Devil May Hare

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 31, 2015

Isn’t this an amazing thing? What could have possessed them? No matter how many times you see it, no matter how familiar it gets, it is still just an amazing thing. Youngsters will not only respond to its untrammeled aggression—all the more reason to censor, say the censorious, and not without reason!—but the exposure, and the aggression too, will do them good! Devil May Hare is a therapeutic experience with utter Id, but decorum—as much at least as Bugs is willing to provide—does eventually prevail. Sort of. You may feel otherwise, and have every right to do so. But I’m so grateful for mayhem like this, both for my own sake, and for my kids as well.

When we run into Bugs at the start he is humming a Strauss tune. The inciting animal stampede provides us with a great, hermeneutically coded open. “The Tasmanian Devil is on the loose!” “Run for your lives!” Comedy is the aim and result, but there’s also some menace at hand. That menace, that jeopardy makes Bugs’ eventual victory not only satisfying, but reassuring for the kiddies.

That buzz-saw sound effect! That voice work!! This is a beast of almost mythical proportions, and mythical savagery.

Of course the mature Bugs is unflappable, even in the face of the most formidable foe. He calmly/impossibly lifts up his trouser leg, as it were: “Look—no meat.” This Devil is bound for failure, but he’s no straw man. “What for you bury me in the cold, cold ground?” really is a line for the ages. The TD’s dialogue is as funny as when he’s just growling, if the word “growling” can even begin to describe what Mel Blanc is actually doing here.

Ah—the bubble gum gag. So not nice! Maybe that doesn’t apply when you’re facing down the Devil! Still, so not nice! Now Bugs makes him swallow an inflatable life raft, which he then inflates! What started as self-defense is now becoming gleeful sadism. Or it’s becoming mechanical; at this point, à la Henri Bergson on comedy, Bugs suffers a reversal. Makes it more interesting, and there’s a lesson in it too.

The deer and slingshot gag! Then, most cheekily, a Disney-looking deer shows up. Defending it puts the sadistic Bugs back in the moral driver’s seat. The T. Devil can chew through hill roots! The tree chomping! The advertisement, airdrop and marriage provides a most felicitous, ridiculously implausible ending to this prodigious thing. The vocalizations in that wedding ceremony are actually beautiful. And note the confidently stylized backgrounds, even here, at the very beginning of this franchise.