< This week's featured talking dog doesn't exactly talk, in the manner of, say, our previous subjects like Mr. Peabody or Underdog. In this case, Muttley, the canine sidekick of cartoon villain Dick
Cheney Dastardly with whom he is pictured above, snickers with an asthmatic laugh, and mutters under his breath, but makes himself understood in something vaguely resembling English, and hence, falls into the genre.
Muttley appeared first in that incarnation (wearing only a collar) in the Wacky Races, where he and Dastardly driving “Double 0” would try to sabotage other racers (such as Penelope Pitstop, Peter Perfect, Professor Pat Pending– the Wacky Races loved “P’sP–the Ant-Hill Mob, the Arkansas Chug-a-mug, the Red Max, the Gruesome Twosome, Rufus Roughcut and the Buzzwagon… I’m doing this from memory… but I do think that’s all of them…) Anyway, Dastardly and Muttley would forever try to screw someone else out of victory, never managing to achieve it themselves. Think of them as the Ralph Nader, or Green Party, of the Wacky Races.
Muttley and Dastardly eventually graduated to their own spin-off from Wacky Races (the other being “the Perils of Penelope Pitstop” where the heroine was forever threatened in cliffhanger situations and usually assisted by the Anthill Mob)… their show was called “Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines,” their garb and flying machines from the World War I era, where Dick and Muttley, along with Klunk and Zilly (it’s Hanna Barbera, people) form the Vulture Squadron that forever tried, unsuccessfully, to thwart the enemy’s line of communication, which evidently comes down to a single carrier pigeon, the irritating Yankee Doodle Pigeon. Anyone who’s ever played the trombone (as have I) is familiar with the slide play involved in the Vulture Squadron’s theme song, the utilitarian “Stop the Pigeon!” The fact remains, the crutch of high technology, such as the bi-planes and the various inventions of Klunk attempting to stop a small bird, will often fail against simple plans, better execution, and moral authority… a lesson our nation never, ever seems to learn.
Muttley was forever demanding a medal for mere competent service (at least it was competent; compare and contrast the Bush Administration) after which he would go into an orgasmic performance reminiscent of some other cartoon dog when he got a dog biscuit.
It being Hanna Barbera, Muttley’s appearance and signature laugh were later recycled in a character called “Inspector Mumbly” which is an ironic full circle, because Muttley was intended to refer to the “Max” character, sidekick to Dastardly’s analog “Professor Fate” from the ’60’s movie “The Great Race;” Max was played by Peter Falk (Fate by the late great Jack Lemmon). Well, Mumbly is a cross between Muttley… and Inspector Columbo… also played by Peter Falk (as both characters are voiced by Don Messick, you can rightly consider Mumbly simiply “Muttley… in a trench coat.”)
Muttley’s universal appeal, of course, is that like the typical American worker (private or public sector), he dutifully does what he is asked, day in day out, and only asks for a little recognition every now and again. The fact that the mission of his enterprise is, perhaps, absurd, if not outright evil, is really of no concern to someone at Muttley’s pay-grade. It’s no wonder that Muttley is forever snickering.
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