Cricket on the Hearth Part 1
December 18, 2014
Phelous: The Cricket on the Hearth, one of Charles Dickens' classics... that a lot of you probably haven't heard of since this 1967 cartoon is the last time it got any love.
Fade to the title screen for the review while the main theme of the special plays in the background.
Phelous: Now, I'm not sure, but I do believe Charles Dickens had a bit of a thing for Christmas writing five other stories involving the holiday.
Cut to a cover art for Charles Dickens' book, "The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain".
Phelous: *voiceover* One of the other ones being called "The Haunted Man", surprise! That one also involves ghosts.
Cut to another cover art, this time featuring Charles Dickens' holiday magnum opus, "A Christmas Carol".
Phelous: *voiceover* Of course, none of Charles Dickens' other stories have come even close to being adapted as much as "A Christmas Carol".
Cut to the IMDb pages for "The Chimes" and "The Cricket on the Hearth".
Phelous: *voiceover* "The Chimes" has a whopping three films, two of which were made in 1914, "The Cricket on the Hearth" has a total of eight adaptations-
Phelous: And "A Christmas Carol" ha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-
Phelous glitches out for a few seconds, followed by an explosion, and then Phelous having a dull expression on his face.
Phelous: *flatly* Over a hundred adaptations.
Phelous makes an exaggerated shrugging pose, accompanied by a springy sound effect.
Phelous: *voiceover* Poor "Cricket on the Hearth". Let's see why no one likes you anymore.
We see the main protagonist of the special, Cricket Crockett, (played by Roddy McDowall) walking on one of the wooden railings, when suddenly the movie focuses for a second.
Phelous: *feigning frustration* Focus issues, in the first three seconds, on a cartoon?
"0/10" suddenly appears on the screen.
Phelous: Zero out of ten! Merry Cricket-mas! The end!
The video shrinks to the upper left corner as a fake credit roll, written entirely on a piece of paper, plays to Phelous humming his own theme music. Afterwards, the video returns to normal.
Phelous: *sarcastic* I couldn't even afford to pay myself to edit in the real credit roll? Let's face it, my budget is ruined.
Just then, his own exaggerated, off-screen voice is heard.
Voice: Review the movie, DAMN IT!
Phelous gives a sarcastic smile, as well as a thumbs-up before the review proper begins.
Phelous: *voiceover* We start off with a cricket, eyeing what is obviously a cricket's favorite spot (a fireplace), and then-
The movie suddenly fades to a live-action introduction by Danny Thomas, who voices Caleb Plummer in the special.
Phelous: *voiceover, startled* Live action?! Get away! *hisses* This lovely old chap is Danny Thomas, our voice for the old bastard A.K.A. Caleb Plummer, who also bookends our movie.
Cut back to the IMDb page for "The Cricket on the Hearth".
Phelous: *voiceover* Quite likely because this was taken from the "Danny Thomas Hour" airing, which is why this one cartoon appears twice on IMDb.
Danny Thomas: Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol" is one of the most famous pieces of literature, but very few people know that Dickens wrote another beautiful rendering of Christmas called "Cricket on the Hearth". Matter of fact, I just found out about it myself. You never heard of a lucky cricket on the hearth?
Phelous: Hey! Stop stealing my opening, Danny Thomas! *beat* Well... that was an awkward cut. *voiceover* I guess I can't really call him out on this, seeing as 1967 is a little bit before this review.
Phelous: Which means Danny Thomas owns telling people about that. Shit!
Cut to a still frame of Danny Thomas with various text shown on the screen.
Phelous: *voiceover* Danny Thomas "Cricket on the Hearth" dibs!
Danny Thomas: *at his harpsichord, singing* One Christmas morning...
Phelous: *voiceover, exasperated* Nooooo! For the love of fuck, please just play the cartoon!
The special finally transitions to that familiar cel-animated style of Rankin/Bass as a group of carolers sing the title song.
Carolers: *singing* Cricket on the hearth,
take that horseshoe off your door
With a cricket on the hearth,
you can leave that lucky penny sitting on the floor
Cricket on the hearth!
Phelous: *voiceover, singing off-key* Why the hell would anyone sing that?
Cut to a credit which reads "Suggested by the Charles Dickens' story of Christmas".
Phelous: *voiceover* Perhaps it was suggested by Charles Dickens' story of Christmas? *slowly* His story of Christmas suggested this?
