Number-one super-guy Hong Kong Phooey is a classic combination of martial arts based super-heroism and bumbling inefficiency – all wrapped up in one of the coolest dogs you ever did see.
Hong Kong Phooey takes anthropomorphism to its limits by placing a talking dog who wears clothes and goes to work among an otherwise human population. Nobody bats an eyelid at this, they just accept him as part of the community.
Like any self-respecting super-hero (Superman and Clark Kent; Spiderman and Peter Parker), Hong Kong Phooey’s alter ego is meek and somewhat inept, with an alliterative name. Penry Pooch, the mild-mannered janitor, works at the police station where he botches general repairs with slapstick effect and is on hand to hear about any crimes that need solving. When crime-fighting calls, he dives into a filing cabinet to transform himself into a superhero who is… well, still inept but not so meek. As Hong Kong Phooey puts it: “It’s amazing how a meek little janitor can turn into the greatest crime-fighter of all time.”
Trusty sidekick Spot, the stripy cat, accompanies Phooey in his Phooeymobile, and takes care of the the actual outwitting of criminals while Hong Kong Phooey does spectacular fighting moves gleaned from his Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu. In fact, though he doesn’t know it, our hero would never even emerge from his transformative filing cabinet without Spot’s help. No wonder he’s constantly surprised at his apparent crime-fighting skill.
As with many a legend, men want to be Hong Kong Phooey and women want to be with him. Coming hot on the heels of martial arts film star BruceLee’s blistering success (and not long after Lee’s premature death in 1973), Hong Kong Phooey combines a laid-back, fashionably funky demeanour with the romance and power of Lee’s lean, mean, super-fast killing machine. Ladies– like Rosemary the switchboard operator – spend their days dreaming about him and their evenings attending Hong Kong Phooey Fan Club meetings.
Hong Kong Phooey also has a voice to die for, and that’s because he was voiced by Benjamin Sherman ‘Scat Man’ Crothers, who also sang the show’s iconic theme tune. S(cat Man had a long career as an singer, actor and voice-over artist. He deserves listening to, so here he is singing September Song for you to enjoy.)
There are many brilliant animated cartoon dogs in the world, and a heck of a lot of them – like Hong Kong Phooey – come from Hanna-Barbera. Hong Kong Phooey remains super-cool to this day, with a lasting appeal that puts him among the company’s greatest creations. I was surprised to find out that the series only ran for 16 episodes between 1974 and 1975, although each episode contained two adventures so there’s plenty of Phooey to go round.
What breed of dog is Hong Kong Phooey?
Quite simply, Hong Kong Phooey doesn’t need to be tied down to a breed of dog. He operates on human terms and appears to be unique in the world he inhabits. He does look a little bit spaniel-like, but I’d say he’s pure anthropomorphic mutt.
Watch this Hong Kong Phooey episode to see just how cool our hero is.
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