Saturday, March 12, 2011

DAF #33 - One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

"As far as I could see, the old notion that a bachelor's life was so glamorous and carefree was all nonsense. It was downright dull."

Title: One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Year: 1961
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Rod Taylor as Pongo
Lisa Daniels/Cate Bauer as Perdita
Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella De Vil
Ben Wright as Roger Radcliff
Lisa Davis as Anita Radcliff
Martha Wentworth as Nanny/Lucy/Queenie
Fred Worlock as Horace Badun
J. Pat O'Malley as Jasper Badun/The Colonel
Dave Frankham as Sergeant Tibs
Thurl Ravenscroft as The Captain

Plot: After their litter of puppies is stolen, two dalmatians seek to save them from becoming a fur coat.
Based on: The children's novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
Setting: London and Southern England in the early 60's or late 50's.

Tagline: One great big ONEderful motion picture.

First Viewing:
Uh...early 90's.

Not unlike The Fox and the Hound, One Hundred and One Dalmatians was a movie I didn't care for in my youth, but as I've grown older, I've come to respect it. No, I will not be comparing these two movies (how useless would that be?) and no, the reasons are not the same as you will soon learn.

In London, not so very long ago (Uh...the 60's), a dalmatian named Pongo lives with his owner Roger Radcliffe in a bachelor pad. Tired of the single life, Pongo starts looking for prospective mates for Roger and himself. He watches out the window as several lady/canine pairs cross his path, but naturally, Pongo is drawn to a cute dalmatian bitch and her svelte owner. Pongo urges Roger to the park where he and Anita have a "meet cute" by falling into a pond. Luckily, Roger and Anita have a good laugh about it. Some time later, both human and dog couples marry.

Roger, Anita, Pongo, and Perdita move into a small flat, along with their housekeeper, Nanny (by which I ask how in the hell can a struggling songwriter afford a maid??). It's not long before Perdita is expecting. On the night she gives birth to fifteen puppies, an "old schoolmate" of Anita's, Cruella De Vil, arrives wanting to purchase the whole litter. When Roger refuses to sell them, Cruella hires brothers Horace and Jasper to steal the puppies.

Roger and Anita file a report with Scotland Yard accusing Cruella, but she remains innocent. Pongo and Perdita take matters into their own paws a use the "Twilight Bark", a sort of doggie gossip chain, to ask for help. Colonel, an old sheepdog with his friends Captain (a horse) and Sergeant Tibbs (a cat), here the call and discovers the puppies are being held at Hell Hall, the "old De Vil place". Tibbs infiltrates Hell Hall and discovers 99 dalmatian puppies, most of which had be legally purchased from pet stores. He learns Cruella means to turn them into a fur coat. Tibbs sends this information down the Twilight Bark and Pongo and Perdita leave London to rescue their puppies.

Cruella orders Horace and Jasper to kill and skin the puppies that night, so Tibbs attempts to shuffle all 99 out of the house before the TV program the brothers are watching is over. Pongo and Perdita arrive to assist and insist on adopting the other 84 puppies. They begin traveling towards London, with Cruella and the Badun brothers not far behind.
While trying to catch the dogs, Cruella crashes her car into a van, allowing the dogs to escape to London. Meanwhile, Roger's song "Cruella De Vil" has become a big hit, but the couple misses their pets. Soon they arrive back home, much to their owners' delight. Roger and Anita decide to use the money made from the song to adopt all the dogs, bringing the count up to 101.
Let me begin by saying that I really do like 101D. However, I have a lot of logistical problems with it. I should probably just shut my mouth and take it for what it is; a charming, animal adventure in which good triumphs over evil. But I just can't let sleeping dogs lie. (Pun intended).
I love the beginning of this movie. The first ten minutes where Pongo shops around for wives is absolutely adorable. And the character design on the various women and their dogs is amusing and believable. When Roger and Anita and then Pongo and Perdita marry after a seemingly short period of time, I still believe that the couples will be happy. In fact, I think 101D is the only DAF that gives us a glimpse into a marriage, human or animal.

