A year before the release of the X-rated Fritz the Cat, American moviegoers were subjected to the strangeness of the PG-rated musical Shinbone Alley – a film too grown-up for the kiddies who normally enjoy animated features but too juvenile for the adults capable of understanding the sexualised subject matter.
The main characters – poetry-writing cockroach Archy and slutty alley cat Mehitabel – first appeared in 1916 in whimsical newspaper columns written by Don Marquis.
Eddie Bracken and Carol Channing performed on a comedy/musical concept album titled Archy and Mehitabel in 1954 and the album was then adapted into a 1957 Broadway musical, titled Shinbone Alley, starring Bracken and Eartha Kitt (replacing Channing).
This animated feature reunited Bracken and Channing.
The film includes a human poet who commits suicide and is reincarnated as a cockroach (Archy); an unrequited-love story involving creatures from different species; a slutty heroine who contemplates drowning her children because they’re inconvenient; a proposed insect revolution against humanity, and Shakespeare performed as beat poetry.
In John Carradine’s big sequence, his character tries to seduce Channing’s character by browbeating her into becoming an actress, resulting in a hideous scene of the two frog-voiced actors brutalising lines from Romeo and Juliet while scatting them to a jazz beat.
In another dissonant bit, Bracken’s character has a sex dream about Channing’s character that’s illustrated by still photographs with cat heads superimposed over the bodies of human women.
The tunes are croaked and screeched by performers with ghastly singing voices, with the most entertaining singing coming from Alan Reed, best known as the voice of Fred Flintstone.
Big Bill (voice)
Tyrone T. Tattersall (voice)
Freddie the Rat / Prissy Cat (voice)
Penelope the Fat Cat / Ladybugs of the Evening (voice)
Beatnik Spider (voice)
Rosie the Cat (voice)