164. An Itch in Time – Bob Clampett

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SUMMARY: A dog attempts to rid himself of a hungry little flea who has taken up residence in his fur.

WHY IT’S HERE: Bob Clampett’s ‘An Itch in Time’ milks seven minutes of crazy action out of a very small premise. Elmer Fudd tells his dog that if he scratches himself just once more that he will be given a dreaded bath. Unfortunately for the dog, a relentless flea makes it all but impossible to stop from scratching. The cartoon switches between the flea’s progress inside the dog’s fur and the dog’s desperate attempts to cope with it. In a great sequence that really captures the frustration of an itch that can’t be scratched, the dog changes colour from brown to blue to red to polka dotted to plaid! It sounds ludicrously surreal but it perfectly evokes the indescribable feeling of an itch in a way only Clampett could. There are several other elements which make ‘An Itch in Time’ pure Clampett. There’s the grotesque concept itself, which leads to some graphic scenes of the flea munching on the dog’s flesh. There’s the unrestrained violence that rears its head in any scene featuring the cat. Most notably, there’s the dirty jokes including a huge shot of the dog’s behind which causes the flea to wolf-whistle and a hysterical sequence in which the dog attempts to scratch himself by dragging his backside along the floor. He momentarily breaks off to address the audience: “Hey, I better cut this out. I may get to like it”! With a very limited concept, Clampett manages to make ‘An Itch in Time’ a unique, minutiae-based cartoon. Like an early episode of ‘Seinfeld’, ‘An Itch in Time’ is practically about nothing but very funny with it.

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