Ingmarssonerna (1919)

INGMARSSONERNA (1919)
aka Sons of Ingmar
Article 5176 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-5-2016
Directed by Victor Sjostrom
Featuring Victor Sjostrom, Harriett Bosse, Tore Svennberg
Country: Sweden
What it is: Drama

When a farmer sets up an arranged marriage with a woman who detests him, circumstances fall out so that a scandal emerges. In the wake of that, the farmer and the woman both have some hard decisions to make…

The fantastic content isn’t apparent from the above plot description, but the content is there, pops up early in the proceedings, and actually plays an important role in establishing the state of mind of the farmer and focusing one of the main themes of the movie. The content itself involves the farmer either dreaming or imagining that he climbs a ladder to heaven in order to consult with his deceased father about a difficult decision. I know I was a little confused by the title of the movie (which implies that it’s about several sons of Ingmar rather than just the one who centers in the plot), but it’s this sequence in heaven which establishes that the title doesn’t refer to characters, but rather to a whole filial ethical tradition.

The movie falls roughly into two parts. The first (told in flashback in heaven) deals with a series of events that result in the death of an illegitimate baby. The second half deals with the moral and ethical decisions made by both the farmer and the woman in determining what the right thing to do would be in the aftermath of these events. These decisions require wisdom, strength, and (most especially) knowledge; in this case, doing the right thing requires that each character knows how the other character truly feels. If you get caught up in the lives of these characters (and it’s an easy thing to do given the excellent performances by both Sjostrom and Bosse), then the final thirty minutes of the movie is surprisingly gripping, especially as both characters need to gain the necessary knowledge in order to act correctly. I really got into this movie, though with a couple of caveats. One is that the very ending seems a little pat and a bit hard to swallow. The other is that in some ways, I can’t judge the whole movie; it originally ran three and a half hours, and my print is only about two-thirds that length, and though I really enjoyed this version, I think it’s quite possible that another hour and fifteen minutes of it would have dulled my enthusiasm. At any rate, this version was excellent.

Video Wars (1983)

VIDEO WARS (1983)
Article 5175 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-3-2016
Directed by Mario Giampaolo
Featuring George Diamond, Dennis Warren, Maria Anna
Country: USA
What it is: …

A supervillain uses video games to take over the world and blackmail the countries. Superspy Scattergood is sent to the supervillain’s home nation to defeat his plan.

If you’re lucky, this review will be the only evidence you ever encounter that even acknowledges this movie exists. I’m not even sure it does myself. I do vaguely recall something that resembles a low-budget parody of a superspy film, and I remember one vaguely amusing line that made me think of smiling. I also recall some stunt men doing a halfway decent job of falling out of snowmobiles. I also recall a few snatches of cheesy soundtrack music (much of it sounding like it comes from video games) that somehow get repeated ad infinitum. But ninety percent of this movie is a black hole of footage that does nothing, goes nowhere, serves no purpose, and sucks the life out of everything with which it comes into contact. I hesitate to mention that it has lots of beautiful women, but don’t let that fool you; it doesn’t make the experience any less soul-sucking than it is. This movie is extremely obscure, and if we all work together as a team, I can only hope that it can remain that way and ultimately suck itself into its own black hole and vanish. In fact, I’m not even sure this review exists….

Evolution (1923)

EVOLUTION (1923)
Article 5174 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-2-2016
Directed by Ovide Decroly, Dave Fleischer, Max Fleischer
Cast unknown
Country: USA / Belgium
What it is: Documentary

The creation of the Earth and the growth of life thereon is explored.

I found this movie on YouTube, and I have to admit to being rather curious about it. IMDB attributes the direction to three different people; the two Fleischer brothers (who were responsible for many animated cartoons from the twenties to the forties) and Belgian scientist Ovide Decroly. One of my sources claims the movie was made as a response to the Scopes monkey trial, but that took place in 1925; this movie is credited as having been made two years earlier. I also read that it was made to argue the scientific side of the case, but it never discusses the most controversial aspects of the theory of evolution; no mention is made of “Darwin” or natural selection, man just appears initially as “java man” and evolves into modern man, though the fact that this is covered right after the great apes are discussed implies the theory slightly. Still, I can’t help but feel the final title card purposely hedges its bets. I do wonder if the documentary was originally made by Decroly in 1923, and then reworked by the Fleischers in 1925, but that is only speculation on my part. At any rate, the overall feel of this silent documentary is like a slightly more focused version of THE ANIMAL WORLD, and it mostly consists of footage of animals, some of them rather unusual. The fantastic content consists of about half a minute of stop-motion animated dinosaur footage; I don’t see any other type of animation unless the sequence showing the creation of the solar system counts.

