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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 an 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.
  • Black Cloak: Worn by the killer, along with a black mask.
  • 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 "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.
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  • *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 give him an extra half-hour.
  • Dem Bones: A regular skeleton, and a red one (a Shout-Out to comedian "Red" Skelton). 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?!"
  • Drop the Hammer: How the detective finally incapacitates the killer.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Happens to a ghost, who promptly blushes.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The detective bursts in shouting.
  • Extended Disarming: The detective demands "the gun" to be placed on the table. A few seconds later, he 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 while 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.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Gruesome Gables.
  • Large Ham: The detective.
  • Literal-Minded: When told by the killer to "reach for the ceiling", the detective actually stretches his arms all the way up to the high ceiling.
  • 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.
  • 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: Which one of you bumped off the ol' man?! Whodunnit?!
    Suspects: Awwww, wouldn't YOU like to know!
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Heard throughout the short.
  • 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: 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.
  • Shameful Shrinking: More like "Fearful Shrinking," as it happens to the detective upon encountering a ghost.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The killer's gun final three shots 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 corpse who says "Ah, yes. Quite a bunch of us, isn't it?" is 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 clock Chopin's "Funeral March" before the victim gets offed.
  • 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.


Example of: