Thursday, June 25, 2009

Once Upon A Girl (1976, Don Jurwich)



Fairy tales have been interpreted as rape parables by feminists for years so they already make a perfect fit for boners. Like x-rated animated features, there's also a small niche of live action erotic fairy tale comedies with the sophistication of a snickering eleven year old. Animated fairy tales have the extra benefit of being instantly identifiable with Disney's most frequently adapted material, which is why you see cheap knockoffs in the dollar bin at the grocery store for undiscriminating grandparents to bring frustrated children who wanted the real Little Mermaid and not the Sri Lankan knockoff.

Once Upon A Girl owes existence to Ralph Bakshi's 1972 film Fritz the Cat, a feature length animated movie for adults. Bakshi's best films were all ahead of him and so too were the imitators on Fritz's heels, eschewing the satirical stories of Robert Crumb and Bakshi's beautifully lively animation for a lot of gratuitous dirtiness. The number of actual porno cartoon features is small, since decades from South Park any animation for an adult audience had to be produced for dingy grindhouse programming. In the wake of Fritz's financial success, the era of novelty x-rated animation - which ended with 1981's Heavy Metal - produced a lot of gratingly witless weirdness wherein every sexual reference or naked cartoon girl is lingered upon naughtily like a child who's just learned to swear.

The live action segments which intersperse OUAG also bring Ralph Bakshi to mind, except here they're so obviously time filler to save just a few minutes of expensive animation. In the film's single live set, a transvestite Mother Goose played by Hal Smith ("Otis" on The Andy Griffith Show) is on trial for obscenity and retells the stories of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Room to a room of very 1970s looking young people off the street. The twist is, get this, all the stories are dirty! The animation for all three segments is mostly competent and completely lifeless, fitting the state of the medium in 1976. The cast is mostly all humans, drawn with the stiff posture and expresionless faces to be found on increasingly incompetent Saturday Morning programming emulating Scooby Doo. According to the hosts of The Silent Movie Theater some Josie and the Pussycats storyboard artists contributed to this film and it shows in the female anatomy on display, which like Josie is a blander, more realistic version of Dan Decarlo's Bettie and Veronica design. The mannequin men and the semi-proportional women who populate the rest of the show have about three expressions each to convey themselves, mainly by raising and lowering the eyebrows over their dot eyes. Other casualties of the animated times include a wonky, incessant synthesizer score and shrill voice acting. Jack's voice in the Beanstalk story has a stutter, which is not only unfunny and annoying but probably saved a few precious dollars of screen time, having him flap his mouth hole a longer amount of time.

The very dull animation makes the ensuing slapstick sex so cardboard that the intercourse itself is banal by repetition. There a lot of fucking, tits and boners, punctuating by lousy voice acting about the clap and other explicit talk assuming hilarity for being spoken in a cartoon. Unfortunately once the initial shock wears off at the end of the first story, the following are tedious and mostly predictable. The only truly amusing moments come from fleeting gags involving animal sidekicks with hard ons - much less disturbing than cartoon humans with them - and a mincing homosexual troll under a bridge. A few misguided attempts at pioneering sexual slapstick occasionally liven the monotony, such as when Jack hides from the Giant inside the Giant's wife. Otherwise, a bore and a chore. The disbelief at what you are seeing - by now only accounting for the age of the style - is quickly surpassed by disbelief that this had a viable audience. With shock value diminished by time, there's nothing to recommend to this except kitsch novelty, and shoddy kitsch too.

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