“I gotta job to do!”
Directed by I. Freleng; Story by Warren Foster; Animation by Ken Champin, Virgil Ross, Arthur Davis, and Manuel Perez; Layouts by Hawley Pratt; Backgrounds by Irv Wyner; Voice Characterization by Mel Blanc; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on October 4, 1952.
Best be on the look out ladies and gents, the newspapers say that a panther is on the loose. I’m not a newspaper and I say that a leopard is on the loose. Panther is a term that people who can’t be bothered to read up on big cats use. Regardless of what you call it, this is a potentially dangerous animal that is roaming the streets and you’d be smart to use caution out of doors. The poor thing is lost, confused and scared and when animals feel that: they maul.
Enter Spike and Chester. (The latter making his debut here.) Chester is the hero-worshipper type and his hero is Spike. He suggests many typical dog activities and each suggestion gets him a negative answer and smack across the face. Chester saves his best suggestion for last: beating up on a cat. (I love how he still braces himself for another smack. Don’t let yourself be a hero-worshipper. Even the decent people will get sick of you.) Finally, something that piques Spike’s interest. Chester leads him to where a cat is located.
Their cat of choice is Sylvester. He was just minding his own business, singing and enjoying life. (He’s good at it too! If “Back Alley Oproar” didn’t convince you of his singing prowess, watch it again. It’s a wonderful short.) And that gets him hounded by hounds. He takes refuge in an alley with the two right outside. Spike keeps Chester out while he partakes in all the fun. Once inside he pulls on his prey’s tail. Only not really. That is a leopard tail, and Sylvester is hiding in a trash can. (Confused, but not stupid enough to point out there’s a mix-up.) That tail isn’t coming undone, so Spike follows it. He leaves quite shaken up. (On the bright side, it doesn’t look like he was harmed too physically.)
Chester takes a peek to see this “big” cat, but only sees Sylvester checking if the coast is clear. Chester offers to take care of the cat, but Spike’s pride ain’t having it. He goes back in to really give it to ‘im. The same thing happens, but Spike definitely took a beating this time. Chester still can’t accept this. (It constantly causes his whiskers to disappear in shock.) Chester shows that even a little dog like himself can pound the puss and fling him back to whence he came, so surely a bigger, stronger, (prick-ier) dog can do it. Spike’s resolve is restored.
Spike enters the alley again, and without a hiding place, Sylvester can’t do much more but claw blindly at the air. Amused, Spike lets him give his best shot. With both of them having their eyes obscured, neither one sees the leopard clawing the mutt to bits for daring to pick on his distant relative. Spike is horrified, and flees. Sylvester can’t believe what he’s seeing, but he seems to be seeing it. There must be more power in his paw than he ever imagined. Now feeling strong as a leopard, he comes after the two dogs himself. They’re going to get the claw and leave him alone from now on!
Chester isn’t convinced and once more beats and flings. (Stan Freberg, you are knocking it out of the park with this performance. Really wish you got to star alongside Mel more often.) So in the end, Chester is considered the tough one and he gets to bully and smack the hero-worshipping Spike, the leopard was eventually found and returned to the zoo which was given a good amount of funds to renovate the place and make it so the animals were happy in captivity, and though Sylvester got beaten up, he was known in all the cat circles as the one who turned the feared Spike into a groveling kiss-ass.
Favorite Part: The smile on Chester’s face when Spike tells him he can go get himself killed. It’s the same look we’ve all had when someone allowed us to do something dangerous, and we were about to prove them wrong. (Though not every one of us came out like Chester…)
Personal Rating: 3. But even if it’s successor got the same score, this one is better. I find the ending makes a lot more sense with everyone still unclear about what really went down. Makes Chester’s promotion make more sense.