Animation Trails
March 17, 2021 posted by Charles Gardner

Courtroom Drama: Big Justice, Small Screen (Part 6)

We move now to the television era, as courtrooms become the venue for many a dramatic anthology or weekly series. The teleplay 12 Angry Men, referred to last week, would leave lasting impression, and make the leap from tube to silver screen. Many a series would follow providing a regular dose of ersatz legal training for the viewer (including shows such as The Defenders, Judd For the Defense, The Bold Ones – The Lawyers, the later Matlock, and the perennial counsel from the literary and film world, Perry Mason). Next to medical shows, these programs probably gave viewers a larger dose of Latin training than many of them ever saw in high school.

Amidst this atmosphere, animation kept pace. Hanna-Barabera, always lending a keen eye to viewing trends, provides the lion’s share of litigation epics for this week’s article. On the other side of the coin, only one theatrical cartoon has been located in this time frame dealing with the genre. The screens were smaller, but the stakes remained large.

Switch Witch (Hanna-Barbera, Snooper and Blabber, 1/11/59), involves a familiar setup for the TV screen – the appearance of a key skilled witness for the prosecution. In this instance, the Defendant is the witch from the story of Hansel and Gretel. Snooper is called in as a material witness in the case, with eyewitness account of events observed during his investigation. The witch, following cartoon court’s total disregard of ordinary rules for the presentation of evidence, goes first, presenting a defense before the prosecution has even begun its primary case. In the manner of “The Trial of Mr, Wolf”, the witch portrays Hansel and Gretel as the heavies, who arrive at the witch’s house with cocky and street-smart demeanor and a mindset to push somebody around. Leaning on the door frame with one elbow in a “little tough guy” pose as if hanging out at a tough street corner, the kids demand “How’s about a handout, sister?” All the witch has is a fresh baked chocolate pie. “What, no ketchp malts?” says Gretel. “We like mustard sundaes”, says Hansel. The witch tries to convice the kids that the pie is “good for you” – the magic words to get any kid irate. Her result is to receive “Pie in your eye”, as the kids toss the confection in her face.

The kids testify next. Their version seems more traditional and probable, though possibly exaggerated a little in places. Their entrance at the door is almost as unlikely as Frankie’s in Rooty Toot Toot from last week, with overplayed lines of innocence about seeking “food and shelter”. The witch refers to them as “Two delicious yummy young’ins”. Changing her conversational tone from the word “brats” to “kiddies”, the witch offers the kids a surprise before dinner – a ride in a “sports car”, which is actually a roasting pan wuth wheels. Slamming the pan lid down upon them, the witch gives the pan a kick, rolling it into the oven up the ramp provided by the open oven door. The kids pop out from under the stovelids, and make a hasty getaway, as the flashback ends with the witch chasing them round and around inside the house.

Now comes Snooper as star witness. Taking the missing persons case to locate the “lost urchins”, Snooper follows unspecified clues straight to the witch’s home. The witch peers out a window, and Snooper describes her appearance as that of “a veritable Frankenfurter monster”. He inquires for the lost urchins, prefacing his request with the formality, “Pardon me, sir, or madam, whichever the case may be”, but is told by the witch that nobody is there but herself and Marvin – her pet gorilla. Snooper doubts the sincerity of this statement, whispering to Blabber that she is obviously trying to frighten them. Blabber responds, “She ain’t doin’ bad, either.” As Snooper tells the witch that there obviously is no gorilla there, the door at which Snooper stands opens, and he receives a pounding from – a gorilla. “Sure felt like a gorilla”, admits Snoop. The detectives are ready to take it on the lam, when they spy Hansel and Gretel calling for help from an attic window above. Snooper and Blabber grab a log and charge the door with it as a battering ram. The witch opens the door first, causing the cat and mouse to run straight into the oven, then rebound out, riding in the “sports car” roasting pan. The chase gets confusing, as the detectives roll after the witch through a doorway, only to re-emerge being chased by the gorilla. At one point, Snooper hides in a ceiling light fixture while the gorilla waits below. Snooper tells Blabber to grab a saw and cut the floor out from under the gorilla – only Blabber gets the instructions reversed Im his head, proceeding to the attic, and cutting a hole in the ceiling, causing Snooper’s light fixture and the detective himself to fall on the gorilla. Snooper tells Blabber to “Tell me mother that I went down fightin’”, and the chase is on again. Finally, Blabber attempts to shut a door in the path of the oncoming gorilla – and instead, after the slam, finds not the gorilla plastered face-first upon the door, but the witch. The detectives make the arrest, and the scene returns to the court. The witch insists the testimony is a lie, and requests to call a surprise witness. In rebuttal, she steps outside, and sends in the gorilla. The gorilla, who can now speak, testifies that the kids were lying, and that the witch is a nice old lady. Hansel claims, “He’s lying, just like that ugly old witch.” “Ugly? Who’s ugly?”. responds the gorilla, flipping its top to reveal that the face is only a mask – for the witch inside. “Whoops”, says the wtch, realizing her cover is blown. “Guilty!”, decrees the judge, ordering the authorities to take her away. “Well,” sums up the witch, “can’t blame a girl for trying!”

Many of the cartoons featured this week are not online. SWITCH WITCH is on Facebook.

The Case of the Big Trial is another of those rather meaningless Sam Singer production of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse which, in spite of outwardly visually appealing character designs, was regularly undermined by its poor animation and notoriously careless writing. It’s strange that the names Sid Marcus and Shamus Culhane seem to be sometimes associated with late productions from this studio, when they were obviously hungry to make a few quick bucks on the side (though so few Courageous Cats exist with complete credits that there’s no way to tell if they had any involvement in this film). Studio records are also sketchy to non-existent of production dates, so I can only guess that this fi;m falls approximately here within this chronology. But one thing is certain – even when an experienced man was on staff, producer Singer wasn’t about to let him get fancy and break budget, nor allow time for developing a glimmer of creativity at the cost of slowing the production schedule. As a result, the few veterans who ever lifted a pencil on these productions never seem to have been allowed to make a noticeable difference.

The trite plotline has the Frog call a meeting of recurring villains of the series, announcing that Courageous Cat has to be dealt with for ruining all their rackets. He proposes that Courageous be put on trial (though why this is a necessary step for revenge is anybody’s guess). To get him there, the Frog has procured from nowhere a gas gun to match Courageous’s Cat-Gun, filled with timidity gas. He shoots a dose at a caged lion he has brought in for just such an occasion, and renders him a trembling coward. The Frog is next seen taking off in a helicopter. Despite the Cat Cave being shown in every episode on a remote seaside road, the Frog somehow possesses navigation coordinates to fly right to it, and to enter the mouth of the cave on foot. There, he surprises Courageous and Minute, busy in training by beating-up on a Frog-shaped punching bag, and hits them with a dose of the gas. Courageous and Minute are instantly turned solid yellow (curious, in that the lion retained his original colors when under the gas’s effect), and Courageous begins meekly apologizing to the punching dummy. “Isn’t that pathetic?” gloats the Frog. Courageous is taken back to the Frog’s lair, while Minute is ignored entirely, left behind in the Cat Cave without so much as a binding or gagging. With the pound of a gavel, a recurring fox villain (I’m not up on my character names of Courageous’s regular rogues’ gallery) acts as presiding judge, calling this “Kangaroo court” into session. Wikipedia has several theories on the derivation of this term, but what is clear is that the phrase has come to mean a court that ignores rules of evidence or evidence itself to come to a predetermined conclusion. That can certainly be said of this proceeding. A French beret-wearing mouse from the villains’ ranks, for no apparent reason seeming to take on the role of defense counsel, shouts “I object” without anything actually happening to object to, and gets bopped on the head with the gavel for his troubles.

