The Mouse-merized Cat (1946)

THE MOUSE-MERIZED CAT (1946)
Article 5340 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-9-2017
Directed by Robert McKimson
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Warner Brothers cartoon

In order to get some food, Babbit hypnotizes Catstello into thinking he’s a dog.

Thinly-disguised Abbott and Costello knock-offs Babbit and Catstello first appeared in A TALE OF TWO KITTIES (the cartoon that first introduced Tweety to the world) as cats; here they are again, only they’ve been transmogrified into mice. The title is a bit deceptive; though the cat does eventually get hypnotized, by and large it is the mouse Catstello that suffers that indignity here. This one is pretty good for a Robert McKimson cartoon. Most of McKimson’s cartoons suffer in comparison the Jones and Freleng cartoons largely because his cartoons suffered a bit from being overly talky; here that problem is kept to a minimum. A few celebrity parodies appear as well; Catstello is hypnotized into doing imitations of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante; apparently, in the original cartoon he also did Rochester from “The Jack Benny Show”, but that’s missing from the print I saw, no doubt because of the racial stereotype. The best moment has Catstello under assault by the hypnotic powers of both Babbit and the cat. This would be the last appearance of this duo other than as cameos in much later projects.

A Lad an’ a Lamp (1932)

A LAD AN’ A LAMP (1932)
Article 5339 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-8-2017
Directed by Robert F. McGowan
Featuring Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard, Dorothy DeBorba, Bobby ‘Wheezer’ Hutchins
Country: USA
What it is: “Our Gang” short with monkey.

The Our Gang kids believe they have stumbled across Aladdin’s lamp.

This short has the reputation of being one of the funniest ones from the “Our Gang” series, and it is pretty amusing. However, even though it was originally released uncut for TV syndication, it was eventually cut severely and then dropped from the package altogether. This was due to some noticeable racial stereotyping in the episode; check out Stymie’s wishes when he’s trying out a lamp for examples, but the most glaring one is when Spanky wishes that a young black boy named Cotton would turn into a monkey and comments that “all he needs is a tail”. Most of the story hinges on that last wish, as a chimp escapes from a show and appears in front of the kids after Cotton runs off. Pretty much the rest of the short gets its humor from chimp antics, though I find the sequences where various incidents occur in tandem with their wishing on the lamp (some of them engineered by eavesdropping adults) to be the best parts. As might be expected, the lamp isn’t really magic, so it’s a little dodgy as far as the fantastic content is concerned, though throwing a magician into the mix helps a bit.

Le remords (1906)

LE REMORDS (1906)
aka Remorse, Conscience, Comedy about a Rich Man and His Servant
Article 5338 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-7-2017
Directed by Ferdinand Zecca
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Early horror short

A servant kills his master for his money, but finds that vengeance can come from beyond the grave.

Here’s another movie rescued from my “ones that got away” list by its appearance on YouTube; those interesting in viewing it should search by “comedy about a rich man and his servant”, which is how it is labeled, thought that’s hardly an official title for this short. In fact, I would hardly call it a comedy; at least, to these eyes, it’s played more for scares than for yuks. It’s also incredibly efficient; it tells its whole story in less than two minutes, and there’s quite a bit going on, especially towards the end. I enjoyed this one a lot, and I’m glad it finally came to light.

The Tempest (1908)

THE TEMPEST (1908)
Article 5337 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-5-2017
Directed by Percy Stow
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Silent Shakespeare adaptation

The survivors of a ship sunk by a tempest find themselves stranded on an island inhabited by a sorcerer, his daughter, and two mystical creatures.

I’m surprised I don’t have more of a working familiarity with the play that inspired this one; it is, after all, with the possible exception of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, the play of Shakespeare’s that has the greatest amount of fantastic content. However, every time I try to read it, I get lost in the language and lose the thread of the story. As a result, I actually got something out of this version; bereft of the language and shortened to twelve minutes, I came out of it with at least an outline of the story to help me when I tackle reading it again in the future. On its own terms, it’s not bad for what it is – an abbreviated “high points” summary of a familiar story, and it’s entertaining enough for its length. And of course, I couldn’t resist trying to match up the various characters with their equivalents in the science fiction classic modeled off the story, FORBIDDEN PLANET. All in all, I found this viewing quite useful.

