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  • "shinbone alley" is one of the most powerful and interesting animated features I've ever seen. It is also one of the most mismarketed animated features as well. The distributor, Allied Artists, states in this add that it is "SOPHISTICATED ENOUGH FOR KIDS".

    It is not. Kids simply won't understand the dark humor of the Don Marquis stories and the Mel Brooks-Joe Darion musical on which this is based. They'll also be brought down by the bleak tone of the film, which opens with what I'll simply describe as suicide, to spare your feelings.

    However, I highly recommend this film to older teenagers and adults. "shinbone alley" is a visionary wonder; kind of like "Yellow Submarine" combined with "Dark City". The story involves archy (voiced by Eddie Bracken), a lovesick roach who is the reincarnation of the suicide victim in the opening moments. (The title of the film and names of characters are written in lower case on purpose; one of the plot strands is that archy writes essays and poems on a typewriter by jumping on the keys; in his human form, archy was a lovesick poet) The object of his affections is mehitabel (Carol Channing), a cat who I'll simply describe as the town floozy. Basically, the film is about their friendship and various trials and tribulations.

    "shinbone alley" is bleak, but what visuals! New York is used as a backdrop for various psychodelic musical numbers lifted from the musical. The songs are very good here. As in all great musicals, they enhance the story instead of being set pieces. The vocal performances are excellent as well, especially Carol Channing as mehitabel. I don't understand why most people are down on Channing's vocals. I think she's perfectly cast as mehitabel and is an asset to the success of the film. Eddie Bracken is also well cast as archy and I think he is responsible for much of the humor infused in the character. And Flintstones fans will recognize Alan Reed as the boss cat in the gang mehitabel hangs around.

    "shinbone alley" is a wonderful movie, but I urge all parents to take my advice and not to let their kids see this film. It has parts in it that made me break down and I'm sure kids will take it even harder. But is a rewarding experience for teens and adults.

    **** out of 4 stars
  • Marquis wrote a daily column on "archy and mehitabel" for the New York Post in the nineteen-twenties, as a defence against the bottle and a job as a sports reporter.I read the Penguin collection of his "a and m" stories in the fifties,as an animator at the Disney studio. I tried to get the studio interested, but they were not ready for the earthy humor, and the scandalous goings on of mehitabel. Later when I had started up my own studio, Fine Arts Films,I saw the Broadway production,with Eartha Kitt,which was brilliant.I had met Carol Channing,(who I saw as mehitabel,--perfect gravel voice),and she agreed to do it.With that start,I could not fail.I found a sympathetic ear of a friend,Preston(Sandy) Fleet,who was willing to invest in the production of SHINBONE ALLEY by my studio,Fine Arts Films.By 1969,we had a talented group of storymen,designers and artists,some ex Disney and Warners.Joe Darion and George Kleinsinger,(who had done the stage musical version),did the final script and music.Eddie Bracken and Alan Reed came aboard,and that was it,except we found John Carradine,a great actor,was willing to play the part of that old roue' actor-cat, Tyrone.T.Tattersall.We stuck faithfully to Marquis,and a stunning sequence,"archy declares war", in the middle of the film,we animated in George Herriman's cartoon style,(he illustrated Marquis' poems),creating a world that Marquis lived in. Our film "SHINBONE ALLEY" has been honored as one of the all-time great animated movies by The Museum of the Moving Image in New York,as well as winning the Golden Phoenix Grand Prize at the Atlanta Film Festival of 1971.
  • It's a shame this film has been buried from the start. It has some really superb music, written by George Kleinsinger, a couple of fantastic performances by Carol Channing & Eddie Bracken, - & best of all, it's based on the great Don Marquis series from (I believe) the old New York World - Archy & Mehitabel. The compilation book was illustrated by the peerless George Herriman (Krazy Kat - & Mehitabel really was Krazy Kat!) & some of the scenes in this film are Herriman-inspired, another reason to treasure it.

