Making my way through Clampett's toons in the Golden Collection chronologically.
**** Porky's Poppa - This toon is poorly named (Porky's poppa doesn't really participate in the action, he only introduces the conflict) but other than that it's one of the best of the black and white Porky toons. This is the earliest Clampett toon in the Golden Collection, his fourth toon for Warner, and it's kind of amazing to see what a natural director he was this early on; he didn't seem to take much time developing his voice like Jones did. One of the biggest strengths here is that we have a strong and well-defined central conflict between two well-developed sides: the farm animals and the industrial machine that seeks to replace them. It's a good example of how you can have a cartoon that manages to keep the constant chaos of the action clear without sacrificing the throbbing, lively quality, something the other wacky director (Tex Avery) didn't always balance as well as Clampett. A lot of people say that Porky is one of the least memorable and interesting of the Looney Tunes, but one of his strengths was his ability to act as an anchor for a story while also sort of blending into the background to make room for larger, more interesting, purely situational conflicts that Clampett could do whatever he wanted with. I also just think that the opening rendition of Old McDonald Had a Farm is cute with the animation of the animals perfectly aligning with the music. A very strong start to my journey into Clampett's filmography.
***** What Price Porky - This toon's merits are similar to that of Porky's Poppa: a strong central conflict, Porky anchoring that conflict while getting out of its way, and a perfect balance between chaos and clearness in the execution. What puts this toon over that one can't really be described in words: it simply has funnier gags and more of them, and it doesn't hurt that we get a little taste of Clampettian duck. People throw around terms like "pure cinema", and this is "pure animation" because it fully explores the areas where only animation can go, and attempts to go there for every single second of the toon. Just when you think they can't top the last gag's total inventiveness and creativity, they do. This is Clampett's first masterpiece.
***** Porky's Party - 1938 was a year where it seemed like Bob could do no wrong and this is probably my favorite from that year, which is no small praise considering it features other Clampett classics like "Porky in Wackyland", "What Price Porky" and "The Daffy Doc", but there's just too much to admire in this short. Porky's stutter is a character trait that, because it's so well known and repeatedly used, sometimes seems to lose its impact, but this short avoids that problem by actually causing the stutter to create physical gags with the bug that sews everytime it hears "so", which Porky can't help from saying over and over. And that's really the key strength of the short: the gags develop organically from the character traits rather than just randomly. I love how quickly Clampett develops the supporting characters here; the first guest to the party is hilariously illustrated as a selfish lout within 5 seconds of his entrance and Clampett sticks to this character trait consistently by using it to accentuate and provoke other gags throughout the toon. Then Porky's dog (who looks suspiciously like Pluto) and the second guest to the party are just inherently funny-looking so that even when the concept of the gag isn't particularly great it's still funny because of the great acting from the characters. The way that Clampett ties sews of these different aspects together so that they play off of each other really gives the cartoon a sense of momentum, and each and every gag is really funny in and of itself anyway. For me this is about as good as the early Porky-centered toons ever got, and really about as good as the Looney Tunes troup ever got period, though I can see why this particular style wouldn't be for everyone.
***** Porky in Wackyland - This is probably Clampett's most famous toon with general audiences due to its hallucinogenic Dali-like qualities. I can't agree with those who say it's Clampett's absolute best because there are simply other less well known toons not just with more gags, but funnier ones too, executed with more virtuosity. But this is certainly one of his most distinctive and memorable in terms of overall concept, and if it's not his best it's certainly up there with his other masterpieces. It's interesting to compare this to the Freleng-supervised color remake "Dough for the Do-Do"--apparently some people prefer that one, though I can't imagine why; maybe they saw it first or something. To me the only thing "Dough" has over this is the Rubber Band joke, which is admittedly pretty excellent, but this one is just much more fluid, particularly in terms of how the sound and music and animation all seem to be working seamlessly together to create a totally wacked-out atmosphere. Every aspect bounces off every other aspect here, where the Freleng version seems slightly less life-like in comparison. It's too bad that the Do-Do didn't feature in more shorts because he's a great character--though maybe the reason he has so much power here is because he wasn't overused elsewhere. Whatever the case, this is must-see cartooning and definitely one of Clampett's masterpieces.
