Cartoon Hell #6 – “Les Escargots”January 31, 2008
Cartoon Hell is TheKarpuk’s attempt to review every single installment in an awful $5 collection called “150 Classic Cartoons” purchased at his local Wal-Mart. Your prayers are welcome.
There is not a man or woman in France who has not had their hearts warmed by the antics of the cartoon characters, “Les Escargots”. To this day the presence of Les Escargots lunch boxes, video games, and even fanciful snail hats indicates that the cartoons series still holds a vice-like grip on the hearts and minds of the French population. To see this, their first appearance on such a heinous collection is both an insult and a faint hope that this under-appreciated classic might finally find an audience stateside.
Before the film even begins, we see a list of the prizes “Les Escargots” has won. It has not be translated to English, because that would have a detrimental effect on its pride. Note also that there is a hair on the frame. We would make a joke about the French and hair removal, but that would sully this cinematic classic.
As you might have noticed on the title card, the film starts with one woman on what looks like a peach and sounds like a creaky balloon. The frame expands outward to show that this is apparently some sort of creaky peach aerobics class.
We zoom in to find out that there are tiny villages on each of the creaky peaches, and zooming in further we find a farmer tending to his crops by the village on the creaky peach.
The farmers plants are flaccid and dead, and in aggravation the farmer decides to rectify the situation. Apparently this farmer is an idiot, because all three of his wacky comedic attempts involve lifting the limbs of the plant rather than providing adequate nourishment. If this is how his problem solving skills work, there’s a high probability that he’s been watering the plants with Mountain Dew. Since explaining each of the three attempts would be a waste of both your time and mine, what follows is a visual summary.
Somehow in all this the farmer didn’t consider that even if one of these three solutions worked, it would just mean he’d have to install thousands of crutches, magnets, or balloons on his property to keep his crap operation running. It’s probably for the best that they failed immediately without giving him a glimmer of hope.
Having all his plans turn to ruin upsets the farmer, so he cries. In a peculiar stroke of luck, his tears are the exact erectile dysfunction pill these floppy plants need. He gets so happy he weeps hideous yellow tears all over the plant. Of course he realizes his pathetic life isn’t that sad, he lives with it every day, and the tears dry up. Why, he’ll do it with the power of three unfunny visual gags which I will also summarize. I think this animator heard his film teacher say that things are funny in threes, and then went back to his terrible drawings while the teacher explained further.
That’s right, the progression is onions, Shakespearean tragedy, mammoth, gas-powered ass-kicking machine. After ruthlessly punishing him, the machine gained sentience, realized it loved its job, and proceeded to violate him with its gigantic pneumatic phallus. I’m guessing even then the farmer didn’t put down the damn skull. Or maybe he was just so used to the weight from reading tragedies, not that I should knock the skull too much, because without the visual indicator, we wouldn’t know if he was reading Shakespeare or the collected Winnie the Pooh.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say what he’s growing are cabbages. And after a period of sado-masochism with the ass-kicking machine that escalated until he needed a safeword to stop, the farmer returns to his cottage to let the cabbages grow overnight. In a rapid progression, the cabbages eventually become tall enough to hide the house in a forest of foul vegetation.
The titular characters, the legendary Les Escargots then proceed to go to town on the monster cabbages. If you’ve watched any monster movie, you know that ordinary creatures eating food that has in anyway been altered guarantees catastrophe.
There’s a rude awakening for the farmer as his house is picked up and shoved by a gigantic, marauding snail that clearly just couldn’t be bothered to go around to the back door.
But they don’t stop at overthrowing the farmer’s cruel regime, they are determined to take on the entirety of the kingdom of man, and begin leaving a foul trail of destruction in their wake. This shot just strikes me as strange, since these bodies left by the snail would have to have been awfully slow or unwitting to be run down in such large numbers by something as slow as a giant gastropod. If there’s any monster whose path you can clear out of it’s theirs. Unless these people were watching the snails and just kept procrastinating, my only explanation is that it was some sort of field trip taken by a school for the deaf and blind. These are not giant cheetahs, there’s no damn excuse.
I’ll just get the long accidental joke out of the way right now. At no point do the animators ever give the impression that these snails can catch up to any of the people or vehicles that they’re supposedly destroying. Snails apparently kill through the power of bad editing.
Later on in the city we get to watch as a sexy, sultry woman removes her dress in front of an open window to some sleazy saxophone music, completely unaware that she’s being stared at by beady snail tentacles. At this point I would just like to remind you that this is on the same collection as Popeye, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and Woody Woodpecker. The snail gets tired of its passive role and seizes the woman in her underwear, carrying her through the street. The snail takes the woman and pulls her into its shell, to do what I’m not certain, though from what I hear, you ain’t partied until you’ve been inside a snail.
In our next tale of terror, a young girl is walking down the street when she spies two snails tentacles sticking out of an alleyway. Since nothing makes a young girl more excited than the cite of strange alien things protruding from alleyways, she enters.
Standing by the opening of the shell, she’s sees a pleasant neon image of a cat coming from inside. How these snails have harnessed the power of advertising I’m not sure, but the girl is helpless against the promise of seeing more neon cats. She steps inside, and the camera zooms in ominously close. I imagine if this short had any talking, the girl would exclaim, “I don’t see any cats, and why is their a dead whore in this shell?”
After these somewhat questionable scenes are complete, we’re treated a series of scenes where the citizens of the town on the creaky peach run from snails some more. There’s a great deal of terror towards giant snails in this film, and I just can’t relate to the mortification people feel towards an enemy who could be defeated by a container of table salt or a brisk walking speed. A part of me wonders if the creators of Les Escargots are playing some sort of subtle ironic joke that my dumb American ass can’t interpret as anything but clumsy storytelling.
The film cuts to the city, now a barren husk with a sad man/woman/thing sitting on the outskirts. An entire civilization undone by a group of people who clearly were never taught how to get rid of slugs in their gardens.
The snails feel so victorious that they decide to shake on it. This shake becomes a high five, and then the high five becomes a human pyramid. Then the snails apparently decide to hold cheer leading competitions in groups. What snails don’t realize is that human pyramids kill them instantly, and in that formation they remain.
I think they’re making a clever allusion the the French Revolution here. Groups of snails conquering the cities and then collapsing under the weight of their own fragile new empire. Fools!
I don’t know why the snails chose to die in interesting geometric patterns, perhaps murdering stupid humans grew boring, and they realized that life on the creaky peach would always be this empty. Maybe they were all poisoned by the neon in their kitty displays, or contracted syphilis found in loose women pulled from open windows? Whatever it is, they’re gone now, and we mourn our gigantic murderous gastropods foes.
Back at the farm, the man who clearly didn’t notice the collapse of the city next door is at it again with a new scheme. He’s crying on carrots now. That rapscallion, what can’t he pore his demonic yellow tears on!
An lo’ an behold, up pops sinister rabbit, ready to create an army of gigantic rabbits who will destroy another city with their persistent breeding and unstoppable nibbling. I’m slightly relieved that the sequel, “Les Lapins” was not included on this collection.
The woman undressing to Cinemax music is definitely something that makes me question why this was included on this DVD collection, but then again, everything about this film makes me wonder that.
Rating: Nearly Unwatchable
I expected a fair share of these films to be difficult to watch, but finding something that’s difficult to watch and pretentious feels like a sucker punch after being kicked by a mule. I think I complained too loudly about how short the “Sing With Popeye” short was, and my punishment was over eleven minutes of animation that looks like a shoddier version of Monty Python’s skits without any observable jokes. My only comfort is that their appears to be no other film like it on the DVD set.