    Pity the poor wimps who are traumatized by any animation that isn't filled with fluffy bunnies.
  • Shinbone Alley is not like every other animated film. It brings a unique approach to animation. It is almost like viewing an animated jazz opera in some respects. The characters are well defined and quite good, and some of the backgrounds are almost works of art on the New York scene. It is true that some very small children might not understand it, but a vast majority of people who view the film will find aspects of it that they will love; like the George Herriman sequence when archy declares war on humans. Carol Channing is wonderful as mehitabel, especially when she sings Shakespeare. Eddie Bracken is great as archy. This is the type of film that can be viewed again and again, and you find something new and interesting each time you see it. It was definitely a style setter in 2D animation, and should be applauded for its unconventional approach. Throughout the years, there have been a handful of animated films that could truly be called one-off, style setting, animation treasures -- Fantasia, Yellow Submarine, Toy Story, for example. I feel that Shinbone Alley easily fits into this select group of animated films.
  • I have been a fan of archy and mehitabel for a long time. I like don marquis's commentary of life using a cockroach to speak for him. The animated film has music and wonderful voices to supplement the books of his columns. I have known several children that love the film too. It is not too depressing. Quite the opposite. archy and mehitabel show a remarkable joy of life even as they suffer from being an insect or an alley cat. Carol Channing was a favorite of mine for as long as I knew her. Her voice is unmistakable. Who else could have done Romeo & Juliette with such zest! Some of the musical scenes such as "flotsam & jetsam" are outstanding. archy's wonder of the passions of the world at ground level gives one pause for thought. He even envies a moth that wants to burn itself to death because of its desire for that one brief moment of intense beauty. He no longer wants to kill himself when he experiences so much richness, however mean and coarse it might be.
  • Vastarien2025 October 2006
    I had a chance to see this glorious film again after nearly 23 years. I was very small when I saw it for the first time, and some hint of it stayed with me all this time. I just now finished watching it again, and, for me, it has lost none of its power. I am somewhat shocked that my mum let me watch it at such a young age, considering the lusty nature of Mehitabel, and the very dark attitudes, but I'm very glad that she had enough faith in me as a child to handle it.I was quite moved by the passion and joy of life all the characters have, even in the most awful circumstances. Pride in yourself as you are, with no apologies is indeed the best way to live. Thank you,Mehitabel. Thank you,Archy.
  • I'd disagree that this was little more than some Heinz Adelmann rip-off. This film's got real class. It's a pity so few people saw it in its original run, and so few have seen it since. It's a true rarity in today's film culture. Our cartoons are still EXACTLY what the producers of this film wanted to break away from. The colours and imagery used in this film are often quite reminiscent of this "Yellow Submarine" feature you speak of. In fact, at one time there was a blue meany involved in the "Insects of the world unite" sequence. Of course it was removed. I think it was only a joke. But, this film is a great opportunity to learn about the cinema underdogs, the films geared towards a higher audience that seldom do well in theatre. I would add the Iron Giant to this category as well.
  • larry-17530 November 2002
    Okay, so there's better (far better!) animation out there. And the music is to kill for. (Not 'die for;' kill for.) Not even Carol Channing can save it. But 'Shinbone Alley' is special in its tributes to a great writer, Don Marquis, and an even greater cartoonist, George Herriman. The story is true to Marquis's "Archy" poems; the depiction of the footloose Mehitabel is right on target. The newcomer to Archy and Mehitabel would do well to read some of Marquis's newspaper columns and poetry before tackling the film. The effort won't be wasted.

    The real surprise to me, though, was the cartooning style of Herriman, eminently featured in mid-film. It's a treat no Krazy Kat fan should miss.
  • I remember seeing this back in the Early-Mid 80's during a Holiday weekday on STV. Obviously the station realised too late that this was not your typical Kiddy Fodder as it was never shown again (a minor miracle for anyone who knows STV). I'm not surprised.

    It was Soooo depressing. Suicide-Unrequited Love-Sleaze-Despair. Fun viewing for all the Family. Has to be said though that it did stick in my mind, though maybe not for the right reasons.

    An odd curiosity that was very out of place for its time. Can't believe it was made in the 70's.

    Probably traumatised more kids than Bambis' Mother.
  • The animation is certainly different. Early- and pre-cinema enthusiasts will recognise some of the psychedelic effects as magic lantern chromotropes, and there are shades of Georges Melies in some of the sequences. Carol Channing is brilliant as Mehitabel! Good jazz-like sound track.
  • If I could give it 0 stars I would. Don't waste your time. Watch infomercials instead.
  • I got curious about this movie after seeing pictures for it. Then I ordered the movie online, watched it , and I thought it is another great animated movie. Based on a musical that went on Broadway, this film is also based on the short stories by a fellow named Don Marquis about a newspaperman who jumped in the river to drown himself. He reappears as a cockroach, who finds out he can still type by jumping up and down on the keys of a typewriter. He then falls secretly in love with Mehitabel, the cat; an unlikely romance huh? He writes poetry to her and tries to keep her on the straight and narrow; kind of like Jiminy Cricket don't you think? But Mehitabel has a heart-throb, Big Bill the Alley's tom-cat (voiced by The Flintstones' Alan Reed), and is now Archy's nemesis.

