• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives

  • Awards & Nominations

The Adventures of Tintin: The Crab With The Golden Claws (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn in the United States later this month, I’ll be taking a look at some of nineties animated television show. Check back daily!

Note: This is our review of the animated episode, check out our review of the book here.

Though the blu ray box set of the animated series includes the episodes in the order of the stories Hergé published, the studio actually produced the adventures in a different order, spread across three seasons. In fact, the first episode we reviewed, Tintin in America, was the last produced. So The Crab With the Golden Claws was actually the first animated adaptation in this particular series. And it makes sense to use this adventure as a good place to start any adaptation of Tintin – indeed, it appears Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson would agree, as this is the first of three stories adapted in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. It has everything you need from a Tintin adventure – a mystery, an exotic locale, international criminals.

Oh, and it also introduces Captain Haddock.

Haddock can't hold his liquor...

I enjoy The Crab with the Golden Claws, although it isn’t among my favourite Tintin stories, though I can’t necessarily explain why. Perhaps it’s the fact that Tintin had already spent Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus cracked an opium ring, or perhaps it was the fact that there’s a sharp change in tone here from The Black Island and King Ottokar’s Sceptre, two episodes written in the build-up to the Second World War. With the war actually taking place, and Belgium under occupation, The Crab With the Golden Claws feels like a strange tale, as if it’s trying to avoid any hint of relation to the events in the real world. Even the surreal The Shooting Star is more grounded in the sense of dread that swept across thirties Europe.

Then again, I can see why it makes an obvious choice for the pilot of an animated series based around Tintin. It has all the essential ingredients, and it provides the framework for all sorts of action set pieces. And, of course, it features Captain Haddock. While Tintin is a blank slate as far as Hergé and the audience is concerned, Haddock feels like a fully developed character. Tintin has no history and no family, and is a pillar of virtue – seldom drinking or smoking. He’s almost aspiration, which is somewhat fitting. Hergé did, after all, model him on a boy scout.

Hergé today, gone tomorrow...

Haddock, in contrast, is a more human character. Even here we get the sense that this isn’t a character without a past, like Tintin is. He has problems, very serious problems. In fairness, the show is aimed at kids, so I’m surprised that they dealt with Haddock’s alcoholism here. In later episodes, they’d tone it down significantly, but I’m glad to see some of the character’s demons survive the process of adaptation. After all, it’s these aspects of the character that make him so fascinating.

While the episode does tone down some of the less flattering aspects of the character (he doesn’t attack Tintin in the plane, for once), it doesn’t quite whitewash him as thoroughly as the motion picture did. For example, we’re still treated to the hallucination where Haddock imagines Tintin as a bottle of champagne and tries to “open” him, a scene I really missed in the film. After all, the advantage of using CGI was that you could show us stuff that wouldn’t be easy to replicate in live action – and Hergé’s surreal dream sequences were perfect. The cartoon does a fantastic job bringing the Belgian author’s strange fantasies to life, much like they did (or would do) in Cigars of the Pharaoh.

All on board?

David Fox makes for quite a good Captain Haddock. I’ve admitted that I’m not too fond of Colin O’Meara’s version of Tintin, but Fox brings the wonderfully gruff sort of attitude you’d expect from an alcoholic old sea dog like Haddock. It’s also great hear all Haddock’s iconic insults uttered out loud with such conviction. As I remarked in some of my earlier reviews, it can be heard to get the tone right in translating some of Hergé’s dialogue to screen, but I think that The Crab With the Golden Claws does a wonderful job.

The Crab With The Golden Claws is a solid little episode. It’s not perfect or fantastic, but it sets up the show, and it delivers the thrills necessary. We’re getting ready to enter one of the more fascinating stages of the series, where Hergé plotted any number of wonderful escapist adventures in the shadow of the global conflict, cementing the supporting cast around his lead and giving us some of the more memorable stories.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: