Thursday, November 06, 2008
Soviet Union, 1963
dir. V. Bordzilovski
approx. 10 minutes
“The Millionaire” is an animated anti-capitalist film produced by the Soviet Union in 1963. Set in the United States, the cartoon tells the story of a bulldog who inherits millions of dollars from his rich owner when she dies. The narrator asks, what can a dog possibly do with all that money? The answer: in America, pretty much anything. The bulldog lives a life of obscene luxury, partying all night, smoking cigars and eventually using his wealth to “win” himself a seat in the U.S. Senate.
The America portrayed in “The Millionaire” is, unsurprisingly, seedy and corrupt. When the bulldog gets drunk at an expensive nightclub, he reverts to his animal-self and begins doing a dance on all four legs; his dance catches on, and soon the entire club is on their hands and knees doing the dance, revealing themselves, too, as animals. The bulldog and his rich friends sit around enjoying cigars in their high-rise offices, but when confronted by the lower classes advocating peace in the streets, the rich become enraged and their faces transform to look like demons. The final line of the film says, “Yes, now he’s been elected a member of the Senate; Now that’s what crooked money does – if only you can get it!”
And just to be sure that the audience doesn’t mistakenly interpret this cautionary tale as a story about how awesome money is, the dog’s pile of money abruptly disappears at the end, along with his human suit and top hat – showing that in the end, he (and the greedy Americans he represents) is really nothing but a dog without all the trappings of wealth.
The style and music of “The Millionaire” seem to be very typical of the era (the 1960s), although sometimes the animation is inexplicably jerky. The cartoon is an example of why animated films are perfect for use as political propaganda. The rhyming narration and animal protagonist make it palatable for children as well as adults. Perhaps more importantly, the animation means the film would have been suitable for use practically anywhere in the Soviet Union, where there were a great number of languages spoken other than Russian. The story is very easy to follow based on its exaggerated visuals alone, meaning that non-Russian speakers could watch this and still get the message about the evils of capitalism.