Monday, January 02, 2006

Mutts About Racing (1958)

Mutts About Racing (MGM, 1958)
Dir: Michael Lah

Cel Bloc Rating: 5/9

Typical Droopy antics, with the little dog driving a rival bulldog crazy during an auto race.

I really can't get into Droopy unless Tex Avery is at the controls. So much of his character was just so immersed in Avery's style, that I personally have a truly hard time watching someone else try to pull off the character. Avery successor Michael Lah's work in general is OK, and some of the gags are amusing; but the characters, like all MGM cartoons of that period, are thickly lined in that style with which producers William Hanna and Barbera were about to attack the world on the television screen. I much prefer the more detailed drawings that MGM abandoned in the mid-'50s for both budgetary reasons and to better accommodate the use of widescreen.

It is widescreen that presents the true problem in watching this particular cartoon. The likelihood of enjoying Mutts About Racing drops dramatically when the version that is shown is blown up well past the edges of the television screen, so that much of the action takes place off-camera. A single character will be jammed up tight in the frame, with only the limbs and partial body of the other character visible elsewhere, and you cannot see some of the antics that are clearly going on in each scene. This is due to the cartoon having been released in Cinemascope, but apparently Turner is either unable to locate (or unwilling to show) the theatrical version of this cartoon. This seems to run counter to the philosophy of Turner Classic Movies, so maybe this is now the only version that exists? Whatever the reason, even watching its full length, I feel as if I only saw half of the cartoon.

[Editor's note: The text and photos for this article were updated on 10/29/2015.]

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