Komposition in Blau (1935)

KOMPOSITION IN BLAU (1935)
aka Composition in Blue
Article 4154 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-11-2013
Directed by Oskar Fischinger
No cast
Country: Germany
What it is: Abstract animated short

Against a blue background, various blocks and other forms perform an abstract dance to music.

This is another foray into abstract musical animation, which is really rather unclassifiable, though it does somewhat fall into the realm of fantasy by being nonrealistic. It’s about four minutes long, and if you enjoy this sort of thing, it’s pretty entertaining. Beyond that, I’m not really sure if I can find anything to say about shorts like this.

N.P. il segreto (1973)

N.P. IL SEGRETO (1973)
aka N.P.
Article 4153 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-10-2013
Directed by Silvano Agosti
Featuring Francisco Rabal, Irene Papas, Edy Biagetti
Country: Italy
What it is: Dystopian political science fiction

An industrialist (who is on the verge of implementing an industrial automation solution that eliminates all workers) is kidnapped and brainwashed, and then left to wander the streets with a blank mind.

I had to rely on the Phil Hardy Overlook guide on science fiction for the above plot description; since my copy of the movie is in unsubtitled Italian, I found it nearly impenetrable, even with the plot description for help. I think the movie consists of roughly three segments; the first features the main character’s abduction and brainwashing, the second has him wandering around the city as something of a homeless zombie, and the third has him becoming a worker and being politicized. Still, I do have trouble telling what is going on most of the time; I found myself wondering during the brainwashing sequence whether some of the events were really happening or all in the character’s mind. I can catch certain distinct moments; I know that one sequence involves a visit to an automated Catholic mass, and I have a certain sense of what’s going on at the end of the movie. But not being able to understand Italian is a huge setback here, and even if I did, I might find the rather distracted directorial style would have made the movie difficult even if I did understand the language. So I’m going to have to withhold judgment on this one, though I do suspect that the movie isn’t quite as satisfying as it might have been.

Up the Ladder (1925)

UP THE LADDER (1925)
Article 4152 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-9-2013
Directed by Edward Sloman
Featuring Virginia Valli, Forrest Stanley, Margaret Livingston
Country: USA
What it is: Romance drama

An heiress sells her estate to raise money so that the man she loves can complete his invention. When he does, he marries the heiress and becomes financially successful. But he is tempted into having an affair with his wife’s best friend…

I read a short plot description of this one before watching the movie, and I was left wondering about the nature of the fantastic content. Not that I doubted that it existed; that was a given. What I wondered was whether the fantastic content (basically, it’s an early version of the video phone) was going to be more than just an incidental detail in the story, or whether it was going to be used in some way to develop the plot. Well, the movie does get some points for incorporating the invention into the story; in some ways, it serves the same function as the similar invention in LOVE AND SCIENCE, albeit with an inversion of the plot of that one. Still, the basic story is pretty obvious here, and for parts of it, the direction and the acting lack the subtlety to make it play effectively. The primary exception is the performance of Virginia Valli as the heiress; she underplays beautifully in all of her scenes, and she becomes as a result the only character we really care about. It’s not a great movie by any means, but it has its moments.

Koko’s Haunted House (1928)

KOKO’S HAUNTED HOUSE (1928)
Article 4151 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-8-2013
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Animated short

One animator steals an inkwell from another, and turns it into a haunted house. The second animator draws KoKo the clown and sends him out to investigate the house. KoKo deals with ghosts while the first animator tries to remove the unwanted guest from the house.

This is a pretty amusing short from the “Out of the Inkwell” series of cartoons by Max and Dave Fleischer; I’m assuming that’s Max and Dave as the animators. It’s basically an animation duel between the two, with KoKo being a pawn in their game. There are fun moments throughout, including some experiments with chalk animation that recall moments from the work of Emile Cohl. Lots of skeletons and ghosts pop up, and the final moments (in which a whole army of KoKos are created) feature various items around the office coming to life. This one is pretty decent for its time.

Jack and the Beanstalk (1912)

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (1912)
Article 4150 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-6-2013
Directed by J. Searle Dawley
Featuring Gladys Hulette, Miriam Nesbitt, Harry Eytinge
Country: USA
What it is: Fairy tale

Jack sells the family cow for a hatful of beans, from which grows a beanstalk that takes him to a giant’s castle.

