9/1/09

RVOD079 The Case of Tommy Tucker, Part 1

(1951, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

You do know this is hell, right?

Rating: ****

In a Nutshell:

Child safety guru Tommy Tucker might die. Hooray!

Summary:

Little Tommy Tucker / sang for his supper / what did we give him / nothing, he was terrible / I threw a scotch bottle at his head.Tommy Tucker’s parents attend his school play, a towering work of gripping drama that lasts approximately fifteen seconds. (If only my kids’ school plays were that short.) Shortly thereafter, they also attend the attempted surgical reconstruction of his chest cavity and major organs after a careless driver turns him into a lumpy human pancake.

Tommy either dies or hallucinates after they administer the general anesthesia. Either way, the afterlife he arrives in closely resembles his school play, in which a demonic army of papier mache-headed beast men (called “gnome skulls”—and that’s their hilarious misspelling, not mine) attempt to invade a haven of prudence and caution known as Safety Island.

The gatekeeper of Safety Island knows all about Tommy. This is because Tommy is something of a safety celebrity, having staged a bloodless coup in the mayor’s office and instituted a draconian police state of automobile safety regulations. The gatekeeper takes Tommy inside and explains this at length to the Power That Is (some sort of elderly, desk-driving security guard) while asking that Tommy be admitted to Safety Island early. You see, Tommy is still clinging to life down there on the operating table, but if Rent-a-Cop God will just sign here, Tommy’s pesky little lifespan will be over and he can help reorganize Safety Island into someplace really, you know, safe.

Fade to black. “Will Tommy continue to roast in safety hell?” says Disembaudio. “Tune in next time for part two of The Case of Tommy Tucker!”

Thoughts:

Everyone in town is devastated, but Tommy’s actually pretty cool with the situation. “Screw those losers down on earth,” he might be thinking. “These safety guys are totally worshiping me. If they let me in early, I could become a Safety God!” Or actually, no. I don’t think he’s thinking that. Judging by his nonchalant manner and the blank expression he usually wears, he’s probably not thinking much of anything at all. “Live or die, no big deal,” he more likely thinks. “Whatever you guys decide is okay.”

Not that we find out, as this is another lengthy short with only half a riffin’. The bit of Tommy Tucker shown here ends before we discover his ultimate fate, but what we do get is both incongruently lighthearted and outhouse rat insane, so I find it hard to care. It’s not like their complete shorts have cohesive, satisfying narratives either.

Mike, Bill and Kevin generally work pretty well with “insane”, but they outdo themselves here. When the animal-headed gnome skulls appear during the school play, Mike calls it, “Wicker Man, the musical”, while Kevin sings, “Not the bees! N-n-n-not the bees!” When the doctors administer the anesthesia, Mike says, “Oh, hello Mr. Octopus-Ballerina”, while Tommy’s broad smile upon entering the Safety Kingdom on High leads to Bill’s comment, “He’s utterly delighted by his death.” The appearance of the real gnome skulls after Tommy’s pseudo-death inspires the comments, “Join us in hell!” “Your soul is ours, Tommy!” and “There’s no light in the void!” (Mike, Kevin and Bill, respectively). Yes, I went way over my usual quote quota while reviewing this short. It’s that good.