Saturday, 2 April 2011

Snooper and Blabber — Impossible Imposters

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Doorman, Cop – Daws Butler; Orville Rich, Mad Scientist – Hal Smith.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin.
Production: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-16, Production J-46.
First aired: week of January 25, 1960 (rerun, week of July 25, 1960).
Plot: Snooper meets a robot double when trying to find the stolen Million Dollar Gem.

(Apologies for the TV cable channel bug on the screen grabs. I can’t eliminate it)

The Snooper Detective Agency was pretty malleable, as far as plots were concerned. Sometimes, it was flat broke, like in Gem Jams, wherein Snoop’s car had been repossessed. And sometimes, like in this cartoon, Snoop has more business than he knows what to do with.

The cartoon starts and ends with Snoop amidst the ringing phones in his office. Mike Maltese unfolds the plot slowly, but then the climax comes abruptly without a lot of funny dialogue or gags along the way. Since Hanna-Barbera was more interested in comedy instead of a stylistic parody of film noir detectives (either visually or musically, and the latter would have been easy), that didn’t leave a lot. Still there are some cute lines, including one of my favourite turnarounds when Snoop says “The thick plottens.” I can only image how stuff like that didn’t work in foreign language versions.

Hanna-Barbera found lots of ways to save money but one thing it never did was use the same establishing background drawing for Snooper cartoons. Many of them open with a shot of a window with an eyeball or a door with a glass window with an eyeball. And they all seem to be different. The one Walt Clinton laid out in this cartoon features a stairwell.

Poor Maltese gets undermined by the budgetary realties of TV animation in his first gag. A desk full of phones keeps ringing. Finally, in frustration, Snooper says “Eee, good zounds, QUIET!” and the phones stop ringing. In a theatrical, someone like Scott Bradley or Carl Stalling would have accented this by having the music build to a crescendo and then suddenly stop with the phones, with a pause in the sound for it to register. The director would have zoned in on some dramatically-angled close-ups, cutting quicker and quicker before the big moment. We don’t get that here. The Phil Green stock cue ‘Popcorn’ doodles away in the background and de facto director Alex Lovy cuts to one close-up of Snooper to vary the visuals a bit. About the best he can do is get Snoop to answer the phone faster (in the same shot) to try to create a sense of increasing pace.

The scene is interrupted by Blab reading the Daily Chronicle and there’s dialogue to set up the plot. The paper says Orville Rich has hired Snoop to guard the Million Dollar Ruby but the accompanying photo shows it’s some handsome, good-looking guy imposterin’ Snoop (“You forget ‘devil-may-care,’” Blab advises, so the “photo-genetic” Snoop adds it to the description). Off they go to the Rich mansion to get to the bottom of this. At the door, Maltese throws in a non sequitur and a reference to ‘Sing of Song of Six Pence.’

Snoop: Wipe your feet, Blab. This is a ritzy place.
Blab (to audience): Snoop is very neat. And gaudy, too.
(Doorman opens door)
Doorman: Yehhhhhhs?
Snoop: I’m sure Mr. Rich is home because who would want to leave this gorgeous abode.
Doorman: Mr. Rich is in his gorgeous parlour.
Blab: Gosh, Snoop, what’s he doin’ in the parlour?
Snoop: Eatin’ bread and honey, what else?

Snooper runs into a closet when the ruby-less Rich starts firing at him. Inside the closet is the “handsome imposter-er.” Snoop thinks it’s a mirror until it doesn’t match his actions, then fires a gun in his face. The fake Snoop mechanically comes out with the ruby—yes, he’s the thief—and shoots Blab in the face as well. Snoops declares “Folley him and clear me name of all this skull-drudgery” and they tail him to a Mad Scientist Hideout. It’s conveniently marked on the outside; a shame it doesn’t have a flashing sign that also reads “Boo”, like in the Maltese-written Bugs Bunny cartoon Water, Water Every Hare (1952).

Ken Muse gets ten seconds of time off as the camera focuses solely on background drawings. Then, Snooper and Blabber look through an open window.

Snoop: Jumpin’ jellybean! I don’t believe it.
Blab: Can I look, Snoop? I don’t want to believe it either.

