4/7/08

RVOD022 One Got Fat

(1963, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

A bicycle safety film where apes evolved from men?

Rating: ****

In a nutshell:

A troop of monkeys’ unsafe bike-riding practices lead to their own horrific deaths.

Summary:

It's a madhouse! A madhouse!So there are these monkeys. And they all have wire tails and grotesque papier-mache faces. Most have flamboyant hats as well. And they decide to go on a picnic nine blocks away. But the only one with a basket on his bike is Orville “Orv” Slump. He agrees to carry everyone else’s lunches for them.

On the very first block we lose “Rooty” Toot Jasperson, who doesn’t signal a turn and gets run over by a sedan. The other monkeys can’t have missed this (it happened right in front of everyone) but instead of stopping to mourn or call an ambulance or the police or something, they press on.

Next block we lose monkey cyclist Tinkerbelle “Tink” McDillingfiddy when she ignores a stop sign and gets ploughed under by a water truck. Did anyone else notice or care? No?

On to the next block, where Phillip “Floog” Floogle rides on the wrong side of the road. While congratulating himself about a near miss with a pickup, he plasters himself across a soccer mom’s windshield. The others press on.

Mossby “Mossby” Pomegranate didn’t register his bike with the city or lock it up after his last outing, so his bike was irretrievably stolen some weeks before. Determined to participate anyway, he doggedly runs along beside the others until his shoes begin to smoke from the continuous friction of running. He sits down dejected by the roadside, unaware that his bike-less state has spared him from becoming a gruesome object lesson.

Trigby “Trigby” Phipps is a safe bicycling monkey. Or rather, he would be if the beefy “Slim” Jim MacGuffney wasn’t sitting on his handlebars. An open manhole looms ahead. Not a problem—or it wouldn’t be if Slim’s hideous monkey mask didn’t muffle his warnings. They tumble together into the unknown depths. Whether they break their backs against a concrete floor, get electrocuted by underground wiring, or slowly suffocate in a river of human waste is left to the viewers’ imagination.

Nelbert “Nel” Zweiback somehow remains upright despite her jerky, seizure-like arm spasms. Either impatient with the obstacles of the road or guided by seizure-induced visions, she ends up on the sidewalk where she collides with a couple of pedestrians. This, of course, causes her to explode like can of TNT. Though we assume she did not survive this encounter, the pedestrians are spared, lifted gently by the explosion into a nearby tree.

Filbert “Fil” Bagel is going to get a new bike for his birthday, and so he hasn’t bothered to take care of his old one. Thus, when a steamroller approaches from the opposite direction, he finds himself quite unable to apply the brakes. (Or turn left, or put his feet down, or shout at the steam-roller operator to stop...) The scene fades to black, but we are not spared from hearing the sickening crunch of his flattening bones.

Stanislaus “Stan” Higgenbotham has no reflectors or lights on his bike. The camera follows him into a darkened tunnel. Screaming brakes and crash sound effects are heard. Stan does not emerge.

And so Orv arrives at the picnic area alone. Viewing him from the front reveals that he has survived because he is not a monkey, and is thus cognizant of basic, life-saving bicycle safety rules. He was carrying everyone’s lunches if you’ll recall, and decides to eat them all to honor his fallen friends’ memory. This makes him the eponymous One who Got Fat.

Narrated by the voice of Fractured Fairy Tales, Edward Everett Horton.

Thoughts:

I want a hat like that.  He can keep the face, though.I was something of an absent-minded cyclist as a youngster. Between the ages of twelve and seventeen, I hit, and was hit by, at least half-a-dozen cars. And yet, thanks to quick reflexes, safety gear, and a heaping helping of dumb, blind luck, I was never injured. The worst one was that time I collided with a parked car that had been abandoned across the bike lane at the bottom of a hill. I was going full tilt; cracked the top of my helmet and knocked off my chain and front wheel. Got up and put my bike back together and just continued on. I don’t know why the hell I didn’t see it there and stop, or swerve around. Man, I was stupid back then...

Where were we? Oh, the short, yes. Those were some butt-ugly monkeys meeting some grisly fates, weren’t they? I’m not sure what I can add the above summary, except to emphasize that this is not a cartoon. Every death depicted is implied to happen to a real-life kid in a real-life satanic monkey mask. The whimsical narration and cheerful music does nothing to lighten the mood; if anything, they underscore the short film’s dark, twisted soul. For kids under a certain age (i.e. the film’s target audience) this is nothing short of a wide-awake nightmare.

Also horrified are Mike, Bill, and Kevin, who spend part of the running time discussing whether or not the bicycle safety rules depicted constitute “ape law”. When Mr. Horton talks about Tink’s optimistic outlook on life right before she squishes under the tires of the water truck, Kevin says, “In case any of you kids thought being happy was a good thing, choke on this.” Further in, Mike expresses frustration the monkey appellations—“Dr. Seuss rejected these names,” he says. After we cringe at the crunch of Fil’s bones, Kevin says, “I’ve heard of film noir, but this is nuts.” It’s so cheerfully inappropriate that it would have been funny to watch on its own. The Rifftrax crew responds in kind, and the result is one of their best shorts yet.