Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Film Review: BILL AND COO (1948, Dean Riesner)

Stars: ?! of 5.
Running Time: 61 minutes.
Tag-line: "You've never seen anything like it!- It's tremendus says Schnozoll-a Toucan!" 'You've never seen anything like it' is right!
Notable Cast or Crew: Burton's Birds, Jimmy the Crow, Coo.
Best one-liner: "Hey! You better send them vittles up to Ma Singer- she's gettin' burned up!"

So imagine that they remade "Our Town." But it's not set in Grover's Corners, it's set in a place called "Chirpendale." Chirpendale's somewhere in the general vicinity of 42nd Street and Birdway.

And this version has a new, racially charged––alright, overtly racist––subplot about a marauding, ignominious villain moving into town known as "THE BLACK MENACE." This version also has a circus, damsels in distress, and a lot of ill-considered puns. But it's still basically "Our Town." Oh yeah, I just realized I forgot one important detail: it has an all bird cast. (With the exception of a few kittens and other small creatures in cameo appearances.)

I don't know what to say. Just when you think it can't get any more ridiculous, it raises the stakes a notch further. Birds in silly hats? Birds on swingsets? I don't even consider myself an aficionado of cutesy things, yet every twenty seconds I was clutching my gaping mouth and pointing at the screen in wonderment like a little girl in her petticoats.

Life is now worth living.

Who knows what torture they put these birds through in order to choreograph these sequences, but, I have to say... it was probably worth it. Birds driving a fire truck and fighting a blazing inferno? Check. Circus birds towing around caged kittens? Check. Birds in love sharing a milkshake? Check. Is that bird wearing a plaid cloth bowtie? Check. All of this and more.

This marks the only directorial effort by former child actor Dean Riesner (winning an honorary Academy Award for this bizarre achievement), who later was a frequent collaborator of Don Siegel (writing such films as DIRTY HARRY, COOGAN'S BLUFF, and CHARLEY VARRICK). I guess the only thing holding all these disparate works together is a sort of cheekily endearing fascism (?).

500 berries reward for information pertaining to the whereabouts of the Black Menace.

Take that, Black Menace! And, uh, stay the hell out of suburbia!


-Sean Gill


Ivan said...

Oh yeah, this is a genuinely wonderful piece of weirdness--I could never force it upon anyone (I think it's best if a person decides to watch it on their own), but I'm so glad it exists.

The only reason I ever hunted it down (so to speak) was because of Dean Riesner. From this to Dirty Harry? Oy!

Thanks for bringing it up.

Sean Gill said...

I know, right?! How the same mind presumably thought up both cutesy little Chirpendale and Joe Don Baker's sadistic one-liners in CHARLEY VARRICK is certainly mind-boggling. But, as you say- I'm glad it exists!