The Frog, as prosecutor, announces that he intends to prove Courageous’s interference with the villains’ dirty work, but never in fact puts on a word of evidence, as an all-frog jury issues a guilty verdict before he has to lift a finger. The whole trial is over so quickly, one has to wonder if the Frog’s statement of intent indicates a continuity error in which some trial sequence was originally storyboarded, but cut out to fit the five-minute running time and tight production wallet. Rather than bumping Courageous off (too violent for a kids’ show?), Courageous is sentenced to help the Frog commit a bank robbery – which I suppose will have the effect of ruining Courageous’s reputation. Meanwhile the effects of the gas wear off for Minute Mouse back at the Cat Cave. (Since he and Courageous were shot at the same time, I guess mice have a faster metabolic rate.) Minute takes off in the Catmobile, and spies Courageous being lowered on a rope from the Frog’s helicopter to the bank roof. Using a saw, Courageous saws a huge square hole in the bank roof (what, they never thought of reenforcing with steel or concrete?), then ties off the rope around the entire bank vault so that the Frog can haul it away (a bit superhuman for a cat who’s only supposed to possess ordinary strength). As Courageous follows the vault into the sky, suspended upon the trailing end of the rope, his colors revert from yellow to normal. Minute converts the Catmobile to flying mode, and intercepts Courageous for a mid-air pickup. (While the Catmobile has only airplane wings rather than helicopter capacities, it is amazing how Minute can stop the vehicle in mid-air for the passenger pickup.) The Cat Gun is turned on the Frog, who surrenders, and is forced to return the vault and repair the hole in the roof, as he complains “Wait’ll I get that guy that sold me the gas formula.”

Booty on the Bounty (Hanna-Barbera, Hokey Wolf, 11/6/60), actually does not involve a true courtroom – but a confrontation between Hokey and the authority figure of a newly-appointed assistant game warden. However, it is a prime example of how a clever counsel can play upon the discovery of a proverbial “legal loophole”. After a fruitless day of seeking food, Hokey observes the new warden posting signs about the woods, advertising a $50 bounty on wolves. After some concentrated thinking efforts by Hokey, the big idea hits him on how to cash in on this sutuation. Nothing says a wolf can’t turn himself in, and collect his own bounty. Hokey and Ding-a-Ling surrender for incarceration – after receiving the healthy stipend of $100. But Hokey calls to the warden from the jail cell, as Ding produces for him a ready volume of the applicable code governing prisoner’s rights. Reading from the text, Hokey indicates that “All prosoners are guaranteed the right of habeas corpus delicatessen” – in short, bail. The prisoners are released – for a grand total of $5 posted! Ding figures this $95.00 profit was a good day’s work, but Hokey’s not through, knowing he still has a ripe pigeon on the line. Locating the warden again, Hokey claims they had a bad case of conscience, and wish to turn themselves in again – for another $100 bounty. Once back at the jail, the warden asks if they want to bail theselves out, so they can go through the whole bit again. Hokey acknowledges this as his ultimate intent, but adds yet another statute into the mix. ‘Statute 3579-8 states that all prisoners shall be fed three times a day”. With no food in the warden’s office, Hokey suggest that he merely provide the money for a cafe lunch, they eat out, then return for the bail process. The gullible warden obliges, giving them a little extra so that they can bring back a sandwich for him. After a sumptuous meal, Hokey and Ding contemplate their future. Ding exhibits an approving smile of hero worship at Hokey, as Hokey charts their next steps: “Bounty, bail, bounty, bail, bounty, bail……Oh boy, Ding, what a wealthy rut we’re in!”

Legal Eagle Lion (Hanna-Barbera, Snagglepuss, 11/18/61), presents one of the most twisted-up trials of all time. The Western town of Loophole Mesa posts a warning sign to all circuit judges – “Judges and other legal-type hombres keep out. Signed, Fowler Means”. A defense attorney for such Fowler (Ornery Cuss) greets the new circuit judge at the city limits – with pistols blazing. The judge retreats into the nearest shelter – Snagglepuss’s cave, and hides under the bed. Awakened from slumber, Snagglepuss spies two unfamiliar boots sticking out from under the bed, and tells their owner at riflepoint to come out. Discovering what he calls a “short circuit judge”, Snagglepuss hears the judges’s tale of the way dispensing justice is fraught with danger. “If I were judge, no criminal the law would smudge” quoteth Snagglepuss in his best Shakespearian manner. The judge decides this to be a great idea, and appoints Snagglepuss as assistant judge to preside over Fowler Means’ trial. Snag inconspicuously enters town, to the surprise of Cuss and his client, and tells them “See you in court.”

