October 27, 2007
Long before Space Jam, Warner Bros. characters were gleefully put together in seemingly incongruous pairings. Few directors pulled these off as well as Chuck Jones, as in his Bugs-Daffy team-ups. Over a seven-year period, Jones directed three cartoons that put Porky Pig and Sylvester together, with the second, Claws for Alarm, unspooling in 1954. (The other two were 1948's Scaredy Cat and 1955's Jumpin' Jupiter.)
All three cartoons follow the same basic premise: the mute Sylvester is Porky's housecat, and the two stop for a break in their travels after nightfall. Porky is so sleepy he doesn't notice the menaces (here and in Scaredy Cat, mice; in Jumpin' Jupiter, aliens) surrounding him, and poor Sylvester not only has to defend him, he has to bear the brunt of Porky's ire, as the pig keeps waking up at just in time to misinterpret Sylvester's actions.
Claws for Alarm makes the cut for Hallowe'en because, unlike in the other two cartoons, the sense of fear and dread comes in from the very first frame. When Porky drives into the deserted town (with its stark Maurice Noble-designed lines and shadows), Sylvester is already quaking—and from the moment they enter the hotel and the mice try to slip a noose around the oblivious Porky's neck, it's apparent that his misgivings are justified. Better still, he never
sees his tormentors: the mice always stay hidden in the shadows, so that all Sylvester sees are re-animated mooseheads, guns and nooses that mysteriously appear from cracks in the building, and what appears to be a ghost gliding up the stairway. By morning, Sylvester is reduced to a bleary-eyed nervous wreck.
It so happens that Claws for Alarm is one of the handful of Jones cartoons to have a perfect ending: in true horror-movie fashion, Sylvester relaxes as he and Porky speed away from the town—totally unaware that the murderous mice are stowing away in the car.
Where to find it: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three