Thursday, June 30, 2016



Image result for Cruella Deville


It's actually been a long time since I've sat down and watched the film from beginning to end, and despite that I can't say that its one of my favorite Disney movies of all time, its still a cute Disney flick with some good comedy. A good half of the characters in the film are also still charming. But the one that we all remember the most and find the most interesting out of all the characters in the film is the villain Cruella De Vil. I mean who doesn't think of Cruella the minute when someone mentions this movie? She's the most distinctive character in the whole entire picture when it comes to design and personality. And let’s be honest, even though the Dalmatians themselves are adorably cute, I think many of us can agree that we remember Cruella more than we do the Dalmatians. What exactly makes this villain stand-out from the rest of the characters; lets take a look.

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Unlike all the other characters in the film that just simply appear with little to no build-up, or big introduction; Cruella on the other hand does. The first sign that we get of Cruella's on-screen arrival is when the female Dalmatian Perdita hears the sound of her horn, which causes her to panic as she refers to her as the "Devil Women". We then cut to a flock of birds sitting peacefully on the street, when all of a sudden Cruella's car speeds around the corner recklessly which scares away the birds, and causes Perdita to run and hide the second when her car pulls-up towards front of the house. When Roger (the husband of Cruella's old school mate Anita) sees Cruella's car, he comes up with the lyrics to the melody that he is writing, by naming the song after her, and how nasty and villainous she is. In reality, Roger is just simply joking around about Cruella’s evil as he sings it to Anita, but the way scene plays itself out to her build-up of her first on-screen appearance creates an eerie vibe that's unsettling. I know I get intimidated during the build-up and song from the moment when I see Cruella's silhouette through the glass of the door ringing the bell as Roger sings the lyric "She's like a Spider waiting for the kill"! The song itself as short as it is, is still an extremely catchy song with a nice jazzy beat to it that's menacing but at the same time funny.

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After that frightful minute and a half of build-up to the film's villain, when we see Cruella finally make her first on-screen appearance, instead of her acting flat out nasty and intimidating, she actually acts comical and over the top. I mean she does angrily ask Anita where the puppies are as she calls them "little brutes"; and the hints of what she plans to do to the Dalmatians once she buys them are indeed there and do come off as threatening. But for the most part during her first scene in the movie, she just acts comical, rude, and stuck up. The moment we see her enter the house, just as the sweet and humble little maid is about to let her in, Cruella just slams the door wide open nearly hitting the poor old lady without even acknowledging her presence. And as she barges in and rudely asks Anita where the puppies are, and talks about her obsessive love for fur, she pollutes the entire living room with her cigarette smoke, mocks Anita's simple life style, and puts her cigarette ashes in her friend's tea and cakes when she kindly offers Cruella some. Just by her introduction, its clear that all she cares about is herself and that she is without a doubt going to be the film's antagonist. What follows after Cruella leaves is we get a nice reprise of the song that Roger wrote that comes across as more humorous then the first time he sung it, which puts us at ease. But as we are laughing with the two humans, all the happiness is then dropped when we get a legitimately depressing scene of Perdita still hiding as she cries about the fact that Cruella will do cruel things to her puppies once she buys them, which causes her to wish that she wasn't having puppies. And even as Pongo comforts her and gives her a lick to the cheek, she still doesn't stop crying.

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One of the many things that make Cruella stand-out as one of the essential Disney villains is her design. The design and concept of her being this weak and frail ugly woman who tries to look elegant by wearing fancy make-up, styling her hair by coloring it black and white, and being covered by a giant fur coat that keeps falling off is a very creative and unique design that's humorous for how ugly she looks, but still manages to comes off as scary. The name that she has also has a nice villainous ring to it that rolls off the tongue that perfectly plays on the words cruel and devil. Some the of the things that Cruella has even matches with her cruel and villainous nature, such as driving a bright red car with the head lights and grill resembling the face of a demon from hell; owning an old abandon Manor that looks haunted, where the bright blue night sky turns to pitch black from the minute you gaze at it; and having a telephone that's modeled after a devil. She seriously has the word evil written all over her.