Wearing British powdered wig, Snagglepuss bangs the gavel, and calls for the prosecuting attorney to begin. Cuss declares that the attorney couldn’t make it, and left town, which Fowler attributes to “a sudden case of lead poisoning”. In the interests of justice, Snag takes the prosecutor’s place. He addresses the jury, only to find eight look-alikes to the Defendant. “They’re my kinfolk”, says Fowler. “We all went to reform school together:” “And no doubt graduated with the third degree”, adds Snagglepuss. The prosecution attempts to call the bank teller as first witness. “Also left town”, reports Cuss – another case of lead poisoning. Snag calls a surprise witness – one Zelda Scrubbinbrush, who, defense counsel and his client have never heard of. It is Snagglepuss, in drag, claiming to be the cleaning lady who saw the whole thing. Cuss objects, but is silenced by a whack from the “lady”’s umbrella. When Fowler utters some disparaging words, “Zelda” leaves to fetch her nephew, Wild Bill Hickory-Stick, for retribution. Snag appears again, in handlebar moustache and long curls, introduced as the fastest draw in the West. However, when challenged, he refuses to lift a gun – claiming he is actually the fastest ‘withdraw” in the West. Reappearing as the judge again, Snagglepuss reprimands Fowler for causing a ruckus, but decides to give him another chance, with the instruction. “Get outra my court.” A sirprised Fowler takes full advantage of this instruction, and cheerily leaves. As Snagglepuss takes the bench again, he forgetfully calls Fowler to the stand, when Cuss reminds him, “You just let him go. Thanks!” “Well. I’ve been everything else around here”, reacts Snag, ‘I might as well be the accused, too”. The otherwise sympathetic jury now finds no qualm in rendering a unanimous verdict of “Guilty”. “I sentence myself to 99 years” says Snag as judge again – then realizes, “Heavens to Murgatroyd! I’ve pained myself into a corner.” He exits as a “Fugitive from justice, stage left”, then asks the audience as he makes his escape, “Can anyone recommend a cheap lawyer, free even?”

See LEGAL EAGLE LION on Facebook.

Good and Guilty (Paramount. February, 1962 – Seymour Kneitel, dir.) – Deprived of their signature star Casper, as well as their other original character creations, by the Harvey Comics deal that transferred the 1950‘s Paramount library excepting Popeye cartoons to the comics company’s control, what was left of the Famous Studios staff was faced with the dilemma of finding new stars. Some of their many failed efforts were in fact far from new, and if Harvey comics had been litigious, one might have easily imagined some of their product as itself the subject of lawsuit, for infringing upon the very copyrights the studio had just sold. However, Harvey was still engaged in a sort of “sweetheart” relationship with the studio, turning to the original artists to churn out new episodes for the “New Casper Cartoon Show” on ABC, so the chance of taking recourse for the near plagiarism of the theatrical product was markedly slim. Thus, various characters would mimic the actions of Herman and Katnip, Tommy Tortoise and Moe Hare, and, yes, even Casper. Casper’s new “shadow” was Goodie the Gremlin – a little green imp who had the same kind of problem as Casper – being a do-gooder in a world where everyone else is bad. Here, that world is of the gremlins, who claim responsibility in their theme song for being “the cause of all the trouble, everyplace”. Goodie, who in many respects bears a startling resemblance to Casper (remove the pointed ears and the green complexion, and his face is Casper’s) roams the world to try to undo the evil deeds that his relations are causing to the human race. Far from an original premise given the studio’s track record, but it got them through at least a handful of episodes, without making too many waves.
Again with obvious inspiration from Casper’s “Not Ghoulty” and the earlier “Casper Takes a Bow-Wow”. Goodie is here placed on trial before the gremlin court. Charges: conduct unbecoming a gremlin – to wit, undoing the mischief other gremlins perpetrate. Three witnesses testify against the accused. As life span for a gremlin is apparently nearly eternal, witnesses remember events as if they were only yesterday – even though the first occirrence was almost 200 years ago. Two gremline spot Benjamin Franklin flying his kite, and see opportunity for mischief by pushing two rain clouds together around the kite, causing a lightning bolt to strike and travel down the kite wire. The passing Goodie sees the deed, and counters by becoming invisible, and placing the door key of Franklin’s business upon the kite wire, electrifying the key instead of Franklin, for the great discovery.

