Thursday, September 25, 2008

Taken For A Ride Pt.4

No-one re-used themes like Joe De Nat. As late as 1937 (and probably after) De Nat was still reusing themes he had composed for the Toby the Pup series in 1930. Evidently Columbia had no music library to draw on (as did Paramount and Warner Bros.) thus most of the Mintz scores were fairly nondescript workings of public domain songs and and a few original themes which were repeated with alarming frequency throughout the 30's Scrappy and Krazy Kat series. If the Mintz cartoons in their prime (1930-1935) ever had an achilles heel this would surely come at  (or very near to) the top of the list. Regardless the cartoons themselves were good and De Nat's basic scoring could be surprisingly effective. 'Taken For A Ride' is one such example. In the film De Nat underscores the action much the way a silent film organist might with liberal doses of famailliar themes (in this case the funeral march) and basic musical motifs to describe  the action. Intentional or (likely) not, De Nat's minimalist approach gives 'Taken For A Ride' a true sense of foreboding. In fact, the long breaks between scoring remind me of the effective opening reel of 'Dracula' following 'Swan Lake': the conspicuous lack of music creating a great deal of the tension. When TFAR does have music it lurks quietly beneath the action rather than determining it - at least until the very very end. That will be covered in Part 5.

As Krazy descends the stairs, and the threat returns from ghosts back to gangsters, we are reintroduced to our lead villain of indiscriminate species (I've always presumed gorilla) as he fondles a bag of coins. Kitty waves to Krazy. The tense, almost noir,  lighting reminds me a little of another scene with gangsters: 'Showdown' (Famous Studios Superman, 1942).

Unaware of Krazy's presence, the gorilla scowls at Kitty. Note that he has retained his bandage from the earlier sequence (although his feet are now white).
Kitty placates the big oaf.

He slaps his cheeks like a retard.

He roars like a lion.

Krazy reaches for his 'piece'.

Krazy's dialog is unintelligible to me here. Can anybody out there make it out?
Big smile.

Two words: Pistol Mouth! Krazy's barrel goes flaccid. Words escape me on scenes like this.

Krazy's realizes he's in trouble as two goons (one with a very threatening musket) surround him from behind. Check Kitty's expression.

"No, not that"

He notices the box on the floor. I knew it was there for some reason.

... to hold the roller skates of course!

They ... are going ... to ... take him ... for ... a ... ride ...

Part 5 Coming Soon!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Taken For A Ride Pt.3

Continuing 'Taken For A Ride' (1931 as listed in 'Of Mice and Magic' - the copyright reads 1930) and finishing it's spectacular grave yard sequence. I suppose it's a little over ambitious to cite this film as an equal to 'Swing You Sinners'. After all, SWS has armies of ghosts and a jazz score which greatly enhances the otherworldly bacchanal going on in that picture and, on the surface, appears to dwarf Joe De Nat's diminutive contribution to TFAR . Without a doubt, SWS has the better music but, then again, they are different pictures. I will elaborate on this in my next post. At any rate, TFAR is a cross-pollination of two genres: the gangster and horror/mystery film.  This is a curious subset of cartoon making which occurs more often in what today are regarded as the B-studios of the 30's (although Mintz Studios was, in my opinion, plainly producing A-quality product at this time). Another example, from what really was a B-studio, was 'The Haunted Ship' (a Van Beuren Aesops Fable from 1930) which combined two cartoon genres: the underwater cartoon with it's varieties of fish, treasure chests and shipwrecks,  and the supernatural cartoon with it's skeletons and phantoms . Of course there was one other genre: the stage musical. Almost every cartoon of this period had at least a one musical number. TFAR does too, thus making it a combination of three genres!

Krazy slips out from under the tombstones. Claustrophobia fears often appear in cartoons of this vintage. 'Bimbo's Initation' (Fleischer Talkartoon 1930)  is probably the best example. It's also interesting to note that Krazy's fear of the supernatural is underpinned by a real fear of bodily harm. After all, as the previous post illustrated, these spooks are armed!

A suspenseful moment as krazy creeps past rows of tombstones. Note the effective use of cast shadow to heighten the mood. 

He knocks on one.

Skeletal arms emerge gesturing to a bottle. What is it? Castor oil? Bootleg gin?

The arms recede as Krazy locks tombstone to grave. 

Three graves slide past as Krazy hurdles over each one. The idea that this all may be the doings of gangsters has now plainly given way to the supernatural. The gangster's costume (of the previous post) may be alive but so too are the real graves!

The third tombstone switches direction blocking Krazy's path.

Reverse angle as a distinctively Mintz skeleton emerges. He motions:  "Shhhhhhh"

The skeleton beckons to the gangster's hideout and a totally different genre!

Part 4 Coming Soon!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Taken For A (Blurry) Ride: Part 2

Continuing 'Taken For A Ride' (Krazy Kat, 1931) - Unfortunately the focus on the video camera starts struggling with the low light of this particular sequence. Too bad because it's one of the most atmospheric sequences I've ever seen in a 30's cartoon. At least equal to 'Swing You Sinners' which the Fleischer Studios had released a few months prior. I've tried to clean them up as much as possible and have put in captions to help clarify.

BTW - here are two indispensable posts on the Mintz Studio here and here

Top side, Krazy is nervously lurking in the cemetery. The gorilla bear (now resembling more of a gorilla) trails in grave costume.

He takes a shot.

As he turns, the tombstone on the costume whistles a funeral march with clasped skeleton hands. Yes, the costume is also alive.

He turns around and runs into a tree which pulls out two revolvers.

He turns from the tree into the site of a rifle barrel. 

The barrel (also alive) guides him toward a tombstone.

The tombstone grows a canon which licks it's rim pervertedly. Make your own joke.

He runs from the canon into a bunch of tree branches (?) each holding a revolver. 

He runs with costumed gorilla in hot pursuit.

The gorilla throws some dice ('rolls the bones') which morph into skull and crossbones. The crossbones grow into arms which reach out to touch Krazy's shoulders.


Part 3 (less blurry) Coming Soon!