You know, it’s funny; for weeks now I’ve been looking forward to doing a much deeper dive in these weekly posts; sadly, this week just won’t be one of those, but I did find an interesting cartoon to chat a little about. It’s an enjoyable little romp.
Both the Mutt and Jeff and Krazy Kat cartoons from the 20s may have the worst survival rate of any other series, ever. I find it strange that they are so completely missing, but, even to this day, once and a while one shows up – and its even better when one shows up in 35mm.
On the Mutt and Jeffs, luckily, many of the last cartoons made *do* exist, although many are hard to find. The 1925/26 series consisted of 26 cartoons; these were largely directed by Dick Huemer, who also animated on the shorts. Hopefully, someday sooner than later, the cartoons from these last two years will end up available in high quality versions. For now, at least viewable copies of some are around.
I bought a 35mm nitrate print of one of these Mutt and Jeffs, Playing with Fire from a collector in Australia many years back. We cleaned it up and released it as part of the Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares Blu-ray.
I hadn’t ever seen one of the shorts from this series in 35mm. From the excellent picture quality, it appears that this print was probably made directly from the camera negative (rather than making fine grain and dupe neg first). The things I noticed first was just how clearly you could see the ink lines; so much so that you can even see little mistakes in opaquing and inking throughout, from the scruffiness of hand-drawn and inked straw to various fire cycles. There’s a little character sequence that I especially enjoy around 1:20 in, where Mutt battles with a much smarter fire. The animation throughout this short is quite good, and funny. I wonder how successful the series was overall, and why it came to such an abrupt stop.
I’m sure many readers here will recognize Huemer’s posing throughout the film as well as his way of doing staggers with only a few drawings. I can only wish that someday all of these will show up in 35mm! “Bilbo Barpkins” did the work for me in posting the copy from the Blu-ray, so here it is in HD.
And, for fun, here is a video of the original film on a flatbed from the collector who sold the print to me!
Have a good week all!