Second testifying witness recalls Robert Fulton powering a paddlewheel ship totally by human manpower, with arm cranks instead of an engine. A gremlin gives Fulton a match hotfoot, then the match sets the ship on fire amidships. Goodie intervenes again, becoming invisible and pouring a large pail of water upon the fire. Steam rising from the water starts to turn the paddle cranks, and Fulton is also struck with the idea of creation. A final witness testifies to happening upon the Wright Brothers, testing a flying craft which has no engines or propeller, but gains altitude solely by means of strings of kiddie balloons tied to the wings and tail. With a handy pin, the evil gremlin turns invisible, and vies for “Gremlin of the Year” honors by popping the balloons, sending the aircraft into a nose dive. Goodie to the rescue again, as he darts into a local restaurant, retrieving fron inside the propeller of a ceiling fan. Becoming invisible again, he fastens the propeller to the nose of the plane. It begins to spin from the air pressure, and pulls the craft out of its dive, again inspiring the brothers’ susccess. With such incriminating testimony, the weight of evidence is overwhelming. Goodie is pronounced guilty, and, as with Casper, sentenced to perform one evil deed, to make him jist like the rest of them. However, unlike Casper, Goodie is not deprived of his powers until he does so. Instead, two other gremlins are assigned as guards to see that the deed is carried out. They stuff Goodie in the engine compartment of a rocket about to be launched, with instructions to foul up the launch so that there is no takeoff. The firing button is pressed, but nothing happens. The guard gremlins assume Goodie has followed through, and celebrate his right of passage into evil. But Goodie inside realizes he’s done nothing at all, and finds the source of the botched blast-off – an electrical connection which has become unplugged. Inserting the cord in its proper socket, the rocket blasts off, leaving the guard gremlins behind in the dust. As the ship settles into orbit, Goodie looks down upon the world through a window with a pair of binoculars. Observing how wonderful the view is, Goodie vows to make use of the ship as his center of operations, from which he can see always any situation where the humans need his help on Earth.

Millionaire Astro (Hanna-Barbera, The Jetsons, 1/6/63), marks a new milestone in animated jurispridence – the first custody battle to appear on toon court dockets – over a dog! Astro was established as being a stray who followed Elroy home in “The Coming of Astro”, with his origins never established. Though it’s never decreed with certainty in this episode whether the challenge for Astro’s ownership is for real, or a case of mistaken identity, an attorney (Withers) shows up at the Jetsons’ door, claiming to represent the “fabulously wealthy J. P. Gotrockets”, bearing pedigree papers matching Astro’s description perfectly, but claiming that he answers to the name of “Tralfaz”. This name may be the only clue that Astro was not really Gotrockets’ dog, as Astro reacts each time he hears this name with a disgusted “Yuck”. George shoos the attorney away (or more accurately, opens a hatchway below him to suck him down a vacuum hole), while the attorney threatens to obtain a court order. George devises a disguise to make Astro appear to be “Uncle Charley”, but the returning lawyer eventually sees through the disguise and lures Astro into doggie behavior with a steak. The resulting chase plays more with the Jetsons’ vacuum tube transporters than usual, actually resulting in squashing collisions between George and the attorney inside the tubes. It also may be the only use within an actual episode (as opposed to the closing credits) of Astro’s dogwalk, with George pressing the stop button to cause Withers to run right over the edge and off the building. Saving himself with a remote control which activates his car to fly under him – then straight into a wall – Withers finally succeeds in serving a summons on George. He leaves with the parting thought, “The wind of justice blows an ill window for those that deal in chicanery.” “Now what’s that supposed to mean?”, asks George. “I don’t know. It’s just something I picked up in law school”, says Withers.