Inside is a marching line of robotic Snoops each carrying stolen stuff to the Mad Scientist, who gives them their theft orders for tomorrow. Snoop tells Blab he’s going inside and to call police if he’s not out in 30 minutes. He figures he can disguise himself as one of his mechanical imitations and walk in, but trips the alarm. “Ah!” cries the scientist, “There’s an imposter among you imposter-ers.” Snoop gets past the ‘remote-control-faker-finder’ (a large mallet to the head) but has a little more difficulty when the scientist throws a switch, a robot’s head twirls into the air like an unravelled Slinky and Snoop has to imitate it. Conveniently, the switch only appears in the scene where it’s needed. You can see in the background drawing below left where it should be on the floor but isn’t because it’s on a separate cel.

At that point, Blab knocks on the door. There’s a very polite exchange.

Scientist: Come in.
Blab: Thank you.
Scientist: Who could that be? I have no friends.

Blab isn’t bright but he can easily pick out the real Snooper (“He’s not as handsome as the others,” Blab reveals to the scientist). It turns out Blab thought Snooper said “30 seconds” instead of “30 minutes” and has brought the police. Suddenly, it’s all over.

Cop: Congratulations, Snooper. You get the reward for recovering all the loot.
Snoop: Reward?! I merely wanted to recover me good name. I ain’t interested in no reward! And where do I collect it?

The cartoon ends where it started, except the deafening ring of phones is greeted by the identical Snooper robots at identical desks (with identically filled wastebaskets) accepting every case that comes in. Snoop is relaxing.

Snoop: You know, Blab, I never figured there would ever be enough of me to go around.

Walt Clinton’s penchant for angular layouts is evident in the designs he has for the buildings in this cartoon. It’s a shame the umpteenth-generation, low-resolution, TV-bug versions I have don’t do them justice. You’ll notice the first shot to the left has Snooper and Blabber animated in silhouette. The background below it seems to have vultures in silhouette on the tree branch. There’s a full moon and Bob Gentle has a number of shades of a bluish twilight in the sky. And if you look at the backgrounds above, you’ll notice an angle of different coloured green on the wall to show where the light from the fixture above.

I mentioned the music earlier. It’s a real shame the sound cutter didn’t use more tension or mystery music found in the libraries at Hanna-Barbera’s disposal. Perhaps it was a matter of cost. Regardless, a great selection was a piece with suspenseful strings, augmented by plucked violins. It sets the mood very nicely. The studio doesn’t appear to have used GR-57 a lot. There’s an appearance by ‘Excitement Under Dialogue,’ a perfect detective show underscore. An absolutely abysmal choice is ‘Custard Pie Capers’ (known in Hi-Q as ‘PG-206 Comedy Circus’) as Snoop is being shot at by Orville Rich. Nothing funny or ironic has led to the scene or is happening in it.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:25 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – Snooper and Blab in office.
1:37 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Snoop and Blab walk to mansion, talk to doorman, Rich holds shotgun.
2:19 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Rich aims shotgun, Snoop runs into closet, “I think I’ll tidy up a bit.”
2:44 - GR-96 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO (Green) – Snoop straightens hat, gets shot.
3:00 - fast show biz music (Shaindlin) – “It’s me handsome imposter-er!”, Blab gets shot, Snooper scoots into scene.
3:30 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – “Gosh, Snoop,” Snoop and Blab follow robot, “The thick plottens.”
4:16 - GR-57 THE SHADOW OF A MAN (Green) – “Let’s see what plots...”, robot Snoopers and mad scientist, Snoop trips alarm, runs next to line of robot Snoops.
5:23 - EXCITEMENT UNDER DIALOGUE (Shaindlin) – Faker finder activated, Snoop twists neck, Blab knocks, “Pardon me, Mr. Mad Scientist.”
6:08 - GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – “May I have a word...” Cop arrests scientist, Snoop doesn’t want reward.
6:42 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Scene in office with Snoop, Blab and robots.
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).

1 comment:

  1. The plot of this episode was done in a Secret Squirrel cartoon.