“I see you’ve never dealt with a viking.”
Directed by Friz Freleng; Co-Director: Halwy Pratt; Story by Dave Detiege; Animation by Gerry Chiniquy, Virgil Ross, Art Davis, and Bob Matz; Layouts by Willie Ito; Backgrounds by Tom O’Loughlin; Film Editor: Treg Brown; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Milt Franklyn. A Looney Tune released on September 2, 1961.
*If you’re watching this short on TV, it’s called “Prince Varmint” because… kids won’t get the reference to “Prince Valiant”? Granted, I’ve never read it, but I’ve always known about it. Maybe Hal Foster didn’t like the pun? Either way, I like the original title better. If only because it doesn’t get name dropped twice in the picture. Feels forced.
The locales had best barricade themselves in the only nearby castle, Sam the Terrible the terrible viking has just landed and is clearly having the time of his life in the role. He follows the people into their castle before they can raise the drawbridge, and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks down what little doors they have left. Having witnessed this, Bugs, ever altruistic anymore, gets into costume, follows Sam and rather easily throws him out. (Treating the guy like an errant trick-or-treater.) Time for Sam to spend the rest of the cartoon breaking back in.
He goes big, elephantine even. He gets one of those European elephants that totally existed trust me on this, so he can bust his way into the fortress. Bugs paints a phony door, and the proboscidean hurts himself. And when Sam tries to be Sam and berate the beast, it reminds him who’s the largest living land mammal, and throunces him. Since the walls are too thick for even nature’s best bulldozer to break through, the elephant just throws boulders over the parapets. Bugs stops him with pepper. (Did his ears shrink?)
The two decide to be smart and hide from view until Bugs declares the bridge safe to lower. They charge, forgetting that flimsy wood and nails were never meant to carry at least 10,000 lbs. Oh, wait. I guess as a zoologist, I should say 4535.924 kilograms. (But as a writer, I can’t help but notice how clunky that looks.) Seems their running out of ways to approach, but Sam, always learning from his mistakes decides they’ll sneak in via the back. He uses the elephant as a raft, forgetting that such animals are fairly adept swimmers, but this way means Bugs can shove a cork in the trunk without being seen.
The elephant flees back to shore, forgetting that he could just stick his mouth out of the water and breathe that way. But more confusing? Why is he afraid of Sam now? We already saw that this was a beast not to be trifled with. Did Sam threaten to wait until his tusks grow in, then kill him and sell them to the Chinese? Whatever the reason, Sam chases him off and tells him to stay gone. And I just fell like the reactions should have been swapped. Have the elephant get sick of Sam’s abuse, and turn on him before leaving. Makes more sense.
Sick of playing around, Sam grabs all the explosives he has on hand to blow his way into the stronghold. As he lights the fuses, he fails to notice that the drawbridge can raise in the opposite direction as well. A risky gamble the people are betting on here, as they’re still inside. I guess they figure Sam will die and the only other casualty will be the door? But he doesn’t die this time, it just roughs him up a lot. Even took his mask off. But he regenerates it and finally gets inside. Oh-ho boy! What he’s going to do with the women and chickens…
Uh-oh. Looks like he’s already rueing the today he offended Ali Phunt, as the elephant (Oh, snap! I get it!) has joined the other side and doesn’t fear Sam at all again, chasing him off with a club. Should be a happy ending, but Sam vows to return, and I have a hunch Ali’s services will only last as long as the free peanuts.
Favorite Part: The boat on the title card. I’m glad one of the shields is the W.B. shield. I wouldn’t have ever thought of that. Wait, if that’s my favorite part, then how low will the score-?
Personal Rating: 2. It’s just a weaker retread of “Knighty Knight Bugs“. And I’ve got a feeling this was one of the first shorts Mel recorded for after his coma. A good chunk of Bugs’s lines sound stilted and bored, almost as if Mel was hurting himself as Sam, and everyone decided his first takes for Bugs would suffice as the only takes.