Rocky and Bullwinkle|
The Best of Rocky and Bullwinkle Vol. 2
3.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
Hokey smokes! The second volume of cartoon capers starring Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose, those two furry heroes from Frostbite Falls, has hit the stores.
Aired in Ike/Kennedy years (1959-64), “Rocky and Bullwinkle” was animated show that couched its political satire in the amusing adventures of Rocky, a chirpy, quick-thinking flying squirrel and his best pal Bullwinkle, a naïve, kindhearted moose. It may have been a cartoon, but its then topical subject matter meant it was just as popular with parents as kids. Many of the plots poke fun at the cold war spying activities between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. Parents will have to guide their kids through this, but it’s a great opportunity to bond and show off what you know about a rarely discussed period in our history when commies were on every corner. The cartoons main villains were no goodnick Pottsylvanians Boris Badanov (a pun on Boris Godanov, an early Russian ruler) and Natasha Fatale (a more obvious poke at femme fatale), both of whom sounded conveniently Russian. Their “superiors” were Fearless Leader (a not so subtle caricature of a Nazi complete with a scar, a sadistic personality, and a Prussian accent) and Mr. Big (a shadowy figure who was anything but). The voices were provided by the versatile Paul Frees and Bill Scott, with William Conrad serving as narrator. (Conrad would later step in front of the camera as corpulent detective “Cannon.”). Despite his macho name and diving-bombing acumen, Rocky was actually voiced by June Foray, the queen of female voice overs. Foray also lent her voice to Natasha, Nell Fenwick (a character on the “Dudley Do Right Show”) and later appeared in “The Flintstones,” “George of the Jungle,” “The Jetsons,” and just about any cartoon series you can recall from the 60s.
“The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” relied heavily on the power of the pun. Two of the titles of the complete story archs on the DVD, “Wottsamottuu,” and “Treasure of Monte Zoom,” are dead giveaways that “Rocky and Bullwinkle” isn’t a night at the Old Vic. But writers Bill Scott, Alan Burns and Jay Hayward were such geniuses at slipping in satiric banter you’ll groaning one moment and doubling over with laughter the next.
“Wottsamottuu” is the most involved of the three storylines, spanning 12 segments. At roughly four minutes a segment, it zips along like one of the many forward passes Bullwinkle tosses during the action sequences. The plot centers around Wottsamottuu, a school with 22-year tradition of having never scored a touchdown. In a state of financial ruin, the faculty decides the only way to turn the school’s fortunes around is to build a successful football team. Coach Rocky Knute (see, even the names are punny) sends out his scouts to “beat the bushes.” “Why beat the bushes?” one scout asks. “Because the kind of guys we want are probably livin’ in ‘em,” Knute replies. Strolling through Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, two scouts spot Bullwinkle and Rocky. Rocky is baking a salami soufflé and needs to get to the store before the soufflé falls. With a mighty alley oop toss, Bullwinkle catapults his flying squirrel pal into town. The scouts sign Bullwinkle, who sets records with his sling shot arm and makes Wottsamottuu the number one college team in the nation. Determined to profit from the school’s gain, Boris and Natasha try to fix one of the games – “I know moose can throw passes,” Boris comments, “I wonder if he can throw a whole game.” Natasha’s uses her transfixing cartoon charms to trick Bullwinkle into playing poorly, but an anxious Boris counts his rubles before they’re cashed and the plot fails. Determine to vanquish “Moose and squirrel,” Boris forms his own team with Fearless Leader as the head coach: “Last man out of the huddle gets shot!” commands the monocled disciplinarian. It’s not exactly on par with Vince Lombardi’s best motivational speeches, but Fearless Leader has the hardware and the aim to back it up. Because Wottsamottuu is undefeated and Boris’s team (The Mud City Manglers) is supposedly a girls’ team, the odds go up to 500-1 in Wottsamottuu’s favor. Boris bets the Pottsylavanian ranch against his adversaries, but he’s also learned from his previous failure: “We can’t take chances. This time our fiendish plan will have a fiendish plan.” The season ending game features an epic battle right out of the Civil War (or as one character keeps insisting, “The war between the States”).Guns, bigger guns, bayonets, trenches, rocks disguised as footballs, and petrified referees find their way into the plot – and that’s just in the first three quarters. Football hasn’t been this uproarious since the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges ran amok on the grid iron.