George concedes to the family that it’ll take a Perry Spaceson to save Astro now. But his salary from Spacely Sprockets being what it is, George can only appear himself in his own defense. Daws Butler provides his “Cap’n Crunch” voice for the judge, while determination of the case is left to a huge computer known as the “Jury-Vac”, featuring 12 separate readout gauges for analysis. The judge commences trial with a push of a button, activating an automatic gavel banger. Plaintiff’s attorney presents the pedigree papers as conclusive evidence of ownership. George takes the stand, but while he is testifying, Withers raises objection that the Jetsons are Imposing undue influence on the court. Objection is sustained, and why not – as we see Astro, with his arm around the judge, holding him in the same “palsy-walsy” fashion usually reserved for George. “That means, Scram!”, says the Judge to Astro. George attempts to call Astro to the stand for testimony, but, being a dog, his testimony is ordered stricken from the record (which the Jury-Vac does by a digital readout reading “Cancel”). Withers sums up that the authenticity of the pedigree gas not been refuted, and the Jury-Vac rolls itself into a chamber marked “Jury Room”, then returns with a verdict for Gotrockets. Astro is presented with a life of luxury, but is only happy when walking with his new master (giving him the chance to chase Gotrockets and repeatedly tear out the seat of his trousers) and during visiting days for the Jetsons. Gotrockets eventually relents, and gifts Astro back to the Jetsons – partially out of sympathy, and partially to save on his tailoring bills.

You can watch MILLIONAIRE ASTRO on this page.

Little Bamm Bamm (Hanna-Barbera, The Flintstones, 10/3/63) – Coming practically on the heels of the episode above, H-B presents another custody case – this time over a real baby instead of a pet. The Rubbles, appreciative but gently envious of the new arrival of Pebbles at the Flintstone residence, wish upon a falling star that they too could raise a family. Their secret wish is answered by the placement of a foundling on their doorstep – a mysterious waif, who turns out to be the world’s strongest boy. The Rubbles decide to do the right thing, turning the baby in at the local child welfare agency, and applying for his legal adoption. They do not reckon upon a strange anomaly in Bedrock’s adoption procedures – a “first come, first served” rule irrespective of who turned in the subject child. The Rubbles find there was one set of application papers ahead of them – again by a “fabulously wealthy” opponent, Mr. Stoneyfeller (reference to the Rockerfellers of New York). The Rubbles hire an attorney (Bronto Berger), who believes they have a good chance of success under the doctrine of nulli forfeindi – translation, “Finders, keepers, losers, weepers”. Case commences in Bedrock Municipal Court. The Rubbles are upset to find Defendant’s brother, Judge Stoneyfeller, presiding. “But he’s the judge”, points out Barney to his lawyer. “It’s a big family. You won’t find them shoveling coal”, says Berger. But things begin to look favorable, when it is discovered that the judge and the defendant have a sibling rivalry, the judge commenting on the late arrival of defendant and his attorney, “You were always disorganized as a kid and you still are.” Just when the Rubbles begin to feel the case is in the bag, their attorney moans and buries his head in his hands, upon the appearance of defendant’s attorney – Perry Masonary, who has never lost a case (his counterpart on television, Perry Mason, had the same track record – with the exception of one show). Masonary’s entrance is underscored by a musical riff resembling the theme song of Raymond Burr’s well-known show, and Masonary soon has Barney looking like a monkey on the stand – somehow inducing him to do an impression of a chimpanzee. The verdict leaves the Stoneyfeller application unchallenged, giving him custody of Bamm Bamm. Barney heads for a local bridge with a boulder and rope, intent on ending it all with a jump. But just before leaving the courthouse, Stoneygeller receives a surprise call from his wife that he is about to become a natural father in his own right – and does the right thing by turning over the adoption papers to Betty. Fred intercepts Barney at the bridge, grabbing away he rope Barney was tying around himself before dropping the boulder over the side. As Barney receives the good news that Bamm Bamm is his, he decides he won’t be needing the boulder any more, and drops it off the bridge anyway – dragging Fred off the bridge by the rope. Fortunately, Barney chose the wrong bridge to take a dive off of, and Fred rises below, seated in only two feet of water.

You can watch LITTLE BAMM-BAMM on this page.

