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Western Animation / Who Killed Who?

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"Who Killed Who?" is one of the early Tex Avery MGM Cartoons, created in 1943. The short is a pastiche of whodunnit cases.

Beginning with a live-action announcer proclaiming the cartoon as an educational example of how crime doesn't pay, it is set in an old, spooky house on the "Gruesome Gables". The elderly owner is murdered (how dead he is, though, is a matter of question) and, seconds later, a crafty detective arrives to investigate — but he finds out that the house is a haunted and wacky place, where finding and unmasking the murderer might prove very problematic.

The cartoon short provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Decay: The victim reads a book based on this very short and is horrified to learn what becomes of him. Unfortunately for him, this is an averted trope.
  • And That's Terrible: The victim sees a note announcing he's about to die at 11.30, and exclaims (with a lisp), "Why, this is terrible! I can't die at 11.30!" — cue a second note, "P.S. OK, we'll make it 12."
  • Arrowgram: The victim of a potential murder receives a note attached to a dagger that reads "You will die at 11:30!"
    Victim: Heavens! I can't die at eleven-thirty! [a second dagger with another note is thrown in; it reads "P.S. Okay... we'll make it 12:00"
  • Barely Missed Cushion: As he falls dead, the victim halts, pulls a mattress from Hammerspace, and restarts falling toward it. However, he suddenly turns and lands completely the other way, hitting the floor.
  • Based on a True Story: Parodied. The announcer in the opening says the cartoon is “condensed from authentic criminal records.” Considering the actual content of the picture, this is a complete put-on.
  • Black Cloak: Worn by the killer, along with a black mask.
  • Bland-Name Product: The cuckoo clock is a "Booolova", a pun on Bulova.
  • Born in the Theatre: Done with a black silhouette of a "theater patron" who moves around despite the detective's order of "Everybody stay where you are! Don't nobody move!", followed by him knocking out the guy with a club and exclaiming "That goes for you too, bub!"
  • The Butler Did It: Averted in this case, but he does act very suspicious, so he might have done some other crime not uncovered yet.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: Parodied when the eyes visible beyond a door peephole are left shut out when the peephole closes abruptly, forcing them to knock on the door to be let back in.
  • *Click* Hello: The killer gets the drop on the detective in this fashion. Unfortunately for the killer, he's out of bullets.
  • Creator Cameo: Tex Avery provides the voice of Santa Claus in his brief appearance.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: Of a comedic variety, of course—a painted woman in a bathsuit who has hastily covered herself by the time the detective peeks at the painting again.
  • Cruel Mercy: The victim is sent a note warning he will die at 11:30 p.m. When the victim says he can't die then, the killer agrees to make it 12:00. Subverted as the clock immediately turns to show 12:00.
  • Cuckoo Clock Gag: The victim receives a note that he will die at midnight. When the clock chimes midnight, a skeletal bird emerges and says "At the sound of the gun, it will be exactly 12:00."
  • Dem Bones: Who's there? A regular skeleton, and a red one (a Shout-Out to comedian "Red" Skeleton). Earlier on, a skeletal cuckoo in a clock calls out the time.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The murderer is the live-action announcer.
  • Dramatic Unmask: "Now we'll see who done it?!"
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Happens to a ghost, who promptly blushes.
  • Elongating Arm Gag: Two instances: first, the cop stretches his leg to a door on the other end of a spacious hall; then when the killer has him at gun point and tells him to "reach for the ceiling", the cop stretches his arms all the way to the ceiling, three stories up.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The detective bursts in shouting.
  • Extended Disarming: The detective demands to "see the gun here on this table". He turns off the light. A few seconds later, he turns the light back on and ends up with a pile of various weapons reaching up to the ceiling.
  • Genre Roulette: And how. The narrator sets this up to be a 'Ripped from the Headlines' true crime story, the opening makes it looks like a Haunted House movie, and the cast of characters is out of Agatha Christie.
  • Hand Cannon: Exaggerated. The gun used to "kill" the victim is larger than the shooter.
  • Haunted House: The setting, complete with at least one ghost and at least two skeletons.
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker: When the detective gets the drop on the killer.
  • Hyperspace Mallet: How the detective finally incapacitates the killer.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The cartoon begins with a stormy night, with the (live-action) narrator saying the trope name word-for-word.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Gruesome Gables.
  • Large Ham: The detective.
  • Literal-Minded: The killer sticks the detective up in the middle of the mansion's rotunda. When told by the killer to "reach for the ceiling", the detective actually stretches his arms all the way up to the ceiling a story above.
  • The Living Dead: Though the victim has just been shot dead, he poses with a top hat for his autopsy picture for a split second, baffling the detective. When the detective peeks, the victim tells him to "not get nosy, bub".
  • Male Gaze: Played for Laughs — a flashlight spot scans a wall full of hanging pictures, including one of a scantily clad woman with a fur coat, but when the spot returns to the picture, the woman is covered up.
  • Medium Awareness: The victim is reading a book called "Who Killed Who? (From the cartoon of the same name)." This is also how he learns of his impending murder.
  • Novelization: An in-universe example.
  • No Indoor Voice: The detective shouts almost every single line.
  • Obviously Evil: As a gag, when the detective pushes a button marked "RING BELL FOR SUSPECTS," the butler, maid, and chauffeur come in — and they all look rather sinister. It then turns out that they're actually pretty cheerful.
    Detective: Okay, which one of you mugs bumped off the ol' boy?! Whodunnit?!
    Suspects: Awwww, now wouldn't YOU like to know!
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Heard throughout the short. It is meant to emulate the organ music used in the radio dramas that the cartoon is spoofing.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse:
    • A closet that holds hundreds of corpses that fall out one by one, for (presumably) a very long time. Lampshaded:
      Random corpse: Ah yes! Quite a bunch of us, isn't it?
    • Also when the detective is taking a picture of the body covered by a sheet. The victim sits up and poses, then falls back under the sheet. The detective lifts up the sheet:
      Victim: Now let's not get nosy, bub.
  • Red Herring: The butler, maid, and driver. Of course, they do have a large assortment of weapons.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Sort of — the live action and the animated characters aren't seen together, but some clever cutting in the ending makes it look like this.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: The detective, though first he uses a small pitch pipe to find the correct octave to achieve this.
  • Shameful Shrinking: More like "Fearful Shrinking," as it happens to the detective upon encountering a ghost.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The three shots fired from the killer's gun at the victim replicate the NBC Chimes.
    • To go with the "Red Skeleton" mentioned above, the killer's confession of "I dood it" was a catch phrase from one of Skelton's comedy routines.
    • The voice of the victim is an imitation of popular character actor Richard Hayden.
    • The voice of the corpse who says "Ah, yes. Quite a bunch of us, isn't it?" is likewise an imitation of comedian Jerry Colonna.
  • Show Some Leg: The detective resorts to this to catch the killer.
  • Spinning Clock Hands: When the victim receives a message that he is going to die at midnight, he looks terrified at the cuckoo clock; there's still a few hours left, but then the hands suddenly spin all the way to midnight.
  • Steal the Surroundings: After the Extended Disarming sequence, the detective says they'll try it again. He turns out the lights, and when they come back on, everything in the room (including the bookcases and pictures on the wall) is gone.
  • Surprise Santa Encounter: Western Ur-Example: The detective sees a door marked: "Do Not Open Until Xmas." Scoffing, he opens it, and runs smack into a very irritated Santa.
    Santa: Listen doc, can't you read? (bops detective on head)
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: A variant — the blushing ghost. How is that even possible?
  • Tick Tock Terror: Played for Laughs with the creepy cuckoo clock, which rapidly hits the top of the hour so that the chimes play Chopin's "Funeral March" before the victim gets offed.
  • Toothy Bird: The skeletal cuckoo bird in the clock has a beak full of small but sharp teeth.
  • Visual Pun: Once again, "Red Skeleton".
  • Wrap Around: The detective drops a vase into a pit in the floor; after a while, it falls on his head from above. Later on, he himself falls into a pit on the ground floor and, after a lot of noise, comes crashing down the stairs that lead to the upper floors.


"Do Not Open Until Xmas"

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Example of:

Main / SurpriseSantaEncounter

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