Addendum: Thanks to Doctor Kiss at CHFB, I’ve clarified some mysteries about this one. Ovide Decroly had nothing to do with this movie; he made a similarly titled movie from the same era that has no connection with this one. Furthermore, the real director was Raymond Lee Ditmars. The Fleischers’ involvement with the film came from a ‘sweetening up’ they did to the movie. They added the stop-motion dinosaur footage, which was lifted from THE GHOST OF SLUMBER MOUNTAIN.

Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (1984)
Article 5173 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-1-2016
Directed by Tom Schiller
Featuring Zach Galligan, Apollonia van Ravenstein, Lauren Tom
Country: USA
What it is: Art film of sorts

An aspiring artist returns to New York in the hope of finding out what type of artist he should be, but when he fails the art test, he is consigned to supervising drivers entering the Holland tunnel. However, his kindness to a bum outside of Carnegie Hall has unexpected results…

Director Schiller’s writing and directing credits are mostly for “Saturday Night Live”, and the fact that the producer for this movie is Lorne Michaels and the credits include Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd would lead one to believe that it’s primarily a comedy. And, truth to tell, perhaps it is. However, that’s far from an apt description that is part art film, part cultural satire, part stylistic exercise, and part love story. It may be science fiction with the action taking place either in the future or in an alternate universe, but it would be better described as a surrealistic fantasy. The movie is shot in the style of an old-time Hollywood movie; it’s mostly in black-and-white, though color creeps in during two pivotal scenes. There’s quite a bit of stock footage and references to other classic movies; there are scenes from UN CHIEN ANDALOU, INTOLERANCE, and BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, among others. The satire is mostly aimed at pretentious conceptual art (which is a tad ironic for an art film) and consumerism. The plot involves a secret society hidden under the city and bus rides to the moon. Does it work? I’m not sure it really does; there’s a lot going on here, but I can’t say it all really hangs together. There is a definite charm to the proceedings, though, and I did find the movie modestly enjoyable. The cast also features Sam Jaffe and Eddie Fisher, the latter playing himself.

Creation de la Serpentine (1908)

CREATION DE LA SERPENTINE (1908)
aka The Beginning of the Serpentine
Article 5172 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-31-2016
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What is it: Dance movie with special effects

A fiddler is recruited by a devil to help in the formation of the dance known as the serpentine.

Fans of the very early days of cinema probably already know about the serpentine dance; it was featured prominently in several early movies. It consisted of a woman dressed in a long flowing robes with long sleeves waving her arms back and forth to cause the fabric to cascade in a very striking way; at times, the dancer almost seems to fade away beneath the illusion of flowing fabric. It’s easy to see why it was the subject of many early movies; it’s a visually striking dance. This short is a bizarre variation on the subject; it begins with a fiddler playing at a minute, but the entrance of another character (whom we find out is a devil) causes the dancers to vanish and the fiddler to be transported to his laboratory where he magically concocts the dance. The movie ends with seven women performing the serpentine all at once. It’s an eccentric short, but its eccentricities seem to be one of the touches that sets Chomon apart from Melies. This one is entertaining enough, though it spends a little too much time on the opening minuets.

The Beautiful Leukanida (1912)

THE BEAUTIFUL LEUKANIDA (1912)
aka Prekrasnaya Lyukanida
Article 5171 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-30-2016
Directed by Wladyslaw Starewicz
No cast
Country: Russia
What it is: Insects at war

Two King Insects go to war over a beautiful princess.

Here’s another of Starewicz’s animated insect movies. There’s not a whole lot here from a plot perspective, but fortunately, the creativity and imagination Starewicz uses in staging his scenes is still strong. In particular, there’s a battle scene on the ramparts of a castle that is pretty impressive, especially because of the number of insects that appear in the scene. It’s not one of Starewicz’s better productions, but is still pretty solid, and fans of Starewicz will find much to enjoy.