The Magical Hen (1902)

THE MAGICAL HEN (1902)
aka La poule merveilleuse
Article 5336 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-4-2017
Directed by Ferdinand Zecca
Featuring Ferdinand Zecca
Country: France
What it is: Something you can’t unsee

A magician does magic with hens and eggs.

First, a digression. There’s a well-known exploitation movie called BECAUSE OF EVE that is mostly famous for a specific sequence. If you’ve seen or heard of the movie, you probably know which one I mean. Now imagine if you saw that sequence….backwards. This digression will become clear shortly.

I’ve seen lots of these early trick shorts so far, and for the most part, they’re pretty difficult to differentiate. However, there are a few that stand apart for one reason or another (or for good or bad). This is one of them. Why? Well, let me describe in detail the first half of this short.

1 – A magician carries on a hen and removes from its backside six eggs.

  1. He then cracks open each of the eggs and a chick falls out.

That’s the first half of the movie. What happens during the second half? Basically, they run all the footage from the first half backwards. Which means…. well, I’m sure you’ll understand the BECAUSE OF EVE reference now. And I don’t think you can blame for finding this one a bit on the queasy side.

Santa’s Christmas Circus (1966)

SANTA’S CHRISTMAS CIRCUS (1966)
Article 5335 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-3-2017
Directed by Frank Wiziarde
Featuring John Bilyeu and Frank Wiziarde
Country: USA
What it is: Christmas movie

Whizzo the clown celebrates Christmas with his children friends and takes them on a magic carpet trip to the North Pole to visit Santa.

Those who hail SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS as the worst Christmas movie ever are probably unaware there’s a whole level of Christmas / children’s movies that make that one look well-crafted and lavishly produced. I’ve seen several of these, but this may be the first one I’ve reviewed. It’s been sitting on my “ones that got away” list with a LOST status like LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, but while that one still is, this one has been found. It’s just hard to imagine anyone looking for it.

It features a character called Whizzo the Clown, and I suspect that we’re dealing with a character who gained fame in the same way that horror hosts did – as a local celebrity who probably hosted a kid’s show that ran cartoons. On that level, the character probably worked well enough; I’ve seen worse children’s clowns. But that doesn’t mean that his shtick can maintain a sixty minute movie, especially one with only a wisp of a plot and probably no set script. The first third of the movie consists of the clown and his children friends performing a perfunctory circus. Then he pulls out his atomic time machine and we get to watch footage from window store displays for about fifteen minutes. Then a magic carpet takes them all to the North Pole for a visit to Santa, who shows them toys and talks about the spirit of Christmas. Then they go back to Whizzo’s place and the movie is over. That’s it. It’s a good example of what I call the “non-event”.

It’s not the worst Christmas movie I’ve ever seen. But it may be the worst one I’ve covered for this series; only THE CHRISTMAS MARTIAN really gives it a run for its money, since it’s as annoying as this one is a snoozefest. It’s perhaps best described as an inconsequential waste of time. Still, I can say two good things about it. One is that one of the kids does an impressive backflip at one point. The other is that the dog puppet is used very sparingly.

Tarzan and King Kong (1965)

TARZAN AND KING KONG (1965)
Article 5334 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-2-2017
Directed by A. Shamsheer
Featuring Randhawa, Mumtaz, Bela Bose
Country: India
What it is: An exercise in expectations

Tarzan rescues survivors of an airplane wreck and becomes the target of an evil native king.

This is probably the most famous title of an Indian series of Tarzan movies, and let’s face it – the title is a bit irresistible, even if you know disappointment is inevitable. Most of the movie is about Tarzan (as you might expect), and he’s your standard stocky guy in an animal skin with one of the dullest Tarzan yells on record. Still, you have to respect the yell, as it summons forth a huge legion of elephants to his aid (though I should point out that most of that is stock footage), and it is Tarzan’s “ace in the hole”, as you realize when you reach the end of the movie. Still, if you’re like me, the real question on your mind is “how do they pull off King Kong?” All I’m going to say is – think “man in a (not very good) gorilla suit in both execution and size”. Heck, the fight between Tarzan and Kong isn’t even the climax of the movie. There’s lots of singing and dancing (of course), a lot of fight scenes (and some go on way too long), a bit of wrestling (including a wrestler that looks like a cross between Tor Johnson and Mad Dog Vachon). Yes, it’s a disappointment, but not out of line with what I was expecting. All in all, the title is the best thing about it, and I do think an interesting movie could be made mixing Kong and Tarzan. Just not this one.

