March 31, 2009
James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) and Boris Karloff’s portrayal of The Monster had an instantaneous and profound impact — which still reverberates today — on pop culture. Among the first spoofing references it inspired, theatrical cartoons were quick to feature the distinctive box-headed Monster in caricature cameos. In Warner Bros' 1935 Hollywood Capers, The Monster is the featured menace.
The star of the piece is Beans, a cartoon cat that turned out to be just another unexceptional and quickly forgotten Mickey Mouse clone. In this outing, Beans, is refused admittance to a movie studio. Observing W.C.Fields and Charlie Chaplin waltzing in, our hero disguises himself as Oliver Hardy to get past the guard. After some antics and a musical interlude, roughly halfway into the action, Beans lands on a laboratory set where a mechanical Frankenstein Monster with a hinged jaw and bloodshot eyes rests on a slab.
Backing into a switch, Beans activates the robot who rises in a shower of electrical bolts and goes clomping around the studio, walking straight through walls. The Monster eats a camera — he is seen approaching through the lens — and, in a bit of surrealism, gets punched by his own reflection in a mirror. In the end, The Monster walks into a wind machine for what can best be described as a Rube Goldberg demise.
Hollywood Capers was directed by Jack King, who had left Walt Disney in 1933 to join Leon Schlesinger’s company, producers of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Brothers. King would return to Disney in 1936 where he stayed for good, directing (among other titles) Donald Duck cartoons, until his retirement in 1965. One of King’s animators on Hollywood Capers was a young Charles “Chuck” Jones, soon to join Tex Avery at Warner’s Termite Terrace where his illustrious career kicked into high gear.
Hollywood Capers was included in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 3 DVD set released in 2005. There’s a washed-out but serviceable copy available on YouTube.
Watch Hollywood Capers on YouTube.
Jack King’s filmography on the IMDB.