WOT A NIGHT! (8/1)

Direction: John Foster, George Stallings

It’s a rainy night at the depot as cabbies Tom and Jerry pick up two strange, silent, bearded men, then drive them home to their haunted castle. When the men vanish inside without paying, Tom and Jerry follow and are mysteriously locked in. The boys encouter a hideous bat-like creature, a crowd of ghosts, and a skeleton who, after cheerfully engaging in a bath, screams and vanishes down the drain as if being seen “naked”. They also run into a group of skeletons who paint, play music, and dance! As if that weren’t enough, the two also encounter a gospel quartet of “black” skeletons who sing Jerusalem Mournin’. As Tom cowers in fear, Jerry remains calm — even at the windup, where our heroes find skeletal bones beneath their own shirts!

Though far behind Fleischer’s SWING YOU SINNERS in terms of animation, this is a highly imaginative debut for the original Tom and Jerry. The two are nicely differentiated from each other, though it’s hard to tell whether Jerry’s calmness is the result of smarts or insanity. As the “skeletonized” Tom runs about in a dither for the closer, Jerry follows with a big smile on his face. Does he know something we don’t know?

troublePOLAR PALS (9/5)

Direction: John Foster, George Rufle

Tom and Jerry are shipwrecked and land at the North Pole, where they meet a walrus, a big penguin who splits into five smaller penguins, and a polar bear who escorts them to the obligatory piano, where they serenade all the animals with a rendition of Nagasaki. Then the animals give chase and Tom and Jerry escape on a floating polar bear.

Thanks to Mark Kausler for this description!

TROUBLE (10/10)

Direction: John Foster, George Stallings

Tom and Jerry are accident lawyers who have not had a case in a month. “Cheer up, Tom,” Jerry assures his distressed friend, “accidents are bound to happen.” With this Jerry pulls out a banjo and the two begin a duet to promote their business. But when our boys place a new sign above their office door, it falls down to crown them. They then decide to promote their services via a local parade — but slip down a manhole while marching and get covered with mud.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, millions witness a man climbing a rather tall skyscraper. When he reaches the top he extends one arm to grab hold of a blimp floating in the sky. However, the task becomes too demanding and his hands begin to give way; a spectator calls an ambulance for assistance. When Tom and Jerry see the ambulance they immediately begin to chase it. When it reaches its destination, the man loses his grip and falls. However, somehow physically breaking the laws of gravity, he makes it to the ground safely and passes out millions of business cards. Jerry picks up one and reads aloud: “Joe Spoof: World’s Champion Slow Motion Actor.” After realizing they’ve been had, the dumbfounded duo faint — whereupon the ambulance picks them up, only to throw them out in the street.

One of the best shorts in the series, TROUBLE boasts fine backgrounds with nicely designed buildings and streetscapes. Slick humor is an added factor, and the animation is superb. A mini-classic!


JUNGLE JAM (11/14)

Direction: John Foster, George Rufle

Tom and Jerry travel via boat to Africa. On arrival in the jungle, they do a shuffle step with the monkeys — but when a cannibalistic native tribe appears, our heroes quickly make tracks. Unfortunately, arrows are slung, Tom and Jerry are captured, and the duo is taken before the Chief. They begin to play music and yodel in hopes of soothing the Chief’s nerves. He rewards them with a raspberry — but is impressed with Jerry’s chest tattoo of a saucy dancing girl; so impressed that he calls for a celebration. Peppy jazz music plays as Tom and Jerry dance with native girls.

The festivities come to a halt when a thunderstorm occurs. It forces the natives to duck and cover — giving Jerry an oppurtunity to give the Chief a swift kick in the backside. This obviously angers him and the entire tribe goes after our boys. Reaching the beach, the two notice a fleet of Navy ships approaching. The ship’s cockeyed captain orders the fleet to rescue our heroes — but speeds out of sight once the cannibals appear. Tom and Jerry jump in the lake and swim for safety at the closer.

JUNGLE JAM is a nicely timed and funny cartoon marred only by the expected ethnic cliches. An interesting gag occurs near the start as Tom and Jerry follow the dancing monkeys — and accidentally dance atop some angry crocodiles. Tom, nervous wreck that he is, runs off and leaves Jerry to settle with the crocs himself. The scene then mysteriously shifts to Tom laughing until Jerry’s reappearance. Why Tom was laughing is beyond this writer; either he was glad to be rid of Jerry or he found his friend’s escape method amusing.

swisstrickA SWISS TRICK (12/19)

Direction: John Foster, George Stallings

A whistle blows; a flag waves, a rotor turns. Exactly what machine are we seeing in action? It’s Tom and Jerry’s gas-powered, mountain-climbing locomotive, traversing Alpine train tracks with help from the boys’ uniformed driver. When the gadget overheats at the top of a peak, a thin St. Bernard brings a barrel of gas which the train drinks too much of. Now hyperactive, the locomotive leaps away over the horizon, leaving Tom and Jerry alone.

Jerry passes time by playing the flute, unwittingly luring mountain rams to butt our heroes in the rear. Tom and Jerry slide down the mountainside using one ram as a sled. When Tom tumbles off and is left hanging between two peaks, a passing bear uses Tom’s body as a bridge — only to fall off into a river below.

Our boys hear yodeling and hike to a Swiss mountain lodge, where they meet a man walking a Swiss cheese on a leash. The cheese’s tempting smell lures Tom and Jerry into the lodge, where they play music on beer steins, sax, clarinet and piano. Cliffsides grow faces to join in the song; milkmaids, peasants, and cows dance. Sneaking away from the dancers, Tom and Jerry steal the formerly leashed cheese from a glass case and eat it in hiding. Our boys shake hands in triumph — until cheeselike holes appear in their bodies! A hungry swarm of mice chase our heroes out of the lodge and into the distance as the lodge patrons laugh.

Only an average cartoon, the basic plot of A SWISS TRICK does not hold any new or inventive twists — save the one priceless image of a Swiss cheese on a leash, and that unbeatably bizarre cheese ending gag.

To the Filmography!

1931 | 1932 | 1933 | Precursors | Titles