Sunday, October 5, 2008

Curses, Foiled Again

The origin of the line "Curses, foiled again!" is from the wonderful and hilariously popular cartoon show, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, also known as for a time as Rocky and His Friends. If you're too young to remember Rocky & Bullwinkle, you're too young to rule the world...

"Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat."

Bullwinkle pulls out a hostile rhino face, or sometimes a roaring lion's head, and pushes it back in.

"Wrong hat."

OK, it was a kids show, but incredibly creative. Masterful. The format of the show had Rocky and Bullwinkle as hosts introducing the other cartoons, which were also set pieces like established regular acts on a variety show: Dudley Do-Right, Mr. Peabody, Fractured Fairy Tales and Mr. Know-It-All.

The phrase "Curses, foiled again" routinely emerged from the mouth of villain Snidely Whiplash whom our hero Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties had to defeat every week in order to rid the world of evildoers, thereby winning the heart of his fair Nell.

I love the names of these villains. Because this was the Cold War era, Rocky & Bullwinkle's nemesis was Boris Badenov (bad enough), who with his assistant Natasha reminded us that not everything is innocence in this world of ours. The names are, of course, a dead giveaway as to who the "real" bad guys were at that time.

You can get a feel for both Bullwinkle's and Boris' characters in this little clip which is especially fun in these final weeks before the upcoming election.

But, that's not really where today's headline came from. Rather, the stimulus for this particular interconnected web of memories was.... well, I just feel bad for those Chicago Cubs fans who pinned so many hopes on this year's team. In preparation for the World Series I created a little illustration which I'd hoped to post during Game One. But as is so often the case, Fate is a fickle mistress and the Cubs were eliminated in three games by the Dodgers. The real enemy, their arch nemesis perhaps once again, was themselves.

Two Cubs were reportedly injured after the game when they slipped and fell on a locker room floor made wet by manifold tears.

If I may, a line from the Beatles' Abbey Road album comes to mind here. "Boy, you're going to carry that weight, carry that weight a long time."

Curses, foiled again.


Sandra said...

I have held the opinion that this cartoon was directed at the adults, but I'm not so sure anymore. I remember it so well. I still remember the irony and nuance so I guess I got it, even as a kid.

Ed Newman said...

Like so much great children's literature, there are always many layers of meaning I believe. Of course the best stuff is not heavy handed. And above all it must be entertaining first. The creators of Rocky and Bullwinkle were masterful.

Yes, nuance and irony... and imagination. Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

These writers were brilliant! Genius! I believe the cartoons were directed to the children. As kids we heard all the political talk around the house when adults visited our folks, so it was nice to have a saga of our own through these characters. They "got it" and put it in a nutshell for us. We still quote from the show!! Their sense of humor rivaled Stan Freberg - another classic. solidified

Anonymous said...

The phrase "Curses! Foiled again!" predates Rocky & Bullwinkle by quite a bit. For example, it appears in the 1950 Disney cartoon The Brave Engineer, in which a villain's plans to tie a damsel in distress to the railroad tracks is thwarted by Casey Jones. The mustachioed villain exclaims to the camera, "Curses! Foiled again!" This, in turn, is a stereotype of the typical 19th century villain.

Ed Newman said...

Thanks for this insight. It shows the power of Pop Culture, though, and how what was once more obscure gets mainstream thru the medium of TV.

Anonymous said...

I have heard that the expression was coined by the comic book villain Dr. Sivana in the 1940's Captain Marvel series.

Ed Newman said...

That's interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Sun Dog said...

The Brave Engineer, in which a villain's plans to tie a damsel in distress to the railroad tracks is thwarted by Casey Jones. The mustachioed villain exclaims to the camera.

Yes, my mom used to recite a funny little poem and act out the parts of a villain, a damsel in distress, and a hero. She used a tissue paper to represent a bow in the damsel's hair, the villain's mustache and the hero's bow tie.
At the very end of the story she held the tissue to her upper lip and in the villain's voice said, "Curses foiled again."


You obviously know nothing of Postum,
the cereal drink, that used the catch phrase "Curses! Foiled again by Postum" many years before Rocky and Bullwinkle came along.

Anonymous said...

Unknown said...

Great read. Enjoyed reliving the silly Rocky and Bullwinkle story. I’m pretty sure Boris Badenov is a takeoff on the Great Russian Tsar, Boris Gudanov.

Anonymous said...

Rocky and Bullwinkle was great. But "curses, fouled again" is much older.

Unknown said...

Landlord: "I've come for the rent, I've come for the rent today!
Mother: "I can't pay the rent, I can't pay the rent today."
Dudley Doright: "I'll pay the rent. I'll pay the rent today."
Landlord: "Curses! Foiled again."

Ed Newman said...

Thank you, Whipster. I like it.

Unknown said...

I'm 84,and remember the Postum ad as a kid! Must have been around for a long time!

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