Saturday, March 11, 2006

SHOCKING PINK (1965)

Apparently, somewhere along the production line at DePatie-Freleng, they decided that it would be great to not only have a narrator in some of the Pink Panther cartoons, but that this narrator would change voices each and every movie so that there was never any continuity from film to film. After making the Little Man, the Panther's best straight man, disappear for numerous films, they must have figured that they needed something of a regular character off whom the cat may play; however, the narrator/villain never develops into a true nemesis because it seems to be a different person each and every time, so there is no consistency to his verbal torturing of the Panther.

Here, he is a bit of a ponce, with an outrageously fey accent with just a dash of Terry-Thomas in it. The Panther is set on lazing away a hot afternoon on his hammock, but the narrator tries to guilt Pink into doing something about the house. For what reason? Who knows? All it does is drive the cat indoors to his chair. The narrator keeps digging at the cat, and Pink finally resigns himself to go to the basement to work on a project. But, after he turns the light on to go down the stairs, the light turns off by itself, and then on again, and then off again. The cat moves appropriately with the light's shenanigans, until the room is dark and the Panther is laying in a pile on the floor. (The light will play this game until the tail end of the film.) The cat makes attempts to saw things, for no apparent reason, and to fix a leaky faucet, all with the prodding of the poncy narrator. He runs afoul of an electric saw (which saws the entire room in half, shearing it from the house), and he keeps breaking parts of the shower until the point that the house gets flooded. Finally, he dives into a trunk in the basement and pulls out a blunderbuss. The narrator gets more and more frightened as the seething Panther loads the weapon, but at the last second, the Panther turns and shoots out the pesky lightbulb. The kick from the ancient gun sends the Panther flying into the trunk.

The main problem with the Panther films, in general, can be summed up by pointing out a gag that fails twice in the film, and could have been, at the very least, somewhat amusing, if they had set up the gag properly. After the bit with the electric saw, the frustrated Panther goes to plop down in his easychair. When his bottom does hit the chair, there is the sound of the saw again, and then the Panther stands up holding his severed tail. (He bandages it on for the next scene.) Later, he sits in the chair again, forgetting about what happened last time, and his tail is removed as before. This would be fine IF THEY HAD ESTABLISHED AT ANY POINT BEFORE THE GAG THAT THE SAW WAS SITTING IN THE CHAIR! He sits down, there is a noise, his tail comes off. Why? We don't know! We can only guess it is a saw from the noise and from the sawing sequence immediately before the first chair gag. But the scene could have been saved if they had, for example, had the saw fall into the chair unbeknownst to the Panther, or had the Panther get distracted, set the saw down in the chair, solve the distraction, and then come back to sit in the chair, quite forgetting about the saw in the chair.

But, early in this series, seasoned cartoon veterans decided they could do a sort of joke shorthand, wherein they have the character and the scene, and they have the punchline, and then someone says "Hey, what about setting up the joke so it will be funny, and so that the punchline will pay off properly!" And then Friz Freleng and company said "What? Nah! A proper set-up would take too much time and money. We'll just skip to the punchlines!" So, in this and the few previous films you have explosions for no reason, hunters who build arks just because, and tails sheared off by a phantom powertool that may or may not be the thing that is shearing off tails.

It would be like Henny Youngman saying "Please!" without saying "Take my wife..." Then again, that might have been just as funny...

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

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