So the movie begins with a caption solemnly telling us that this is “The 1960’s” which I find really interesting. I mean, this thing only came out in 1972 and “The Sixties” are already a thing. Can you imagine a movie coming out in 2002 with a caption telling us that it takes place in “The Nineties”? The decade had already become this legendary era three short years after it ended. A narrator tells us that the sixties were “a happy time, a heavy time.”
In Central Park, Fritz (Skip Hinnant) and two of his friends play protest songs in Central Park to try and attract the attention of three college girls (Christ, I HOPE they’re college girls ). So if you read my review of Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings you’ll remember I lambasted the animation pretty hard (the only reviews that I ever gave a lower animation score to were Captain Planet and Foodfight!). And the animation here is, objectively, not very good. But, hand on my heart, I can’t say that I hate it and to explain why I need you to look at this.
Look at that. Look how GORGEOUS that is. Look at the vibrancy of the colours, the perfection of the textures…my God you could reach out and touch the tufts of those damn Truffula Trees. And you know what? It looks even better animated. The characters move with a smoothness that the Walt Disney animators of decades past could only dream about, and they will never, ever, go off-model. And all this despite the fact that the movie is a soulless, worthless, utterly cynical cashgrab. Computer animation has gotten to the point where anyone with enough money can create animation that is close to technically perfect and make it look effortless. The animation in Fritz the Cat does not look effortless. In fact it looks downright effortful (yes, it’s a word. I checked). It’s grungey, ugly, sloppy and angry. But damned if that doesn’t work for this movie, or at least it works a million times better than it did for Lord of the Rings. And I guess, in this era of effortlessly beautiful, utterly empty CGI behemoths, it’s kinda charming to find an animated movie that looks like it’s actually trying. Anyway, the three college chicks (a dog, a cat and a fox named Winston) pay no attention to Fritz and start hitting on a nearby crow. In this movie, crows are black people (I know, I know) and the girls try hitting on the dude with lines like “The time for peaceful revolution has passed!” “I’m taking African American studies in school, I had no idea you people were so civilised!” and “I had a black girlfriend once who said that Jewish people are the closest to black people. I’m Jewish.” Finally, after silently ignoring them the crow flamboyantly declares “I ain’t no jive ass black nigga honey!” and sashays off.
No, not now. We’ll deal with the racism later. You can’t have racism until you’ve eaten your misogyny. Moving on. So Fritz swoops in and presents himself to the girls as a troubled philosopher on a quest for higher meaning and enlightenment. This, amazingly, works.
He takes them to a party where some friends of his are smoking weed, listening to rock music and disrespecting the American flag and takes them into the bathroom. After bamboozling them with some New-Agey sounding bullshit he then has sex with all three of them. You know, I read an interview with Bakshi where he claimed that there’s nothing in Fritz the Cat that you wouldn’t see in The Simpsons nowadays but…um…I admit I haven’t seen a lot of the new seasons but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. For example, I’m pretty sure the Simpsons has never shown full frontal nudity. Hell, I don’t think they’ve ever even shown boobs.
Outside, two pig cops named Ralph and Rob hear the noise from the party and decide to raid the building. Ralph and Rob (named after Ralph Bakshi and Robert Crumb) are two of my least favourite characters in this thing. You see, the animation quality in this goes up and down depending on which character is being animated. For some reason the pigs get the worst of it. Also, goddamn but these character designs are ugly and I don’t mean in a good way, I mean they just look downright amateurish.
Also, it really bugs me that they’re completely indistinguishable visually. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind it when two characters are identical as long as that’s the joke. But these two actually have different personalities (albeit, both stupid) and are supposed to be distinct characters. So it would be nice if I could actually tell which one’s Ralph and which one’s Rob. All I do know is that one of them is voiced by Ralph Bakshi but it’s not the one called Ralph because I suppose that would be too easy.
Meanwhile, in the bathroom, some of the other party animals have crashed Fritz’s orgy and they’ve all just merged into a…big…pink…blob…
Are we horny yet?
Anyway, the cops burst into the bathroom and one of the partiers, a rabbit, whips out his cock and pisses all over Rob (Ralph?) who responds by beating up the entire orgy.
Fritz however, comes floating in absolutely high off his ass and takes Rob’s (Ralph’s?) gun and shoots the toilet which causes a huge flood of water to wash Fritz, the cops and all the orgy critters out into the street. Fritz runs into an Orthodox synagogue to hide. In the synagogue, a load of Jewish lions are reading from the Torah. Bakshi actually recorded members of his own family and animated over their conversations. He actually does this several times in the movie, taking recordings from regular New Yorkers and animating them kinda like what Nick Park did years later with Creature Comforts. I gotta say, it’s really fascinating to listen to these voices of ordinary people from forty years ago just talking about random things. Incidentally, this scene was the last piece of animation done by Ted Bonnickson, a legendary short animator who worked on the Looney Tunes shorts and before that worked for Disney in the forties.
The cops chase Fritz into the ladies toilet and then come out again along with a lioness with her tits hanging out which is entirely justified artistically. Aaaand then the radio comes on and announces that the US is sending more weapons an ammunition to aid Israel in the Arab-Israeli based on “the return of New York city and Los Angeles to the United States” . And then all the lions yell “Mazel Tov!” and start dancing and I, I, I, I, I officially don’t even…is this racist? ‘Cos it feels really racist. Anyway, Fritz escapes because Ralph and Rob get into a fight because Ralph joined in with the dancing and Rob is angry about that because Ralph’s not Jewish and Rob is. Or maybe it’s the other way around. These two are like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Also, I’m pretty sure having a pig who’s Jewish is really offensive. But Bakshi’s Jewish so maybe he’s allowed? I don’t know the rules. What do I do? Can someone please SEND HELP?!
