Gremlins From the Kremlin
July 26, 2008
The UBUWEB Film & Video archive is a one-stop source for film by or about the once and future avant-garde. It is something of a surprise therefore to find at that site, listed alphabetically below Cage and Cale and above Cornell and Cocteau, snuggled up between the Cinema of Transgression ("We propose that all film schools be blown up and all boring films never be made again") and René Clair, the name of Robert Clampett. Clampett of course, with Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones, was a key member of the great troika of talents that made the Golden Age of Warner Brothers cartoons so golden. To a certain segment of the Boomer generation, he is also fondly recalled for his post-Warner creations, Beany and Cecil.
So, what earns Clampett his unexpected spot among the cutting edge worthies at Ubuweb? It's the "Russian Rhapsody" of 1944, a touching bit of World War II propaganda (supporting the forces of Good) in which the despicable sociopathic despot of our enemies receives his comeuppance at the hands of the supernatural minions of the despicable sociopathic despot of our friends.
You know what they say: "Ich bin ein Gremliner!"
- The Wikipedia entry for the cartoon reports that many of the "Russian Rhapsody" Gremlins are caricatured versions of members of the Warner Brothers animation staff, including the aforementioned Freleng and Jones and Clampett himself. Illustrated details available here.
- Additional gremlinalia -- including the involvement of Walt Disney and Roald Dahl in the original wartime popularization of the little critters -- is available on the Toonopedia, here.