The Beast of the Yellow Night (1971)

THE BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT (1971)
Article 3187 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-17-2010
Posting Date: 5-13-2010
Directed by Eddie Romero
Featuring John Ashley, Mary Charlotte Wilcox, Leopoldo Salcedo
Country: Philippines / USA
What it is: Cross between the story of Faust and a werewolf movie

A starving man sells his soul to the devil for food. He becomes immortal, but must propagate evil for his master. When he fails, he is transformed into a murderous beast.

I’ve read that John Ashley claims that this was the most cerebral film he made in the Philippines, and I’m willing to buy that; with its philosophical delvings and offbeat characters, it’s something of a horror art film. It’s different enough that I feel a bit inclined to defend it. Sadly, it doesn’t really work, as much of the talk is simply dull, and the main character’s relationship with his wife degenerates into soap opera shtick. The horror often gets pushed on the back-burner as well, and the monster isn’t memorable, nor are his rampages particularly effective. The best scenes and conversations feature Vic Diaz as the devil, but you really don’t see enough of him. And for all the philosophical discussions, the conflict comes down to whether the main character can regain his soul, thus sloughing off his enforced immortality and allowing him to die, and this doesn’t require near the amount of talk we’re given. In the end, the movie is neither fish nor fowl, and is bound to disappoint no matter what the expectations are. In short, it’s a failure, albeit not an uninteresting one.

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Spooky Hooky (1936)

SPOOKY HOOKY (1936)
Short
Article 3186 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-5-2010
Posting Date: 5-5-2010
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Featuring Eugene ‘Porky’ Lee, George ‘Spanky’ McFarland, Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer
Country: USA
What it is: Little Rascals short

The Little Rascals hatch a scheme to play hooky so they can go to the circus; however, when they discover that the teacher actually plans to take the kids to the circus, they try to retrieve the forged note they planted to excuse them from class. Unfortunately, the school is locked, and they have to sneak inside during a spooky, rainy night.

Basically, this consists of setting up the above plot, and then Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat and Porky scaring each other or being scared of each other. There’s some scary noises, an owl, people dressed as ghosts, and a skeleton. Of course it’s not scary; it’s too cute. Nonetheless, this is a mildly amusing short.

Spooks (1931)

SPOOKS (1931)
Cartoon
Article 3185 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-4-2010
Posting Date: 5-4-2010
Directed by Ub Iwerks
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Funny skeleton cartoon

Flip the Frog takes refuge from a storm in a scary mansion where his host is a friendly skeleton. However, the skeleton has an ulterior motive; it turns out that Flip is just the right size to fill the box that will complete the skeleton’s skeleton collection.

Of course I feel deja vu; it’s another Ub Iwerks skeleton cartoon like yesterday’s. This one isn’t nearly as musically inclined, though there is a musical section which uses one of the same gags as SKELETON FROLICS; namely, a skeleton dancer breaking into two parts after each twirl. Flip the Frog is largely forgotten nowadays, but I kind of like him, mainly because he has a catchy little title melody. My favorite scene here has the host offering dinner to Flip – a chicken skeleton, which Flip finds inedible but feels he must be a gracious guest.

Skeleton Frolics (1937)

SKELETON FROLICS (1937)
Cartoon
Article 3184 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-3-2010
Posting Date: 5-3-2010
Directed by Ub Iwerks
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Dancing skeleton cartoon

Skeletons arise from the graves and form a band.

There seems to be a sub-genre of musical skeleton cartoons during the early talkie era. This one is directed by Ub Iwerks, who worked as an animator for SKELETON DANCE in 1929, so he was returning to familiar ground. There’s no plot, but the animation is good and the gags are passable, and, unlike the others I’ve seen, this one is in color. This cartoon is available on the DVD of THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA.

Pigs is Pigs (1937)

PIGS IS PIGS (1937)
Cartoon
Article 3183 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-2-2010
Posting Date: 5-2-2010
Directed by Friz Freleng
Featuring the voices of Billy Bletcher, Bernice Hansen and Martha Wentworth
Country: USA
What it is: Animated glutton’s nightmare

A pig with an insatiable appetite has a nightmare where he is force-fed tons of food by an evil scientist.

It’s understandable that my memory incorrectly classified this one as a Porky Pig cartoon, but it isn’t; though Porky went through several changes in his evolution, he always maintained the stutter, and that is noticeably absent in the pig here. I also remember that this cartoon was the stuff of nightmares when I was a kid; despite the fact that this isn’t one of the great Looney Toons cartoons, if you’ve seen it as a kid, it sticks in the memory. Nowadays I appreciate it for the wittiness of the force-feeding inventions; in particular, a machine that serves pies functions like a jukebox, and an olive dispenser is modeled after a gumball machine (a mechanical hand has to keep feeding it pennies). Still, it’s a lot of fun seeing this one again; I hadn’t seen it in four decades.

Killer on the Loose (1936)

KILLER ON THE LOOSE (1936)
aka Killer at Large
Article 3182 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2010
Posting Date: 5-1-2010
Directed by David Selman
Featuring Mary Brian, Russell Hardie, George McKay
Country: USA
What it is: B-Movie crime drama with slight horror elements

When a safe is robbed in a department store and the store manager is murdered, a clerk who is engaged to the female store detective is under suspicion. The detective must find the real killer.

The killer in this case is a designer of wax figures who also specializes in impersonating them, a gimmick that actually plays into the robbery/murder. This isn’t really a spoiler; the identity of the murderer is given to us fairly early in the proceedings, and the movie is more concerned with the pursuit of the criminal. The horror elements are slight; there’s a scene in a warehouse full of wax figures and a cemetery scene that provide some slight horror content, and the killer is a madman of sorts as well. Henry Brandon plays the killer, and he’s the best thing here; he comes across as convincingly malevolent. Still, there really isn’t much to this low-budget movie, though fans of Lon Chaney Jr. will find him here in a small role as one of the killer’s henchmen. All in all, a fairly minor b-movie.

Stop, Look and Listen (1949)

STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN (1949)
Animated cartoon
Article 3181 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-28-2010
Posting Date: 4-30-2010
Directed by Eddie Donnelly
Voice actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Animated serial operetta parody

Oilcan Harry has both Pearl Pureheart and Mighty Mouse tied to a bull that is running from a locomotive. Pearl’s father is rushing to drill an oil well to get the money to pay for her ransom. Will Mighty Mouse be able to save the day?

From what I’ve seen of the various Mighty Mouse shorts so far, I’m of the opinion that the series only really achieved transcendence when it introduced Pureheart and Oilcan Harry, took on serials and operetta, and lifted the whole concept to levels of hilarious absurdity. The use of music in these cartoons helps keep the action fast and lively. It takes Mighty Mouse three minutes to remember he has superpowers; if that doesn’t seem all that long, keep in mind that’s half the cartoon. These cartoons may very well represent the pinnacle of Terrytoons’s output.