Another dive into the black hole of the bizarre, amazing, creative world of the Public Domain revealed a bicycle safety video that, while informative, is little more than a bad dream on drugs.
As a child, I enjoyed riding my bicycle. Thinking back on those times, I realize that I knew none of the rules mentioned in the 1963 film, ‘One Got Fat’. It’s a wonder that I’m still alive.
A Picnic for Monkeys
The premise of ‘One Got Fat’ is complex. There are a thousand ways they could have delivered the important message of bicycle safety but they opted for the following:
Ten friends all decide to have a picnic at a location that is nine blocks away. They pack lunches but quickly realize that they can’t both carry a lunch and ride a bike at the same time. It’s unsafe or… they’re lazy. The group of friends make the kid who is wise enough to have a basket on his bike, carry the load.
The group waits for the narrator to blow a whistle and then they scamper off to their bikes.
What follows is a terrible tale of what not to do while riding a bike. One by one each kid is picked off after not following a specific rule.
I keep using the word kid and they are kids, but they are kids wearing nightmare inducing monkey masks with springy tails sticking out of their denim pants.
Let’s Meet the Monkeys
A number of these ‘characters’ represent a certain bicycle safety rule. Some are just run of the mill heathens with a particular penchant for mischief.
There’s Rooty-Toot Jasperson, who just goes by “Rooty”, and really, who can blame him? Rooty’s issue is that he’s arrogant. Next we meet Tinkerbell McDillinfiddy or “Tink” as she likes to be called. She’s forgetful. Phillip “Floog” Floogle suffers from boredom. Mossby Pomegranate is so slothful that he never got his bike licensed and registered (which was a thing back then) and had his bike stolen. Mossby is therefore, running along side of his friends.
Now we come to our first and only duo… or tandem if you will, since we’re discussing bicycles. Trigby Phipps is a little guy and easily intimidated by peer pressure. The one supplying the peer pressure is a bigger kid named, ‘Slim’ Jim McGuffny. Slim’s big issue is that he is gluttonous. Made evident by his predictable nickname, round belly, triple sized lunch and lack of consideration for his weight (which the narrator mentions numerous times). He forces himself on to Trigby’s handlebars because his own bike recently crumbled under the weight of his over eating, obese body. The narrator delivers an epic amount of body shaming in the typical, zero eff’s way of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
The rest of the monkey gang consists of Nelbert “Nel” Zwieback, who has obvious anger issues, Filbert “Fil” Bagel (neglect), Stanislaw “Stan” Hickenbottom whom lacks intelligence and finally Orville “Orv” Slump. At this point, we don’t see Orv’s face and other than carrying all of the lunches in his bicycle basket, he seems like a pretty even-keeled kid.
Like Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel
As the movie plays out, each monkey child is smacked with a large dose of karma for their irresponsible actions.
Rooty had the nerve to turn left without stopping, signaling or looking, directly into oncoming traffic. Tink blindly ignores a stop sign, resulting in being hit by a large truck. Floog rides on the left side of street, a big no-no, between parallel-parked cars and oncoming traffic. A car quickly accelerates out of their illegal parking spot and hits him. Mossby’s shoes catch on fire from running too much and he gives up and sits on the curb.
Next we see Ol’ Slim Jim and poor Trigby. They are struggling along when the pair falls into an open manhole. According to the narrator who still has some apparent angst against overweight people, this wouldn’t have happened if Slim didn’t overeat and block Trigby’s view. I smell a lawsuit against the city from both of their families.
Nelbert becomes so irate at her remaining friends (for no obvious reason) that she decides to use the sidewalk and crashes into a couple of folks simply walking with their groceries. Fil is under the assumption that he’s getting a new bike soon, so he hasn’t been taking care of his. Instead of getting a new bike he is squished dead by a fast moving steam roller.
Orville Slump, Accessory to Murder?
Finally we see the dimwitted Stanislaw turn left instead of right like his one remaining friend, Orv. He rides his bike into a tunnel without any way to be seen, colliding with death in the tunnel. If only he’d been wearing reflective clothing or a flashlight helmet he may still be with us. Now this may ruffle some feathers, but has anyone considered that Orv had a hand in Stanislaw’s death? All it would have taken was for Orv to shout out to his friend but he just let him peddle off into darkness. Almost, as if, on purpose.
Orville Wins the Weird Sixties Style Hunger Games
As nine monkeys are either missing, severely injured or lying dead, Orville is seen peddling off to the park. Oblivious to his missing friends, he’s seen sitting down at a picnic table with ten labeled lunch bags. What’s a boy to do when he’s lost all of his friends and doesn’t seem to notice or care? Eat all of the lunches, that’s what. It seems that through all of the tragedy and lessons learned, we finally find out why the safety video about bicycles is called ‘One Got Fat’. Orville got fat by eating his dead friend’s lunches.
Plot Twist! (serious spoiler)
Why Orville Slump? What was so special about him? You’re about to find out. Avert your eyes if you want to find out for yourself or are comfortable never knowing.
That’s right, you guessed it. Orville didn’t die because Orville isn’t a silly monkey. He’s just a boy who looks like kind of a jerk, satisfied with himself as he eats the sandwiches of the deceased.
This little nugget of retro fun was listed as number five on Cracked’s “Most Excessively Creepy Children’s Educational Videos” of all time list. It’s near the top for me as well. Which is why I’ve watched it ten times.
The narration, by Edward Everett Horton, is very well done, with its sixties wit and sarcasm. Horton had a long career in television and cinema, starring in many comedy features and usually playing “a mousy fellow who put up with domestic or professional problems to a certain point and then finally asserted himself for a happy ending”, according to his Wikipedia page.
The monkeys were played by the film director’s kids and some of their school friends. The acting is uncomfortable at times and silly but none of that matters because they are all wearing monkey masks. It’s sort of hard to look past that and notice anything else.
In an era when social guidance films were all the rage, ‘One Got Fat’ plays more like a dark comedy. Goofy sound effects, implied death, name calling, typecasting, it’s all there. I will say this… you should watch it, at least once. Just to say you did. I’d give it five stars if I was just rating for weirdness. It honestly made me uncomfortable a few times, in a great way.