Warner Brothers produced thousands of memorable, ground-breaking cartoons, and demonstrated no qualms about repeating motifs and plot elements. Some of these repetitions result from a confluence of tight schedules, successful formats, and lazy writing, so that viewers now can tune into a seemingly endless stream of more or less identical cartoons in which the Coyote, say, utterly fails to capture the Roadrunner. Others represent second attempts at successful ideas, handled slightly differently, or for different eras. Some of the similarities among particular cartoons are idiosyncratic enough the viewers detect little series within the Looney Tunes oeuvre. "Rabbit Rampage," for example, is an obvious sequel to "Duck Amok." "One Froggy Evening," in which a singing amphibian torments a man who would profit from it, belongs in the same cartoony Twilight Zone as "Punch Trunk," in which a tiny elephant panics the people who see it.

And then there's the Porky and Silent Sylvester Horror Trilogy:

Scaredy Cat
Claws for Alarm
Jumpin' Jupiter

It never bore this name, but these three deranged cartoons, written by Michael Maltese, directed by Chuck Jones, and voiced by Mel Blanc, belong in a set. Each features a cat with Sylvester's name and general appearance, but a personality at variance with his other Looney Tunes appearances. He cannot speak as he does in other cartoons, and he shakes and shivers nervously even before events turn terrifying. Each shows Porky Pig as Sylvester's owner. The pig himself is particularly clueless, even by the standards already established for the character. In each, Porky and Sylvester drive to their terror-filled destination in an out-of-date jalopy, something manufactured in the 1920s. And while the tone softens as the series progresses, each of these 'toons features scary imagery and concepts. Scary, horrible, terrifying, nightmarish imagery and concepts.

Particularly morbid is the first entry, "Scaredy Cat" (1948).

Porky has purchased a new home, a classic Victorian haunted house. Sylvester doesn't like the look of it; Porky thinks it just needs work. They settle into their first night and, after some standard Warner Brothers slapstick and hijinks, the cat learns they're not alone.

The house has an infestation of mice—- deranged, psychopathic, killer mice. Sylvester witnesses a bound and bedraggled cat being carried off in procession. The mice in front carry candles. A large, hooded rodent in the rear carries an axe. We never see that feline again.

Then the mice take aim at the new owners of the home. The problem is, Porky never sees the danger he's in, and he accuses Sylvester of being a coward, prone to fantasy. Of course, only Sylvester's continued efforts keep Porky alive, frequently at the cost of the cat's lives. Finally, the distraught puss, unable to live with the fear, puts a gun to his temples. The suicide is stopped by his angry owner. Given that we're dealing with ridiculous cartoon animals, it's surprising how disturbing this manages to be. The dangers here strike a nerve missed by the usual falling anvils and exploding dynamite.

Not convinced? How about the next scene?

The faithful Sylvester is sent to his kitty-bed in the kitchen. Someone lowers him through a trap door into the cellar.

Hands on the clock fade forward as time passes from one to four a.m.

Sylvester reappears. He's grown pale and old with fear. His eyes are wide with fright. We never learn what transpired in that basement, but it clearly will scar him for life.

We’re deep in a Merrie Melodies nightmare.

FURTHER SPOILERS and commentary.

Porky remains unmoved, until the mice take him captive. "You were right, Sylvester" reads a sign held by the gagged and frightened pig, as the rodents carry him off to his doom.

Sylvester bolts, but his conscience gets the better of him. Or maybe the experiences in the cellar have turned him, Bruce Wayne-like, into a grim vigilante. Pumped and angry, he grabs a tree branch—- then reconsiders and uproots the entire tree—- and storms back into the home. We hear the sound of a massacre as the entire house jumps about with violence. This time, it's the mice who flee in terror. And then.... Well, there's a little more, but that's the cartoon.

Fun for the whole family, huh?

With effectively-rendered haunted settings and a creepy score by Carl Stalling, "Scaredy Cat" makes a memorable cartoon, seldom shown anymore on commercial television. It can be found on the first volume of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection. A tiny segment of this cartoon appears in the Bugs Bunny Howl-o-ween Special(1976), inserted into its more well-known sequel, the second feature in the Porky and Silent Sylvester Horror Trilogy, 1954's "Claws for Alarm." These cartoons also inspired a videogame, Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday.


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