COMPRESSED HARE (1961) – Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote, together again

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The following is my first of two entries for The 1961 Blogathon, being hosted by little ol’ me at this blog on April 27-29, 2018 in honor of my 57th birthday. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ tributes to a variety of movies released in or related to the year of 1961!

As I stated above, this blogathon is my self-indulgent tribute to my birthday. And what does my birthday make me think of? Childhood, and watching cartoons on Saturday morning! So I’d like to honor one of those cartoons, released a few months after my birth.

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Compressed Hare is the fourth pairing of Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote — they would be paired again in Hare-Breadth Hurry (1963), with Bugs standing in for an ailing Road Runner — and it doesn’t take a SPOILER ALERT to let people know which of this duo is going to win this grudge match. (The cartoon is embedded below for your viewing pleasure.)

This is also one of the last great cartoons of Warner Bros.’ “golden age” of animation, hereafter followed by mostly dull outings with the Road Runner and Coyote (not directed by their originator, Chuck Jones), and Daffy Duck and Speedy Gonzales.

(If you’ve ever wondered why Wile E. Coyote speaks in some cartoons but not in the Road Runner series [where he first became popular], Jones said he regarded Wile E. as an “actor” in three separate series: the Road Runners, the Ralph-and-Sam episodes [where Wile E., as “Ralph Wolf,” is pitted against a clever sheepdog], and his outings with Bugs Bunny.)

The cartoon begins with Wile E. conveniently planting a live telephone outside Bugs’ hole. When the phone rings, Bugs, playing along with the premise, nonchalantly answers it (because Bugs deserves a phone, doesn’t he?). Wile E. is on the other line, asking to borrow a cup of diced carrots, and Bugs is happy to comply with the request.

When Bugs arrives at Wile E.’s cave, he sees a mailbox adorned with the title “Wile E. Coyote – Genius.” Bugs offers the camera a withering look before knocking on Wile E.’s door and inquiring, “Are you in, genius? Are you incapable? Insolent? Indescribable? Inbearable?” The door slams open, and Wile E. grabs Bugs and pulls him inside.

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We next sees Bugs tied to a stake in the cave while Wile E. prepares rabbit stew, for which he announces that Bugs is the main ingredient. (Bugs is cooler about Wile E.’s impending cannibalization of him than I am in getting up in the morning.) While the stew is brewing, Wile E. tends to his wine collection, wondering which selection best complements game. “You are game, aren’t you?” Wile E. asks Bugs.

Bad choice of words. “Oh, I’m game, all right,” sneers Bugs, who uses the stake to tap on a floorboard and pop a wine cork into Wile E.’s eye. “Now, look here, me bucko,” Wile E. snaps.

Bugs taps the floorboard again. Wile E. ducks to avoid a second wine bottle uncorking, but through a series of Rube Goldberg-like machinations, the cork ends up doing in Wile E. for good. Still tied to the stake, Bugs hops out of the cave and back to his hole.

Three more of Wile E.’s failed attempts to subdue Bugs lead to the cartoon’s centerpiece: a 10-billion volt electronic magnet (probably purchased on credit from the Acme Company). Wile E. drops a metal-plated carrot into Bugs’ hole to tempt the rabbit, but Bugs isn’t fooled — he sends the carrot (and several of his appliances) back Wile E.’s way via the magnet’s draw. Mother Nature is also only too happy to help with Bugs’ revenge — we see other metal-based properties from around the world heading for Wile E.’s cave, including this priceless shot:

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When an oversized rocket plows into the cave, it’s finally too much. The cave explodes, sending Wile E. into celestial parts unknown. Bugs comments on the then-current “space race” by saying, “One thing’s for sure — we’re the first country to get a coyote into orbit!”

When the character of Bugs Bunny was created in 1940, he was regarded almost as a “wartime hero,” a symbol of America’s determination in the grim face of World War II. Animation buffs have since marvelled at how the guys at “Termite Terrace” (the nickname for the slovenly offices of Warner Bros.’ cartoon unit) could come up with so many un-war-like situations to demonstrate Bugs’ spunk. This cartoon remains one of the finest.

(Another of my birthday indulgences: Click here to read my 1988 interview with Chuck Jones. Also, if you enjoyed reading this, click here to read my second blogathon entry, about Stan Laurel receiving an Honorary Oscar in 1961.)