    Of course, Mehitabel's romance with Bill ended badly and she promise Archy to change her wild ways. That is until she meet a theater cat known as Tyrone T. Tattersall. Archy then decides to commit suicide - again, until he came across Big Bill and told him everything. Meanwhile, at a theater, Mehitabel was being used by Tattersall to steal food for him, and thus ending her relationship with him. Then seeing Bill and Archy, Bill reconcile with Mehitabel to dismay of little Archy. Angry Archy decides to declare war in a George Herriman sequence; that is until he heard that Mehitabel had kittens of course, and "needs him." Oh! you folks will have to see it for yourself how it ends.

    So what can I say about this film is that it's truly a colorful animated Broadway musical with foot-tapping music and a top-notch cast. Carol was great as the seductive feline Mehitabel, I remember her vocals from "Happily Ever After" and "Thumbelina." I love it when she goes "Toujours Gai,Toujours Gai." I also love it when Mehitabel does a "Romeo & Juliet" monologue in such a jazzy zest, that I couldn't help but go along with Tattersall's aghast expressions; just for the fun of it. So overall I think this film is a colorful, comical, musical work of art.
  • Even with its release on DVD a few years ago, "Shinbone Alley" has stayed pretty obscure over the years, and seeing it you'll understand why. I imagine many people will be turned off by the animation style, which is similar to animation found in the early years of "Sesame Street", pretty crude and sketchy. It still could have worked if it was engaging in other areas, but it isn't. Those who are unfamiliar with the original "Archy and Mehitabel" stories (especially kids) will be confused by some parts of the screenplay. Some kids who are more sensitive may be upset by elements such as suicide, though I think most kids who manage to sit through this will be bored stiff. But what really sinks the movie are the characters. Archy the cockroach is an annoying whiner who will get on your nerves, and Mehitabel the cat is a dim-witted slut who only thinks of herself. I would recommend this movie only for adults who are die-hard fans of animation, though I would suggest they don't watch it all at once.
  • A story I heard, that filmmakers once considered doing an animated version of the musical Cats, has just reminded me of that disappointing 1971 cartoon of Shinbone Alley, based on the Joe Darion/George Kleinsinger stage musical. Eddie Bracken and Carol Channing recreate their roles from the still-earlier "concept album" archy and mehitabel. Where these two had been cute and intimate, and, above all, musical, cockroach and cat were now rasping, whining and screeching -- characteristics that could have worked fine for those particular actors, but in sufficiently small quantities.

    One of the most disappointing characters was Bill, the big blackhearted tomcat originally sung by Percival Dove (best known for the singing voice of Brock Peters as Crown in Porgy and Bess). The prospect of an apparently offensive ethnic stereotype inspired filmmakers, as far as I can observe, to eliminate black performers from the piece altogether -- the part is done by Alan Reed, aka Fred Flintstone!

    Yes I know: Carol is "black" now.

    Aside from singing cats, it parallelled the Lloyd-Webber musical Cats in the deployment of a flying manhole cover, during the song Flotsam and Jetsam: "Only Mehitabel could get that high on a 'lid'" is the tag (penned by Mel Brooks, incidentally).

    Compared to George Pal's classic 1946 treatment of an earlier Kleinsinger work, Tubby the Tuba, the limited animation here was flat and ugly.

    Adult content of story is not of interest to children I suppose (although probably not harmful either), so the problems of marketing this picture probably helped bury it.

    I'll say this though: it just may be better than Fritz the Cat!
  • As a child, I saw some TV filler on the making of this film and waited for it to come to town. Months later it surfaced at a local theater as a one weekend only kiddie feature. Naturally I went, and endured hours of blue & bleak imagery, a depressing story, and the voice of Carol Channing. I remember kids in the theater crying because it depressed them so. The whole experience was a childhood trauma I tried to forget. For god's sake, the cartoon opens with a guy's suicide!

    Years later I'd described this forgotten film to friends, but not even hardcore toon heads knew about it. However, I did learn that the songs came from an early 60's Broadway flop of the same name which featured Eartha Kitt in the Carol Channing role, and that was based on an earlier series of "humorous" stories from the 1930's.

    I managed to track down a copy of this film and give it another look from an adult's perspective. Man, no wonder we kids of the 70's are so messed up! This film really is possessed of a dark dreary depressing vision. I can't see how it resembles Yellow Submarine. Yes, it has a trippy pallet, but it's one bad trip. If anything, it's thick black lines and cross-hatched shading resemble TV's "School House Rock", and even more so those terrible "Time For Timer" bits that ABC subjected us to.

    I'll cut the film some slack, because I know it was not aimed at kids, and thus suffered the same fate that `Watership Down' and `Twice Upon A Time' would later know. Namely, that all feature animation gets marked as kiddie fare regardless of content. Not only do the creators suffer, but the kids suffer more. Speaking as a former kid, I must tell you to spare your kids and yourselves this animated curiosity.