Saturday, July 17, 2004


I just got a DVD (obviously taken from some VCR tapes) of a bunch of these cartoons that older BLACK TO COMM readers will remember from hours of early-sixties tee-vee viewing (this was back when TV was so hot that it was worth it to spend all your non-homework time plopped in front of the set watching all those great shows that were eventually abolished by the same innerlectual Werthams out there who want you to watch the vapid REAL trash that's been all over the airwaves ever since the hippie generation got in charge, but I don't want to get off on a tangent or anything like that!) and (that is, if you can still pick up the trail of what I was saying two-hundred words back) I find them pretty exhilarating myself. Cranked out by the same UPA studios that had entered into the TV animation fray with the once-successful MR. MAGOO series, Chet Gould's famous exercise in ultra-violence is played strictly for single-digits laffs as the cheaply-animated Tracy dispaches underlings Go-Go Gomez (Mexican bandito), Joe Jitsu (Japanese derbied martial arts always cracks me up when Joe uses his karate on some attacking evildoer saying "So sorry!" and "Excuse me!" while bashing their lights out!), Heap O'Calorie (Andy Devine) and Hemlock Holmes (British bulldog with Cary Grant mannerisms) to do battle with familiar Tracy villians who were long ago sent off to the afterlife in the actual strip. I haven't read many books or articles on television animation, but I would guess that "serious" critiques would put these cartoons down not only for their cheapness but their racism. Frankly, it's their cheapness that makes them very watchable (you know the schpiel by heart...the one about how the Kingsmen with their low-fidelity style tops the over-produced and chop-saturated bigtime bloated recording artists on all counts!) and as for their racism...well, maybe I should put that word in parentheses because I don't find 'em "racist" as much as they are humorous caricatures done with not a spec of hatred in sight. Now, I gotta say that I found the Go Go Gomez character (voiced by Paul Frees) not quite up to par and unsympathetico, but I really like Joe Jitsu (voiced by Benny Rubin, who must've played just about every ethnic character in his long career) who's not only more personable but gosh-it-all downright loveable. Too bad a number of modern-day "uplifter" types didn't feel the way I do, because in some markets that ran these Tracy cartoons during the big DICK TRACY feature push of 1990 the Jitsu and Gomez episodes were edited from these packages, making the series run extremely short in such above-it-all places like New York City. Too bad, though it's a good thing it's perfectly fine to "make fun" of English people and hicks or else the entire series would have had to be 86'd, but I hate to see these great old programs and movies get branded as ancient hate-crime relics which never really did cut it other than as modern day white-guilt nicey-nice! I mean, if you want to see REAL racism (no parentheses!) these days just look at the condescending way white politicians of varying stripes pander for the big ol', that's racism in the raw!

Y'know, somewhere in character limbo I envision Jitsu and Gomez along with the Kingfish in some jail cell demanding justice! Doubt they'll ever get it which is too bad because not only are these TRACY cartoons great entertainment for the single-set and ennui-laden oldsters like me, but ya gotta admit that both Jitsu and Gomez are POSITIVE ROLE MODELS and do a lot more for "their people" than all of the Japanese and Mexican variations on Al Sharpton out there who seem to get the TV camera and microphone time while the people they supposedly "speak for" shrivel in embarrassment!

You might also want to check out the DICK TRACY cartoons that appeared on ARCHIE'S TV FUNNIES in the early-seventies which were fine in their own Filmation way but probably still got the sticklers all up in arms!

STONE AGE WOO, THE ZORCH SOUNDS OF NERVOUS NORVUS CD (Norton, PO Box 646, Cooper Station, NYC 10276 USA or try

Wanted to hear this guy (who I had pegged as mid-fifties Texas rockabilly) for quite a long time, or at least since I first read Byron Coley's review of an EP reissue from the early-eighties. Now that I've heard him, I can say that Nervous wasn't exactly rockabilly but more of what way too many musical snobs fanzine and otherwise used to call "an inspired primitive" which more or less reflects the critquer's own lofty snob standards (y'know, upper-class phony intellectuals try to osmose with the hoi polloi) which usually misses the mark by a mile. As for me, it kinda reminds me not only of something that my mother woulda put on the little portable player next to the bed to ease me through nap time when I was in my pre-school days but the stuff I would hear on Bus Eubanks's Sunday Afternoon "Memories" radio show in the early-seventies (where he played 20s/30s vocal and country tunes right before he went into his Big Band "A Time For Reminiscing" program which Dad had me listening to in order to keep me away from that evil rock & roll!) which I actually enjoyed at least until I realized that I was once again being manipulated, which always takes the fun outta things. Still it's pretty fine fifties inspiration, and I'm sure that if I played a bit of it for Dad even he'd get a big kick as well!


Anonymous said...

One of the strangest things about the Dick Tracy
cartoon show is how little Tracy himself is in it!
He appears at the beginning of each episode and calls one of the characters (Go Go Gomez, etc.),
and then that character takes over and solves the crime. Tracy only checks in briefly about mid-way through and at the end.
The show impressed me as a little kid with its hard-boiled feel and great theme music too. Tracy is played by actor Everett Sloane, best known (to me at least) as the cuckolded husband in Orson Welles' LADY FROM SHANGHAI, where he is filmed in closeups with a fish-eye lens making him look rat-like!
I also recommend the 5-dvd set of the complete
COUREAGEOUS CAT AND MINUTE MOUSE...and if you check the online auction sites, it's not hard to find the complete run of BAT-FINK episodes too.
With hand-drawn animation almost entirely gone now, the minimalist style of all these shows becomes even more of an asset--like the visual style of a Monogram B-movie or an Educational comedy short.
Speaking of Educational, I think it's time for BTC
to do a feature on the comedy team of Tom Howard
(the William Burroughs of comedy) and George Shelton. I'm familiar with their Educational comedy shorts and the radio show IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT, but don't know much else.
The 70s TV revival of IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT with the caustic Joe Flynn as host is great too, but that's another story. Did you see any of those
when it was on?
Keep up the good work.


Christopher said...

Bill-Thanks for the note. You forgot to mention Howard's appearance in the Joe Cook feature RAIN OR SHINE, a 1930 production for Columbia (adapted from Cook's 1927 Broadway triumph) that was directed by none other than...Frank Capra! Don't let the cornball throw you off, because if you like Cook's (and Howard's) comedy shorts for Educational you'll obviously go for this nutball feature as well. RAIN OR SHINE also has Dave Chasen, a strangely Harpo Marx-esque comedian whose biggest claim to fame is as the original owner of Chasen's restaurant in Los Angeles. A film definitely worth seeking out not only for Cook as the head of a bankrupt circus but Howard as a local yokel trying to get Cook to pay on an overdue bill! Another historical point, the '27 musical version featured the debut of the ever-popular chestnut "Singin' In The Rain" which only appears in the feature as the instrumental theme song.

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