Quote of the Day: Fishhead

“They’re like alleycats on a fish head!” complains Allen Jenkins of the heavy police presence in THREE ON A MATCH (1932), but one feels he’s really looking forward to his future as the voice of Officer Dribble, I mean Dibble, on TV’s Top Cat cartoon show.

This movie’s climax seems to be a nexus-point for cinematic influences. A grand suspense/shock sequence in its own right, it uses a plot idea replicated decades later in DIE HARD — a body thrown from a window with writing on it, delivering a forceful message to the outside world from an imprisoned character.

Furthermore, the climax involves what the IMDb would call the following keywords: mother and son jeopardy; trapped in room; mirror; lipstick. So the spectre of THE SHINING isn’t far off, although all those elements are used quite differently in Kubrick’s horrorshow.

Earlier in the movie the little boy plays with his toy yacht at a municipal pond. This reminds me of Polanski’s THE TENANT, which includes a basically irrelevant but very entertaining scene of the same action, and the connection seems to me to be clinched by the fact that both films climax with a figure in women’s clothing falling from a window and crashing through a glass awning, if an awning can be glass.

So this little-known, highly entertaining Warners pre-code melodrama seems to have somehow extended tendrils out in all directions, colonising films far removed from it in time and space…

12 Responses to “Quote of the Day: Fishhead”

  1. Top Cat finds Beny the Ball in the alley, trussed up with a bloody message in Dibble’s handwriting – “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.”

    Would have made summer holiday mornings a bit more interesting.

  2. Heh.

    Does anybody know how many of the cast of Bilko actually worked on Top Cat? and does anybody know the name of the person at the BBC who decided it needed to be re-named “Boss Cat” so the kids in the UK would understand what they were watching? I’d just like to…know his name.

  3. All that and intertitles too! “What do you expect to happen?”

  4. It’s one of Oshima’s least-known films, and one of his very very best. The fingers-to-head mime the boys are doing is a rrecreation of the famous photo where a South Vietnamese solider shot a North Vietnamese prisoner in the head at point blank range.

  5. It looks a lot livelier than most of the Oshima I’ve seen. I was never very impressed with In the Realm of the Senses. Oshima showing his sense of humour (however dark) seems preferable.

  6. i guess that the number of bilko cast members who worked on top cat is between two and four. a few of the non-bilko element were in ‘it’s a mad mad mad mad world’ as well. if top cat and bilko are siblings, ‘it’s a mad mad mad mad world’ is some kind of incestuous glue. it should be possible to track down the party responsible for renaming the show boss cat because it will have been the person in charge of keeping brand names off of the bbc – top cat was some kind of olden days cat meat which is why they had to change it

  7. Ah, that makes sense. I assumed they just figured “We don’t have the expression ‘top dog’ here in the UK” (which isn’t true, now that I think of it). The anti-brand name thing got super-silly with Blue Peter and all that talk of “stick-backed plastic” instead of Sellotape, or just TAPE, ffs. What’s wrong with saying TAPE?

    OK, I’ll let that guy off. Find me the guy who renamed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, and I’ll nunchuck the sonafabitch. Mind you, that was an appalling show/movie/comic/cultural phenomenon.

  8. Ah, but a it left a lasting impression on you nonetheless.

  9. I can’t say that it did. I was a bit too old for it. The only thing that sticks with me is the lunacy of retitling it, because “ninja is too violent a word”.

    Bring him to me!

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