Friday, 27 December 2013
313. Porky's Snooze Reel (1941)
Release date: January 11, 1941.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett & Norm McCabe.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig/Additional Voices), Robert C. Bruce (voice over).
Story: Warren Foster.
Animation: John Carey.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A short which poorly satirises a series of newsreels hosted by Porky Pig.
Probably worth mentioning, this is the short which finishes the long-time policy for the Looney Tunes to always feature a recurring character in the series, as this is the point where Leon Schlesinger's policies are beginning more relaxed, and the freedom of the Warner directors bind them.
Following 1941; as well as to 1943; the LT shorts still remain in black-and-white but produce an occasional one-shot cartoon from one of the directors who were strictly making Merrie Melodies shorts.
This also becomes a turning point for Clampett, as for the first time in his career, he's producing one-short cartoons; and moving over to colour cartoons. From after this short; Clampett gets a little break from a consistent routine of directing Porkies until he almost snapped. Other directors like Chuck, Tex and also Friz take their turns to direct Porky shorts, giving Clampett a chance to breathe.
The whole plot and concept of the short show how the Clampett unit have just gotten lazier with their cartoons, and reworking past elements featured in previous shorts.
The Film Fan was a rather lame spot-gag short featuring film reels of upcoming film trailers and newsreels in a cinema; whereas this short has a similar element though the element is presented as a newsreel in the style of Sees All, Hears All & Knows All--judging by the referenced ending shot of Porky rolling the film. With that, the short then becomes bombarded with horrible and unfunny gags which aren't punchy or surreal at all, making it a very un-worthwhile viewing. Though, the introduction to the Pathe News introduction is satirised in a satisfactory way, though thats it.
However, you just give Mel Blanc some great recognition and praise for giving Porky quite a three-dimensional performance in this sequence. He creates this sense of realism for Porky, where you certainly believe the character is human, and can perform impersonations like anybody else. This is a very difficult voice and assignment for a voice actor to establish, and due to the hugely talented Mel Blanc, he comes to great advantage of the sequence, and makes the gag work very well. He does a similar performance with Porky back in Porky's Movie Mystery, where Porky is seen as a impersonation of Mr. Moto.
Another sequence worth analysing for the short would be the 'Tax Expert' sequence; it's not worthy for the poor gag delivery which appears in the short, but in artistically, it is fulfilling. The gag of the sequence is a local financial advisor who advises his audience on income tax to simply "skip it", believing it turned him out for the better.
As the camera trucks out, we discover he is already held in prison for his inactivity of income tax. The gag itself is executed modestly, and it does the job well, though what stands out the most is the realism and perspective of the animation of the man's head movement.
It shows how Clampett intended to show some realism in his animation in terms of construction and tight timing. It moves in such unusual angles, with proportions handled carefully, and yet the perspective shows some amusing caricatured drawings that it the results are pleasing.
Of course, the proportions are slightly disjointed, as a supposedly realistic face with tiny cartoon eyes are rather erratic, but I suppose it was how Clampett wanted it to be seen from his vision. If any of the Clampett sequences show some decent comic timing, during the newsreel sequences; I would nominate the horserace sequence which features what is seen as just a typical horserace. Clampett and Warren Foster, emphasise on the pun from the commentator: "Yes, ladies and gentlemen it's a photograph finish!"; where the gag translates metaphorically to the horses posing for a photo shoot, before proceeding to racing. The gag is flawed in terms of writing, but Clampett's timing adds up to the shattered pieces.
An example can be explained during the swimming race reel, where the divers are swimming the full length front crawl underwater in a river. As the race draws to a finish, we find a group of alligators climbing out of the river having eaten the contestants.
Since these type of gags have appeared too many times in a Warner short, because apparently, a hundred times a charm! Most of the weak and unfunny gags appear all through the short, that I will not want to analyse the whole lot of it, as it isn't worth to be gone into detail. It's all the same elements and deliveries that have been done before, and for an avid Warner cartoon critic like myself, watching the shorts with nothing original to offer is enough to get sick of the short in the first two minutes.
In conclusion, Clampett's short is a mess, and it's a bigger mess compared to Clampett's other mediocre shorts that he was making in that era. Porky's Snooze Reel expresses little of Clampett's talent artistic wise (excluding the tax scene), no effort was combined in the story of the short, it also features an abundance of dated and unfresh gags, and...the weaknesses of these gags show there is nothing salvageable of the short at all. Clampett evidently wasn't trying or expressing any desire, as his desire was directed for a totally different path he was close to crossing. To me, the only real effort shown in the short was the Mel Blanc impersonation of Porky (a la) Lew Lehr. To add to the technology and animation all combined to produce this short, this short shows how the environment could have been a tad saved if a tree wasn't torn down to make a cartoon which was a painful experience to watch. However, luckily Clampett will turn out for the best, even if it takes one whole year to finally make it; and this gives Porky a new fresh start, with alternate directors, as well as a new song to sing for Clampett.
To add a new element to future reviews; I have considered using a out-of-5 rating for future reviews: if you wish for this to not be featured in future reviews, please comment on this blog for your objection. If you accept it, then you don't have to say anything....