Everything seems just fine until the arrival of psycho bitch Cruella De Vil, an old schoolmate of Anita's. 
Wait. What? 
Anita, at the most has got to be around 27. Cruella is a corpse. How in the hell does that compute? Was Cruella a senior when Anita was in first grade? Or is this was cigarette smoking does? And another thing, how in the hell would Cruella know that Anita's dog just had puppies...or that her dog was a dalmatian...or that she even had a dog? It doesn't strike me as very likely that Cruella and Anita would keep up their acquaintance after school. This has always bothered me.
But then there's the real problem. Cruella De Vil is often cited at the "greatest Disney villain" because of her diabolical scheme to make a coat out the skins of dalmatian puppies.
Wait. What?

First of all, ew. 
Second of all, is there no such thing as faux fur circa 1961? 
Thirdly, why puppies? Is their fur softer? I pet a dalmatian once and his fur was short and spiky, not fuzzy like say, a bunny's. If it's simply the spots, can't you dye black spots on some kind of easily found white fur? If Cruella can afford to buy 84 puppies, then she can certainly afford to pay someone to dye spots onto a white fur coat. 
Fourthly, why 99 puppies? I know they're small but isn't 99 skins over-compensating? 
Fifthly, after Jasper and Horace supposedly skin all these dogs who in the hell is going to sew this coat together?
And lastly, how could Cruella ever wear it out in public? Surely if she said, "Yes, daaaarling, it's genuine dalmatian fur!" she would be cast out of the high society she operates in. She would have to lie and say it was faux which defeats the purpose of using real dalmatian fur.

So you see, this whole dalmatian coat concept is just to make Cruella eeeeeeeeeevil for the sake of being eeeeeeeeeeevil, because the movie needs a conflict. 
Granted, this isn't Disney's fault. Cruella was in the original 1956 novel, The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. From everything I've read, it's a very fantastical type novel for kids, ala something written by Roald Dahl, so maybe I should shut the fuck up, huh?

No! I won't do it! Then there's the ending. How in the hell are Roger and Anita going to adopt all those puppies? Not only are they going to have to buy a new house in the country, but they need hire a shit ton of people to care for those dogs. And then those dogs will just breed more dogs and more dogs...AHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I know, I know. Children's story. Shut the fuck up, Jordyn.

Onto the stuff I like! 101D is the first DAF to be set in "the modern day", save for a few segments in the package films. (But who gives a shit about those, am I right?) It is, indeed, the first to feature the new fangled television set and poke fun at it simultaneously. TV is satirized with "What's My Crime?", a parody of panel game shows featuring B list celebrities. Also the irritatingly catchy Kanine Krunchies commercial wreaks of 50's style jingles. The way the Pongoes are shown watching TV together as a family bonding experience is representative of American (and British?) families at this point in time, which also makes it sort of culturally relevant.
As far as music goes, 101D is pretty sparse with only three technical songs, two of which are ludicrously short. The biggie is "Cruella De Vil", which to me, has always been an okay song, but nothing to perform at a talent show, if you get my drift. Still, if I think about it, there really isn't any good spots to put in more songs.

Like I said before, I really do enjoy this movie, despite it's flaws of sublime ridiculousness in which I am the only one who can't get over. After the puppies leave Hell Hall it drags a bit, but it's still easily one of the best comic DAF's.

"Cruella De Vil" - Bill Lee (Roger)
"Kanine Krunchies" - Lucille Bliss
"Dalmatian Plantation" - Bill Lee

Favorite Song: “Kanine Krunchies" - Lucille Bliss
Favorite Moment: Pongo shops around.

Favorite Character: Sergeant Tibbs

Next DAF: The Aristocats (1970)

1 comment:

Beckafly said...

This is a very disturbing film when you think about it, skinning puppies is not one of the lighter Disney villain sins. Ive read the original book by Dodie Smith and Disney changed a lot (like perdita was really a liver spotted dalmatian they found on a road and Missus was pongos wife.