 

I have a Laurel & Hardy podcast, y’all!

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I have been a Laurel & Hardy enthusiast since I was a kid, and I finally decided to share my passion in a podcast. Below is a link to the first episode of my very first podcast, Hard-Boiled Eggs and Nuts – A Laurel & Hardy Podcast. Listen (at iTunes) and enjoy (I hope!).

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/steve-bailey/id1371780163

DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) – Quentin Tarantino’s answer to GONE WITH THE WIND

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The following is my entry in The Great Western Blogathonbeing hosted at the blog Thoughtsallsorts on Sat., Apr. 14, 2018. Click on the above banner to read bloggers’ takes on some of their favorite movie Westerns!

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I’ve never been a huge fan of Westerns — traditional, spaghetti, or otherwise. So I have no yoke to bear when I say that Django Unchained is the best Western I’ve ever seen.

The title character is a pre-Civil War slave (Jamie Foxx) freed by a conniving bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), so that Schultz can hunt down three outlaws only Django can identify. In the midst of this task, Schultz discovers that Django is married to Broomhilda (Kerri Washington), a slave trapped on an infamously brutal plantation named Candieland. Schultz then sets about freeing Broomhilda and reuniting her with Django.

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s calling card is his lack of political correctness, and that’s on full display here. Tarantino merges two way-out-there genres, the spaghetti Western and the blaxploitation flick, to depict ignorant white slave-owners getting what’s coming to them.

Violence-wise, the movie is bathed in blood. The movie also pulls no punches language-wise, dotting its dialogue with the infamous N-word as much as possible. Because of this, many feel that Django‘s treats its raw subject matter — brutal slavery in the South – too lightly and gratuitously.

I don’t agree. Django Unchained is no Blazing Saddles. Look at the character of Stephen, a Candieland slave who is all Uncle Tom on the surface but is actually the brains behind the plantation. Samuel L. Jackson goes all-out to show Stephen as a slave who has triumphed over his Deep South origins and isn’t about to let anyone, white or black, upset the status quo.

I think Tarantino is getting at something here. By showing the ignorance and evil of all who willingly let slavery continue, Django is giving us the flip side of ultra-reverent Southern epics such as Gone with the Wind – and about time, too. Django Unchained is surely not historically accurate, but when it shows moronic slave-owners getting their just desserts, it’s deliciously satisfying.

 

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) – Still chilling after all these years

 

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The following is my entry in The Outer Space in Film Blogathon, being hosted by Debra at Moon in Gemini from Apr. 13-15, 2018. Click on the above banner to read bloggers’ take on space-based cinema, factual and fictional!

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The wonderful thing about the magnificent sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still is that it’s about so much more than it’s about.

On the surface, it’s about Klaatu (Michael Rennie), a visitor from a planet a few million miles away, who comes to warn of the Earth’s potential destruction if its inhabitants do not give up their aggressive ways.

It’s a simple enough message, but right from the start, poor Klaatu can’t catch a break. He tries to give a peace present to nearby soldiers, who respond by shooting him. He tries to tell the President’s rep to arrange a meeting between all world leaders, but the leaders won’t agree to such a meeting unless it’s on their home turf. Then he tries to move among the citizens to learn their ways and gets sold down the river by a macho guy who wants to impress his girlfriend (Patricia Neal), who ends up siding with Klaatu.

What the movie is really about is fear of strangers. It was, after all, made at the beginning of the Korean War conflict and during HUAC hearings, both of which were intended to root out “reds” or “pinks” (i.e., people who don’t think like us). And whenever Klaatu tries to speak of his belief in non-aggression, he gets shot down, figuratively or literally. The movie’s message is more timely than ever: Why are we so afraid of peace, anyway?

Michael Rennie was a British actor, unknown in the U.S. at the time of filming. He was chosen so that, instead of seeing a famous movie star come out of a spaceship, you’d see a believable alien. Rennie, Neal, and everyone else in this fine movie pull off the acid test: Sci-fi motifs and dialogue that could have been laughable in other hands (watch Plan 9 from Outer Space if you’re ever looking for a hoot) are completely plausible here.

Kudos are also due to Leo Tover’s glistening cinematography and Bernard Herrmann’s eerie score, both of which contribute considerably to the movie’s heightened atmosphere. Don’t watch this one alone, or in a paranoid state.