The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat

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The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat
The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Robert Taylor
Produced by Steve Krantz
Written by Robert Taylor
Fred Halliday
Eric Monte
Starring Skip Hinnant
Reva Rose
Bob Holt
Music by Tom Scott & The L.A. Express
Edited by Marshall M. Borden
Production
company
Distributed by AIP
Release dates
  • June 26, 1974 (1974-06-26)
Running time 79 min
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.5 million

The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat is a 1974 American animated comedy film directed by Robert Taylor. It is an adult animation featuring a series of drug-induced vignettes both related and unrelated to life in the 1970s. Starring Skip Hinnant as the voice of the titular feline protagonist, the film is a sequel to Fritz the Cat, the first animated film to receive an X rating in the United States. Unlike its predecessor, Nine Lives received an R rating. It was not as well received by critics and audiences. The film was entered into the 1974 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

Plot[edit]

It is the 1970s; Fritz the Cat is now married, on welfare, and has a child named Ralphie, who casually masturbates. As his wife screams at him for being an irresponsible father and husband, Fritz sits on the couch, staring off into space, smoking a joint. Tired of listening to his wife nag at him, he fades off into his own little world, imagining what life would be like for him if things were different.

The first character he meets on his stoned journey is Juan, a Puerto Rican. The two talk about Juan's sister Chita. The scene fades to Juan's house where Fritz is seen sitting on the couch smoking a joint next to Chita, while Juan is at the store. Chita complains to Fritz when he blows smoke in her eyes. His reaction is to tell her to loosen up and "embrace her fellow man", then he suddenly shoves a joint into her mouth, taking her off into her own hallucinogenic fantasy. The pot makes her horny. Meanwhile, outside, a pair of crows are about to rob the place, but decide to stay outside and watch what happens inside instead. A car pulls up and out comes Chita's father, who sees Fritz and Chita having sex, and blows Fritz apart with a shotgun. This violent display turns off the two crows, who decide to come back at another time.

In his second life, Fritz meets a drunken bum claiming to be God. In his third life, Fritz imagines that he is a soldier in World War II-era Nazi Germany. After being caught having a ménage à trois with two German girls by a commanding officer (the two girls being the officer's wife and daughter), Fritz escapes, and winds up being an orderly to Adolf Hitler. Fritz takes the form of a therapist, and analyzes Hitler, telling him that his world domination plans were just a way of trying to get attention. In the showers, Hitler "accidentally" drops his soap, and urges Fritz to pick it up, in an attempt to rape him, and ends up getting his single testicle (a reference to the song "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball") blown off. In this segment, Fritz meets his death by way of the US Army.

The film cuts back to 1970s-era New York in Fritz's fourth life, as Fritz attempts to sell a used condom to a liquor store owner, Niki, who bets he knows who Fritz used it on. The two break out laughing as they take turns describing the woman. Fritz at one point blurts out that the woman has got the clap. When Niki asks who her name is, Fritz responds by telling him "Gina". Niki says that that's his wife's name and that she doesn't have the clap. Fritz tells him "she does now," causing Niki to curse and shout at Fritz. As he walks out of the store, Fritz bumps into a pig named Lenny. Fritz tells him that he was an irresistible stud in the 1930s. Fritz's fifth life is a psychedelic montage of old stock film and animation, vaguely illustrating Fritz's downfall in the 1930s (losing everything to excessive partying and drinking).

In his sixth life, Fritz shows up at a pawn shop run by a Jewish crow named Morris, and tries to get a welfare check cashed. Fritz tries to make a deal with Morris: If Morris will cash Fritz's welfare check, then Fritz will give Morris a toilet seat. Morris doesn't like the deal, but suddenly getting diarrhoea from the pickles he has been eating, he reluctantly accepts the deal, but instead of cashing Fritz's welfare check, he gives Fritz a space helmet. We then see Fritz in his seventh life, as NASA hires Fritz to go into space on the first mission to Mars. While waiting for the shuttle to take off, Fritz decides to have sex with one of the reporters, a black girl. However, the space shuttle takes off a little early, and, once in space, it explodes.