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Another cool thing about Cruella's evil presence are the surprise appearances that she makes in the next two scenes that she appears in after her first on-screen appearance. When everybody is celebrating about Roger’s success of reviving a stillborn puppy, and the fact that Perdita has officially given birth to 15 puppies; lightning suddenly strikes, the lights in the room go off and on, and Cruella is standing through an open door reacting to the news with a sinister smile. And what makes her surprise appearance in this scene even more of a killjoy to a happy moment is she cruelly insults and dismisses the puppy that was saved because he doesn't have his spots yet. What a heartless monster! Her last surprise appearance that catches you off-guard is when we the audience look at the Newspaper headlines of the stolen puppies as a soft spoken off-screen women reads and reacts to the news. And before any of us can try to figure out who’s reading the paper, we see green cigarette smoke surround the picture of the stolen puppies, as we then here the women refer to them as "Darling little things" in a over the top fancy voice, where we soon discover that it’s Cruella reading the paper aloud. And if you thought her regular design was silly and creepy, try looking at her in bed wearing curlers and a giant black robe made out of fur; it's just as insane!

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Betty Lou Gerson who voices the character (Who you may have seen her face as the old women in the alley that wanted to take away Jane and Michael in “Mary Poppins”) also contributes a lot to the character's villainous nature that comes across just as laughable and horrifying as her design. She really gives this character a larger than life personality by having her constantly laughing and yelling, while trying to do it in a very sophisticated matter, which is why she is the most memorable character in the movie. There are indeed plenty of moments with this character that come off as funny, my favorite being when she spills ink from her Pen all over Roger and Pongo as she frustratingly shakes the pen to get it to write, that's then followed by her ripping up the check when Roger refuse to sell her the puppies, and throwing the ripped pieces up in the air as if she's tossing confetti. But as much as there are comical moments involving the character's overly flamboyant personality, there are also plenty of moments where her personality can off as horribly vicious. The best example is when she has her outburst in the middle of the film where she orders her henchmen to kill the puppies in any way they like. It's definitely her best moment in the film; because how she screams and yells at her henchmen to kill the puppies is so cold and sadistic as you watch the cute innocent puppies look at her and listen to what she’s going to do to them in horror, that you find yourself being just as scared as they are. Especially during that moment when she yanks a bottle of alcohol out of Jasper's hand as he's drinking it, and throws it into the fire place which causes it to explode, as she then proceeds to slap both her henchmen in the face to get their full attention to let them know that she means business! The motivation itself is also pretty disturbing, especially when taking into account that the puppies that she wants to skin are just innocent little kids who haven't even lived their life yet.

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Assisting Cruella with her evil plan to capture and kill the Dalmatians are Horace and Jasper, a pair of lazy dimwitted criminals. The two are the typical cartoony duo of crooks that you are familiar with. One is fat and short, while the other one is tall and skinny; and one is smart, as the other one isn't so bright. It's a common trope that most comical evil duos have. But as typical as they are, I still do find them to be funny characters. I'll even go as far as to say that they are the second most memorable characters in the movie. I love some of the one-liners that they're given (my favorite line being when Jasper exclaims that he wouldn't stay for a cup of tea, after the maid throws a tea kettle at him but misses). There are a couple of nice subtle gags involving their idiocy (like when they miss spell the word "Electric Company" on their bag, and try to poorly correct their spelling error). And most of the slapstick that these guys suffer is hysterical, especially in the scene when they fight against Pongo and Perdita. That moment when Horace gets his ass on fire when he's tossed into the fire place looks comical due to his exaggerated reactions, but at the same time seems mighty painful! I even love that Cruella herself has to suffer some of the abuse from these characters on account of their idiocy. In fact, if they weren't too busy watching their show and snacking down on sandwiches and liquor, as the Dalmatians were escaping through the hole in the wall, instead of just killing them after when Cruella gave the order, none of this chaos would never have happened to them. Plus even though Jasper maybe the brains of the duo, he actually does idiotic things that only worsen the situation, such as accidentally creating another hole in the wall that this time leads to the outside, instead of the hallway. You can even argue that Horace, while idiotic too, is smarter than Jasper since he catches on to the Dalmatians tricks, as Jasper simply denies Horace’s suspicion since it would be logically impossible.

