Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Fritz the Cat (1972) 70's Marathon 18#

Directed, Written & Produced by: Ralph Bakshi
Animated, Comedy (Not for kids!)
77 minutes

I came across this film whilst watching on TV the "100 greatest cartoons". This was number 56, and struckme as wild, controversial and very different. This was a correct presumption. It has just about everything for someone to be offended at but it has a unique charm to it. Impressively, it’s the first X-Rated animated feature film, so it obviously endorsed a new breed of films of this kind. Director and screenplay writer of the film Ralph Bakshi got quite some controversy over the creation of this film, and today the film is considered a piece of art. Art you could say yes, but pretty raunchy art.

I think the simplest way to describe the character Fritz is he’s just a sexually active cat that wants to get laid. Fritz is a feline college student of New York City in the '60s, using hippie buzzwords and fashion to score easy sex and drugs. After smoking some strong marijuana in Harlem, Fritz hallucinates and ignites a shooting incident with the police, resulting in the death of his friend Duke. Fritz flees across country in a Volkswagen Bug with a girlfriend and encounters a heroin addict biker rabbit and bomb-making terrorist radicals, obvious references to the Hell's Angels and the Black Panthers, respectively. A trippy journey through its anti-establishment times, “Fritz the Cat (1972)” was viewed as a must-see novelty, a radical departure from the juvenile, saccharine type of animation with which America was familiar.

Although this character is not an original. It is a popular underground comic’s character that would soon be the inspiration for the first X-rated animated feature in Hollywood history, over the strenuous objections of its creator, cartoonist Robert Crumb. It was so bad he didn’t even want his name in the credits. He felt the film would damage his sales and was disgraced with how Bakshi visualised the film. Some people call this film a dirty disgrace to cinema, but for me I give it credit for what it stands for. This is an independent animated film, and shockingly it’s the highest grossing independent animated film ever made.

It’s satirical and crude style of humour is where the appeal also lies. One thing that is certainly controversial is the use of the crows. The crows where meant to represent black people, and I think you can all guess why that is controversial. It's one of the examples of the film's offensive nature. As for it’s crude side. I think the image below explains it all. The film is full of anthromorphic nudity (and some scenes of sex), which basically represents the ‘Free Love’ revolution of the 60’s. After looking at the image below, you are probably wondering why I even enjoyed/watched the film. I had to watch it because it looked radically different and when watching it, it did bring some laughs and shocks to my face. It was such a weird experience indeed.

A very rude scene that soon will involve more people in the room. (I censored it for your innocent eyes)

Animation proved to be an excellent medium for telling such a story, as it allowed Bakshi to employ the kind of comical hyperbole that is usually not possible in live-action films. For what the film is, it is an entertaining film will really surprise you with all its nudity and disorientating animation. With all the enjoyment of it in hand it still is a bit of a sloppy movie job. Lots of the dialogue was pre-recorded and used and the voice over wok was a little bit off. Believe it or not, there is a sequel to this film, which is nowhere near as good, but still wild. I think this film says a lot about 70's culture, and is a piece of work that sits in the shadows. Most people will probably not dare to watch it with good reason but if you are looking for a wacky drug trip kind of ride for plenty of laughs, “Fritz the Cat” can be a good bit of fun if you can tolerate it.


The crows are certainly controversial.


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