Archive for Hugh Harman

…and Congo Jazz a speciality.

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , on April 24, 2018 by dcairns

I find the restored version of this cartoon, which is also on YouTube, TOO restored, personally. It’s lost its BLACK GLOW. So I’ve gone for a medium-decayed copy. 

CONGO JAZZ is a ridiculously early Harman-Ising Loony Tune, which means it’s weird in ways not really comparable to the acceptable weirdness of the later, more developed Warner Bros style.

Bosco or Bimbo or Bunco or whatever this off-brand Mickey is meant to be called is hunting — somewhat timorously — in the jungle. “Be vewwy quiet, I’m hunting something-or-other,” he doesn’t say. A tiger appears behind him and LICKS HIS BACK. In fact, it’s worse than that. When I frame-grab that image, I detect about a foot of feline tongue snaking between the little cel-animated critter’s thighs.

Burpo is so scared he retracts into his own trousers.

Coming up for air, he shoots at the tiger but his limp-dick rifle merely discharges a black dot which describes an impotent parabola before falling to earth, an expired full stop. Shooting blanks.

An exciting chase scene! Banquo and the tiger run repeatedly past the same clump of trees. Nightmare logic. (Shirley MacLaine keeps running past the same doorway at the start of THE APARTMENT but that’s OK because all doorways on a street look the same.)

Burpo gets bitten on the ass and his upper torso is spaghettified by him straining to escape. He’s now eight feet long, his little spherical fists waving in understandable dismay.

There hasn’t really been much jazz so far.

Bilbo’s stomach, a long black piece of tubing, is dragging behind him as he runs, so he scoops it up and stuffs it down the front of his pants.

The tiger swipes at Bonzo and his head comes loose, swinging about on the end of a thread that was formerly his neck. When I was little, I had a Casper the Friendly Ghost doll that did this. As his head wound back onto his shoulders, the passage of the thread through his insides would make him talk, squeaking things like “Will you be my friend?” He had about four sentences he could utter, and they rotated randomly. He was totally non-poseable, and after about five minutes, the worst doll in the world.

When I thought about him just now, I at first presumed that his vocalisations were somehow encoded on the thread, and read by an apparatus in his stomach as he wound himself in. But the thread was pretty normal. Didn’t have any grooves on it. So, let’s face it, he had little tapes inside him, triggered randomly by a spring which was tightened by his head being tugged off, and whose uncoiling retracted the loose ghost cranium and played the recording. I think that’s it.

I should have smashed him open to find out for sure.

A friend had an astronaut with a cord on his back, and he could say “Mission accomplished! Returning to ship!” among other bon mots.

Bongo produces some kind of rudimentary musical instrument from his pants and begins to play. Jazz! And possible crotch-to-mouth contamination. The tiger, at first unimpressed, starts to cavort merrily, flapping his thick, rubbery arms to the tune, and even allowing Banjo to pluck a melody from his whiskers, which is awfully tolerant of him. Having confused his foe musically, Bungalow then pantses him, exposing the spotted underwear he has on beneath his skin, and kicks him off a convenient cliff.

Bluto then spots two monkeys playing leap-frog to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, a common enough arboreal sight. He approaches, grinning. I don’t think I’ve ever been so worried for a fellow living creature as I am for those monkeys. One flees immediately, the other lingers, apparently paralysed with terror. I could have cheered when the little fellow spits in Bobo’s eye.


Bisto proceeds to pull down the monkey’s furry back-flap (he has an obsession with pantsing wild beasts, a great white hunter who doesn’t bag animals, he debags them) and spanks the little fellow’s tiny pallid bottom over his knee. And then a gorilla appears behind him. Of course — the little monkey is in fact a great ape, or anyhow a great ape-to-be. Biffo puts the monkey down, bare-assed, then delicately restores its back-flap to the upright, locked position, but this does not seem enough to appease the gorilla, angered by the usurpation of parental authority implicit in Bingo’s spanking the monkey.

Bilko attempts a nonchalant whistle, and then the monkey fetches him a well-earned, chalant kick in the shin. The gorilla rolls up his sleeves, revealing hairy arms, though not as hairy as the actual hair he just rolled up. Cartoon biology is screwy. He’s just rolled up his SKIN. His arms, underneath, should look like those of Frank in HELLRAISER. It wouldn’t be much more disturbing than what we already have here.