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As Cruella and her henchmen go out searching for the puppies in the film's last act, you get this strong and uncomfortable sense that the moment when one of them spots the puppies; they'll be killed instantly, especially in the climax where the Dalmatians are disguised as Labradors. There's just an overall suspenseful vibe to the scene where the villains hunt down the dogs as they are disguised and trying to act casual to avoid suspicion. Those moments with Cruella cruising around in her devilish car as she looks for them with that nasty look on her face, while the engine is purring always keeps the suspense level rising. And once one of the puppies disguise are accidentally unraveled in front of Cruella, the amount of tension suddenly drops, and what we get from here on out is an exciting and chaotic car chase, where Cruella chases after the Van that the puppies are in with the intention to ram it off the road, as Horace and Jasper plan ram the Van from the front (I think, the continuity of where the Van is placed is kind of confusing). Every single time when the chase begins, I always find myself getting chills and being pulled into the thrill of it when Perdita exclaims in a frightful voice that Cruella is heading towards them, which causes the poor little Dalmatians to hide as the chase music builds! Watching Cruella drive recklessly at full speed and doing near impossible stunts as her car gets stripped down from all the abuse it takes, which also makes Cruella look all monstrous (complete with devil like eyes) is insane. And given the fact that she doesn't care if the innocent and confused driver will be killed along with the puppies makes her motivation even more twisted! When you get down to it, as Cruella and her henchmen try to ram the Van off the road, the innocent puppies that are inside the truck can't do a single thing about it. It's all up to the truck driver who we hardly know about and very briefly got ourselves antiquated with. The Dalmatians don't contribute anything to Cruella's downfall either; it's actually her henchmen that foolishly ruin her chances of killing them by accidentally ramming into her, instead of the Van.

Image result for 101 Dalmatians Cruella's defeat

Now as much as the film's ending leaves me with that good old fashioned feel good conclusion that makes me feel like a kid again, there are one or two things that make me feel a little unsatisfied about it, and that's the fact that Cruella is still alive and hasn't been thrown into jail. Her defeat doesn't feel as anti-climatic as Shere Khan's defeat in "The Jungle Book", but at least "The Jungle Book" ended with Mowgli being safe and sound in the man village full of hunters, a place that Shere Khan wouldn't dare to enter (I'm not counting the pointless sequel). In this ending on the other hand, since Cruella is not pressed with any charges at all, Cruella can easily buy another load of Dalmatians and still carry out her plan of turning Dalmatians into fur coats. As a matter a fact, with the exception of the 15 puppies that Horace and Jasper stole, since she knows where Roger and Anita lives, she could probably get back the other 99 puppies that she “bought and paid for” since they are technically hers! Also Roger made millions of dollars off of the song named after Cruella, and if Cruella can't get the puppies back, I bet she would sue Roger's ass for all the money he's made for slandering her name and image! I actually find it very uncomforting that Cruella is still alive and free from any legal charge.

Cruella is considered to be one of the best Disney Villains of all time (even in the lists of Best Movie Villains general, such as AFI's Top 50 Movie Villains of all time) and I can see why. Her design is out of the norm. The villainous theme song that she's given is unforgettably catchy. The concept of her killing and skinning adorable puppies is cruel. Her henchman Horace and Jasper are tons of fun. The climax involving her hunting and chasing after the puppies is thrilling and suspenseful. And her overall personality is drenching with evil that's hostile, but still a lot of fun to watch. She's without of doubt the most memorable thing in the entire movie, which is why she is considered to be a favorite Disney villain among many including myself.

"Cruella De Vil, Cruella De Vil. If she doesn't scare you, no evil thing will!"

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