I should also mention that my copy didn’t have English dubbing or subtitles, but I’m not sure it’s one of those movies where it makes a difference.

Supu jaiantsu – Jinko eisei to jinrui no hametsu (1957)

SUPU JAIANTSU – JINKO EISEI TO JINRUI NO HAMETSU (1957)
aka Super Giant 5
Article 5333 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-31-2016
Directed by Teruo Ishii
Featuring Ken Utsui, Utako Mitsuya, Hiroshi Hayashi
Country: Japan
What it is: Super Giant short

Super Giant does battle with Space Nazis who have an artificial satellite orbiting the Earth.

This is the fifth of the nine-part Super Giant series from Japan that was edited into the four “Starman” movies; this one marked the first half of ATTACK FROM SPACE. That was one of the more coherent of the Starman movies, and it appears that may be due to the fact that the sixth short was a direct sequel; in fact, this one ends on a cliffhanger. My copy didn’t have English subtitles, but that’s all right; if I want to know what’s going on, I can consult ATTACK FROM SPACE, but I don’t think I really need to know any more than that it’s Super Giant versus Space Nazis. I have to admit this one is a bit disappointing taken on its own; there’s only one fight scene, and it’s not one of the better ones, though I do notice how the sound effects work overtime to make it sound like there’s actually a fight going on instead of people doing gymnastic routines. This one just has too much time of Super Giant flying around in outer space, a visual image that gets old pretty fast. If I remember ATTACK FROM SPACE, I’m willing to bet the sixth episode in this series will be an improvement.

The Jeep (1938)

THE JEEP (1938)
Article 5332 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-30-2016
Directed by Dave Fleischer and Seymour Kneitel
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer and Margie Hines
Country: USA
What it is: Popeye cartoon

When Swee’Pea goes missing, Popeye employs the talents of his “magic dog” to track him down.

Usually when a Popeye cartoon does not add spinach and the super-powers it grants into the mix (like this one), it’s a little difficult to argue its inclusion in the realm of the fantastic. However, that’s no problem here; the Jeep, Popeye’s “magic dog”, is a legitimately fantastic character. He can disappear, defy gravity, and walk through walls. Bluto is absent from this cartoon, so the main story involves Popeye’s struggle to keep up with the Jeep as it tracks the baby. Jack Mercer gets to ad lib a lot of hilarious dialogue here, and you do have to wonder how Swee’Pea managed to get through some of obstacles encountered; that is, if the Jeep isn’t just leading Popeye on a pointless runaround. This one is a lot of fun.

La brulere de mille soleils (1965)

LA BRULERE DE MILLE SOLEILS (1965)
aka The Burning of a Thousand Suns
Article 5331 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-29-2016
Directed by Pierre Kast
Featuring the voices of Pierre Vaneck and Barbara Laage, and Barbara Aptekman
Country: France
What it is: Animated Science fiction short

A man travels to another planet and falls in love with a woman there. However, whenever they try to make love, six people show up in their bedroom.

This one has been on my hunt list for some time, but it proved rather elusive, so I’m glad that it showed up on Vimeo. Unfortunately, it is in French without English subtitles, and given that the style is that of very limited animation (it mostly comes across like a series of narrated pictures), there’s not much to be gotten from the action, such as it is. What little I know about is based on some rather vague plot descriptions I stumbled across, and it may be about (unless I misunderstood) the differences of mores between two cultures. The visual style is like a combination of the UPA look and woodcuts, and though most of it is very static, it does look interesting. The movie delves into live action towards the end, mostly of shots of beautiful women smiling into the camera; the significance of these scenes is no doubt buried in the narration. I enjoyed it, but I can’t say I can really evaluate it.