Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Puss in Boots (1922)

(Laugh-O-gram, US 1922) Reissue: The Cat’s Whiskers (1929) D: Walt Disney; anim: Walt Disney, Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Carman “Max” Maxwell, Lorey Tague, Otto Walliman; DP: Red Lyon; filmed: ca. 9-10.1922, Laugh-O-gram studio, 1127 East 31st St., Kansas City; dist: Pictorial Clubs Inca. of New York (non-theatrical, regional circuit); 35 mm, ca. 900 ft, ca. 11' (22 fps); from: Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Niles, CA. English intertitles. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, e-subtitles Italian, grand piano: Stephen Horne, 4 Oct 2011.

Russell Merritt & J.B. Kaufman (GCM Catalogue): "By contrast with the “lost” Laugh-O-grams, Puss in Boots has been readily available for decades, widely disseminated on the 16mm collector’s market. For many viewers, indeed, it has come to symbolize the entire series, its delights representing the state of Walt’s talents and ideas as he launched his career."

"And Puss does make a worthy representative of the Laugh-O-gram years. By this time Walt and his co-workers had gained enough confidence to take great liberties with their source material, and little of the traditional story survives in this version of Puss in Boots. Instead we get a charming setting that combines a mythical fairy-tale kingdom with a 20th-century Midwestern small town, complete with a “Kingville Theater” and a “Kingville Gazette.” Gags are strictly up-to-date, referencing such popular 1922 phenomena as radio, “flapper boots,” and – best of all for today’s film enthusiast – silent movies. For the Giornate audience, the likely highlight of the picture will be the movie-theater scene, featuring a spoof of Rudolph Valentino and his 1922 hit Blood and Sand. (Note, too, the theater’s ad for a distinguished coming attraction: the Laugh-O-gram version of Cinderella!) Oddly, the Wardour sound reissue of the film removed these delightful scenes; only a glimpse of the movie-theater setting remained, and the continuity was rendered incomprehensible. The distributor may have felt that references to Valentino and silent movies would “date” the film for a 1930 audience. We’re fortunate indeed that the complete version of Puss has survived with these scenes intact."

"In this film the boy, girl, cat, and dog, all familiar from earlier titles, reappear and take their places as the four stock Laugh-O-gram characters. In addition, Puss introduces a King who will return in Cinderella. His bombastic personality makes him perhaps the strongest character in the series to date: on one hand he’s a fun-loving sport who enjoys an afternoon at the bullfight, but the very sight of his daughter’s suitor unleashes his ferocious temper and prompts him to heave statuary across the courtyard. (He’s also not overly concerned with decorum; after his first explosion of rage causes his royal robes to fly into the air, he’s in no hurry to replace them and spends much of the film running around in his underwear!) Note that the “nine lives” gag from Little Red Riding Hood and The Four Musicians of Bremen returns yet again in this picture. Walt evidently had a special fondness for this gag; as late as 1937 it can be seen again in the Mickey Mouse short The Worm Turns." – Russell Merritt & J.B. Kaufman

AA: Funny statues and paintings have started to appear in Disney cartoons. In the cinema, Rodolfo Valentino's Throwing the Bull is being screened, and in front of the screen there is a five-piece orchestra. The cats needs to buy a pair of "those flapper boots". The cat operates a radio hypnotizer to ensure the masked bull-fighter's victory. The king watches the show while enjoying popcorn.

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