Monday, 18 February 2013

248. Scalp Trouble (1939)

starring PORKY and DAFFY
Warner cartoon no. 247.
Release date: June 24, 1939.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Jerry Colonna Indian).
Story: Ernest Gee.
Animation: Norm McCabe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Daffy Duck is head of fortress with Porky as soldier; who both fight incoming Injuns.

As the cartoon already features a 'starring Porky' title, but of course Daffy is also given one, as he was pretty much just a new star by around '38 and '39. The cartoon was later remade five years later by Friz Freleng - titled Slightly Daffy.

The cartoon starts off with a fortress that is located in the middle of an American desert. After a couple of truck-in shots the sign reads: Army Post no. 13 (No Dogs Allowed Around the Post) with the sign gag which is typical bathroom humour that Clampett loved - and of course 'no. 13' implying superstition.

Meanwhile there is a guard carrying a bayonet gun whilst at the top of the fort. The timing of the guard's march is rather crisp. After marching around a couple of steps; the guard turns to the audience with a dumb and dopey voice: 'Have you folks seen any indians around here?'.

A whole group of indians appear behind the guard responding: 'No, no, no, no no!' tricking the guard into believing the audience responded. Its a rather Avery-esque gag which is a little humorous. 'Uhh, that's good', and then the guard continues marching. Judging by the solid timing, and even head tilts I'm suspecting the opening shot might have been Norm McCabe's work but I can't be sure.

Meanwhile over at the fortress camps - we find a cabin which is residence of General Daffy Duck. Daffy steps out of his own cabin complete in uniform where he marches rather firmly to the trumpet fortress caller. The fortress caller is asleep and so Daffy pulls knife from his sword case.

Daffy then sticks the trumpet in the caller's mouth and jabs the fortress caller firmly that he yelps in pain and blows briskly. The timing of the jab is some very entertaining comic timing as well as the speed of the trumpet call to Reveille.

Daffy Duck walks over to the barracks where he yells at his soldiers to wake up: 'Get up you guys!' and then the whole crowd of soldiers dash out of the barracks and stampede on Daffy. As you can see - Daffy certainly is playing some role where he acts serious -- and at this point Daffy's personality is certainly going through changes, and even the lisp is becoming more of his quality trademarks, as well as even the straight, frustrated personality.

Daffy looks over his group of soldiers, and finds that one more is missing. He walks back into the barracks to find if any soldiers are still sleeping. He then remarks, 'Oh, a slacker!' and finds Porky asleep at the top of his bunk. Daffy climbs up the ladder of his bunk and makes an attempt of waking him up.

The scene where he tries to wake up Porky in a quiet, calming voice is Bobe Cannon's animation as you can tell for his lack of lip-sync. He speaks quietly to him: 'Porky...Porky' and then bursts out screaming: 'PORKY!' which is another example of Daffy's personality being reformed.

After jumping on Porky up and down in an attempt to wake him up - Daffy runs out of energy and sleeps by the bed along with Porky which is rather kooky and dopey - which I believe it also still Cannon's animation. After sleeping at his bedside - the top bunk collapses and falls. Porky immediately wakes up after the collapse and hears the Reveille call once more. He dashes out of his nightgown very quickly and jumps into fortress uniform. He stands still and apologises to Daffy for waking up late. Clampett establishes a very neat and detailed silhouetted shot of Daffy ordering Porky to forward march, which is rich in terms of techniques.

As they both march out of the barracks -- Daffy walks straight through the sword stuck to the ground without even looking or even knowing considerably for Porky. As Porky marches out - just when its unfortunate timing for him..the sword wobbles and bashes Porky in the face and flies straight in. The comic timing is just awe there.

Porky's bayonet gun hits the ground where Porky flies straight out of the barrack and lands on Daffy as they roll over with Porky finding that he is holding Daffy. Daffy looks at him with a fake affection for him, 'I didn't know you cared'. Now that is just a very funny line that it has been used later on in much later cartoons--the line itself must've been a rave, but its just very well executed. In the character animation - you do certainly feel the warmth for both characters as friendship.

Meanwhile there is an indian lookout nearby who is on the lookout for trespassers. I love how the Indian is just leaning his hand in mid-air whilst looking as its an example of Clampett's charm and oddity. The lookout spots the fortress and then starts to use a caller machine where an extended hand makes the sound of an Indian call - which is weird but I suppose creative but the animation is definitely creative.

The indians leave their area as they are going to begin the rampage. Clampett's timing on the Indians jumping up and down as the horses arrive at the spot is just really unique but really wonderful timing.

Yeah..we've all seen the gags before where folks jump into mid-air and to land on horses, but Clampett really provides a nice illustration to the nice timing where it is exaggerated and jerky...pretty much shows how Warners stood out differently than other directors. One Indian although doesn't perform his timing very well and ends up hitting the ground, but stretches his legs as his horse arrives at the spot. During the chase scenes of the Indians approaching the fortress - Clampett reuses animation in these shots from Sweet Sioux which may be reused but at least the effect does the job.

Meanwhile as Porky is on guard watching outside the fortress; he spots the Indians on the attack. He makes a huge take (1930s Porky take) where he stretches out of his pants but the braces on his trousers keep him attached. He runs and paces up and down panicking 'Indians! Redskins! Mohicans!'. However, all of the guards are asleep.

