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Shinbone Alley
Shinbone Alley
Actors: Carol Channing, Eddie Bracken, Alan Reed, John Carradine, Hal Smith
Director: John Wilson
Genres: Comedy, Kids & Family, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Musicals & Performing Arts, Animation
PG     2006     1hr 25min

Join the fun and laugh along with the "misadventures" of Archy the cockroach, a poet in his former life now having to jump on his typewriter keys to peck out his poems. Archie adores the huge-eyed, blonde, hip-swaying Mehi...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Carol Channing, Eddie Bracken, Alan Reed, John Carradine, Hal Smith
Director: John Wilson
Creators: John Wilson, David Detiege, Preston M. Fleet, Dick Kinney, Don Marquis, Joe Darion, Marty Murphy, Mel Brooks
Genres: Comedy, Kids & Family, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Musicals & Performing Arts, Animation
Sub-Genres: Animation, Mel Brooks, Mel Brooks, Animation, Comedy, Animation, Musicals, Animation
Studio: Image Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 08/08/2006
Original Release Date: 04/07/1971
Theatrical Release Date: 04/07/1971
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 25min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Not great, but better than nothing
Douglas A. Greenberg | Berkeley, CA USA | 08/12/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Back in 1954 there appeared a short but charming long-playing record on the Columbia label entitled "archy and mehitabel," which put to music some of the stories and sketches originally created by New York journalist Don Marquis. The twenty-five minute mini-production on side a was absolutely charming, and it was complemented on side b by an eighteen-minute additional series of songs and musings called "echoes of archy." The lp featured the voices of Carol Channing and Eddie Bracken, and was a veritable masterpiece featuring witty lyrics, catchy tunes, and outstanding performances all around. Unfortunately, the old Columbia catalogue of musical shows has not been treated kindly by new owner Sony Music, and so "archy and mehitabel" has never been re-released on cd. The original production was, however, expanded in 1957 into a short-running Broadway show entitled "Shinbone Alley," which featured Eartha Kitt as Mehitabel. This show included the music from the original "archy and mehitabel," plus some additional tunes, most of them fairly undistinguished. "Shinbone Alley" was released on cd in 1993, but has gone out of print since.Consequently, the only version of the original "archy and mehitabel" music and story currently available is this oddly produced 1971 animated production. The good news is that the cartoon features once again the voices of Carol Channing (the quintessential Mehitabel, in my humble opinion) and Eddie Bracken. It also faithfully includes most of the music from the original 1954 lp release, and features some charming moments in which the animation and music blend together splendidly. The bad news however, is that overall, this production seems disjointed and at times, choppy. For whatever reasons, the vocal performances of both Bracken and Channing pale beside their 1954 originals; by 1971, apparently Channing's vocal range had contracted to the point where she had to change keys to sing some of the songs, with sometimes disquieting results. More inexplicable is that the animated presentation omits one of the most memorable numbers from the original lp production, the defiantly romantic duet between Mehitabel and her love-of-the-moment, the tomcat Bill. Finally, whereas some of the animation is imaginative in its creation of a modernistic and somewhat abstracted urban alley-cat setting, all too often the approach used during the songs themselves is to fall back upon what appear now to be highly dated Peter Max-esque psychedelic doodlings ranging from the mildly interesting to the just plain silly. For those of us who continue to treasure the original recorded production of "archy and mehitabel," our aging copies of the 1954 vinyl lp will remain preferable to this cartoon production. For anyone else interested in this still-charming urban fable, however, the animated version of "Shinbone Alley" currently remains the only game in town."
A not-so-well-known classic
T. Johnson | PA, United States | 06/20/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I decided to jot down a few thoughts about this gem of a film after viewing it the other night. I had recalled enjoying it immensely as a child, and this time I was definitely not betrayed by memory! The story is all about Archy, a plucky and bold yet intensely romantic-souled cockroach/poet, and his good friend Mehitabel the sexy and independent alley cat. You would not think that one could get so involved with animal characters of this sort, but you do, due to the fascinating viewpoints & quasi-human features of the cats, bugs, and rodents who inhabit Shinbone Alley. Although Archy and co. still maintain some basic traits which are representative of their species, they also operate as fable-esque types who satirize many human traits. Mehitabel steals the picture with her sassy, liberated philosophy of life, graceful dancing, and lively singing{ her voice is charmingly supplied by Carol Channing}. You can`t help but love her: she`s a fetching hybrid of Mae West, Eliza Doolittle, and everyone`s favorite stray cat. One of the story`s running plots involves Archy`s unrequited feelings for her, and you really do find yourself rooting for him: his wistful efforts to help her find a place as a house cat are constantly thwarted by her show biz ambitions and her many boyfriends. Despite some quarrels, the pair remain close, and this makes this the rare animated film to depict the ups and downs of a friendship. Mehitabel and Archy are always there for each other, no matter what the crisis. Highlights of the movie include gorgeous, bright visual depictions of Archy`s poems,and thesong "Flotsam and Jetsam", in which the pair take a joyous ride down the rivers of New York on a trash can lid. I should add that much of the material is PG in nature, but much of it will also go over a child`s head{i.e., Mehitabel`s covert sexual flirting, a few mild alcohol references}. Also highly recommended: Don Marquis`witty and touching poems, on which the musical that was adapted into this film was based."
An uplifting, joyous romp that gives you food for thought
Jamie Kellogg | Fairbanks, Alaska | 10/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I loved Shinbone Alley. It was one of my favorite movies as a child and I was so happy to find a copy of my own. I love the bittersweet relationship between Archy and Mehitabel, and Mehitabels steady stream of tom cats remind of a lot of lonely women that I know. I especially love Archy's soap box speeches, and the music in this movie makes me want to snap my fingers."
Toujours gai, toujours gai, wotthehell, wotthehell there's a
Michael Weber | Atlanta | 02/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Archie the cokroach poet first called himself to public notice in 1916 when he began leaving notes on the typewriter of New York Sun columnist Don Marquis (pronounced MAR-kwess, incidentally).

