was rather short-lived as well as the pacing of the cartoon that it didn't even feel like a mystery to me - but I admit I will give credit that the Hugh Hebert gag was a little funny at the gag but other than that - I haven't got a lot to say of what was funny of this cartoon as I feel it was just weak and straightforward.  Neverthless, I will give Mel Blanc credit for doing a good job of voicing Porky Pig in a Japenese accent trying to impersonate as Mr. Motto as I thought it must've been difficult for a talented voice artist.


  1. The character is actually "Mr. MOTO," not Motto. He was played by Peter Lorre in the 1930s.

  2. The original character from films was Mr. Moto, but Porky's parody is called Mr. Motto in this cartoon.

  3. Mel Blanc used a similar voice for "The Sad Sack" (a Japanese character with enormous buck teeth) in the wartime short "Tokyo Woes".