Russian Rhapsody is a strange–and very funny–cartoon. First, as a historical document, it's a Hollywood cartoon mocking Hitler (before the end of the war and the extent of his atrocities became clear). In Rhapsody, he's an obnoxious windbag and there are a bunch of good jokes at his expense.
But once the first act is done–Hitler is going to fly a bomber himself to Moscow–Rhapsody takes a different turn. It's about the gremlins attacking the bomber. They're funny little creatures, destroying the plane in creative ways (though director Clampett never actually shows the specific effects of their sabotage) and they have a great song.
There are a lot of contemporary pop culture references; some still work, some don't. The Stalin one probably didn't work even back then if you knew anything about foreign affairs.
Until the final gag flops (it's another pop culture reference), Rhapsody is a very funny cartoon.
Directed by Robert Clampett; written by Lou Lilly; animated by Rod Scribner, Arthur Davis, Manny Gould and Robert McKimson; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Blanc (Adolf Hitler / Gremlin from the Kremlin).
Is that Porky Pig cameoing in The Great Piggy Bank Robbery? I kept expecting him to be revealed as the big villain.
The story concerns Daffy Duck getting clomped on the head and imagining himself in a Dick Tracy adventure. Now, for Tracy fans, there’s a lot to see, including some inventive takes on the villains. But it’s actually pretty tame for everyone else.
Some of the problem is the animation. Piggy looks like it was done, for the most part, on the cheap. For the first half, it’s mostly just Daffy by himself, acting wacky. In this wackiness, his body contorts to extraordinary proportions. There’s little point to it… unless Clampett was just trying to keep the cartoon active.
Since it’s clearly a dream, the payoff has to be in the dream sequence—and there are a couple decent gags—but overall, it fails.
Piggy is way too loose.
Directed by Robert Clampett; written by Warren Foster; animated by Rob Scribner, Bill Melendez, Manny Gould and Izzy Ellis; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck).
In the last minute and a half of The Hep Cat, Clampett finally comes up with some really interesting shots. The short’s a cat and dog one. It follows the standard. Dumb dog versus a mean, vain and not much smarter cat.
The titular hep cat breaks out into a song routine, but it’s not enough to separate him too much from all the rest.
They chase each other around (the dog’s smart enough to put on a pussycat puppet and tempt the cat) but at the end they end up on the city rooftops. All the animation is solid, but once they’re on the rooftops, it all of a sudden gets a lot more visually compelling.
Otherwise, there’s nothing to recommend it. The cat isn’t much of a character, even with singing and various voices, and the dog’s even less of one.
It feels long too (at six minutes).
Directed by Robert Clampett; written by Warren Foster; animated by Robert McKimson; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Blanc (The Hep Cat / Rosebud) and Bea Benaderet (Bird).