A-Haunting We Will Go

A Haunting we will go 33In the 1960’s things were starting to wind down for the era of animated short subjects appearing in theaters. The folks at the Looney Tunes were still making an effort, however. That included continuing the tradition of Halloween-themed shorts featuring some of the classic characters. This time Daffy Duck and Speedy Gonzalez are up against Witch Hazel in 1966’s A-Haunting We Will Go.

A Haunting we will go 1It’s Halloween night and Daffy Duck’s nephew (he doesn’t get an actual name) is out trick or treating. When he happens upon the home of Witch Hazel he freaks out and hurries home to convince Uncle Daffy that he’s seen a witch. Daffy doesn’t believe it, of course, and sets out to prove his nephew wrong.

A Haunting we will go 2Meanwhile, back at Witch Hazel’s place, the old hag is lamenting the fact that she works too hard and needs a vacation. She decides to head to Hawaii, but first she needs someone to take her place…I guess since it’s Halloween and all. So, she gives some enchanted cheese to Speedy Gonzalez, who happens to live in her wall, which changes him into a copy of the witch. When Daffy shows up, he is greeted by Speedy as the witch and is given a potion which transforms him into the same bizarre form he took in the classic cartoon Duck Amuck. Hazel then returns from Hawaii (talk about a short trip), changes Speedy back, and has some fun of her own with Daffy.

A Haunting we will go 4I’m a huge fan of classic animation, so it pains me to say that this may be one of the absolute worst of the Looney Tunes shorts. It was directed by Robert McKimson, who should’ve known better. To start with, the story is so horribly contrived. I mean, why is having Speedy Gonzalez transformed into the witch a necessary plot point…especially considering that Witch Hazel returns from her blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vacation just a few moments later. Not to mention that the lack of originality with this one is blatant when the mutant Daffy design used in Duck Amuck is recycled. And while I’m ranting, would someone please tell me why in the name of Leon Schlesinger is Daffy Duck wearing Elmer Fudd’s hunter’s cap throughout this short?

A Haunting we will go 5Beyond all this, the animation is just awful. The characters are flat, lifeless and jerky. While there is some nice work in some of the background designs, the characters do not inhabit their environments. At times they seem to be floating on top of the background art. Even Mel Blanc’s voice work is lackluster. Only June Foray’s vocal talents as Witch Hazel are worthy of merit.

It goes without saying that not every animated short Warner Brothers produced is going to be a classic. However, it is particularly sad looking at this one considering when it was released, as the age of theatrical shorts was ending. With output like this, it’s easy to see why.

Recent Warner Archive New Releases

Devil Dogs of the AirI’ve fallen a bit behind on updating the site with new releases from the Warner Archive. So let’s take a short break from the Halloween posts and see what some of the recent releases are. We start with a selection of films starring James Cagney.

- The St. Louis Kid (1934)
– Devil Dogs of the Air (1935)
– The Irish in Us (1935)
– Boy Meets Girl (1938)

We also have a bunch of films returning to DVD after being long out of print…

- Blow-Up (1966)
– The Colossus of Rhodes (1961)
– I Love You, Alice P Toklas! (1968)
– Love in the Afternoon (1957)
– Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)

Fraidy Cat

Fraidy Cat 2There were many third stooges over the years. It started with Shemp, then Curly took over when the act got big. Shemp came back when Curly got sick and stuck with the act until his death. He was replaced in 1957 by Joe Besser. Truth be told, Besser is probably my least favorite stooge. He’s many people’s least favorite stooge. His whiny persona was a stark contrast to Curly and Shemp. However, he was a skilled comedian who had a successful career making short subjects before he joined up with Moe and Larry. Although our somewhat spooky short today, is actually a bit of a remake of a Three Stooges classic..it’s 1951’s Fraidy Cat.

Fraidy Cat 1Besser is teamed up with Hawthorne (full name Jim Hawthorne but credited only as “Hawthorne”). The boys work for the Wide Awake Detective Agency. Problem is, all the places they’re supposed to be keeping an eye on have been robbed in recent days. Rumor has it that the robberies are being pulled off by a large ape. Besser and Hawthorne are given just one more chance not to screw things up.

Fraidy Cat 3The duo heads off to the antique shop they are supposed to guard. Unknown to them, the ape is already inside. As they investigate, the two detectives get more and more scared. At one point, Joe sits down in a rocking chair to relax, while a cat sits right next to it with it’s tail moving back and forth underneath the rocking legs of the chair. Of course, when the tail gets caught, Joe freaks out. At one point he is so scared that he jumps into a bed and put the covers over his head. He doesn’t realize that he has also knocked a rubber mask of a sinister face onto his foot. So every time he peeks above the covers, he sees the devilish face staring at him. There is also a gag late in the film involving Joe getting his head stuck in a prop guillotine and a mannequin head that Hawthorne assumes is the decapitated Joe.

Fraidy Cat 4In wasn’t until after I started watching Fraidy Cat that I realized this was a remake. Visions of Curly doing many of the same gags Besser was doing were dancing in my head. Though it’s not beat for beat, this is a remake of the 1943 Stooges short Dizzy Detectives, which is a certifiable classic. While I admire Besser’s talents as a comedian, this short just can’t escape the fact that Moe, Larry and Curly did it better…much better. Beyond the truth that you can’t out Curly Curly, this short really does reinforce how well the three person dynamic worked for the Stooges. Here we have just two characters, so Hawthorne has the impossible task of trying to be both Moe and Larry…and it just doesn’t work.

Fraidy Cat 5It doesn’t help that Hawthorne is not at all impressive in this short. His delivery of the lines is a bit too bombastic and he can’t seem to figure out whether he should be the straight man or mug for the camera. Besser still delivers some solid laughs, though. Yes he’s doing Curly’s gags, but adds a bit of his own touch that is still funny.

For Halloween viewing, Fraidy Cat doesn’t play up the spooky elements of the story quite as well as the Stooges original does. From a comedy standpoint it’s only mildly amusing. In the end, the film will primarily be of interest to Stooges completists.

Walt Sent Me Episode 17: Hocus Pocus

Walt_Sent_Me SmallerTodd and Kristen are back with another Halloween-themed episode of Walt Sent Me. This time they look at the 1993 Disney film Hocus Pocus. They also take in the 1952 Donald Duck short Trick or Treat.

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