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Russian Rhapsody

Bob Clampett directed an astonishing group of cartoons at WB, during the short period between 1942 and 1946. Many of them rank among the greatest and most unique cartoons ever made, and this one called "Russian Rhapsody" (release date: 05/20/1944) is no exception. Sadly, it remains relatively unknown, and has the unfortunate status of "banned" cartoon, despite not being the part of the infamous Censored 11. With few rare exceptions, it's almost never shown on TV, and the only two official releases on home video formats are currently out of print.

This is one of the best WWII propaganda cartoons, and perhaps the only one that features Adolf Hitler as the main character. Of course, he had some extraordinary appearances in other WB cartoons of that era ("Daffy the Commando", "Herr Meets Hare", "Scrap Happy Daffy", etc.) and he was represented in the animal form in cartoons like "The Blitz Wolf" and "The Ducktators". As expected, the portrayal of Hitler in "Russian Rhapsody" is extremely unsympathetic one, and his caricature is at the same time hilarious and creepy. There's a certain disturbing quality about this cartoon that's hard to describe, and makes it quite unique and fascinating to watch.

This and many other WWII propaganda cartoons were made before the discovery of concentration camps and the full awareness of atrocities commited by Nazi regime. Very soon after the end of WWII, Hitler became the exceedingly grim subject for a comedy, and that's the reason why some people even today consider this and many other WWII cartoons as inappropriate to show in public. However, these cartoons absolutely deserve to be seen and appreciated, especially if presented with the correct historical perspective.

I will write more about this cartoon tomorrow. For now, here are few related links:

Almost all of the gremlins in "Russian Rhapsody" are caricatures of the Termite Terrace staff. Many of them have been identified, and you can find the list at Looney Tunes Hidden Gags web page

More screenshots from this cartoon at Brian Romero's blog

Also, you can watch the whole cartoon on YouTube

If you want to have a copy of "Russian Rhapsody", your best chance is to find the VHS tape "Bugs and Daffy, The Wartime Cartoons" or "The Golden Age of Looney Tunes vol.3" laserdisc box set.

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