Fritz the Cat, his own personal 60s
Last night I watched Ralph Bakshi’s Fritz the Cat for the first time in… a long time.
Fritz was Bakshi’s first feature film, and the most commercially successful. The fate of Bakshi’s subsequent works seems to have been to flop at the box office, or achieve only moderate success insufficient to cover costs of production, and re-emerge as cult classics. The character is the creation of cartoonist R. Crumb – who hated the movie.
Fritz was released in 1972 and set in the 1960′s. Since Fritz is shown to be a drop-out college student, I figure that has to make him mid to late-sixties now.
Historically Fritz the Cat has minor significance as the first feature-length animated film to be given an ‘X’ rating, which is why I had to wait until the kids were asleep to watch it.
I wanted to watch it again because I only vaguely recollected the details. (A common occurrance, most people saw it back then while psychopharmacologically enchanted.) Given its place in pop culture, I thought it might provide some insight into the cultural milieu of that time, and the consequences thereof.
Boy did it ever.
I recommend that you try watching this sometime. But most definitely, not with young children.
Bakshi captures that time perfectly, and it’s pretty ugly. I’m referring to the sheer pretentious phoniness of it all, and the viciousness that was beginning to emerge from it. Every cultural pathology and all the PC idiocy we’re experiencing right now, can be seen at its beginnings then.
Fritz isn’t a bad cat, basically he just wants to get laid. In pursuit of that end, he adopts all the hollow intellectual garbage that impresses the chicks (his handicap being that he’s not an oppressed-but-cool Crow) and ultimately winds up with some truly vicious “revolutionary” junkies.
Fritz passes through this all, blithely unaware of the damage he’s doing until the very last, when it’s pretty much too late. But he does survive, though injured, and continues his quest though this time he really does have some of the experience he’d only pretended to have.
I’m still digesting this, but some questions that occur to me are, us hippy types loved this movie back then, did we just not get it? Did we see the phoniness and viciousness in others but not ourselves? Or hopefully, was this the beginning of maturity for some of us?
If you’re unfamiliar with Bakshi’s work, head over here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Bakshi
There are lots of surprises such as, Bakshi was born in Haifa (then Palestine) and is of Krymchak descent. (They’ll tell you what that is.)
Peter Jackson loved Bakshi’s attempt at Lord of the Rings and was inspired by it to read Tolkien and ultimately make his movie series.
And what about Fritz? Well, he reappeared in a sequel The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat which I may try and get ahold of sometime. I remember almost nothing about it, so it can’t have made much of an impression.
R. Crumb disliked the movie so much that he killed Fritz off. Me, I like to think that Fritz grew up and is living quietly somewhere, a bit embarrassed by his callow youth, but thinking with a smile from time to time about some of the chicks he consorted with.