He then speaks to an injun by accident and mistaking him for a guard. He makes a take once he spots him and throws a barrel on top of the indian's head. Afterwards we find the trumpeter makes the bugle call, and we follow through a montage shots of the soldiers grabbing their weapons and preparing for battle.

The montage effect was also reused from Tashlin's Little Beau Porky. As all of the fortress soldiers, one in particular looks out the window and then brings out his shotgun with the 'spitting' musket gag.

Clampett sure must've loved that gag as so far he's used it three times, but who would've known. One indian in particular stand outside the gates and then begins to take a swig of Four Noses (parody of Whiskey brand 'Four Roses') and ends up breathing fire from the reaction and manages to open up the gate in body form so the Indian can enter the fortress to invade it. Porky however, manages to fire with his cannon at incoming indians (although standing by a stump) and every time he fires -- he jerks back and hits the stump. There is also two indians standing at the scene firing arrows; with a small indian using the tall indian's legs to fire which is rather amusing.

The next sequence is a real highlight where we find a silly-looking guard who shoots out his Indian enemies, and even sings in rhythm to the nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians. He sings, 'One little two little three little indians'. Fires. 'Four little five little six little indians'. Fires again. 'Seven little eight little nine little indians'.

At the spot an Indian arrives and knocks the guard on top of the head with a hammer and remarks the last line 'Ten little indian boys'. Friz Freleng even pulled a gag similar to that in Tom-Tom Tomcat in 1953 - though the timing would be much more funnier.

The guard - knocked down then makes a mark on the 'them' mark whilst they managed to shoot nine indians in a row. Meanwhile; Porky is firing (and hiding behind a barrel) but finds he runs out of ammo with his guns. Meanwhile an indian pops up who is impersonating Jerry Colonna (who is probably one of the funniest celebrity references Warners ever made - through the years). He then pops out and shouts, 'Greetings gate! Let's scalputacte!' which is similar to Jerry Colonna's usual line: 'Greetings gate! Let's oscillate'. He is about to bash Porky but Porky, frightened, stutters for more ammunition.

Daffy (seen hiding under his bicorne pops out like a tortoise and dashes out for more ammunition as ordered. He dashes out (and quickly grabs his hat with his arm). He runs straight into the powder house to collect more bullets and manages to grab a whole box full of them but crashes through the wall of the store very hastily.

He rushes over but ends up tripping a small stump which leads him to trip to the ground where the box flies and the ammunition falls out. There is a funnel stuck to his mouth where a whole load of ammunition and bullets enter his mouth, and even fills up his cheeks.

Afterwards - Daffy manages to already cause quite an explosion when he spits out a bullet. To try and not get any reactions - he holds onto himself and walks a different direction but hits a pole where he ends up reacting badly. The comic timing is very funny of Clampett's where I feel his timing is really getting back on track, and even manages to still have some very fun ideas for character dilemma sequences when still making black and white Porky cartoons.

Porky - still walking back with fear over the Indian after him then finds that Daffy is shooting up bullets. He runs over towards Daffy who is still shaking up with the bullets loaded in his stomach. He runs over and holds Daffy's stomach and begins to fire Daffy like a gun where bullets shoot straight out of his bill which is a really awesome gag that is well executed.

The next scenes follows gag-after-gag of the indians being shot by Daffy's firing and their fight. One indian finds he is being shot by a cannon and hits a tree. One tall indian runs off but much of his body is shot out that he shrinks.

There is also one dark gag where we find an Indian covering himself with a shield but a cannonball fires and the indian is scraped into the soil where the shield turns into a gravestone. All the indians run off - as they nibble into a mountain where it reads: Yanks Beat Indians: 11-3 which is a little corny. Afterwards - Daffy is all puffed out and sweats: 'I'm sure glad that's over with'. He ends up firing bullets out after tripping which is a funny ending as of course - it's not over with...for him!

Overall comments: Over the last couple of black and white Clampett cartoons that have been made - I feel as though Clampett outdid himself in terms of direction and comic timing in his early days. It may not have had a constructed story - as its extremely basic but I though the cartoon itself was rather motivating as it featured some funny gags overall, and the pacing of the cartoon went very smooth. It took about at least two minutes to set up the morning sequences with Porky and Daffy, and then halfway through the action with the Indian sequences. I must say the sequences and the battles of the Indian sequences actually went smooth - not too long and not too short: it went just right. Whilst in cartoons before that; there were many battle sequences which felt too long or even too short; but here it manages to make a move: and even Daffy's self-explosions were very funny.

As I've already said - probably the highlight of the cartoon was the guard shooting the indians and singing Ten Little Indians on the way. It really emphasises on how 'looney' the Warner cartoons really were. As already mentioned - Clampett really did go somewhere different with his comic timing where it all feels really jerky; which isn't really much of a Clampett trademark - but he really does adapt it well in the cartoon. Probably what made the highlight of the cartoon was Daffy Duck who pretty much co-starred in the cartoon, even though he feels like the leading character. I must say; Clampett really saw Daffy Duck in a different view. He usually made him very wacky but here he appears to make him the butt of the gags and even problems; kind of similar to Gabby Goat - if you ask me. Freleng's remake of the cartoon which he would make five years later is really not much different from the original cartoon itself but I'd say its a tad improvement as all the directors were already very funny by then.

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