THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
March 19, 2015 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Scrappy Love: “The Bad Genius” (1932)

scrappyfilm

It’s a busy week over here as we work on getting materials scanned for the Willie Whopper project as well as cleaning up several other projects at the same time. I’m really looking forward to putting together a post about these films and materials, and will as get the final films scanned that are here, and then happily send them back to their proper owners.

I’ve always enjoyed the technical side of working on these things, but only to a degree – a big part of me just wishes every film was in perfect condition and that the best material was available without looking very hard for it. Then again, sometimes the challenge of finding the great stuff is part of the fun!

This particular period, now, is really noteworthy in that the technology for high quality scans is greatly improving the ability to preserve films. While costs are still high for the best possible equipment, they’ve come down considerably in just a handful of years, making it much more possible to at the very least preserve the materials that are leaving the planet a little faster. I think we’ll see even more changes in the next ten years. Being able to scan film at 4k (to film image quality) is something we’re very interested in doing, especially when dealing with master materials.

If we’re able to do so at this juncture, material of the original quality will be around for the next generations to see and enjoy. Even though we won’t be releasing this stuff in 4k, it makes some sense to me to do so when the rarest material is pulled – who knows when it will be looked at again, and you never know when it’s too late. I was recently talking with our own Jerry Beck on this very subject. His advice is the same – to do what you can to preserve these now – sometimes it is now or who knows when for preservation.

cinefest-logo

On other notes, I’m hoping to make it out to Cinefest this weekend… it really depends on everything coming together in the next day or so. If I make it, say hi to me. I’ll likely be hanging out with the cartoon folks, including David Gerstein, Tom Stathes, Thad Komorowski and others. If there’s a cartoon playing on a monitor, you’ve likely found one or all of us.

Cinefest is one of the older film shows in the country, and this is it’s last year. I’ve gone a few times, and have been lucky to see some of my good friends there. Besides amazing movies being shown (many with live accompaniment) the dealer’s room is chock full of all sorts of movie stuff. There isn’t a ton of actual film there these days, but there’s always some – and often impromptu shows in hotel rooms of some of the new things (and old things) collectors have managed to acquire. It’s a great time, so if you’re in the area or can make the hike, it’s totally worth going to!


So… enough assorted ramblings.. and onto this week’s cartoon!

Columbia’s Scrappy cartoons are my favorite series, especially the cartoons from 1931 through 1935. I think one of the reasons I like them so much is that there seems to be every intention to have Scrappy be a terrible person in one respect or another. While all 30’s characters seem to do some things for the humor in the gag, Scrappy seems to do some things intentionally to hurt others, especially his little brother. It’s sure hard to like a character that is ill tempered and doesn’t get punished, but he’s happy and likable just the same.

scrappy-paint-book

In The Bad Genius (1932), Scrappy’s ownself interests guide him to do terrible things to his crafty little brother. The kid is a prodigy, playing violin to levels only seen in true savants. It’s Scrappy’s duty in this adult free world to get the kid to a show attended by an all animal audience (perhaps borrowing footage from a Krazy Kat cartoon). When Oopy is knocked unconscious, rather than taking his little brother to the hospital, Scrappy runs to the concert event and strings his brother up, having chickens control his otherwise lifeless body. If that isn’t one of the meanest things in any cartoon, I don’t know what is. I always loved the animation of Oopy when the curtain opens- it’s funny in pose and timing, and really unexpected.

The mischievous fish and dog in this cartoon seem to show up in quite a few Scrappys from this period, generally making Oopy and Scrappy’s life just a little harder.

Dick Heumer (credited on this print as “Heumor”) directed this early one, and the Fleischer influence is quite clear. There’s always a handful of gags in each of these films that stand out, along with lots of clever timing and fun personality-filled poses. I especially like how Scrappy’s eyes can change from pie-eyes to pupils whenever he needs to look in a direction… that’s a real trick, but somehow works ok here. This is a transfer that’s just a little dark, from a print I’ve had for many years. Be sure to watch in HD if your computer is fast enough.

P.S. No post about Scrappy is complete without a plug for Harry McCracken’s Scrappyland – your one stop shop for all things Scrappy, Yippy, Oopy and Margie. Harry is still updating it regularly – so check it out today. Have a good week everyone!

16 Comments

  • Scrappy is a complete dick in this one. Definitely worth it to see chickens reanimating the lifeless body of a child, and somehow

    Takes “the show must go on” the a whole new level. Also one of the early uses of The Hungarian Rhapsody, which would eventually become an over-used cartoon staple in showing off synchronized sound. In that case, Scrappy did it before it was cool.