This is a fairly straightforward version of the story with one quirk; an opening scene establishes that Jack and his mother had previously been residents of the castle, but were thrown out by the giant. About the only reason I could think of for this odd plot change was to take away the questionable moral taint of a story about a man who breaks into another man’s abode, steals his belongings, and then kills him. At least the movie does one thing right; the giant is handled with special effects rather than by casting a really tall guy in the role (I’ve seen that happen several times, and I’ve always hated that.). Overall, this is a fairly standard take at the story, and it’s nothing really special.

The Human Fly (1902)

THE HUMAN FLY (1902)
aka L’homme mouche
Article 4149 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-5-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

A Russian dancer is so talented he can even dance on the walls.

Though the cast isn’t credited, I’m assuming that’s Melies himself as the Russian dancer. If so, then I’m not only impressed with his ability to develop special effects (which come off smoothly in this short), but his dexterity and athleticism as a performer. He is constantly on the move here, dancing, doing gymnastic feats, and even crawling around all fours like a fly walking on the wall. This short isn’t in the best of condition, but the hand-coloring is also very well done. Though it’s not one of his major works, it’s very well done and a lot of fun.

How the Old Woman Caught the Omnibus (1903)

HOW THE OLD WOMAN CAUGHT THE OMNIBUS (1903)
aka Stop That Bus!
Article 4148 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-4-2013
Directed by Percy Stow
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Comic trick short

An old woman is determined to get a ride on the omnibus, despite the fact that the bus does not want to stop for her and runs her over twice.

Since the old woman survives being run over twice, and is able to drag the omnibus backwards by hand, we’re dealing with superpowers here, so it easily passes the fantastic content test. The superpowers are the main gags of this comic short; the old woman here is somebody to be reckoned with, as the man who gets beaten with her umbrella twice will testify. It’s a silly, simple fun silent short.

How It Feels to be Run Over (1900)

HOW IT FEELS TO BE RUN OVER (1900)
Article 4147 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-3-2013
Directed by Cecil M. Hepworth
Featuring May Clark and Cecil M. Hepworth
Country: UK
What it is: Trauma by proxy

Oh, is that car coming straight for me? Yes, it is! They’re waving at me to move, but I can’t!! What’ll I do??? What’ll I do???????!

You die… or, at least the camera does. What we have here is your basic trick short in which a camera has been set up to catch the view of an automobile racing straight towards you and hitting you. Actually, I’m a bit curious as to how it was done, unless the camera itself was sacrificed in the making of the film. And I’m still not quite sure of the significance of the phrase “Oh, Mother will be pleased.” Nonetheless, this is an amusing silent short. Still, I’m not quite sure if there’s any fantastic content here; being hit by a car is horrible, but it’s not quite in the realm of horror, and though it could be argued that the final words are those of the camera (making it a fantasy), the camera is merely a substitute for the viewer. It’s an odd little silent short.

Die Hamburger Krankheit (1979)

DIE HAMBURGER KRANKHEIT (1979)
aka The Hamburg Syndrome
Article 4146 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-2-2013
Directed by Peter Fleischmann
Featuring Helmut Griem, Fernando Arrabal, Carline Seiser
Country: France / West Germany
What it is: Epidemic black comedy?

When a plague breaks out in Hamburg, several people break out of quarantine and make their way out of the city… only to find that the plague is more widespread.

For the first half of the movie, the odd touches and eccentricities of some of the various characters weren’t prominent enough to shake me from the belief that the movie had a more or less focused story to tell. Then, at shortly after the halfway point, an event occurs that is so audaciously unexpected that you find yourself wondering where the story would go from there. Unfortunately, what does happen is that the eccentricities and weirdness that was kept in check during the first half take over in the second, and the movie turns from a drama into a freaky black comedy. It’s as if the inmates have taken over the asylum, removing the center of the movie and leaving us confused and rudderless. This still might have worked if the characters had been fun and interesting rather than unpleasant and annoying, but such is not the case. There’s still the odd moment here and there that works, but to me, this is a prime example of what happens when a movie goes off the tracks at the halfway point.

How He Missed His Train (1900)

HOW HE MISSED HIS TRAIN (1900)
aka Le reveil d’un monsieur presse
Article 4145 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-1-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Comic trick film

A man wakes up in the morning and tries to put on his clothes, but his items of clothing keep changing to other items.

This is something of a companion piece to GOING TO BED UNDER DIFFICULTIES, where a man trying to undress for bed is driven crazy by the fact that new clothes keep reappearing on him. In this, the clothes change to other clothes; while putting on his pants, they change to a shirt, etc. It’s an interesting variant, but not only is the other idea funnier (it’s slightly more absurd), but this short simply doesn’t have the manic energy of the other one. Maybe that’s why the other one inspired so many imitations. This one is merely okay.