I’m wrapping up the salute I started yesterday to the year’s most commercially successful film company with the flip side of the early Warner Brother fame. The same studio that was known for producing the most realistic and socially relevant entertainment was also the studio responsible for the funniest and, with all due respect to Walt Disney, the most on-the-money animations of the classic Hollywood era. Actually, there’s more than a little grit and grime in greatest of the WB cartoons and that’s probably one reason they’ve held up so beautifully over the decades.
It certainly doesn’t get any better than Chuck Jones’ “One Froggy Evening.” The guy at YouTube calls this a “work of art” and I cannot disagree.
As a reaction against the news of this ill-advised project, earlier today I presented the first ever cartoon appearance of the character who would eventually be known as Marvin the Martian. Now, I present my favorite appearance by the vertically challenged enemy of Planet Earth and, actually, my favorite Warner Brothers cartoon.
Ladies and gentlemen, from 1953, “Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century,” written by Michael Maltese and directed by Charles M. “Chuck” Jones. Watch Daffy Duck and Porky Pig as they fight against the villainous thing from another world in a to-the-death battle for humanity’s right to a close, comfortable shave. Please hold your applause until the end.
I try hard, very hard, to keep an open mind about upcoming projects. However, this attempt to try and reboot one of my favorite Warner Brothers animated creations, the character who eventually came to be called Marvin the Martian, just sounds weak. However, I want to be upbeat today and ignore the 1,000,001 reasons why a CGI Marvin surrounded by live action characters “in the manner of “Alvin & The Chipmunks,” makes me cringe. I sort of doubt it has much promise commercially either. (The little kids who loved furry Alvin might not cotton to a helmeted black ball with legs.)
So, instead of dwelling on the character’s uncertain future, why not take a look at his glorious past? Here is director Chuck Jones and writer Michael Maltese introducing the character not yet named Marvin opposite Bugs Bunny in 1948’s “Haredevil Hare.” You might notice that Mel Blanc’s initial voice characterization of the Trojan-hatted alien is somewhat different from the voice we now know and love. It’s also a bit ahead of its time for a brief allusion to rabbit-on-dog outer space gay romance. Put something in cartoon form, and you can away with moider, I tells you.
Note: If you have any problems viewing this, there’s a slightly lower resolution version available on YouTube.
I’m not quite sure I did the great Boris Karloff justice with the clip I selected earlier this evening. Below, therefore, I’m putting some later career highlights of the great character actor who managed to play some of the nastiest monsters and villains of his era in innumerable films while also being considered one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. (Apparently that little girl he threw in the lake in “Bride of Frankenstein” couldn’t get enough of him, even in full monster make-up.)
First, some of Karloff’s very cool introductory remarks from Mario Bava’s multistory horror flick, “Black Sabbath” — which not only gave Ozzy Osbourne’s seminal heavy metal its name but also was reportedly part of the inspiration, structurally at least, for “Pulp Fiction.”