Disorder in the Court (Hanna-Barbera, The Flintstones, 10/8/65) – When Fred and Barney both receive a summons to report for jury duty, Fred thinks it’ll be a snap to get excused by feigning illness. The savvy judge instead tells him to take two headache pills and sit in a corner of the jury box. Defendant is Elroy Quartzstone, alias “The Mangler”, charged with simple and aggravated asault and battery. Mangler insists he is too weak to have committed the crime, but pounds on the table to emphasize his plea of innocent – misjudging his own strength, and smashing the table in two. An additional charge is raised of operating a vehicle without a license plate while committing a robbery. Mangler’s defense counsel objects that his client had no way of knowing the car had no rear license plate. Mangler adds, “Yeah, It was a stolen car, and I was in a hurry.” Fred is made foreman of the jury, which, after first day of testimony, Betty refers to back home as “blind justice”. Fred claims familiarity with courtroom procedure from watching all those legal shows on TV, spouting fractured Latin phrases such as “corpus delicatessen”. When Barney asks what that means, Fred bluffs his way out of explanation, by reminding Barney that they’re not sipposed to discuss the case outside of court. Back for resumption of testimony the next day, the jurors hear from the Mangler’s mother (who comments to Mangler that “papa” is doing fine, and will be out from serving time in two years). Mother testifies how Mangler was a good provider, finding a job here and a job there to give her financial support. “He took odd jobs?” asks defense attorney. “No. He pulled ‘em”, says Mother in hard-boiled gun-moll fashion. Defense attorney finally asks the jury to look at his client’s smiling face. “Is that the face of a stick-up man?” He looks back at the jury, to find all members but Fred holding their hands in the air as if being robbed. The attorney (Daws Butler), realizing his strategy has backfired, modestly rests his case. For once, we go inside the jury room, as eleven jurors, Barney included, unanimously see the case as presenting open and shut grounds for conviction, while Fred stubbornly plays the holdout.

Fred insists being found with stolen jewelry next to a broken store window might only mean the Mangler found the jewelry and broke the window to put it back. Fingerprints on a man’s neck might only mean he was helping the guy straighten his tie. Even Barney tells Fred to get it through his thick skull that Mangler is guilty. Fred finally concedes to go along with the rest if they’re that convinced of their decision. In his capacity as foreman, Fred reads the verdict to the court. Despite being the last holdout in Mangler’s favor, Mangler places all the blame for his conviction on Fred. “I’ll get you, Flintstone”, Mangler repeats over and over as he is dragged to incarceration. The family decides to go into hiding in a mountain cabin, with Barney, Betty, and Bamm Bamm along for moral support. Of course, Mangler escapes jail, and even an undercover cop assigned to provide Fred protection proves of no effect when Fred mistakes him for the Mangler and ties him up in a closet. All that saves Fred from the Mangler’s wrath is a toy train Bamm Bamm has brought along (which has provided a running gag throughout the show of Fred tripping on it every time it enters the room). The Mangler lunges through the front door, promptly stepping on the toy train, and is rolled out the back door, headfirst into a tree, and knocked cold. Fred concludes the episode by preventing Barney from scolding Bamm Bamm, stating that Bamm Bamm can leave his toys wherever he likes.

You can watch DISORDER IN THE COURT on this page.

More evidence of practice and malpractice, next time.


  • Hansel’s testimony in “Switch Witch” (“She tried to make a smorgas boy out of me!”) reminds me that Witch Hazel’s cookbook had a recipe for “smorgas boy” in the Hansel and Gretel parody “Bewitched Bunny” (1954), which was also written by Michael Maltese.

    The Rubbles’ attorney “Bronto Berger” is, of course, based on prosecutor Hamilton “Ham” Berger in the “Perry Mason” stories and TV series. It was a wasted opportunity that Stonyfeller’s attorney Perry Masonary didn’t speak with any semblance of Raymond Burr’s distinctive voice, but that may have been beyond the powers of Don Messick to simulate.

    Another example of space age justice is seen in “The Space Car” (Hanna-Barbera, The Jetsons, 14/10/62 — story by Barry E. Blitzer; teleplay by Tony Benedict), as moving violations are tried in on-the-spot traffic court via Skype! George and Jane are on their way to buy a new car, but they have inadvertently mistaken the getaway car of bank robber Knuckles Nuclear for their own old clunker. Jane, on her learner’s permit, is confused by the unfamiliar controls, but George dismisses her concerns with some extremely patronising remarks about woman drivers (an attitude that would reach its ne plus ultra in the episode “Jane’s Driving Lesson”). After Jane crashes through the windows of an office building, George takes over the controls and is immediately pulled over by a space cop, who books him for going 2500 in a 1250 zone. A video monitor is ejected from the cop’s space scooter, a judge appears on it, and before you can say “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!”, court is in session.

