Shinbone Alley (1970)

Shinbone Alley DVD

Fine Arts Films
 Carol Channing, Eddie Bracken
Directed by: John Wilson, David Detiege

Cat Out of the Bag Alert!  This review contains some spoilers for this film!

Synopsis: Based on stories by Don Marquis and adapted from the musical stage play by Mel Brooks and Joe Darion.  Archy the cockroach (voiced by Eddie Bracken) loves the promiscuous and precocious Mehitabel the cat (voiced by Carol Channing) as he chronicles the lives of the residents of Shinbone Alley using a newspaperman’s typewriter.

Cartoon Cats: This is one of those rare American animated films which is not really intended for a young audience.  There are definitely some adult themes in this piece and while they are not graphically animated they are heavily implied.  Mehitabel is a true alley cat, carousing with every tom (not to mention dick and harry) who comes along.

Shinbone Alley - Mehitabel cat with tomcat admirers

Archy tries to act as her conscience, repeatedly attempting to steer her on the right path.  More often than not he nearly gets killed by the raging Mehitabel for his trouble.  But deep down Mehitabel cares for Archy as the one true friend she knows is looking out for her best interests.

Shinbone Alley - Mehitabel cat with Archy cockroach

Shinbone Alley - Mehitabel cat wanting to kill Archy cockroach

There are many other cats in the film, including Big Bill (voiced by Alan Reed), one of many of Mehtibel’s love interests.

Shinbone Alley - Mehitabel cat with Big Bill tomcat

Another cat who sweeps Mehitabel off her paws and also promises to make her into a big star on the stage is Tyrone T. Tattersall (voiced by John Carradine).  Of course he has ulterior motives which include Mehitabel stealing food for him from the local mart.

Shinbone Alley - Mehitabel cat with Tyrone T. Tattersal

Kitty Carnage Warning! Mehitabel’s ways eventually lead to her giving birth to a litter of kittens (note that it is a mixed litter!)  While the other female cats of Shinbone Alley sing a lullaby to the kittens, Mehitabel complains about how the babies are cramping her style and she talks about drowning them.  In fact she leaves the baby buggy with the kittens in the rain hoping that will be the end of them.  Archy intervenes, bringing about her wrath when the kittens are saved.

Shinbone Alley - Mehitabel cat with her kittens in buggy

Taking Archy’s advice, Mehitabel takes a job as a housecat so she and her kittens will have a nice, safe home.

Shinbone Alley - Mehitabel cat on soft cushion

But inevitably Mehitabel’s nature takes over and she returns to the streets where she belongs, and Archy is happy to have her back.

Shinbone Alley - Mehitabel cat with Archy cockroach on snowy street

This film may not appeal to everyone but the humor is clever, satirical and biting, the music is catchy and there are some some nice touches, such as artwork in the style of George Herriman, the original illustrator of Don Marquis’ stories, being included.  There is even a quick cameo from Krazy Kat and Ignatz.

Shinbone Alley - Mehitabel cat chasing after tom cat in style of George Herriman

Shinbone Alley - Krazy Kat and Ignatz looking at passing insects

Also in Mehitabel’s trash can there are some fun photos of cats as her former suitors.  The version released to DVD is missing some footage and musical numbers and we hope some day a complete version of the movie will be made available.

Shinbone Alley - Mehitabel cat with cat suitor picture in background

Final Mewsings: This is why stray cats need to be spayed and neutered!

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