Phelous: *shrugging* Whaaaaaaaaaa...? *voiceover* Strange credits aside, we see a regular one letting us know Roddy McDowall will be playing our cricket of steel!
The video zooms in on the titular character standing on the brim of somebody's hat, and then jumping onto a windowsill and lifting the window open.
Phelous: *perplexed* I, uh... didn't know crickets can do that. *grabs his hammer* I'll just be boarding up my windows now. Be right back. *walks off-screen*
After climbing in the window, the elderly Cricket Crockett (who will be narrating our story) warms up his hands.
Cricket Crockett: *to himself* Oh, it's a chilly one.
Before he closes the window, he turns his head to the audience.
Cricket: Oh, excuse me. Be with you in a blink. *shuts the window*
Phelous: *voiceover, as Cricket* I just need to shut out that damned Christmas shizz those asswipes be singing out there, nothing allowed in here but me and my money. Sure is great being a cricket miser!
Suddenly, Jiminy Cricket (portraying the Ghost of Christmas Past from "Mickey's Christmas Carol") materializes in front of Cricket.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Jiminy* I'm the Conscience of Cricket-mas past...
Cut to a freeze-frame of Cricket for a few seconds, followed by him holding a pistol and shooting Jiminy.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Cricket* No, don't think we'll be doing that.
Cut to the outro of the cartoon.
Phelous: *holding a pipe, in a fake accent* Hm, yes. Clearly done in Dickens' more cynical days.
Cricket: Well, Merry Christmas to you.
Cut to a close-up of Cricket with a derpy expression on his face.
Phelous: *voiceover* Doyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy...
Cricket: Hope that it's a lucky household, one that has a cricket on their hearth, and indeed I am good luck. For if it hadn't been for Cricket Crockett here, why, there wouldn't be no blinking family.
Phelous: *voiceover, singing off-key* Ego on the hearth!
Cricket: I'll tell you how it all began.
Transition to a younger Cricket Crockett.
Cricket: *narrating* I was looking for a proper family to adopt.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Cricket* But due to that wee bit of jail time I had in me 30s, due to my gambling addiction, I was having a bit of a hard go at it, I was. *normal voice* Now, as we all know, nothing attracts crickets more than toy shops, so here's the lucky arse that gets to support the freeloader on the hearth!
Caleb Plummer: I mean you no harm. Why, I've heard that you crickets bring good luck with you! How about staying with us for a while?
Cut to a scene from the Burbank adaptation of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" of two police officers (one with sideburns and a moustache, and the other with a beard) talking with each other.
Phelous: *voiceover, as the first police officer* Oi! He's talkin' to a bloody cricket, he is! *as the second police officer* We'll have to lock him up for everyone's safety.
Cut to a photoshopped image of Caleb locked in a jail cell, and then to his adult daughter, Bertha (played by Danny Thomas's own daughter, Marlo).
Phelous: *voiceover, as Bertha* Daddy, noooooooooo!
Cut back to the elderly Cricket.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Cricket in a Scottish accent* Yeah, some fuckin' bloody lucky I am, 'ya arse!
Caleb: Come on now, just go inside and make yourself at home, uh... if you won't mind to.
Caleb: Oh, it's not a very exciting place, just me and my daughter... and of course, the toys.
Phelous: *voiceover* Do you seriously need to sell yourself to this insect? Damn, you're a pathetic, old sack, aren't you?
Cricket: Crockett's the name, Cricket Crockett.
Caleb: I'm Caleb Plummer. We'll work out the arrangements later.
Phelous: Arrangements? You mean, like, charging the cricket rent? I didn't know we could do that. *shouting to his left* Yo, black fly! Fifty bucks or you're out! *voiceover* Even if we lived in a world where insects talked or he was a human, this would be a bizarre exchange. *as Caleb* Hey, stranger, would you want to- please live with me! I make toooooooooys!
Cricket takes a seat on the hearth above the Plummers' fireplace.
Suddenly, he hears crying coming from the other side of the room.
Cricket: *while smiling* Here now, what's this?
Phelous: *voiceover, as Cricket* Whatever it is, it's certainly music to my ears, smile smile.
Bertha Plummer: *off-screen, crying* Oh, Edward... I shouldn't.
