Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Little Red Walking Hood (1937)

Little Red Walking Hood (Warner Bros., 1937)
Dir.: Tex Avery
TC4P Rating: 6/9

A Tex Avery modernization (1930s modern, that is) of the Little Red Riding Hood story, with a car-driving wolf hitting on Little Red, portrayed physically as the traditional little girl but with a Bette Davis-type adult voice and attitude, as she walks down a busy thoroughfare. Her shoulder literally ices up cold at his come-ons, and the chase to Grandma's house begins. The wolf constantly runs into Egghead, who keeps popping up whistling in the oddest places carrying a violin case. After the wolf torments the grandmother (though she does have time to stop and place an order for a case of gin with the grocer), the wolf swipes and dons the old lady's clothes in the traditional way and hops into bed. After a twist on the bed scene, Egghead pops into the room one last time. The wolf asks him who he is, and Egghead, pulling a mallet from his case and conking the Wolf out cold, proclaims, "I'm the hero of this picture!" After the film irises out, it reopens to show Egghead and Little Red making out.

Gee, this picture is peachy. Mainly, I enjoy it because it is a defining point for Avery, who would take this same situation and perfect it on his Red Hot Riding Hood pictures at MGM, only he would go all the way and make Riding Hood the most voluptuous female in cartoons until Jessica Rabbit came along, and by default, made the Wolf character a constant walking phallic symbol for the duration of each picture. Here, the relationship is a bit more chaste and still tied to the actual plot of the original story, with the wolf still concentrating on actual "eating" Little Red. Thus, this wolf is not the zoot-suited sharpie of the MGM's, though still dressed up in all his finery, but drawn rounder and more rubbery looking. The picture is almost an early rough sketch of what would come later from Avery. Now that I think of it, most of his Warners' pictures seem to be early rough sketches of what would come later, both from him and from the gang that remained at Warner.

My favorite gag is the lever that the Wolf pulls in his car that is labeled "Automatic Wink." When he pulls it, his rear license, which reads "07734," rolls over and says "Hello" to Little Red Walking Hood. Avery also pulls his much-used "waiting for the audience to sit down" gag, with the wolf and Red waiting impatiently mid-fight for two stragglers to take their seats; and when Little Red confronts the costumed and spectacled wolf in bed, she declares "Grandma, what large optics you have!" and "Grandma, what a large schnozzola you have!" Little Red smacking the wolf with a mailbox rates as a good bit as well. All in all, Little Red Walking Hood is a fun precursor of things to come.

[Editor's note: The text and photos for this article were updated on 10/28/2015.]

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