Fritz runs back to his dorm in NYU and tries to strike up a conversation with his roomates but they’re too strung out on benzedrine while studying to even acknowledge his existence. Fritz monologues about students studying their lives away while all around them there’s a world of experiences to explore, which Fritz visualises as a gigantic tunnel of boobs.
He gets so mad that he literally breathes fire and burns all his books and notes. And the entire university. Just go with it. He goes to a crow bar…
Again, for this scene Bakshi brought real black New Yorkers back to the studio and recorded them talking about their lives and their political views and just animated over it and it almost serves as a kind of oral history if you can get over the fact that he made them crows. Okay, to be fair, the “black people as crows” thing was in the original comic but still.
Fritz gets talking to Duke (John McCurry), a local at the bar, and tells him that he wishes that he was a crow. Duke angrily tells him that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about and Fritz says that racism affects him very deeply because he has a huge “guilt complex”.
Duke nonetheless takes a liking to Fritz after he inadvertantly helps him win his pool game and offers to buy him a drink. But they have to leave the bar quickly after Fritz, the enlightened liberal that he is, calls the bartender “boy”. Once outside they decide to rob a car and almost run over Ralph (Rob?) who’s been reassigned to Harlem and is nervous about all the “coloreds” and oh godammit Bakshi! You can’t switch between calling them “crows” and using actual terms for black people that’d be like if Animal Farm was all…
Can you please have a little consistency in your metaphors?
Race is a major theme in Bakshi’s work. When his family emigrated to the US from Palestine, the Bakshis ended up living in Foggy Bottom, Washington DC, which was an all-black neighbourhood at the time. He attended a local school as the only white student before the police intervened as segregation was still in effect. It’s no coincidence therefore that Fritz the Cat absolutely seethes with anger against black oppression, racism, police brutality and white liberals who think that the worst thing about racism is how it makes them feel guilty. It all culminates in a scene where an army of cops (represented as pigs) invade Harlem with tanks, massacring the residents in brutally gory detail before napalming the entire block while in the white suburbs Micky Mouse, Daisy and Donald wave an American flag and cheer on the attackers.
She then decides that Fritz is black enough after all and they have sex. Fritz then runs out into Harlem and stands on a car and starts yelling at the crowd to rise up and overthrow capitalism. Huh. Apparently having sex with a crow turns you communist. Who knew?
So Winston the Second and Fritz decide to bug out for San Francisco but their car breaks down in the desert.
Winston wakes Fritz up and tells him that he’s been asleep for two days after his drug binge and whoah whoah whoah…two days?! Um, you think maybe you should have taken him to a doctor there Winston? Anyway, she tells Fritz to try and fix the car and he attempts to bullshit his way through despite knowing about as much about cars as I do (they run on steam, right?). A passing hillbilly explains to them that they’re out of gas (gas, really?). Winston starts chewing Fritz out for pretending to know how to fix the car which rather conveniently glosses over the fact that she drove for two days without stopping for petrol. She sends Fritz back to the gas station with a bucket but instead he ditches her when he gets there and hooks up with a heroin addicted nazi rabbit named Blue and his horse girlfriend Harriet just go with it we’re almost at the end.
Blue deliver all his lines in this weird robotic voice and ends every sentence with “ha ha”. Not, a laugh, you understand, the actual words “ha ha” as if he’s just heard a great story, Mark. The rabbit tells Fritz that the revolution could use a man like him and takes him to meet some terrorists led by a female snake. Fritz listens as the leader of the terrorists explains their plan to bomb power stations and bring the country to its knees and then her tit pops out which is entirely justified artistically (and biologically because snakes are mammals as we all know). Harriet gets anxious and tries to get Blue to leave but he punches her. She screams that they’re all a bunch of “Nazi fags” and then Blue beats her nearly to death with a chain while she’s naked from the waist up which is entirely justified oh fuck this movie. And then all the terrorists rape her. Jesus Christ. And then, just like always, just as I’m this close to writing off the whole movie as garbage it pulls out a another stunning little bit of animation where the whole scene goes silent and pulls smaller and smaller and smaller until it’s just a tiny facet of light in a tear on Harriet’s face which falls to the ground and suddenly we’re in the desert. Fritz impotently tries to comfort Harriet as she lies shivering and naked in the desert night but abandons her to go with the terrorists because he is literally incapable of doing the slightest bit of good in this world. On the way to blow up the power plant with the female terrorist however, he realises that they’re not actually trying to usher in a glorious new age or fight for justice for the underclass. They’re just a bunch of nihilistic assholes who want to blow up shit. Unfortunately, he has this epiphany right after he plants the bomb which blows up right in his face.
He survives…somehow, and is taken to a nearby hospital where he is visited by Harriet and the three girls from the bathtub orgy, including Winston…
They’re told that Fritz is on death’s door and find him bandaged in a hospital bed. He weakly asks them to lean in so that he can give his last words…
And then he whips off his bandages and has sex with all of them.
Neil Sharpson aka the Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger based in Dublin. The blog updates with a new review every second Thursday. Original artwork for this blog was commissioned from the oh-so talented Julie Android, whose artwork is now available for purchase on T-Shirts, mugs, hoodies and more at the Unshaved Mouse online store. Check it out!