Edward Belton: *also off-screen* No... no, Bertha. Go right ahead and cry.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Bertha* Why does father have to invite everything he meets on the street to live with us?
Just then, Beauty's father A.K.A. Old Man from Goodtimes' "Beauty and the Beast" enters the house.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Old Man* Hello! I just met your father outside. Looks like I'm going to be living with you for a while!
Bertha cries on her fiancé, Edward's, chest.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Old Man* Ooh! Looks like I was expected! Doyyyyyyyyyyyyy...
Bertha: *crying* Why must you go away?
Edward: I must serve out my enlistment. I must go to sea tomorrow.
Bertha: For two years? It's just not fair!
Phelous: *voiceover, as Bertha* You can't leave me with this back condition! My spine's a pretzel! *normal voice* So, Edward, being forced to leave his fiancée: Bertha, Caleb's daughter, is the scene he had just walked out of here. Yeah, no wonder he was such in a good mood.
Cut to Cricket taking his hat off and wiping tears from his eyes.
Edward: My darling... you will be here when I return. Promise?
Bertha: *off-screen* Oh, Edward...
Phelous: *voiceover, as Bertha* I've already forgotten you.
Cut to a close-up of Edward with bulging eyes and a gaping mouth plastered over his face as Phelous exclaims in the background.
Edward: *singing* Don't give your love away
wait for me, I will come back to you...
Phelous: *voiceover, as Bertha in a Cockney accent* I love waving to nothing!
Edward: *singing off-screen* We'll have a thousand days of May...
A butterfly lands on some flowers being held by Bertha.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Bertha in a Cockney accent* Oh, hello, butterfly! Do you want to move in with us and be my new fiancé?
Cut to Edward once again with bulging eyes and a gaping mouth, only this time with angry eyebrows.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Edward* Son of a bitch! Did the song mean nothing?!
The song continues playing as text that reads, "I've kissed your smiles away" appears on-screen.
Phelous: *slowly* I've kissed your smiles away. *clears his throat and adjusts his tie* Edward... *whispering loudly* I don't think that's a good thing!
Cut to Edward carving a two hearts with an arrow going through them on his ship's mast, and then to the sideburn/moustached police officer from earlier.
Phelous: *voiceover, as the police officer* Oi, defacing royal naval property?! You shall walk the plank, sir!
Cut to Edward on the gangplank of Blackbeard's ship from "Aladdin and the Adventure of All Time".
Phelous: *voiceover, singing as Edward* I've fucked my life away...
Edward jumps off the plank and into the ocean, where a fish wearing a blue fedora and a polka-dotted shirt swims up to him.
Phelous: *voiceover, as the fish* 'Ello, sir. Do you want to move in with me and the missus?
The fish devours one of Edward's bulging eyeballs.
Phelous: *voiceover, as the fish* It's a living.
After the song ends, Caleb, Bertha, and Cricket are building some more toys for the shop.
Cricket: *narrating* Well, the time passed right quick.
The video quickly zooms in on Caleb's mismatching toupee.
Phelous: *voiceover* Wait, what the garbage is that shit?! It looks like shit! Literally! Did someone shit on Caleb's head?! *as Bertha* Oh, father, I told you to get the gray toupee. *as Caleb* Nonsense, my dear. My hair has as much color as the day I met Cricket Crockett here. *as Bertha* Your hair was still gray then! *As Caleb* Bull-ocks!
Cricket: *narrating* Ooh, and busy we was. Christmas was getting nearer and nearer.
Phelous: *sarcastic* You know, I only really trust toys that are made by crickets. I hear that's a good idea.
He holds up a "Turtles Fighters" action figure still in the case.
Caleb: Two tacks, Cricket.
Cricket: Two tacks on their way!
Cricket bucks a couple of tacks onto a spoon, then jumps onto the handle, sending the tacks flying through the air and right into Caleb's eyes, making him moan in pain with a gaping mouth added by Phelous.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Cricket* Well... it's probably about that time I was moving on to another family. *chuckles nervously*
Bertha: More red paint, Crockett, if you please.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Cricket* Oh, um, yeah, yeah, paint. Sure.
Cut to an extreme close-up of Bertha's eyes, accompanied by ominous music.
Bertha: *painting the mouth of a bridal doll* The perfect color for a smile. I suppose I'm being extravagant with the paint.
Phelous: *voiceover, flatly* Yes, will the wonders ever cease?
