THE CRAB WITH THE GOLDEN CLAWS (Claude Misonne, 1947) **1/2
While I had been vaguely aware of the cultish figure – introduced in comic-strip form – of Tintin, I never got around to sampling any of his 'work' or, for that matter, had much opportunity to do so. Of course, I have now, in the wake of Steven Spielberg's big-screen rendition even if I did not precipitate into following this up with its own viewing! A local friend of mine, then, had also bought a DVD set of cartoons from the early 1990s (which are perhaps the character's most renowned incarnation, even if there had been a couple of live-action films in the 1960s) – but I actually went for the very first movie (using stop-motion animation and involving puppets) to be based on the exploits of Tintin.
Running a little under an hour, I guess, this brings out the essence of the character and his closest associates – the cute mutt Snowy (I once had a lovely dog by that name, a former stray which was later cruelly poisoned) and the drunkard Captain Haddock. However, while we are shown how Tintin meets the latter (being unwittingly at the helm of a freighter smuggling opium out of the country, a case being investigated by the hero), no mention is made of the protagonist's own background: if Tintin is supposed to be no more than a boy, how come he is into espionage – by which I mean that he is specifically appointed to intercept this illicit operation!? Incidentally, there are a couple of other sleuths on the track of the powder – though they are called "Dupont & Dupont", the English subtitles insist on changing their surname to the American Thompson! The film follows a pretty standard pattern of detection and action (which sees the hero starting off with the cryptic titular clue, the proverbial "McGuffin" ultimately proving the true contents of a harmless-looking can of seafood, followed by his falling foul of, fleeing from and eventually defeating the villains), interspersed with comedy (especially Haddock's constant yearning for booze) and set in an exotic locale (Morocco).
By the way, the character of Tintin originates from Belgium, a country that would also spawn the even more popular The Smurfs (now receiving their own, albeit modest, cinematic overhaul) – which, on the other hand, I used to watch on Italian TV and whose sole feature-film I did catch back in the day and also own (albeit dubbed in English).
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