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    Comicolor Humpty Dumpty (1935) Ub Iwerks

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    andythebeagle

    by andythebeagle

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    Faded beauty from another age...
    You be careful! That's how you're father got cracked.

    Humpty Dumpty shows his penchant for danger by climbing on tall items in the kitchen where he lives. His mother scolds him about climbing to high places and warns that his father was cracked by doing the same thing. He then courts Easter Egg, but the Bad Egg comes and kidnaps her. Humpty must climb to death-defying heights to rescue his beloved.

    Superb cartoon from early animation pioneer, and 'the man who brought life to Mickey Mouse', Ub Iwerks, that makes up in invention, wit and draughtsmanship what it lacks in 'modern' fluency (although it has a wonderful, faded pace of its own). Unlike later Disney features, which quickly standardised plot and character, Iwerks' films are characterised by play, irony, metamorphosis and self-reflexivity. They are also, contrary to THE SIMPSONS' back-handed homages, still very funny.

    HUMPTY DUMPTY is a hugely enjoyable case in point. It starts with Iwerks' trademark credits on a book cover which opens onto a prosceniumed parade of the cast, headed, of course, by the titular hero, and also the gnashing aristocrat, Bad Egg. The film than daringly splits this first frame to impose another, featuring a picture with 'Humpty Dumpty' written on. We discover that our hero is already dead, before the narrative has even started, a brilliant coup. His widow and son live on the kitchen counter, and this and its implements are so marvellously and accurately rendered that they provide a realistic background against which the nonsense (it is a film about talking eggs remember) takes place, offering an astonishing surrealist spectacle.

    The main action concerns Humpty's son, and his love for a young egg threatened by the rapacious villainy of Bad Egg. Their love song contrives to be both hilariously ludicrous (they croon in a spoon; behind them a sextet of dancing eggs join them) and strangely moving. Bad Egg intrudes and a sublime series of melodramatic/slapstick antics proceed, influenced by silent comedy, but with an inventive violence of its own.

    Bad Egg grabs young Dumpty's lady, and she tries to escape, utilising kitchen elements that come to hand, making strange what we take for granted. Her lover is next to useless, and when she falls into boiling water she emerges a tarty hussy who manages to defeat Bad Egg with commendable frankness. Bad Egg's demise is beautifully gruesome. Happily, Dumpty's lover doesn't revert to her old timid self, and he seems very pleased with his new, fearsome missus, but then he needed his aged mother to rescue him earlier from precipatory death with her aprons. The mid-30s faded colours are exquisitely, yearningly beautiful.