Tears fall from Bertha's eyes as an instrumental of Vince Guaraldi's "Christmastime is Here" plays.
Bertha: *singing* If a tear falls when you're smiling
and you're still gay inside
Phelous is about to make an obvious remark, but quickly stops himself.
Phelous: *flatly* Ooh faced. *voiceover* Now, here's the part that was pretty much a must for any 60s film, the trip-out scene for the parents! Maybe the kids, too, I don't know.
A tear falls from a pink plush elephant's eye, then a blue plush elephant wraps his trunk around hers, making her smile.
Phelous: *voiceover, serious* No, Max Rebo! You stay away from that pink elephant!
Cut to a clip of some weird-looking blue elephant mascot from "Foodfight!"
Phelous: *voiceover* I know what will come of this!
As the animation focuses on the eyeless bridal doll, an air-raid siren blares.
Bertha: Now for the eyes. Brown, or black, or sky blue paint?
The video zooms in on Bertha's eyes again.
Phelous: *voiceover* Or demon eyes!
The door suddenly blows open and a stranger steps inside.
Caleb: What... what can I do for you?
The stranger is revealed to be a green-skinned, long-faced, and crooked-nosed man.
Messenger: You are a certain Caleb Plummer?
Phelous: *voiceover, as Caleb* Look, I leave my door open at all times so people can just pop in and live with us, but you, sir... I think you've molded already. Get out.
Cut to a scene from "Foodfight!" of Dex Dogtective (played by Charlie Sheen) checking out the mold stains on a discontinued sea captain mascot.
Dex Dogtective: Rigor moldus has set in.
Messenger: I am a certain agent of her majesty, the queen.
Phelous: Oh, that's why he's green. *nods*
Messenger: *reading from a scroll* It is my melancholy duty to inform you that a certain Edward Belton, late of her majesty's royal navy, is lost at sea.
Phelous: Who cares, man? Worry about yourself! You clearly died a month ago!
Bertha: *shrieks in anguish*
Phelous: *voiceover* Cricket Crockett gives no fucks. He'll stand there smiling while your life falls apart.
Cricket: *narrating* The shock of that awful message delivered the way it was turned poor Bertha... blind.
Somehow, her eye color hasn't changed from her blindness.
Phelous: *flatly* And that's why it's good luck to have a cricket on the hearth. *voiceover* Oh, and she never got to paint the eyes, get it?
Phelous: *in a fake accent* Bullocks, this movie is bad news! It's made me go blind! *normal voice* Yes, there's such thing as hysterical blindness, but *trailing off* it doesn't work that way. *voiceover* Anyway, this made Caleb lose all joy in his work, but he went into overdrive on it so he could find the best doctors for his daughter- just kidding, he stopped working completely but did pay men to come in and shake their heads in unison until he ran out.
Cricket: *narrating* Caleb went out to borrow more and more money, never having any idea how he was going to pay him back.
Caleb once again gets a loan as the money-lender chuckles sinisterly.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Caleb* The service of the money-lender is fine, but it's the evil laughing that keeps me coming back.
Cricket: *narrating* Now, one sad day, they could no longer pay the rent and they were deep in debt. Old Caleb had no choice but to pack up and leave.
Phelous: So, we lost the hearth. *pointing straight ahead, sarcastic* Lucky...
Cricket: *narrating* Oh, they was hard times, I can tell you. Long, hungry days, looking for a bit of work, anything.
Cut back to the elderly Cricket Crockett.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Cricket* And I sure as hell wasn't going to chip in, you kidding me? That money was for my retirement. *normal voice* Well, Cricket Crockett finally does try to be at least a little useful and points out a toy factory Caleb could work at. The keyword is work, you know, that thing he could've done before this and he would've had enough money to keep his own shop running.
Caleb: *to Gruff Tackleton, played by Hans Conried* But I'm a very good worker, sir, and I have my own tools, and... and... I'm... very good, sir.
Gruff Tackleton: *talking to his pet raven* He's very good, Uriah. *chuckles*
Tackleton's pet raven, Uriah, chuckles as well before shitting on his head.
Tackleton: I've heard of your skills. Well, you won't be paid anything, but you can live on the premises and there will be leftover food for you.
Phelous: *pseudo-seriously* So crickets are good luck, huh? Well, more like... they're... bad luck! Yeah, I said it! But, seriously, it has been all downhill since they brought that damn cricket in.
