9.01.2014

The Dogway Melody

Every now and again, you stumble across something that takes you so completely by surprise that you find yourself in an area of the proverbial video store you never thought you'd find yourself. That happened to me with today's excursion:


(1930)
I've since discovered that this was an entry in the Dogville Comedies, a somewhat controversial series (due to the less-than-ASPCA methods to make the animals appear to talk) of short films from the Jazz Age that spoofed popular films of the time with all-dog casts, sometimes known as "the barkies." "The Dogway Melody" takes as its inspiration:


(1929)
But I didn't know that at the time. Let me briefly set the scene - the author returns to his apartment after a long night involving an amount of alcohol that currently strikes him, many years later, as thoroughly inadvisable. Wanting only background noise devoid of commercials, he puts on Turner Classic Movies and readies for bed. But sleep is forcefully swept aside by the strange spectacle onscreen. He watches, fascinated, bemused, and somewhat horrified, but he missed the opening title, this being one of those short films TCM routinely plays to fill the gap between the end of one feature and the start of another, and he can find no information about it on the cable guide. Sleep even further away, he goes to the TCM website and tracks down the title "The Dogway Melody." Noting it is included on the special features on The Broadway Melody DVD, he breaks new ground for his DVD collection by ordering a musical from Amazon.

I can't say this was my first foray into musicals, of course. We all have seen The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music a thousand times, and I grew up watching Camelot and Xanadu and Grease, etc. And of course, there's the South Park and Team America movies. (Brilliant, both.) But as far as deliberately tracking down a musical from the generation before my parents were born to add to the collection, it was a first. (But not the last, I'm happy to say.)

And I owe it all to booze!


Seriously, though, the presence of this disc in my closet might be considered a PSA concerning the pitfalls of getting loaded, if I didn't enjoy it (and The Broadway Melody) as much as I do. Let's call it a happy accident.
THE PLOT: Mr. Cur, a hotshot Broadway producer, is putting on a new show, and he walks in as his directors are auditioning a guy-and-girl duo, belting out "You Were Made for Me." The lady catches his eye, and he hires her. The show comes out and is a smash. At the party celebrating its success, Mr. Cur lets her know it's time to pay the piper. When she resists, he gets violent. But her former partner - whom of course loves her, secretly - busts in and rescues her. Jump-cut: they're living happily-ever-after with a litter of puppies.

I'm going to try and present this as simply a series of screencaps. I don't know if the above will be conveyed by their arrangement, but hopefully so. Either way, let the weirdness wash over you. I'd like to think that somewhere out there, some alien teenagers are getting together, high on alien pizza and sodas and whatever else, and giggling uncontrollably at this. 

One more time!
Depending on the lens through which you choose to view it, it's either dustbin-of-history fluff, or it just might say everything there is to say about everything, or it might be evidence to how truly weird human beings are. 

Oh, I didn't write down any of the dialogue. I should have, and if it were easier to come by, I'd go back and jot some things down. As it isn't, I'll try and paraphrase in the captions.

Ladies and gentlemen, "The Dogway Melody." (woofs, howls, and awkward puppy claps.)


"We open soon and we still suck..."
"PUT SOME HUSTLE INTO IT!"
"That girl... that enchanting vision!"
"Hey!"


THE VAUDEVILLE DOG'S DREAMS COME TO WRECK ON THE SORDID SHORES OF LIFE...


...
"Yeah, see!"
...


THE SHOW MUST GO ON


The harem scene.
"Dazzling! A tour de force!"
Oh no...
A one and a two and a...
Mam-my...


MEANWHILE...


Singing in the rain.
I couldn't bring myself to screencap the attempted rape scene. I got a look at myself doing this from above and got too weirded out. You can watch the pertinent two minutes here.



And they lived happily ever after.



The TV Tomb of Mystery is an ongoing catalog of one man's attempt to stave off  acquisition of any more impulse-buy DVDs until he can take better inventory of the ones already in his possession.

7 comments:

  1. I've seen these, way back in the distant past. I've always found them slightly unsettling, even if watchable. The reason they were unsettling to me is that they had this weird vibe to them, sort of like when you run across an off-brand knock-off of a superhero, such as those Indian comics featuring Superman and Spiderman acting completely out-of-character, by our standards. It's a weird comparison, I know, but it's the same basic feeling I get, which is akin to a nightmare.

    Did you ever see Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp? It's a late '60s/early '70s kids spy show with an all-chimp cast. They ran it here in syndication in the '80s. The first few times I saw it, I was so shocked that I couldn't stop laughing.

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    1. I haven't, but I'm instantly intrigued...

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  2. Oh, I don't think a stoned teenager would need to be an alien in order to get some chortles out of this...

    I've never been stoned myself. But I have been drunk, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I got ripped and sat down to watch this, I would do nothing but laugh until I gave myself an epic headache.

    I'd never heard of the movie, but I watched that clip you linked to, and holy crow...

    By the way, I had a Lancelot Chimp storybook at some point, but never saw the show. I should look that up.

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  3. It really is hard trying to find the right words to what I'm seeing and have seen of this short.

    Lancelot Link was tossed around a few times, and I do know and have even watched a few clips from the series. In my opinion, Lance Link is charming compared to what I'm seeing here. Seriously, aside from being thoroughly weirded out I'm not sure whether to be amused or horrified (possibly a little of both).

    Part of me wants to call it a kind of surrealism, but I know too better for that. the worst part is, at certain moments I'm reminded of Barton Fink and (shudder) wonder what an all dog performance of that the latter would be like (and yes that would mean including Turrtoro Goodman's dialogue in).....

    ....I'd take my meds, only I don't know if that would just make things worse.

    ChrisC

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    1. I love watching animals on film, so those doggies dressed in tuxedos and whatnot charms me. I don't like thinking about the sort of things they might have been subjected to during the filming, though. That makes me want to Hulk out.

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    2. I see the kaleidoscope of human behavior and activity as a nightmare that occasionally produces moments of clarity, usually by complete accident, and from such moments arise civilization. (Only to be threatened constantly by the ongoing non-repair of said kaleidoscope, but that's a whole 'nother story.) Our own civilization for better or worse produced The Dogway Melody not too long after it produced Picasso's Reclining Woman and not too long before producing the A-bomb. I'm drifting, I apologize - it's my prerogative as a new parent; lack of sleep makes you think funny things - all I'm saying is, I'm not too bothered by anything on display here. Its weirdness is more illuminating to me than any (personal) call to alarm.

      I write this, of course, in complete ignorance of how the Dogville productions came about. If animals were tortured or killed then I have the same disdain for it all as I do when confronted with such things now. If anyone has any more info on this, please send along. But in absence of such incriminating info - the less-than-ASPCA thing I quoted was from a dead-link at the Dogville wiki; hardly a smoking gun, but just enough for me to put in the body of the post - I feel okay with it all. Like I say, it's either dustbin-of-history lint, or it's just so freaking bizarre that attention must be paid. Or both! I say thee nay. Maybe all things are both. Again, I drift, my apologies.

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    3. "Maybe all things are both." -- That might be the most compelling bit of existentialism I've heard since finishing "Promethea"!

      I've got no clue how the movie was made, in terms of its kindness to animals. It might have been a model of humane behavior, for all I know. I just tend to assume that given how lax the olden times were in certain regards, my thoughts tend to go to the worst places. As long as I don't have confront any direct evidence of it, I guess it's all good.

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