Tuesday, March 07, 2006

WE GIVE PINK STAMPS (1965)

One of the basic tenets of cartoons is that either rugs made from the skins of animals are still alive, or that the characters within the film will often believe that they are still alive. We Give Pink Stamps, the third film of the Pink Panther cartoon series, fulfills that tenet by portaying both aspects.

Our Panther hero is yet again bunking somewhere he probably shouldn't; this time, he has flopped down in the rug department of Gamble's Department Store, right next to first a bearskin rug, and then a tigerskin rug. As his theme song plays smoothly on the soundtrack (and, presumably, over the intercom system of the store), Pink's rest is disturbed by some very awkward whistling of the same song. Pink goes to hide inside of the tigerskin rug, and then we are introduced to the producer of the whistling. It is the store janitor, and he is portrayed by the cat's eternal nemesis, the Little Man. The janitor sweeps across the room, and when he has a decent pile of refuse of which he needs to dispose, he naturally chooses the very hiding place that Pink has chosen. He sweeps the pile into the mouth of the tiger, but the Panther throws it all back out on the floor. The janitor repeats his motion, and the Panther this time throws it back out into his face. The Little Man runs off to another department and brings back a shotgun. He points it at the tiger's mouth, but the Panther has a shotgun of his own, and there is a standoff. The Little Man runs to the tiger's tail and points his weapon, but the tail takes on the shape of a shotgun and shoots the janitor in the face. As the man regains his senses, the Panther climbs out to safety, and the man repeatedly fires into the tigerskin rug, and even uses the weapon to beat it.

The janitor then goes to clean the escalator, but a line of single pink footprints appear on each and every step. He goes up the escalator to follow them, and the Panther pops up from inside the machine behind him. At the top, the man steps off, but the Panther slips down inside of the escalator with the steps, only at the last second tapping the Little Man on the shoulder. The man turns around to find nothing, but thinking of the footprints leads him to think that the tigerskin rug is really alive, and he runs off to check on it. Meanwhile, the Panther finds a tiger mask in a bin full of Halloween outfits. He puts on the mask, and then rides down the escalator as the Little Man rides up on the opposite one. The janitor, understandably, goes bonkers and then runs back to the rug room to shoot the tigerskin rug yet again.

The cat checks out the toy department and discovers a Rocket Car (which is amusingly labeled both as going no more than 150 mph and also being for a child of the age of 12!), and he dons a helmet to zoom up and down a long hallway. On the fourth trip down the hall, however, the Little Man opens a door to discover what is making all of the commotion, only he opens the door flat into the face of the Panther, stopping him cold in mid-air, and also destroying the Rocket Car. The Panther then goes to test a washing machine, which he does by climbing in. When he gets out after going through the Fluff Dry cycle, however, he comes out as a fuzzy , pink almost gossamer cloud. He floats up to the ceiling. He then lies down on an ironing board to press himself, but as he goes about the process, he is distracted by a phone call. As he chats on the phone, the iron sinks straight through his body and the board, and the Panther is left with an iron-shaped hole in his body. He finds an appropriately fashioned alarm clock and places it comfortably in the hole, but then the alarm goes off and shakes him about.

Finally, he comes upon the Miracle Automatic Chair. Laying down and then pushing a button, the chair folds him over and over again in all sorts of positions, and then finally, not only folds him into a box, but also wraps the box up with a ribbon. The cat fights his way out, and the chair then takes on the persona of a barking dog and chases Pink through the store. The rabid chair is then distracted by the janitor, and takes to attacking him instead. The Little Man takes out the chair, and then we see him change his clothes, march to the manager's office, and sign his resignation.

The Panther then goes to the fragrance department and tries a new scent called Pink Perfume. The scent wafts all the way to where the tigerskin rug is stretched out, and then the rug comes mysteriously to life with lust. The reborn tiger jumps on the Panther the way that Pepe Le Pew would go after a paint-striped ladycat, and the Panther takes off out of the building, only stopping the tiger by dropping the doors to a sidewalk-lift on its head. The final scene of the film has the Panther sleeping the department store, when he is awoken again by the sound of someone badly whistling his theme song. It is a new janitor on his first night on the job, and the Panther holds up a sign reading "HERE WE GO AGAIN."

Half of a really terrific film, the first half, to be precise, and then the picture turns almost into a feline Mon Oncle, with Pink become Monsieur Hulot at odds with the devices in a department store. If either half fulfilled its own promise as a full cartoon, the first half would likely be a Pink masterpiece, and the second half would probably stand as merely generic Panther antics. Halfway through Pink Stamps, after some great setup, the Little Man practically disappears, just as we are primed for their battle to escalate to the next level. The Panther is then left on his own until the tigerskin rug comes to life, and even by the time that happens, the Little Man has already departed his job and the film. Thus, there is no payoff where the Little Man sees the tigerskin actually alive. So, the two basics of the "animal skin tenet" never get to meet, and the film ultimately disappoints.

All I know is that I am never owning any animal skin rug... You can't trust 'em...

We Give Pink Stamps (Depatie-Freleng, 1965) Dir: Friz Freleng & Hawley Pratt
Cel Bloc Rating: 6

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