Beanstalk Bunny (1955)

BEANSTALK BUNNY (1955)
Article 5170 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-29-2016
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan
Country: USA
What it is: Bugs Bunny cartoon

Jack climbs the beanstalk and meets the giant… only this time he has a rabbit for his companion.

Chuck Jones made four cartoons in which he incorporated the characters of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd; this is perhaps the least of them. This is perhaps because the other three used them as a comedy team adept at verbal gymnastics, the end result being that Bugs always bamboozled Elmer into shooting Daffy rather than him. This one takes a more conventional route by casting them in “Jack and the Beanstalk”, with Daffy as Jack, Elmer as the Giant, and Bugs as a rabbit who just happens to follow along (not a regular character in the story). Nonetheless, this is still a solid Warner Brothers cartoon, with two great lines (one is Elmer’s comment when he picks up a pepper mill, and the other is Daffy’s first line after having been caught in a mousetrap), and some fun slapstick. One of the odd touches of this one is that the characters know they’re playing characters in a fairy tale, so we get some self-referential humor as well. The cartoon also has one of my three favorite moments in which Bugs Bunny proves the effectiveness of tripping an enemy.

The Band Concert (1935)

THE BAND CONCERT (1935)
Article 5169 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-28-2016
Directed by Wilfred Jackson
Featuring the voice of Clarence Nash
Country: USA
What it is: Mickey Mouse cartoon

Mickey Mouse attempts to conduct The William Tell Overture despite interference from an ice-cream selling duck (whose flute-playing causes to orchestra to break into “Turkey in the Straw”), a bee, and a tornado.

This was Mickey Mouse’s first color cartoon, and it’s one of the most impressive Disney shorts ever made. The use of music is exemplary (especially the melding of the two different tunes during the Donald Duck sequences) and the animation is excellent; in fact, it’s positively breathtaking during the tornado sequence in which the band continues to play while being blown in circles around the screen. I’ve tended to be a little hard on some of the Disney shorts because in terms of humor, they fall a bit short of the Warner Brothers cartoons at their best, but this one is so impressively mounted that I find it impossible not to marvel at it. The anthropomorphic animals make up the primary fantastic content, but there are also some park benches that come to life in the process. This one is highly recommended.

Ballet Mecanique (1924)

BALLET MECANIQUE (1924)
Article 5168 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-27-2016
Directed by Fernand Leger and Dudley Murphy
Featuring Fernand Leger, Dudley Murphy, Katherine Murphy
Country: France
What it is: Early experimental film

Putting down a plot description for this type of film is useless. It is basically a cascade of images, some animated, some abstract, some concrete but used in abstract ways. The emphasis is on movement, rhythm and repetition; an image of a woman carrying a bag up a flight of stairs becomes something other than mundane if repeated on a rhythmic loop. One of the animated segments looks like a cubist’s version of Charlie Chaplin, and we get visions of a woman swinging from some unsettling angles. As always, these abstract films become fantasies by dint of the fact that they are simply not realistic. This won’t convert anyone not fond of experimental films, but those with a bent for non-linear abstraction should enjoy this one.

The Project Begins

It was the middle of March in 2021.

I found myself flipping through one of my several books on genre movies, and considering how much things had changed in the previous twenty years. In 1981, my only chance of seeing a genre movie was if it showed up at a reasonable hour on television of if it was magically revived for theatrical showings. Twenty years later, I had a huge collection of movies recorded off of television and purchased from video stores. If I was looking for a specific movie, I could check against a plethora of cable channels or check out the catalogs of several movie dealers.

I found myself wondering if just possibly I could go through these lists of movies I had, and find out how many I could actually get my hands on. I was willing to bet that the majority of the movies could be found and watched.

That’s when I hit on the movie-watching project. What if I made a list of movies to initially find, and began watching them one a day. How long could I go on before I would be unable to find one? So, I picked a book with a good starting selection of common genre movies (fantasy, science fiction and/or horror) and using a filtering system too complicated to explain at this point, began compiling a list.

My first movie? ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. It seemed a good place to start. So I began my movie-watching project. However, the project was only half-formed at this point, though I didn’t realize it at the time. It was another five months before I extended the project…. but that’s for the next post in the series.