*** Porky in Egypt - This is a step down from Clampett's first incredible early run, but it's still a fun toon. I don't understand why some have framed this as a racist or xenophobic. It seems to me that it's clearly poking fun at condescending "exoticized" notions of the Arab world rather than making fun of the Arab world itself, though I guess I could understand why it would make someone uncomfortable. There's good character acting and mis-en-scene throughout, and the highlights of the toon are the introduction to Egypt and the weird trip Porky's horse goes on, but it really does seem to go downhill gagwise after Porky's introduced--this is an example of where a star character gets in the way of the fun rather than holding the toon together. Still, this is a mostly entertaining cartoon that does more in Clampett's hands than it would have in anyone else's.
**** The Daffy Doc - I appreciate every incarnation of Daffy, but Clampett's batshit version is my favorite, taking the original wild and zany Tex Avery version and making him much more rubbery and expressive. This is the first time Daffy was at the center of a Clampett toon, and so while it doesn't have the structural solidarity of his early Porky toons, it's still an admirable achievement. Clampett's Daffy is more elastic and so can effect more areas of the cartoon world than Avery's can, though I will admit that at this point Daffy is still more of just an anonomosly insane duck than he is a distinctive personality--that wouldn't come until "Wise Quacks". This is an important and highly entertaining toon, well above average for Warner Brothers, even if it's not quite masterpiece level yet.
***** Wise Quacks - Porky's Party and Polar Pals established Clampett as willing to rely heavily on drunkenness to get laughs, but this toon is goes so far as to make drunkeness not just a gag but a central part of the narrative. This toon holds a special place in my heart for being my first introduction to the non-smug, non-Chuck Jones version of Daffy. I remember being confused: "Why is Daffy drinking so much corn syrup?Why does it make him hiccup and sway? What does 'How dry I am' mean?" I remember my mother being irritated at the TV and not knowing why, and it's probably concerned parents like her that caused Cartoon Network to start censoring these toons and eventually to stop airing them altogether, which is too bad because this is one of the funniest cartoons I've ever seen and the first wholly successful toon with Daffy at the center.
*** The Film Fan - I see this as signalling the beginning of a decline that would plauge Clampett until around the end of 1940, but it's not too bad yet. There's nothing particularly wrong with this toon. Everything is perfectly executed on a micro-level and it certainly works as a whole as well, but other than a bit poking fun at a woman and her dog who are too good to go to the movies there's nothing particularly memorable about any of the gags (but that's probably just because much of the humor is based in specific references to the pop culture of the time). Keeps out of the two-star range for its structural solidarity, never being boring while you're watching it, and the often pleasing mis-en-scene.
* Pilgrim Porky - This toon plods along with some of the worst gag-timing I've ever seen from Clampett, but these gags wouldn't be funny even if they were well timed. Somehow the politically incorrect bits in this toon are far more disturbing than those in the more famously problematic shorts like Coal Black and Tin Pan Alley Cats. Those toons, though thoroughly condescending and racist, at least seem to be trying to celebrate what Clampett saw as the imaginative freedom of black culture. Here the racism, though not at center stage, has a kind of casually tossed-off cruelty, and it's much harder to watch.
** Porky's Poor Fish - There's not one memorable gag in the bunch, and the only appealing one--eggs hatch as they are called to arms--is lifted right out of "What Price Porky", but where there it made sense because that whole toon was military themed, here it just seems like a desperate attempt to get at least one halfway decent laugh in. While it's interesting to to see Carl Stalling incorporate Ellington's "You, You Darlin'" theme into the score and to see Clampett pay homage to Popeye, that historical interest can't make up for the total lack of laughs and sloppily thrown together ideas. Gets an extra star for some interesting movement techniques.
* Patient Porky - One big nothing of a cartoon. Wastes time on indulging an offensive bellhop character and pointlessly setting the hospital scenery before it decides to try and launch a new major character halfway through by using the same situation as Daffy Doc without the good organic gags or distinctive acting. The aimless narrative and lack of clear plot would be okay if it made up for it with good visual or conceptual gags, but it doesn't have any of those either, so it's ultimately just boring. One of Clampett's most disappointing shorts.