SUMMARY: Bugs Bunny is sent into space, where he encounters Marvin the Martian, in his debut appearance.
WHY IT’S HERE: Chuck Jones’s ‘Haredevil Hare’ is a brilliant and fascinating cartoon for several reasons. The first thing you’ll notice when watching it is its comparatively leisurely pace. Several minutes are taken up with Bugs being sent into space against his will and then succumbing to an alarming breakdown that manifests itself in a series of involuntary, jerky movements. The desolate, lonely atmosphere Jones creates is unforgettable and it is one of the reasons I found this cartoon so eerie when I was a child. The climax, which leaves Bugs in an extremely uncertain situation (and is not unlike the ending of another Jones’ masterpiece, ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24th ½ Century’), also left me reeling when I was a kid. It remains one of my favourite finales of a Warner cartoon.
Of course, in examining all of these elements we’ve ignored the most significant feature of ‘Haredevil Hare’, namely the first appearance of Marvin the Martian. A comparatively underused but extremely popular character, Marvin is a wonderfully strange creation in his Roman helmet, skirt and sneakers. As is often the case with classic cartoon characters, Marvin is a little off in his first appearance. His eyes are a little bigger than normal and his beautifully bizarre voice has not yet been fully developed. Here he sounds more like Droopy with a cold! His intention to blow up the Earth, however, is firmly in place from the get-go. His appearance shatters the eerie sense of isolation that characterises the first half of the cartoon but the pace remains fairly slow as Bugs treats Marvin like nothing more than a naughty schoolboy. Also given his first outing (and also slightly off-model) is Marvin’s green dog and his appearance triggers off the worst section of ‘Haredevil Hare’ in which Bugs lapses into some very standard heckling which sits at odds with the more unusual content. The Martian dog is also given a stereotypical idiot voice which weakens his character considerably. His later appearances as an austere silent creature were much more effective since he had dignity of which to be robbed, unlike in this short. Thankfully, the battle between Bugs and the dog is short lived and gives way to the brilliant punchline.
‘Haredevil Hare’ is a superb and highly unusual cartoon which spawned yet another star in Marvin the Martian. Beautifully downbeat and full of unexpected gags (the radio communication that lapses into an advertising jingle makes me laugh out loud every time), ‘Haredevil Hare’ is a must see oddity and yet another masterpiece in the Chuck Jones canon.