Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 10 July 2004
Source MGM DVD
Fritz the Cat operates on one of two levels: on one, it is the world’s first X-rated animated film. This fact, given its affronting curiosity, offers the film some amount of interest. Secondly, Fritz the Cat is social commentary: a film made by hippies in the mid-Seventies waxing existential. Unfortunately for this film — one that thrives on the open-minded freethinking spirit of the ’60s — it came two years too late, and functions as mockery rather than homage.
Despite the loose credibility of the film’s ideas, Fritz the Cat remains indistinguishable from its tagline. And, despite the curiosity it inspires, the world’s first X-rated cartoon falls flat in its first ten minutes, roughly after an orgy between Fritz (in regard to whom the label “horn dog” is ironically appropriate despite the misrepresented species) and a trio of rabbit coeds.
Fritz is a student at NYU whose hedonistic escapades are as frequent as his rants on society’s faults (there are many, incidentally). Fritz and his legion of free-thinking hippies down stereotypes and condone Marxist rites. However, there is a notable fault in this premise. The film’s ideas are not justly represented in the depiction of its characters. Class and race are represented in the film almost too obviously; the characters are entirely stereotyped, be it rabbits engaging in multi-partnered, frantic sex or cops portrayed by, what else, pigs.
At the base of Fritz the Cat is a laudable philosophy, however generic. It is Fritz’s drive to really “live,” to affect people and to be affected by them, and ultimately, to make a difference. This is in keeping with typical granola philosophy. Fritz’s impulsive and, perhaps, inevitable abandon of his education leads to his involvement in a Harlem bar fight and ultimately to a cross-country journey, each for the benefit of self-exploration; neither yields any altruistic find.
It is an effort to critique this film and remain undistracted by the constant images of X-rated animation. This is a world where libidos are manifested not in hearts swirling around the head of a male pursuer but literally, in erections.
Technically the film is a triumph. Given the amount of work, collaboration and leeway needed to animate a full-length feature film (even according to more modern standards) the fact that Fritz was made is a curiosity. Fritz cost close to a million and required two years to produce. It was a labor of love for producer Steven Krantz.
Based on Robert Crumb’s comic character of the same name, the film suffers from the original author’s absence of involvement. Crumb famously disowned the film and displayed his contempt by killing off Fritz in a comic. The act did little to hinder the film, as it was followed by a sequel.
Some thirty years after its initial release, Fritz continues to rely on the same controversy that secured its fame. Fritz the Cat was the world’s first X-rated cartoon in 1972. Thirty years later, it may boast the title of one of the few.