In Fritz's next life, the film portrays Fritz talking to the ghost of his black crow friend Duke, who was shot to death in the previous film. The film then flash-forwards to a future where New Jersey is a separate country from the rest of the United States, and has been renamed "New Africa", home to all black crows. Fritz is just starting his job as a courier, and he is asked by President Henry Kissinger to deliver a letter to the president of New Africa. In New Africa, Fritz finds a high crime rate, corruption, and violence. Once Fritz is led to "The Black House", he hears the president of New Africa and his vice-president talking about how low his popularity is, and how an assassination attempt would boost his popularity. The president refuses to get shot, but is shot anyway, because the vice president needs his president's popularity to increase so he will not lose the upcoming election. The vice-president blames the assassination on Fritz, because he is the only "white" cat in New Africa. Because of this, America and "New Africa" are at war, and Kissinger eventually admits an unconditional surrender. In the end, Fritz is shot for the crime he did not commit.

In his final life, Fritz finds himself living in the sewers of New York, where he meets an Indian guru, and the devil. However, Fritz is given a rude awakening from his drug-induced reality by his wife, who finally throws him out of the apartment. After a quick look at all of his lives, Fritz sighs and says "This is about the worst life I've ever had."

Cast[edit]

Main
1970s
Hitler
Astronaut
New Africa

Production[edit]

The film's title has been seen as ironic, as the character's creator, Robert Crumb, had previously drawn a story in which the character was killed.[2]

Although filmmaker Ralph Bakshi had written and directed the film's 1972 predecessor, he chose not to direct The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat in favor of Heavy Traffic, and had absolutely no involvement with the film. However, Bakshi has sometimes been incorrectly credited as having worked on the film, such as in Jeff Lenburg's Who's Who in Animated Cartoons, which claims that Bakshi had been a producer on the film.[3] Directorial duties were instead given to Robert Taylor, an animator who had worked on The Mighty Heroes, a superhero spoof Bakshi created in the 1960s. Stylistically, Taylor attempted to recreate only some of the elements and themes of the original film. The setting of the film's period is similar to that of the first film, with the speaker addressing the audience with "jump back, baby." However, unlike the first film, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat was made during the era it was set in. Because the filmmakers only had three years of history to work with, much of the film diverges into various storytelling directions, including sections focusing on the 1930s, Nazi Germany, and an alternate future. The film's ending credits play over animation of Fritz dancing down the street in tune with Tom Scott's music.

Taylor cowrote the film's screenplay with Fred Halliday and Eric Monte. Steve Krantz would later produce Monte's screenplay Cooley High, which was developed into the television sitcom What's Happening!!

The music for this film was performed by Tom Scott and the L.A. Express. A full soundtrack album was planned for official release, but the album never came out because of the film's failure to garner significant box office revenue. However, a 45 RPM single featuring two songs from the film, "Jump Back," and "TCB in E" was released in 1974.[4]

Awards[edit]

Award nominations:

Reception[edit]

The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat was generally received with more mixed reviews by critics. Film website Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles reviews from a wide range of critics, gives the film a score of 43%.[5] Time Out described the film as being "woefully inept,"[6] while Ralph Bakshi later contrasted Taylor's efforts to how his film might have turned out if prospective distributor Warner Bros. had been allowed to tone down the content of the film,[7] and states that Robert Crumb does not acknowledge The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat because "He would have to say, 'Well, Ralph did do a better picture than Nine Lives.' So to Robert Crumb, there is no Nine Lives. It doesn’t exist."[8]

Both Fritz the Cat films are available on DVD through MGM Home Entertainment in the USA, and Arrow Films in the UK as part of a DVD box set entitled The Fritz the Cat Collection.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  2. ^ Harvey, Robert C (1996). The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 218. 
  3. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (2006). Who's Who in Animated Cartoons. Hal Leonard. p. 15. ISBN 1-55783-671-X. 
  4. ^ "Soundtracks: Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat, Tom Scott, 1974". Blaxploitation.com. Retrieved 2007-04-09. 
  5. ^ "The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (1974)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-04-09. 
  6. ^ Skinn, Dez (2004). Comix: The Underground Revolution. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 85. ISBN 1-56025-572-2. 
  7. ^ Haramis, Nick (March 16, 2008). "Ralph Bakshi on the ‘Fritz’". BlackBook. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  8. ^ Heater, Brian (July 7, 2008). "Interview: Ralph Bakshi Pt. 3". The Daily Cross Hatch. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 

External links[edit]