7/3/09

RVOD069 Highway Mania

(1946-ish, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

Never cross [the street] without a month’s supply of food and water and at least three guns.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


People were horrible drivers in the forties.

Summary:

Warning: contains demons and sports metaphors.A band leader named “Kaiser” wants to cross the road, but there’s too much traffic, and he refuses to walk ten feet to the crosswalk. A narrator goes on about this at length, then shows us footage of people getting hit by cars, people getting narrowly missed by cars, kids getting rushed to the hospital via ambulance after getting hit by cars, cars crashing into telephone poles while trying to avoid pedestrians...

But accidents aren’t always the pedestrians’ fault. Motorists have a tendency to double-park across the roadway, pass on the shoulder, swerve into oncoming traffic, ignore lights, etc. Another narrator goes on about how we don’t tolerate cheaters in sports, so why is it acceptable in the roadway? Still a third narrator (or maybe the first one again) shows us a bandaged maniac behind the wheel of a car, giggling madly as he runs down pedestrians, smashes other cars and gets demolished by trains. (I’m not sure, but I think he’s meant to be the Patron Demon of Bad Driving, ascended to earth to wreak havoc on motorists everywhere.) Cycle through variations on this montage a couple of times. Now finish with Mr. Kaiser, who still can’t cross the street.

Thoughts:

Yes, it’s a jumbled mess of a short, but it’s fun. It’s rapid fire, that’s for sure, and to judge by the multiple narrators, it’s probably stitched together from the bones of several prior shorts. It’s got a strident, condescending tone to it that adds to the weirdness factor as well. Basically, viewers who practice bad driving are unpatriotic, unwholesome and just plain stupid. So buckle up and slow down, ya empty-headed morons!

The unrelenting chaos on screen keeps it moving, but Mike, Bill and Kevin deserve credit for keeping it interesting. When the title card announces “Highway Mania”, Mike fondly remembers, “When girls would scream themselves hoarse over the I-35 out of Wichita, Kansas.” When the muffled narration has problems getting off the ground, Bill speculates, “The narrator’s buried in a refrigerator box under six feet of fill dirt.” When an injured boy’s dog comes to visit him in the hospital after an accident, Kevin says, “I was going to warn you like Lassie, but I found a rotting gopher carcass.” They manage to push the whole thing right to the edge between “hilarious” and “truly insane”, and keep it balanced there all the way through.