The second and funniest storyline is the eight episode “Treasure of Monte Zoom” (not to be confused with the similar themed Get Smart spoof “The Treasure of C. Errol Madre”). Boris and Natasha’s search for the legendary treasure of race car driver Monte Zoom has led them (of course), to a lake in Rocky and Bullwinkle’s hometown of Frostbite Falls. The treasure is at the bottom of the lake and Boris figures the only way to get it is to pull the plug and let the water drain out. Posing as fisherman Spencer Traceback (a take off on Spencer Tracey’s character in “The Old Man In The Sea”), Boris tricks Bullwinkle (yet again) into helping him, disposing of him when the gullible moose gets sucked into the subsequent whirlpool. Rocky dutifully follows his antlered friend down the drain. Boris recovers the treasure chest and tries a Potsylvanian Persuader #2 (two pounds of T.N.T in a one pound bag), then drops the chest off a cliff (and himself with it) in a vain attempt to open it. Foiled, he and Natashsa set off to get an A Bomb to blow it open. Reunited with Rocky, Bullwinkle’s simplistic observation allows him to open the chest, revealing…a car...but not just any car, it’s a1903 Asperson Jackrabbit! (Okay, I couldn’t figure out the significance of that either.) The battle for the procession of the car and Natasha’s closing line are spun from gold and won’t leave you flat.
The third story arch, “Goof Gas Attack,” brings back a reoccurring character, Captain Peter “Wrong Way” Peachfuzz. Peachfuzz sounds a great deal like character actor Ed Wynn, who was known for playing odd ball geniuses. The plot revolves around the suddenly drop in I.Q. of America’s most noted scholarly minds and scientists. Who’s behind the fiendish plot to turn America into a continent of morons? Boris and Natasha, darlink, who else? Boris is spraying the country’s great minds with goof gas – “One poof and you’re a goof.” When the dastardly duo goes to Washington and prepares to spray Congress, their observation of all the filibustering going on rings true even today. Boris sprays Rocky with goof gas, so the fate of the free world is in the hands of the already dumbed-down Bullwinkle! Can Bullwinkle save the day and will Rocky call him Mom for the rest of the series? Will Boris get the scientists to fire their missiles and blow up the country, or will his fiendish plan misfire? The answer is a real goof and a gas to watch.
More Moose and Squirrel
The extra footage is as rare as a talking moose. I don’t even remember it, and I watched the show. Then again, I would have been sucking down strained peas in 1961 and had the attention span of a gnat (okay, so nothing’s changed). The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show had a live segment back then introduced by a Bullwinkle puppet that looked as if it had been fashioned from a wet bathroom rug. The puppet gave a minute of two monologue of what was going to be on TV that day. A shilling moose? The live action promos were canned when Bullwinkle (voiced by actor Bill Scott), told his audience to pull the knobs off of the TV so they wouldn’t miss next week’s show. He told them to put them back on the following week, but by then calls to repairmen had increased at a staggering rate -- as had complaints from parents paying the bills -- so the Bullwinkle skit was euthanized. Soupy Sales found himself in a similar position a few years later when he told kids to grab the green paper out of their mom’s pocket book and mail it in to him. Sales got a lot of cash, made a humble apology, but like live Bullwinkle, passed into history. Scott’s comments are cute, and it’s interesting to see how Mom and Popish the sets were back then.
The original Rocky and Bullwinkle show offered up additional segments, including the side-splitting spoof “Dudley Do Right” (an oblivious Mountie and his smart horse versus stop-at-nothing villain Snidely Whiplash), the always creative “Mr. Peabody” (an intelligent dog and his boy time travel back to historic moments in time), and “Fractured Fairy Tales” (warped interpretations of classic childhood stories). These segments have been edited out and compiled on their own series of DVDs, making the Rocky and Bullwinkle storylines precede at a much faster pace then they did when they were first aired. Then you had to wait week, now it’s a matter of seconds before the next segment airs. So you not only get entertainment, you get closure. So don’t be a nogoodnick, dahlink, get animated and check out the hilarious adventures of Rock and Bullwinkle.