Thursday, March 16, 2006

REEL PINK (1965)

The Pink Panther is a cat, and as such, it is no surprise that he would like to go fishing. It's just a little easier for a cat, whose creators have seen fit to provide him with opposable thumbs where cats don't normally possess them, to get the job done. A little fishing gear is all he thinks he needs to get the job done; however, in Reel Pink, he crosses the tiny, wriggling path of one of the creatures generally considered to be part of that fishing gear: a very reluctant worm.

On his way to the shore for some relaxing reeling, Pink stops by a shack on the pier to purchase some much needed bait for his foray. He sees a sign that reads "6 Worms for 25 Cents", but when the salesman calls the worms out to march into the can (with a bit of fanfare from a kazoo), only 5 of them make the journey into their tin hearse. Pink protests and threatens to keep his quarter, so the salesman taps on the box impatiently, and the sixth worm finally inches his way quickly into the can. When Pink is readying his pole, #6 tries to sneak off, but Pink pulls a pistol on the creature, and he falls back into line.

#6 is not only reluctant bait, he is really not a worm with whom one should be messing, not even if you are a large predatory but cool cat. Pink lowers his line into the water with #6, wearing goggles for the dive, motioning and directing Pink every step of the way. When a fish swims up to snag #6, the worm pulls out a stick and smacks the fish over the head with it. Pink waits on shore, and #6 throws the fish out of the water. Pink is delighted, but #6 has other plans. He pulls the line over to a nearby motorboat and wraps the line about the propeller. When the boat takes off, Pink is jetted through the water. The cat, collected star that he is, makes the most of the situation and shows off some nifty impromptu water-skiing moves, but eventually is splatted into the side of one of the pilings.

Pink then decides to move his activity to a boat of his own, but #6 cuts the line on the motor, so that the Panther can't get the motor to start even as he drifts through the water. Eventually, he floats to the edge of a waterfall, and continues to pull on the motor's cord all the way done the front of the falls, until he crashes devastatedly into the rocks. The boat is in pieces, Pink practically is, too... but the motor, smashed up as the rest, finally begins to sputter miraculously. Pink has nothing but distaste for this miracle, and smashes the motor further with a club. The motor protests with continued fits and starts, but Pink keeps smashing the thing until it can sputter no more.

Pink takes one last stab at fishing (though #6 worm has disappeared from the film by this point). He stands on shore, and when he feels a tug on his line, he pulls with all his might. But the tuggee pulls even harder, and a massive war of resistance begins. Finally, Pink is pulled full into the water, but with one last effort, he not only gets himself back onto land, but also pulls up the new cause of his frustration: a large crab. Pink and the crab circle each other like sumo wrestlers, and then Pink tries to use his karate skills against the crustacean. He is unsuccessful, but the crab isn't: he grabs Pink by the tail, twirls him in the air easily, and sends him flying. Pink attacks again, but is thrown the same way. Pink resorts once more to gun violence, and pulls a shotgun on the crab. The crab immediately begins to act like a tank, and displays some incredibly dangerous firepower of his own, with the top of shell turning into a turret, and with a large cannon protruding out from beneath. He fires on the Panther while a cavalry charge plays on the soundtrack. Pink tries to run, but the powerful crab shoves over a tremendous tree down at the Panther, who is only saved when he ends up with a hole in the tree's trunk falling Keaton-like over his body. The crab begins anew his cannon assault, and the Panther runs frantically to a motorboat (I doubt it is the one from before), and takes off. The crab then turns about and marches off in triumph. The beach is his.

I remember this one being much fuller and funnier and better than it actually turns out to be. I have forever recalled Reel Pink as having some of my favorite Panther scenes, such as the water-skiing sequence, the crab fight, and the silly introduction of the seemingly doomed worms; however, none of these scenes play all that well in the context of the full film (though the crab scene is still fun). Part of this recollection of swellness may extend from the various Panther TV shows use of some of these scenes as interstitial material, and so I have seen those bits more often and have had them pounded into my brain. This is somewhat like recalling the ghouls from Scooby-Doo that are flashed on the screen during the closing credits moreso than the ones that aren't.

We are also witness to the Panther creators yet again switching gears in the middle of the film. We are setup for a cartoon's worth of gags involving the recalcitrant Worm #6, who certainly doesn't want to be a party to the Panther's fishing plans and will do anything he can to spoil the day for the cat. Then, suddenly, after the waterfall incident, #6 has had his fill of torturing the Panther, so that Pink has to begin with a brand new nemesis. That they could have gotten an entire film out of the crab's antics and possibilities, and still had some mileage left on #6, seems to have been lost on the Panther team, who remain stubbornly insistent on not playing out a set-up. All told, Reel Pink turns out to be not so much of a great catch, but neither is it anything to throw back. It has some funny moments, but overall it is merely a generic filet o' fish.

It's still better than anything that you would get at McDonalds...

Reel Pink (DePatie-Freleng, 1965) Dir: Hawley Pratt
Cel Bloc Rating: 5

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