Musica-Lulu (1947)

Article 5276 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-19-2016
Directed by Izzy Sparber
Featuring the voices of Arnold Stang, Cecil Roy, Jackson Beck
Country: USA
What it is: Little Lulu cartoon

Lulu sneaks out of her violin practice to play baseball. When she gets beaned by a baseball, she has a nightmare…

This cartoon from Famous Studios has a lot in common with yesterday’s cartoon; it’s from the same company, has the same director, and also has a musical theme to it. No, this one has no anthropomorphic animals; it has anthropomorphic musical instruments that put Lulu on trial for abandoning her violin, so we get talking oboes, drums, cellos, and even a talking lyre who testifies against her. The dream sequence is a lot of fun and gets positively surreal, which makes it reminiscent of some of the early Fleischer talkies. Several cartoons were made with Little Lulu, and I rather like them, but they weren’t up to the level of the comics. Still, I found this one quite amusing.

Much Ado about Mutton (1947)

Article 5275 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-18-2016
Directed by Izzy Sparber
Featuring the voices of Sid Raymond and Arnold Stang
Country: USA
What it is: Blackie the Lamb cartoon

A ravenous wolf poses as a jazzman in order to lure Blackie’s nephews into a trap. Will Blackie be able to defeat his nemesis?

As far as the fantastic content goes, we’re in the usual cartoon territory with anthropomorphic animals and exaggerated gags, but that’s about it for genre content. Personally, I felt the quality of the cartoons produced by Paramount took a drop in quality after the Fleischer’s left, but they remained watchable. This one does manage to be energetic and it does have a few creative gags to its credit, my favorite involving eardrums. Blackie the Lamb was one of their regular characters, though I don’t know just how many cartoons were made involving the character. This one is okay; it’s not great, but has its moments.

Morpheus Mike (1915)

Article 5274 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-17-2016
Directed by Willis H. O’Brien
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Early stop-motion animation

A hobo saves a woman’s laundry from a goat, and is rewarded by a meal which is unfortunately stolen by an animal. Then the hobo dreams he is ordering from a menu in caveman times.

One of the things I love about the original KING KONG is that the title creation had so much character, and I find that useful to remember when exploring O’Brien’s very early stop-motion animation shorts. In the short time we spend with this one (it runs only three minutes), we do get hints of character from both Mike and the housewife; no, you can’t call either of them fully developed, but there are touches that add dimension to them. That may compensate somewhat for the fact that as a story, there’s not much here. It would have been fun to see the caveman sequence expanded to a much longer short; here, it feels like an abrupt change of scenery from the rest of the short. I think it’s most useful to see this short as another step in O’Brien honing his craft.

Monsieur clown chez les Lilliputiens (1909)

Article 5273 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-16-2016
Directed by Emile Cohl
No cast
Country: France
What it is: Stop motion clown antics

A clown performs tricks and antics for an audience.

The title implies, of course, that the audience is made up of Lilliputians, the tiny people of “Gulliver’s Travels”, and I suppose this may provide the fantastic content. However, within the context of this short, the clown isn’t significantly larger than the audience, and there are no characters or incidents that clearly demonstrate that they’re not of normal size. Cohl experiments with more conventional stop-motion animation here, and I’m not sure he demonstrates a real proficiency at it; the animation looks ragged and a bit jerky. Furthermore, this style doesn’t allow him to engage in his stream-of-consciousness style at all; there are really no transformations on display here. If you reject the Lilliputian argument for fantastic content, the closest the short comes to having some is the passing appearance of a miniature horse. I have to admit that this is a somewhat disappointing item from Cohl’s oeuvre.

Gertie the Dinosaur (1915)

Article 5272 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-15-2016
Directed by John Randolph Bray
Featuring John Randolph Bray
Country: USA
What it is: Dinosaur antics

Gertie the Dinosaur… but not THAT Gertie the Dinosaur… has adventures in prehistoric times.

Winsor McCay’s GERTIE THE DINOSAUR must have been a sensation in its day to inspire an imitation like this. Apparently, during the seventies, Blackhawk Films distributed this one on 16mm as the McCay original, and truth to tell, if you’d never seen that one, it would be an easy mistake to make. Furthermore, much of this Gertie’s action is very similar to to that in the McCay film. What this film lacks is the sense that Gertie is a real character; Bray may bring his creation to life, but it isn’t imbued with the same sense of personality that comes shining through in McCay’s version. That being said, it’s animated well enough, and entertaining in its own right. It does lack the subtitles of the McCay version as well as the surrounding non-animated footage about the making of the film; I suspect, like the original, it was meant to be shown with a narrator.