Caleb: *stammering* Where are the other toymakers?
Tackleton: *laughs* Did you hear that, Uriah Caw? He wants to know where the other toymakers are!
Uriah squawks and laughs right along with him.
Tackleton: There are no other toymakers.
They both laugh again.
Phelous: So, you were in business before this how? *shrugs, voiceover* So Tackleton laughs evilly because this means all the work goes on Caleb. But.. that kind of changes the situation because now you need him! Desperately! Of course, Caleb never thinks of that, must be all the shit going to his brain.
Suddenly, Caleb starts singing another song.
Caleb: *singing* Always gay...
Phelous: *pseudo-seriously* Oh, stop being so homophobic, Caleb!... Wait. *voiceover* Caleb, shockingly, decides not to work for "Bird-brains" and instead takes up magic, but instead screws it up when instead of taking the rabbit out of his hat, he just makes it disappear!
Phelous: *in a "kewl" accent* Yeeeeeeah! Continuity error! Take that, you stupid 1967 cartoon! You suck!
The song continues playing Caleb gives Bertha the rabbit, which bites into her chest and makes her have bulging eyes and a gaping mouth as she yells in pain. Then, the style shifts over to a painting while focusing on Caleb's face, zooming in on a tear in his eye.
Phelous: *voiceover, repulsed* Eww! Eww! Ew, ew, no!
Phelous: *with his arms crossed* That's disgusting, movie! Too far! *unfolds his arms* I'm gonna have to go into serious time on this one. Now of-
The song ends with Bertha embracing her seemingly dead fiancé, Edward, when the movie fades to her actually embracing her father. Different music plays as text that reads "The nightmare becomes reality..." appears on-screen.
Caleb: *talking to a coatrack and himself* What's your name? Becky? You're a very quiet girl, Becky. And you are Jarvis, are you not? *in a deeper voice* Yes, me lord. *normal voice* Well, that'll be all, Jarvis. You can have the night off. *deep voice* Thank you, me lord.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Cricket* And I said she's blind, not stupid, and she wasn't even in the room.
Cricket: *narrating* We lived in two worlds; what was real for us, and what was real for blind Bertha.
Phelous: *voiceover, as Cricket* Yes, that's what I called her, Blind Bertha. She didn't much care for that, of course, but I said it until the name stuck because I'm an arsehole.
Cricket: *to Uriah, who towers over him* Evening, matey.
Uriah: We got no place for bugs around here!
Cricket: *offended* 'Ello, 'ello, who are you calling a bug?! I am in insect, I am!
Phelous: Definition of bug, a small insect. Idiot...
Uriah suddenly takes flight and swoops down towards Cricket, chasing him around the hearth.
Phelous: *voiceover, flatly* Holy crap, I can't believe this crow-slash-raven whatever is going after him, its natural prey.
Uriah, who seems to have gotten slightly bigger than before, swoops under the table and snatches Cricket.
Phelous: *voiceover* What the-?! How big is this bird, or is that just an incredibly small table?
Cut to a photoshopped image of Tackleton wearing the table on his head.
Phelous: *voiceover, sarcastic* Guess old "fashion statement" Tackleton will be wearing that on his head next.
Just as Uriah is about to do Cricket in, he hears his master's voice.
Tackleton: *in his pajamas, holding Uriah's cage and a candlestick* Uriah! What are you doing out here? Naughty, naughty birdie, you come to beddy-bye now.
Phelous: Why doesn't the bird just tell him? *voiceover* Or does it only make sense for humans to talk to insects?
Tackleton: *closes the cage and covers it with the sheet* Nighty-night, little friend.
Cricket: *narrating* Well, it was obvious one of us had to go.
Cut to the exterior of Tackleton's toy factory, where a gunshot is seen/heard.
Phelous: Heh, like something like that would really happen! *chuckles while facepalming, then sighs* Well, join me next time to find out if an insect can really save Christmas. *shrugs, sarcastic* It's done a good job so far, right?
Fade to the end credits where a rock instrumental of the Phelous theme plays in the background. After the credits and phelous.com stinger, we cut to a clip of Phelous sitting in silence while crickets chirp in the background.
Phelous: Oh dear fuck, NO!
He quickly gets out of his seat and runs off-screen when an explosion occurs from where he was sitting.