    “Put the lawbreaker on!” says the judge, casting doubts on his impartiality. George attempts to testify, but the video judge quickly interrupts him with a commercial for a brand of spot remover cleverly named “Come Clean!” When the trial resumes, George’s testimony is cut off with a summary judgment: “Not guilty! Case dismissed!” “You’re lucky!” says the traffic cop. “The judge is a lot easier now that he got a sponsor!”

  • “Little Bamm Bamm” and “Disorder in the Court” are both great episodes, but the courtroom scene that first popped into my mind was the one in “Swedish Visitors” (The Flintstones, 29/3/63 — written by Harvey Bullock and R. S. Allen).

    Fred has decided to spend his vacation at home and put his vacation fund money in the bank, but when a noisy musicians’ convention comes to Bedrock that week, Fred is determined to get out of town. Wilma, however, has already spent the vacation money on a fur stole for herself; so, rather than tell him the truth, she rents out her house to a trio of visiting conventioneers, Swedish brothers Ingmar, Ole and Sven (“Daw, he is Ole and I am Sven!”). The Flintstones take their trailer on a camping trip to Jellyrock Park but have a miserable time, what with the bad weather, noisy road construction and logging, and getting their pic-a-nic basket stolen by none other than Yogi Bear himself, in a cameo. So Fred drives home one night while Wilma and Pebbles are sleeping, only to find his home infested by Swedes. Resentful at having to stay in the trailer while strangers have the run of his house, he resolves to get rid of them. First he and Barney try to drive them out by playing loud music, but the Swedish musicians simply join in. Then Fred has Barney swear out a complaint against the visitors for disturbing the peace, and in short order the police arrive and haul the musicians off to the courthouse.

    Ingmar explains to the judge that they didn’t mean to disturb anybody; they were merely composing a song about the Flintstones as a tribute to their generosity and kindness. They then break into Owe Thornqvist’s Swedish hit “Wilma”, possibly the catchiest rock song ever written in 3/4 time. The judge enjoys the music so much that he begins tapping his gavel to the beat, giving Fred a couple of raps on the noggin in the (due) process. When the Swedes finish, the judge says he’d like to get his hands on the man who made the complaint, at which point Barney shows up, demanding justice. The judge agrees — and sentences Barney to ten days in prison, with the option of a $50 fine. (All without Barney having been charged with any crime; but then, since the Bedrock legal code predates those of Solon, Draco and Hammurabi, there must be precious few precedents to cite.) At Wilma’s urging, Fred gives up the last of his vacation money to pay Barney’s fine. “You see?” says Ingmar. “Fred Flintstone helps everybody!”

    In the final scene the Flintstones, the Rubbles and the Swedish visitors drive home together, singing Thornqvist’s song all the way. Jabbe-dabbe-dabbe-DU!

  • In “Trial of the Traitors” (Total TeleVision, King Leonardo and His Short Subjects, 10/12/60), King Leonardo and Odie Colognie do what they should have done long ago: charge Biggie Rat and Itchy Brother with treason and try them in court. The king serves as judge, Odie is the prosecutor, and the defendants appear to have no legal representation at all. Instead of calling witnesses and entering evidence, Odie simply uses a film projector to show clips of previous episodes as examples of the pair’s treachery. The cartoon jury takes the usual split second to return a verdict of Guilty, and Biggie and Itchy are banished from the kingdom forthwith. In parting, Biggie vows revenge.

    In the next episode of this two-part adventure, “Battle Slip”, the exiled Biggie and Itchy have acquired a battleship and are besieging the coast; but since Bongo-Congo has no navy or marine corps, and its army can only fight on land, there is nothing the king can do about it. True-blue Odie takes matters into his own hands, putting on diving gear and swimming out to the boat with a large chainsaw. One presumes he intends to cut a breach in the ship’s hull to sink it; but instead, he cuts a hole in the sea floor, allowing all the water to drain out. Now that Itchy and Biggie are high and dry, the Bongo-Congolese army springs into action and captures them. Justice carries the day — at least, until our next exciting episode!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *