Friday, 24 July 2015

381. The Impatient Patient (1942)

Warner cartoon no. 380.
Release date: September 5, 1942.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Norm McCabe.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck / Various).
Story: Don Christensen. (Melvin Millar uncredited).
Animation: Vive Risto.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Telegram deliverer Daffy Duck being unable to control his hiccups, and delivers a message to the Dr. Jerkyl. To cure his condition, the doctor uses a transformation potion to help.

Many folks are familiar with the Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, especially if they've never read the story. It's been loosely adapted and parodied many times in motion pictures, like Jerry Lewis' The Nutty Professor, and most importantly: animated cartoons.

So, Daffy Duck's occupation in the short is shown as a delivery boy. The story is already established with Daffy Duck scurries along the swamp, looking in vain for a "Chloe". Like in many animated cartoons, Daffy represents "Western Onion".

The story is already established with Daffy Duck scurries along the swamp, shouting in vain for: "Chloe". The atmosphere change of a seemingly quiet establishing shot of the swamp to a frantic looking Daffy has a nice transition towards it. McCabe's timing is somewhat chaotic, but sustainable.

After a frantic search, Daffy Duck catches the hiccups badly; causing him to leap uncontrollably across the lake. He complains, "How do ya like that? Is them bleedin' hic-hic-ups again!". Looking for help he turns towards a nearby mansion, which is the residence of Dr. Jerkyl (get it?), whose name flashes in neon lights. The title "doctor" written in brackets under his name, adds to charm; especially as it directs to anyone who doesn't get the hint; like Daffy. He takes this as an opporunity to seek medical help. The Avery influence kicks in, where the neon sign responds to Daffy's request as though it has a personality of its own. The sign changes to a respond, reading: "Oh yes I can!",  which lures him to the house.

One of the greater parts of McCabe's cartoons which is overlooked is the beautiful layout work by Dave Hilberman. Although his tenure at Warners was brief, his remarkable layout work shan't be taken granted for. He designs a beautifully, yet gloomy atmosphere look of the swamp seen in an establishing shot. The black-and-white art direction adds to the right atmosphere. Hilberman's work was far from ostentatious.

The art direction has a rather surreal look towards it, then again so do many cartoons of the same vintage. Some shots of Daffy's entrance into the mad scientist's home really set the distinction that the house and its atmosphere is unlike any other.

The shot of Daffy reacting to the door closing itself features a remarkably complicated layout..especially when Daffy zips away with the camera pan revealing him hiding inside a suit of armour.

The silhouetted look of the main hallway is a great ode to the immortal cinematography experimented in many motion pictures of that time..similar the work of Gregg Tolland. Down in the scientist's laboratory, some ambitious effects animation is at hand. The scene is deliberately built up in suspense. The pan shot reveals a bubbling chemical inside several different test tubes. As the camera trucks back, it's revealed the "chemical" was actually tea; designed in an eccentric looking coffee kettle.

For Daffy's hiccups..McCabe takes advantage of creating some excellent comedy and energy. During Daffy's wander into the mysterious house, Daffy's hiccups are a safe way to execute some funny gags without the results looking forced. This also calls for some great broad gags attributed by Christensen and Millar. Daffy hiccuping violently in a knight suit is greatly executed animation-wise, giving it a fluidity feel that is forever associated with Warner Bros.

The scene of Daffy hiccuping inside knight armour is incredibly broad and energised, that not only do the pieces fall off together, but he even disturbs a cuckoo inside a cuckoo clock (who for some reason wears a bicorne).

Not only are the hiccups pulled off with timing, but McCabe's reputation as a director should be furthered for carrying out unique instructions to Johnny Burton's camera department. Once Daffy falls underneath the scientist's lair from an elevator tile, he is kept captive by Dr. Jerkyl. A bell is placed underneath his head with a mechanical hand hammering the bell, causing Daffy to hiccup violently which leads him to bang his head on the bell. In Daffy's POV shot, Daffy's violent hiccups are effective through the skilled cameraman who create a greatly executed bouncing effect as the doctor watches him.

And so, follows a parody of one of the most iconic moments in Stevenson's story. Stalling's dramatic underscore, perhaps a tad cliched, is suitable for the setting. Like in the story, the scientist adds mothballs as an ingredient to his potion, and bizarrely: adds some ink from a fountain pen.

After guzzling down the potion, the scientist explodes and is immediately transformed into an oversized hideous looking female. Taking on the name, "Chloe", the frightening figure scares Daffy; curing his hiccups...but her interest in Daffy grows, causing him to panic.

Ever notice the awkward looking cobwebs during the scene of Daffy appealing to Chloe? Without attempting to overanalyse, the short's narrative appear incoherent? Not that Warner shorts have any..but it seems incoherent in an awkward and complicating way.

It seems somewhat weird, that the short started with Daffy meeting an eccentric scientist to cure his hiccups, but after he's cured..the scientist in his ugly form goes on a chasing rampage. It seems a little out of nowhere, especially when he calls himself "Chloe", which was the name Daffy was delivering a telegram to early in the short. The short itself has a rather dreamlike quality to it, which might lead to the incoherence; but for an animated short the narrative feels complicated.

Despite what feels like a complicated narrative: Don Christensen and Melvin Millar are competent in creating wit for sequences. The dialogue is rather juicy for Dr. Jerkyll's introduction. Their use of play-on words works on the level of Mike Maltese's works.

An unidentified voice from his radio calls out to him, "Hey, jerk! Duck!" causing the doctor to literally duck underneath a cauldron, misinterpreting the voice's vague comment. Then, the radio uses Pig latin so the doctor could get the hint, as he alerts him: "Ixnay on uck-day with iccups-hay."

The mimic sequence though an old gag in animation, is still inventive and punchy. As an elevator tile raises Daffy vigorously, Daffy looks at himself in a reflection; threatening to his reflection with confusion: "Put her up, sock her right in the puss, etc!". Upon realising, he chuckles sheepishly: "It's me". The mirror opens, revealing Dr. Jerkyll. Together, they both mimic each other's movements, including Daffy's own hiccups. This leads to Daffy believing his own "reflection" is hiccuping. It's a hilarious moment when Daffy turns to the audience, unsure if he's mentally well.

As fun as some of the chase scenes are in the short, some of the scenes feel very much for it's expected as animated cartoons go. The sequence of Chloe listening to You Hit My Heart with a Bang and doing the jitterbug with Daffy is a striking example. The dance animation is vivacious and the lively movements for the goofy monster is priceless.

Daffy even references his later co-star, Bugs Bunny, though it's more contemporary..evident during the scene of Daffy pointing to the steam in the barrels: "What's cookin?" and socking his face.

Daffy's line during the cauldron gag is also a direct reference to radio broadcasts of its time. Daffy comments: "When you hear the tone, the time will be exactly ten to." Daffy releases the cauldron, creating a loud crash towards the monstrous figure. A fine collaborative job from McCabe's timing as well as Treg Brown's artistic sound effects.

In a desperate attempt to remove the scientist's "Chloe" form, Daffy frantically compiles an abundance of ingredients to create an alternate potion. He compiles them into a squirt gun. McCabe's unique pacing takes place as the scenes cut back and forth to the scientist slowly approaching him, and to a cornered Daffy nervously tempted to squirt at him.

Without further hesitation, Daffy squirts the potion at the scientist; transforming him into an infant form. Relived, Daffy comments: "Yeah, snoockie-woogums! Now I guess you'll behave" and he pulls him in his pram. So, the short finishes quoting iconic phrases for Red Skelton's character, Junior. 

The baby comments behind Daffy's back, "He don't know me very well, do he?". Unsuspectingly, he grabs a hammer from his desk. Pan to Daffy, hiding behind him a giant mallet, also quoting Junior's famous line. Then the cuckoo in the clock gets the final line, holding the sign "He dood it!", indicating Daffy has struck the baby scientist, who cries in pain.

For a fine director Norm McCabe has proven himself to be, it appears to be that he suffered from working on not the strongest material given to him, or maybe story wasn't his strongest suit. The cartoon narrative suffers a little bit from being a little episodic and complicated for its shorter running time. It could've worked at a passable rate if an entire cartoon devoted to Daffy's hiccup problem, even if it sounds like a thin narrative: strong gags could've supported that. Story problems asides, the short makes up for some beautiful artwork by Dave Hilberman, as well as daring pieces of direction by McCabe, like complicated camera angles. Daffy's personality continues to soar in each cartoon, and McCabe has proven to do a very capable job in handling the studio's stars, and keeping the Looney Tunes series alive and entertaining, when the colour Merrie Melodies series were seen as the bigger priority.

Rating: 3/5.


  1. "Chloe" is a 1927 song by Gus Kahn. It might have been more famous a few years after this cartoon when Spike Jones recorded it.

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