824. The Karate Guard – Spike Brandt, Joseph Barbera

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SUMMARY: Having trained in the art of Karate, Jerry is given a gong by his spirit-guide which will summon a bodyguard whenever he needs him.

WHY IT’S HERE: Numerous attempts to revive the classic characters of Tom and Jerry were made over the years but none of them ever recaptured the magic of those first Hanna-Barbera shorts for MGM. In some cases, such as the compromised 1992 film ‘Tom and Jerry: The Movie’, the results were downright catastrophic. In 2005, one year before his death, co-creator Joseph Barbera co-wrote and co-directed his final Tom and Jerry short. This alone makes it worth seeing, although there are other plus-points to the film. ‘The Karate Guard’ is very much in the style of the classic Tom and Jerry shorts, mimicking the look, music and violence of the originals. Many latter day Tom and Jerrys shied away from the brutality but here we have Tom crushed in a garbage compacter and sliced in two with a Samurai sword! However, there are many elements that mark ‘The Karate Guard’ out as unworthy of the Hanna-Barbera legacy. For one, it is essentially a remake of the classic 1944 short ‘The Bodyguard’, only this time casting Spike as an Eastern spirit guardian. This extra plot wrinkle is typical of the short’s over-egging and Barbera displays an unfortunate inability to keep the material on track, lapsing into long sequences which seem to forget the premise and trying to stuff too many diverse ideas into eight minutes. Nevertheless, ‘The Karate Guard’ is a valiant effort and worth a watch to see Barbera’s final bow and show that, even in today’s enlightened society, there’s still a place for cartoon violence.

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