"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
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