Little Red Riding Hood (1922)

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (1922)
Article 4100 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Anson Dyer
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Fairy tale

After dressing her daughter up in a red riding hood outfit, a mother reads her child the story of “Little Red Riding Hood”, which is reenacted via animation.

This is a partially live action/partially animated movie, with the animated sections using what looks like paper puppets. It’s a fairly straightforward telling of the story, but some of the details are a bit fun. In this version, we find out what was in Red Riding Hood’s basket (eggs and honey). We also know that it was Red Riding Hood’s trusty dog (who looks a bit like Bandit from “Jonny Quest”) who fetched the Woodsman to save Red Riding Hood. We also find out that it was all a dream, which was no doubt added to remove the trauma of the tragic devouring of the grandma (or the concept that she could emerged unharmed from the entrails of the wolf). Still, the oddest moment in this one was the appearance of what I can only describe as a mutant rabbit-squirrel, proof that the story takes place in a post nuclear holocaust world… or proof that the animators couldn’t make up their minds or didn’t know what a squirrel looked like. At any rate, here’s another movie saved from my “ones that got away” list, and is one of at least three versions that were made the same year.

El laboratorio del diablo (1904)

EL LABORATORIO DEL DIABLO (1904)
aka Les sept chateaux du diable, The Seven Castles of the Devil
Article 4099 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-6-2012
Directed by Ferdinand Zecca
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Deal with the devil story

A poor man sells his soul for the chance to live in the seven castles of the devil, one for each deadly sin. Can a beautiful woman save him?

This variation on the Faust tale was pretty elaborate for the time, as it runs a good eleven minutes. It is, however, one of the more blatantly obvious imitations of Melies; much of the design is very similar to the work in the Melies films, and it also likes to bring things to a halt for scenes of dancing ballerinas, another of Melies’s quirks. This is not to say that the short is somewhat enjoyable; it’s entertaining enough, though it does get a little obscure at times. My favorite scene is in the castle of Gluttony, where huge amounts of food are thrown down the throat of a gigantic face. One interesting touch is that the various signs indicating the name of each castle change languages frequently, thus no doubt making the movie marketable to people of several nations. This is another one that ended up on my “ones that got away” list.

Explosion of a Motor Car (1900)

EXPLOSION OF A MOTOR CAR (1900)
Article 4098 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-5-2012
Directed by Cecil M. Hepworth
Featuring Cecil M. Hepworth, Henry Lawley
Country: UK
What it is: Black comedy

An overcrowded motor car explodes on a city street, leaving a local policeman with the unpleasant job of sorting out the mess afterwards.

This movie dovetails nicely with yesterday’s movie. Once again, the movie isn’t a horror movie; exploding motor cars don’t automatically qualify as horror, or else I’d have to contend with ninety percent of the action movies ever made for this project. But since the explosion results in the blowing to pieces of the passengers (with a sequence in which the body parts rain down from the sky), we find ourselves immersed in another common horror theme in much the same way that the decapitation in yesterday’s movie did. Granted, this movie plays it less for horror and more for black comedy, especially as the annoyed policeman sorts through the body parts to figure which part goes with which. This may make the movie one of the earliest black comedies in existence, and I did find myself both appalled and amused at the same time.

The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895)

THE EXECUTION OF MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (1895)
Article 4097 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-4-2012
Directed by Alfred Clark
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Historical reenactment

Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed.

No, it’s not a horror movie in the strict sense. However, if you keep in mind that this is the first movie to feature an on-screen decapitation, than it does serve at least as a touchstone of horror themes. It’s only 21 seconds long, and at first, I didn’t see the edit during the execution sequence, making me suspect that the trick was done with a person with a fake head. On reviewing it, I saw my mistake; the edit took place when I wasn’t expecting it.

Well, this made for a quick day of movie watching.

La cueva de Ali-Baba (1954)

LA CUEVA DE ALI-BABA (1954)
aka The Cave of Ali Baba
Article 4096 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-3-2012
Directed by Mario C. Lugones
Featuring Mario Amaya, Alejandro Anderson, Gogo Andreu
Country: Argentina
What it is: Musical comedy

Two variety performers inherit an old factory that they decide to convert into a nightclub, unaware that the site is being used by a gang of criminals.

Okay, you’re compiling a list of fantasy genre movies, and you come across an Argentine movie with the translated title of THE CAVE OF ALI BABA. You know nothing about the plot of the movie, so you’re left to your own devices to figure out whether it qualifies as genre or not. What would you assume, based on the title? I’d assume it would be a retelling of the classic Arabian nights tale with the magic cave and the “Open Sesame” password. That would certainly seem more likely than assuming that it was the name of a themed nightclub.

This is my way of saying that I can forgive the various sources that listed this one as genre; the latter description is the one that is correct in this case, and, though I may be wrong (my copy is in unsubtitled Spanish), there appears to be no genre elements in this one at all. No, I couldn’t follow it, but it does seem like your typical comedy musical. I missed the jokes, but at least the musical numbers don’t need explanation, and some of them are pretty silly. At least one of the musical numbers is in English; a duo sings a version of Hank Williams’s “Hey, Good Looking”. As a result of the musical numbers, the movie was sporadically entertaining for me. Nevertheless, the lack of real genre content makes this movie one of the false leads that I’ve found on this journey through genre movies.

Escape (1937)

ESCAPE (1937)
Animated short
Article 4095 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-1-2012
Directed by Mary Ellen Bute, Bill Nemeth and Ted Nemeth
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Abstract musical short

While Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” plays, a triangle tries to escape an abstract prison.

The above plot description can be taken very loosely; it’s merely my interpretation of the visual scenes in this abstract musical short. Whether this can strictly be called genre, I’m not sure, but it could be argued that when the action gets this abstract, it falls into the realms of fantasy. At only four minutes long, it’s tight enough that the concept doesn’t wear out its welcome, and I quite enjoyed the short; in fact, it looks somewhat more modern than its 1937 date would indicate. Yet I remembered that I had already seen an abstract interpretation of the musical piece in question; for the record, the first segment of Disney’s FANTASIA was also an abstract visualization of the same piece. Yet this short predates that movie by four years. Is there a chance that Disney may have gotten the idea for that sequence from this little short? I can’t say for sure, but it is food for thought.

The Enchanted Well (1903)

THE ENCHANTED WELL (1903)
aka Le puits fantastique
Article 4094 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-30-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Amusing fantasy short

When the owner of a local well refuses to give an old crone a handout, she curses his well so that it is inhabited by demons.

This Melies short has more plot than his “magician” shorts, though the plot is a pretty simple revenge one; a man offends a witch, and pays the price. It’s a fun but typical Melies short with the well going through various transformations, and demons and monsters appearing out of it to torment the owner. Oddly enough, there’s no tumbling imps in this one, but that’s only because they appear in frog costumes, so we’re treated to tumbling amphibians. The owner is also attacked by what looks like an early version of Ollie (as in Kukla, Fran and…). It’s a good example of some of Melies’s lighter work.