Since the typewriter was a manual model, archie had to type (quite slowly) by climbing up on top and jumping on the keys one by one. He couldn't handle the shift key, so he used no capital letters.

Besides being a "vers libre bard", archie also was a raconteur, rather in the style of Will Rogers, and often told tales of the goings-on in Shinbone Alley, where he and Mehitbel the alley cat (a reincarnated Cleopatra) resided.

The columns featuring archie and mehitabel were quite popular, and were first collected in book form in 1927 ("archie and mehitabel") [still in print], followed by more volumes in 1933 ("archies life of mehitabel") and 1935 ("archiue does his part").

The books were illustrated by George Herriman, creator of "Krazy Kat", and his lanky loose-limbed but tight style fit the characters and material beautifully.

There were stage productions in the 50s and 60s (Mel Brooks was involved in the Broadway version), with first Carroll Channing and then Eartha Kitt as Mehitabel (Eddie Bracken played archie opposite Channing.)

And then, in 1971, came this film.

The animation (except in one sequence) is simplified in style compared to Herriman's art and Mehitabel is a caricature of Channing rather than basically a Krazy Kat klone (sorry), but it captures the feel.

My own favourite moments:

John Carradine as the old-style theatre cat who saved the day for a famous Shakespearean actor (i fear i have forgotten whom) when a jealous understudy hid the star's beard just before the performance. The cat, as he explains, knowing the show must go on, leapt to the star's aid... and clung to him throughout the performance, playing the beard.

Archie's declaration of war against humanity, in which the animation drops into full Herriman-style.

And Archie's report of his interview with a moth, trying to fathom why moths fly into candle flames. "Have you ever seen the beauty that exists in the heart of a flame?" the moth asks in turn, and archie concludes:

"...and, boss, i wish there
were one thing that i
wanted half as much
as that guy
to fry..."

Wonderful film -- but do not make the mistake of assuming that "It's a cartoon -- it's a kiddie film." As a quick rule of thumb, if you can't or don't want to pre-screen it, call it PG13, though i wouldn't hesitate in showing it to younger kids if i thought they would enjoy it and understand some of the issues raised.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps it ought be labelled, as a shelf card in the bookstore in one of Will Shetterley's "Bordertown" stories reads: "Children and Unusually Perceptive Adults"

(To give credit where credit is due, i consulted Don Markstein's massive online reference, the Toonopedia, for the relevant dates opf archie and mehitabel's first and subsequent appearances.)"