  • That was fun! Thanks for sharing Steve! Just out of curiosity, do you happen to know what the piece of music played during the beginning, while Oopie and Scrappy were ‘rehearsing’?

    • Sounds like “Amaryllis – Air of Louis XIII”. I’m getting two names for the composer – either Henry or Joseph Ghys – I really don’t know much about classical music, but it’s also heard in the Silly Symphony ‘The Merry Dwarfs’. Here’s someone playing it on the harp:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNHLMFd_N28

  • Hey! A minor masterpiece! Pretty darn great!

    Used to go to Cinefest quite a bit, back when the dealers’ room was full of 16mm prints. Have not been in a decade, wish i could have gone one more time. Too sad!

  • This cartoon was good. It’s too bad Samba titles are on most of the prints of Scrappy!

    • At least it wasn’t an Excel home print (like the one in the photo at top).

  • Nah! Oopie had it coming to him. From his screwing around during practice to stripping Scrappy with paste on the ground to repeatedly jumping in the mud, the little anus was lucky Moe Howard wasn’t his brother.

  • Scary how much of this I remember. In the early 60s Captain Satellite on KTVU Oakland would run pre-UPA Columbias every weekday. Scrappy, Krazy Kat, Li’l Abner, Fox and Crow, and all those weird one-offs. Then the good captain went off the air and it was decades before I saw Columbias anywhere. Heck, even the once-elusive MGMs were easier to find on local TV. Guessing it had something to do with most of them being B&W.

    • Well at least Columbia/Screen Gems tried while people still had B&W sets, wasn’t like they were going to quickly get these things redrawn in color quickly like a certain other studio did in the late 60’s (though they did tinker around with a few like Li’l Abner later on).

  • This sounds like a great cartoon! A kind of off-topic note–the piece of music played on cello during the last minute or so reminded me of something that I thought I heard the Jeff Lynn groups, the Move or Electric Light Orchestra in its earliest stages once tried covering during those lengthy instrumental bridges. And you already know how I love the hidden nastiness of pre-Code cartoons or 1930’s cartoons in general. There are even hints of same within some of the most frenetic HAPPY HARMONIES titles, but some of those are BOSKO cartoons and, so, no one will ever get to see these fully restored. SCRAPPY is well worth reviving for a second, third or fourth look. Warner Brothers had BUDDY, not always as toothy as the SCRAPPY cartoons, but still enjoyable at times; I like ’em, anyway.

  • Re: Cinefest — I, for one, will be there. I used to go all the time, but my attendance has been sporadic the last few years. Wasn’t going to miss the ‘fest’s finale, though.

    Re: Samba — I presume that, in the great tradition of reissue and TV distributor short-sightedness, the alterations to the Scrappy titles were made on surviving pre-print materials.

    • Re: Samba — I presume that, in the great tradition of reissue and TV distributor short-sightedness, the alterations to the Scrappy titles were made on surviving pre-print materials.

      And it wouldn’t surprise me if Sony Pictures has these in their vaults to this day!

    • Yes, this is true.. though titles may still exist for many of them in their original negatives… more on that sometime soon…

  • After a LONG time seeking out every Mintz Studio and Fleischer cartoon produced in 1929-1934, I am still waiting to see the one in which the star is that little bastard Oopy.

  • In defense of Scrappy, knock-out humor was quite common then. Even the 3 Stooges would re-animate a foe they knocked out in order to hide their accomplishment.
    People just didn’t go to the hospital unless they were on their death bed.

  • Thanks for including Scrappy and your thoughts on the character. Back in the early 1940s where I was a child my paretns owned an 8mm projector and owned several 25 foot reels of cartoons. These were fun to watch but were over so quickly they were frustrating. They also had two two hundred foot reels which were Scrappy titles. One was Scrappy Trailer, the other Scrappy’s Rodeo. Although I am in my mid 70s now and don’t own an 8mm equipment I still have those films. I’m sure watching these over and over helped develop a life long interest in cartoons. In the early 1960s I purchase the 16mm film library of a local photo shop without knowing any of the titles. To my delight there was one sound film which included Scrappy. I think the title was Holidayland. I still have it too but don’t want to project it since it I don’t want to risk any damage to it. Here’s hoping you will someday gather some of the Scrappy titles together and create another of your excellent DVD sets.

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