Six years after the disturbing Merrie Melodies entry "Scaredy Cat" the Porky and Silent Sylvester Horror Trilogy continued with the arguably superior—- certainly better-known—- "Claws for Alarm"(1954). The same writer, Michael Maltese, director, Chuck Jones, and (of course) voice man, Mel Blanc, apparently decided to revisit their earlier cartoon. It seems a reasonable move. The premise worked once, yet clearly it could stand some tweaking. "Scaredy Cat" features imagery that many would find too grotesque and horrific for some younger viewers. It also has a fairly conventional ending, and one that includes a gag allusion to Lew Lehr, a comedian well-known in the 1930s and 40s, but increasingly forgotten after his death in 1950. The gag doesn't hold up, and that must have seemed obvious by 1954.

Once again, Porky Pig and a non-speaking Sylvester cat putter along in a dated jalopy, this time headed for Albuquerque, New Mexico. The hour turns late so they pull into decrepit Dry Gulch. The pig fails to recognize that he's in a deserted ghost town; he assumes that the small town folks must all be in bed. He checks himself and his cat into an abandoned hotel and goes to sleep.

Sylvester finds things a little less comforting. As in "Scaredy Cat," a mischief of mice reside in the old building, and while they're less obviously psychopathic than their predecessors, they're no less willing to use fear and death threats to drive away the invaders. Like their real-life counterparts, we spy them only fleetingly (one of them looking suspiciously like Wile E. Coyote). Mostly, we know their presence from their actions.

And what actions. They impersonate a ghost to frighten the cat, but they're clearly happy to kill the guests if they don't leave. One mouse swings down from a rope, knife in hand. Several rodents take aim with a shotgun. In perhaps the cartoon's most famous image, they lower a hangman's noose from a mounted moose head. When Sylvester tries to stop the pests from hanging his owner by cutting the rope with a straight razor, Porky awakes, and accuses the cat of trying to murder him. Sylvester, incapable of speech in this series, replays the bizarre attack for the incredulous pig. It's a funny moment, but dagnabit, a killer noose lowering slowly from a eerily-drawn moose-mouth, accompanied by Carl Stalling's sinister score, is downright disturbing. Likewise, we're treated to Porky's abuse of his cat, whom he absolutely refuses to believe. Unlike the previous cartoon, the moment never arrives where Porky realizes the danger he's in.

And so the still clueless Porky sleeps soundly while his faithful, frightened feline stands guard, using the mice's shotgun. Porky awakes refreshed and decides he wants to spend the week. Sylvester feels differently. The cartoon ends with them seeming to escape, until.... But that would be telling.

"Claws for Alarm" feels very much like a revision of the earlier cartoon, stronger in concept but (save for the ending) milder in its implications. The animators also use a more simplified, stylized appearance for the backgrounds, though one as clearly inspired by old horror movies.

The cartoon appeared in theaters and later received heavy television rotation on The Bugs Bunny Show. In the 1970s, it fell victim to censors, and lost some of the stronger scenes. It was edited into both Bugs Bunny's Howl-o-ween Special (1976) and Daffy Duck's Quackbusters (1988), and sold in its entirety in the third volume of The Looney Tunes Golden Collection. The Howl-o-ween Special feels the need to explain Sylvester's lack of a voice; it seems he's under a spell cast by Witch Hazel. This cartoon and its predecessor also inspired a videogame, Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday.

The series closes with one final cartoon, "Jumpin' Jupiter", which takes the trilogy to a new frontier.


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