Gentleman Jekyll and Driver Hyde (1950)

Article 5271 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-14-2016
Directed by David Bairstow
Cast unknown
Country: Canada
What it is: Public service short

Two working stiffs discuss the problems they have with bad drivers and tell the story of a truly noble gentleman… who turns into a demon when he gets behind the wheel of a car.

This is a rather entertaining public service short by the National Film Board of Canada. It’s narrated by a couple of likable character actors, and the fantastic content consists of taking the title literally; the driver magically transforms into an ugly monster when he gets behind the wheel of his car. There’s also one other transformation, but that makes for the climax of the short, and I’ll leave that as a surprise. The short is obviously intended to address the problem of reckless and inconsiderate driving, but it does it in a quite entertaining fashion. It’s not a bad little short for what it is.

Film Exercise # 4 (1944)

FILM EXERCISE # 4 (1944)
aka Fourth Film
Article 5270 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-13-2016
Directed by John Whitney Sr. and James Whitney
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Experimental film

Shapes move around while sound effects play.

During the mid-forties, John Whitney Sr. and his son, James Whitney made five film exercises numbered one through five. For some reason, IMDB sees fit to list these five movies as only three; the second and third movies are combined, as are the fourth and fifth. I don’t know if this reflects how they were first shown; all I know is that though I could find the fourth movie, I’ve not been able to locate the fifth. However, since the Walt Lee guide only specifies the fourth, that’s all I need for my review.

Once again, the fantastic content is the non-realistic nature of a movie featuring abstract images, though the sound effects on the soundtrack do sound like ones you’d expect from science fiction movies of the fifties. However, watching abstract images move around to sound effects isn’t really all that exciting, and though the film runs close to seven minutes, it simply doesn’t do enough with the idea to hold the attention for that length. In short, this one is rather dull. I’ll probably be watching other movies from these film-makers, but I hope they’re more engaging. And, given that the title of one of their movies is CELERY STALKS AT MIDNIGHT, I assume that somewhere in their hearts lies a sense of humor.

The Assignation (1953)

Article 5269 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-12-2016
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Avant-garde short

A masked figure in a black cape carrying a red rose travels on a gondola through the canals of Venice… but to what end?

Curtis Harrington began as a maker of avant-garde short films. This is the first one I’ve seen of those early movies. I actually found this one rather interesting. Not a lot happens during the first three-quarters of the movie, but the movie does a nice job of capturing a certain visual allure of the sights along the canal and it managed to hold my interest. What plot there is unfolds in the last couple of minutes, and it’s charming in the simplicity of its unfolding. In the end, I was quite taken with the movie; for one thing, it seems to be just the right length; had it gone on much longer, it would have gotten dull. As for the fantastic content… well, if you come to the same conclusion I did as to the identity of the masked figure, you’ll know why I feel it qualifies, but it is open to interpretation.

Le vampire (1945)

aka The Vampire
Article 5268 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-11-2016
Directed by Jean Painleve
Featuring Max Schreck
Country: France
What it is: Science documentary on the vampire bat.

We learn how a vampire bat attacks its victims.

Jean Painleve was a film-maker who specialized in science documentaries, but his style showed a flair for surreal images, and I have to admit to being quite impressed at all the weird creatures on display and the sharp photography that allows us to see such detail. Max Schreck only appears in archive footage from NOSFERATU during a segment where the film-maker expresses little surprise that a creature like the vampire bat would inspire a human counterpart, though I do wonder if the bat was named after the monster or vice versa. The short opens with footage of a variety of strange creatures before it settles in on its study of the vampire bat and its feeding off a poor guinea pig. One of the odd touches of the short is the presence of some bawdy-sounding jazz music, and it makes the bat’s attack come off as some sort of bizarre mating ritual. Yes, it’s disturbing and a bit repellent, but it’s fascinating as well. The surreal air to the proceedings as well as the NOSFERATU footage are its main claim to its inclusion in the realm of fantastic cinema. And, like a few other animals, I can see the vampire bat being viewed as something of a monster.

Sculpteur moderne (1908)

aka Modern Sculptors
Article 5267 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-10-2016
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Featuring Julienne Mathieu and Andre Deed
Country: France
What it is: Special effects short

A woman presents a variety of sculptures and paintings, some of which come to life and others which create themselves.

I like Chomon best when he goes off the deep end and produces something truly bizarre. This, however, is not one of those; it’s merely a parade of special effects set pieces, some of which are obviously people pretending to be statues until they movie of their own accord, and others which are the work of stop-motion animation. In fact, some of the sculptures don’t move at all, which is a little disappointing. The special effects are well done, but the short is pretty ordinary overall. This is minor Chomon.