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Crab with the Golden Claws: Le Crabe aux Pinces d'or (1947 film)

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#1 · Posted: 30 Jul 2004 19:18
My interest in Stop-Motion animation brings me here. Its not to say that I am not a Tintin fan. I mean, I grew up with him... I mean...aw well.

There's a Tintin exhibit on at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. I was there last weekend and for peeps interested in original artwork, Herge's research and some fab trivia its the place to be. Its on till the 5th of Sep.

I was going thru the catalogue and I learnt that the first animated feature of Tintin's adventures was 'The Crab With the Golden Claws'. It was a Stop-Motion feature and was produced in 1947. I am wondering if anyone here has heard of it or even seen it. Any pointers in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

Moderator Emeritus
#2 · Posted: 31 Jul 2004 12:53
For more info on this movie, please see the guide to it in the Tintin on Screen section of this website : http://www.tintinologist.org/guides/screen/crab1947.html
#3 · Posted: 3 Aug 2004 16:44
Although I did not have a chance to see it myself, I noticed that the stop-motion “Crab” movie was to get a couple of showings in Paris, at the time the exhibition was on in the Maritime Museum there. These were either going to be its first showings in public in Paris, or at least the first showings since it had a brief run at the time it was made.

I had hoped that it might have come over here to Greenwich as part of the package, but sadly not.

The positive note is of course that it has survived at all, and hopefully it will one day come out on DVD or video for us all to see.
#4 · Posted: 30 Aug 2004 20:41
Many thanks you guys.
I've written to the Animation Research Centre, Surrey and to the Cinémathèque Royale in belgium about prints, so if I hear anything about it you will be the first to know.

Thanks again.
Harrock n roll
#5 · Posted: 25 Sep 2005 21:32
15 May 2017 15:02 - Merged topic:
Crab with the Golden Claws: Le Crabe aux Pinces d’or (1947 film)

I was one of the privileged few who got to see the legendary puppet-animated version of The Crab with the Golden Claws at this summer’s Tintin festival. Whilst the memories are still fairly fresh I thought I would get them down and post them here for your delectation..

According to the evidence this hour-long film ran for only a very short period during Christmas of 1947. The original 35mm film was restored by the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique and given it’s second only public airing on 22nd of July this year at Bozar (an arts centre in Brussels) as part of “Le Marathon du Cinema” for the Tintin Festival.

The film opens with speeded-up footage of Hergé’s hand inking a picture of Tintin and Snowy. Unfortunately the sound was missing for the first 5 minutes and when it broke in it was fairly inaudible due to a loud humming noise before it died away after a few more minutes. I reckon the sound exists for the first 5 minutes but was left out because of the hum. The sound was good and bad throughout (I believe it could be repaired a bit more, perhaps with some computer trickery).

The film itself was in very good condition and as clear as a bell (the restoration I presume). One or two scenes mixed some live action footage with the animation – we get a shot of some dockyards, seagulls, ships, then we cut to a wee model boat of the Karaboudjan floating in what looks very much like a dirty washing-up water sea (which receives a cheer from the audience, funny how low budget effects get better with age!). Another great special effect was the seaplane floating down from the sky clearly suspended by a wire – Thunderbirds Schmunderbirds!

The sound that you could hear was very good, with a nice pacy 1940s score throughout and some very good character voices. They’re as you would expect; Haddock deep and gruff, Tintin young sounding and well-spoken. The Thom(p)sons have slightly different voices; Thomson fairly normal and Thompson more squeaky and nervous (a bit like some of the cartoons). Apparently Hergé had an input in choosing the voice artists so I’d like to think this is how they should sound.

My absolute favourite scenes were the ones in which the characters were drunk! Haddock’s hallucinations and “the corking of Tintin” dream sequence were quite memorable. Best of all there are a couple of short songs which went with the score – the part where Haddock loses Tintin at the Moroccan port and gets drunk - he strolls along the dockyards and sings a little ode to the sea with more real life shots of docks, etc.

Then later in the story Haddock and Tintin both get inadvertently drunk and spontaneously break into song after the wine barrels are broached. Of course this happens in the book but it’s much funnier in the film – the song was something like Haddock singing “tra-la-la” with a “boom-boom” from Tintin, actually very reminiscent of one of the Laurel and Hardy shorts in which they get sozzled!