To appease this pen-and-ink Kong, Bubo produces a pack of gum, again from inside his pants. “Have some g-g-gum, Mister Ape?” he asks, his only line so far. A catchphrase that did not catch on, so far as I’m aware. Bumbo chews a stick himself, to demonstrate the correct use of pants-gum. Soon, he and the forgetful parent are strumming long strands of gum drawn from between their teeth, making beautiful jungle music together. The monkeys dance a ballet. Three generations of pelicans emerge from one another’s mouths. An ostrich and a kangaroo join the dance, unaware that neither of them belongs on the same continent as a tiger or each other.


And then, all musical hell breaks loose, as Boudou has succeeded in bringing jazz to Africa.

A tree spanks itself rhythmically. Only thirty seconds left of this abomination but I’m not sure I can take it.

One of the tree’s breasts — I mean coconuts — flies off and beans Beano. The jackals laugh at him. He joins in. Iris in on his happy, concussed features. The End. Sudden shot of a plank.

Bosko Does Not Believe in Tears

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2012 by dcairns

Bosko, star of early Looney Tunes, underwent a mysterious transformation. Here’s Bosko in his best-known form —

I take him to be a little monkey, don’t you? Everybody else is an animal, and he has those cute ears. Surely he’s a chimp or monkey. Of course, there’s also the obvious fact that he’s a thinly disguised rip-off of Mickey Mouse, shorn of the nose-dot and vast, black spherical ears (people assume they’re discs, but they never vary their appearance whatever way MM faces). He even has a Pluto-like dog, Bruno, and a girlfriend who looks just like Bosko in drag, called Honey.

And there’s also the suspicion that he’s a minstrel-like caricature of an African-American. In fact, from 1929, here’s Bosko’s first talkie —

Different voice, and very obviously an Amos ‘n’ Andy style ethnic caricature. But that side of the character recedes as he adopts the eunuchoid falsetto of Disney’s famous mouse. Cartoonist Rudolf Ising denied that Bosko was of any ethnic type, characterizing him as “an inkspot type thing,” but the view of Hugh Harman, who actually dreamed Bosko up, is apparently not recorded.

Then Bosko is acquired by MGM, when Harman & Ising (Harman-Ising well together!) switched studios, and he goes into Technicolor, becoming a little more sugary in the process.

The bratty kid dresses in Mickey Mouse’s red shorts, and the animation is a bit more three-dimensional, the comedy more domestic and less surreal/grotesque. The MGM effect creeping in.

Then this happens —

Bosko has become fully human, or almost, and he’s certainly African-American now. Curiously, the caricature isn’t particularly offensive (to me, anyway, but I wouldn’t presume to speak for everybody). I wonder how audiences reacted to his transformation? At any rate, the character was quickly retired. The more realistic Bosko became, the less fun his adventures seemed. The final phase, though technically the most elegant, is the least pleasurable to watch.

Bosko’s strange evolutionary leap from inkspot/minstrel/monkey to “real boy” is paralleled over at the Fleischer studio by Betty Boop’s transition from poodle to flapper, which is arguably as insulting in its implications. Very oddly, even after her floppy ears had turned into earrings, and her muzzle modified into the low, chinless mouth we know and lust for, Betty continued to go out with Bimbo, a dog. The implications of which are best left unexplored.

The Sunday Intertitle: Following Yonder Starewicz

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Politics with tags , , , , , on December 25, 2011 by dcairns

Because what IS Christmas without stag beetles and roadkill? A sweet, magical, creepy interlude from Wladislaw Starewicz — perfect for zoning out to as you loosen your post-prandial belt. There is something festive about this guy, mainly because his films always look ancient, no matter what good condition you see them in. I’ve seen 1920s films that looked like they were made yesterday, so good was the restoration, but Starewicz, from the beginning to the end of his career, worked in an ancient, fizzy-facky world which communicates with our own only by ribbons of crumbling celluloid, twining through the Olderness to reach silver nitrate fingers into our semi-slumbering brains.

More wintry madness —

And, maybe best of all —

From Saint Nick to Old Nick — it’s a slippery slope.

Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth.

This is from PEACE ON EARTH, made ironically in 1939, which the last man on Earth falls to the bullet of the second-last man on Earth, right after fatally plugging said penultimate fellow, and the planet is inherited by the anthropomorphic, cel-animated woodland creatures, who build villages out of the discarded tin helmets of the dead. Finding a discarded Bible, they learn to read it via the wise old owl, and their simple hand-drawn 12fps brains embrace the mottos within. “Goodwill to men — but what are men?” ask the baby squirrels, too young to have seen a real man in the wild.

It’s a powerful message — maybe, when all that’s left of us is our painted squirrels, we will know peace.