Fritz The Cat (1972), or Ralph Bakshi’s Delightful Interspecies Sex Fantasy

16 03 2009
I like the face he has right there, like hed rather be watching the game than feeling her feline tit!

I like the face he has right there, like he'd rather be watching the game than feeling her feline tit!

All right, I think almost any straight male who was under the age of 13 at one point had a fascination with the X rating (or NC-17, if you’re a young-un). It was the veritable promised land, a movie where you could unleash your furious hormones with its unswerving promise of breasts in close proximity to the camera. Being young, dumb, and immature had a lot of downsides if you ask me, but one thing I would never trade is the brain-dead thrill I got from watching a movie I wasn’t supposed to, especially when the thing I wasn’t supposed to see was sweet, delicious nudity. There was a rush that I got from growing facial hair, dressing up, and asking to rent Species 2 with my mom’s Blockbuster card and getting away with it (!) that makes me giggle uncontrollably when I look back on it. Of course, as a man, I wouldn’t be caught dead trying to rent Species 2 for any reason whatsoever. And therein lies the crux. You see, there were a number of movies I rented solely because they were rated R or NC-17 based on the lack of female attire, with no cognizance of what I was watching or what it meant (I would fast forward through the plot, of course- silly me!). Caligula, A Clockwork Orange, and today’s feature Fritz the Cat were all movies I watched for about five minutes at a time, and mostly it was the same scene over again. Looking back on it, though, I feel that I missed out on a very good movie that just happened to have animated breasts in it. Fritz the Cat, a 1972 animated feature, which was actually the first animated feature to receive an X rating, is not just about the sex, of which there isn’t a whole lot of anyway; it is about a particular time and place, one filled with phony characters, deadbeats, and ruffians that seems closer to true life than a lot of live-action films.

So the film centers around Fritz, who is an anthropomorphic cat living in a New York City full of anthropomorphic animals. Fritz and his friends stop by a park one day, which is filled with random protesters and hippies, to try and pick up girls. Fritz spies three attractive hippie ladies and tries to make advances, but he is rebuffed by them, opting instead for a crow (real subtle). They are ignorant and backhanded in their compliments, so he brushes them off and walks away. Fritz sees that these girls like “sensitive” and “artistic” guys, so he pretends to have a real existential dilemma. This arouses the girls and he takes him to his friends’ wild party, where he gets them all in a bath and starts having wild sex with them. His friends quickly see what’s going on, though, and they also catch on to the phony artfulness that attracts these girls, and THEY start having sex with them, leaving Fritz high and dry. Poor guy, right? Anyway, escaping from the party which was being raided by cops anyway, Fritz arrives in a bar in Harlem where he meets Duke, a crazy crow who invites him to “bug out”. This innocent invitation sets Fritz out on an odyssey across the country, meeting heroin-addicted rabbits, drug dealing birds, and revolutionary lizards. Fritz lets life take him where it may, and he never finds himself in the same place for very long.

Sounds weird? Well, you’re right! It is weird. But it’s funny and it is animated in a rough-and tumble 70’s style that I have taken a shine to. Director Ralph Bakshi is a legend, and his animation style is one that has to be admired as well as enjoyed. Bakshi was one of the only Americans putting out animated feature films in the 70’s due to the homogenization of the industry. And not only that, but he had the balls to put out an X-rated animated feature featuring cartoon animal sex and drug use in the age of Hanna-Barbera. This is really revolutionary stuff, and not just for the obvious reasons. There are hints all around of deeper societal issues that Bakshi wanted to make a statement about.

It is an interesting story about a world of phonies. Based on the famous character by R. Crumb, it takes the very Crumbian outlook that almost every single person on Earth is, in their deepest, truest selves, completely fake, and that they are just obstacles for the real artists and poets of the planet (it must be noted that R. Crumb probably thinks of himself as one of the phonies). Fritz is fake, his friends are fake, the hippie girls are fake, and nearly everyone else he comes across in his journey to nowhere is completely vacuous, using a veneer of sincerity to get what they want. It is a serious commentary by Ralph Bakshi, who was not exactly known for his serious nature but holds the idea firmly despite that fact, and I think it helps the film immensely achieve something beyond animals fucking.

But despite all my spiels about deeper meaning, it can be just plain fun. There are a lot of jokes here. Fritz is so damn clueless on his own, and he often freaks out to himself, saying things like, “Mother of God, I’m a fucking fugitive!” The sex scenes, looking back on them, are actually pretty funny now. Fritz with 3 women has some great moments (“Oh, shit! I guess WE’LL just leave then!”) And the two pig police officers following Fritz for his illicit ways are pretty hilarious when they’re on screen, like when one cop is trying to teach the other how to bust a door down (“Now you’ve gotta use the word ‘fucking’ because it makes you sound tough!”)

So all in all a movie that is worth more than the animated nipples that encompass only about three minutes of this admittedly-breezy 80-minute film. It’s got a lot of things going for it, and if you just want to see a great example of quality animation from the 70’s, this is for you. Go check it out, but watch more than five minutes of it. I give Fritz the Cat 7 1/2 four-ways out of 10.

Tomorrow we tackle the strange and mystical world of Kevin Costner with The Postman!