Overall it was a remarkable viewing experience and one I’d like to have again! There is hope; there was talk at the whole Festival going on the road and travelling to a few countries. Failing that it could be subtitled (which would certainly help, esp at the beginning) and made available. Ahhh, they don’t make ‘em like they use to!
Moderator Emeritus
#6 · Posted: 25 Sep 2005 22:25
The movie sounds brilliant, Chris ! Some really interesting information, especially about Hergé's input - and the druken scenes sound hilarious - thanks ! :o)

The prospect of the Festival on tour, of course, sounds fantastic - thanks for mentioning that ! A release would be great as well, even if it was only in France or Belgium !
#7 · Posted: 26 Sep 2005 16:23
Thanks for the great summary, Chris - sounds like a real treat!

I’m surprised that it was only the second public screening - it was scheduled to be shown in Paris as part of the exhibition at the Maritime Museum a few years back - was that cancelled perhaps? I’m imagining the first show was the original screening in Brussels in ’47…?
Harrock n roll
#8 · Posted: 27 Sep 2005 15:24
I’ve been trying to find out more information on the history of this film. Philppe Goddin’s book Chronologie, vol 5, which contains snippets of correspondence between the various parties involved, gives a few more clues as to the sequence of events.

The legend says that the film was shown only once in 1947 (dates vary) after which it was pulled due to bankruptcy. Tintin magazine announced its screening at the ABC theatre from 21 December until January 11 and posters for the film show the same dates.

Just a month before it’s release Hergé refused to prolong the producer’s contract “without having seen the film and judged its quality and effectiveness.” It seems a tad strange that Hergé had not yet seen or approved the almost completed film this late in the day. To quote Goddin:“it’s worrying.”

The Christmas 1947 edition of Tintin magazine had a page set aside for the film, but a few days later (according to a letter written to a reader by Raymond Leblanc, the magazine boss) there was “deep regret that we recommended this film” which Leblanc goes on describe as a “fait accompli.”

In January 1948 Hergé replied to the producer, Wilfried Bouchery, who had questioned him on certain improvements to be made to the film. He saw four possibilities: Remake the seaplane scene – the ‘special effect’ was too apparent (having seen it I know what they mean) -. redo the camels in the desert – “it is essential that these animals move and move” -, and condense the unnecessarily long scenes where the Thom(p)sons enter the mosque and Tintin visits the Arab house.

Goddin’s book also mentions that in Feb 1948 Leblanc watched an “nth version” of Crab at a cinema somewhere. In March/April Bouchery showed his film to a Dutch owner who wanted to rid Crab of all the drunken scenes (just as the American publishers Golden Press wanted to do with the book version over a decade later). The producer told Hergé that if necessary he would carry out these cuts himself. In the summer of ’48 a new version had been made, reduced to 40 minutes (although it sounds as if all the best bits were cut out!), but by then the producer despaired of ever finding a distributor for it.

Clearly, the main reason for the film’s failure was that Hergé, ever the perfectionist, was never entirely happy with it. Even so, it’s amazing that it’s taken this long to be dusted down and given a reappraisal. I also thought it had been shown somewhere else quite recently (prior to the festival), but it was billed as having been screened for “only one day in 1947” – which might not actually be true but I suppose gives it added mystique!
#9 · Posted: 27 Sep 2005 17:17
Fascinating stuff, Chris - thanks for the researches. I agree that the legendary story of the single performance (like Orlando Gibbons’ “Silver Swan”) is far more romantic than it just being a mundane battle between producer and writer over the final product, but it is also quite satisfying to get to the truth.

As a general aside, I am constantly amazed by how quickly something fairly well known can slip from the ken of man. The events which you speak of are less than sixteen years before I was born; many of those involved lived into the later decades of the 20th century - some may still be alive; and now in the space of fewer than sixty years, we are scratching our heads and trying to reconcile just exactly what went on…
UK Correspondent
#10 · Posted: 1 Oct 2005 16:27
This has all been very interesting, thanks for putting it all together Chris ! Something I just came across - on Tintin.com at the moment, you can actually watch the entire film if you're a member of the Tintin Club. There's a feature where you can preview some videos, although sadly it won't play any more than a frame for me. If you go here, then 'Le Club de Tintin' > 'Les Tintinophiles' > 'Vidéos et Reportages' you may be able to see the preview. Perhaps this could be a foretaste for a commercial release ?

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