It’s a Greek Life (1936)

It’s a Greek Life (1936)
Article 5887 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-21-2020
Directed by Dan Gordon
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Cartoon about Greek mythology

A centaur cobbler dreams of flying like Pegasus, so when Mercury leaves his winged boots at his shop for repair, the centaur can’t resist trying them out on himself.

This one really isn’t all that good, but I rather like it. Part of it is that it’s just a rather weird cartoon by any standard, but the second is that it chooses mythology for its inspiration rather than, say, fairy tales. It also gets away with a surprising amount of near nudity, especially for a cartoon that was made while the Hays office was in effect; I guess the fact that the Greek statues were nude didn’t bother them. Most of the humor is supposed to come from the centaur’s relationship with a pair of ducks who ultimately are responsible for most of the centaur’s problems. Still, this cartoon isn’t really like any other one in its era, and that’s rather refreshing.

Is My Palm Read (1933)

Is My Palm Read (1933)
Article 5886 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-20-2020
Directed by Dave Fleischer and Dave Tendlar
Featuring the voices of Billy Murray and Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Betty Boop cartoon

Betty visits a medium and has her fortune read on the crystal ball.

On top of the spiritualism inherent in the plot, the cartoon also features a gaggle of ghosts pursuing Betty and Bimbo. The cartoon itself is okay, but it’s certainly not one of the better Betty Boop cartoons. It has its share of bizarre moments, but in comparison to titles like BIMBO’S INITIATION, it’s very mild. My favorite moment involves the sinking of a ship at the beginning of the crystal ball gazing.

The Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly (1957)

The Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly (1957)
aka Tomei ningen to hae otoko
Article 5885 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-15-2020
Directed by Mitsuo Murayama
Featuring Ryuji Shinagawa, Yoshiro Kitahara, Junko Cano
Country: Japan
What it is: Strange Japanese Sci-fi

A rash of murders is being committed in which people are being murdered in broad daylight but no killer is seen. Could they be caused by an invisible man? And if not, will it take an invisible man to solve the case?

One of the theories that serves as a linchpin for this movie is that if a human being is reduced to the size of a fly, he will be able to fly. If you buy into this theory, you’ll have no trouble accepting the rest of the movie without being beset by logic sinkholes; me, I keep asking myself questions like: are there any other animals the size of flies that can’t fly?, or; even if a human the size of a fly could fly, would he necessarily buzz? Granted, given the title of the movie, I didn’t necessarily expect it to be believable going into it; I just wanted it to be entertaining and even a bit silly. Still, I have to admit that when a large part of the movie involves a police investigation (as it does here), I do find myself put in a more logical and skeptical state of mind, and the plot holes and logical errors are a little bit more glaring. On a side note, there are invisibility special effects here, but they’re pretty bare bones, though I don’t buy the moment where one character gets worked over by the invisible man. In the end, the movie is somewhat entertaining, but not as wild or bizarre as the title made me feel it would be.

In Possession (1984)

In Possession (1984)
Feature length episode of “Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense”
Article 5884 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-8-2020
Directed by Val Guest
Featuring Carol Lynley, Christopher Cazenove, David Healy
Country: UK
What it is: An intriguing enigma that turns irritating

A married couple find themselves having visions of an event involving an old woman, her husband, her daughter and murder.

At the heart of this story there is an intriguing enigma. Both members of a married couple are seeing visions of events that overlay the places in their current life, and unraveling the nature of why they’re seeing what they’re seeing is where most of the fun of this one should be. It even has a decent final twist. So why am I not quite satisfied with this one? It’s because the script makes what I feel is a tactical mistake; instead of making the unraveling of the enigma the center of the story, it chooses to emphasize how scary it is. And when you get right down to it, though what happens is distinctly unsettling, it’s not out and out terrifying. Yet the second half of the movie mostly consists of these two characters running back and forth all over the place, screaming, and being generally panicky. After awhile it simply gets irritating; I’m much more interested in finding out what’s going on than I am in how scared these two are. It appears this is one of the two highest-rated episodes of this uneven TV series, and I’m willing to say that it earns that distinction. Nevertheless, I feel it would be a lot better if it was focus was on other aspects of the story than the ones it does emphasize.

The Infantry Blues (1943)

The Infantry Blues (1943)
Article 5883 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-7-2020
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Private Snafu cartoon

Private Snafu tires of the life of drudgery as a common infantryman and wishes he was in one of the more glamorous military professions. However, Technical Fairy First Class is there to magically give him the experience in those professions…

The lesson here is simple; in the military, everyone has it tough, so be happy with what and where you are. Still, privately, I have to admit that the dangers and dreariness of the infantryman looks pretty realistic here, whereas the dangers of the other professions seem fairly contrived (at least, within the bounds of this cartoon). I’m pretty sure the soldiers who saw this one weren’t entirely convinced by it, but at least they got to see a cartoon about it. Once again, a Private Snafu gets covered merely due to the existence of a single mystical character – Technical Fairy First Class.

The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)

The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)
Article 5882 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-6-2020
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Featuring Lily Tomlin, Charles Grodin, Ned Beatty
Country: USA
What it is: painful

A woman, her system poisoned by chemicals from all the latest products, starts to shrink.

Given that I’m a big fan of the original movie adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel on which this is based, I’d probably look askance on any attempt to remake it in the first place. Now, I don’t object to the gender switch. Nor do I object to making it a comedy. I also don’t object to making rampant consumerism the villain of the movie. All of this could have worked. No, what kills this movie for me is firstly, the utter lack of subtlety, and secondly, the fact that whenever it’s trying to be really funny, it becomes loud, sloppy, and shrill. Especially shrill. In fact, I’m making that one of my absolute rules about comedy – shrill is not funny! And sadly, this movie spends a lot of time trying to be really funny and just ends up shrill. Ultimately, the only thing I liked about this movie was Rick Baker’s performance as Sidney the Gorilla.

Yet, there is one moment that especially disappointed me. This movie makes one definite nod to a moment in the original, and I was saddened that it took the one moment in the original that never worked for me. Yes, I know some people love that moment, but I always felt it was incredibly contrived. You probably know the moment – “As long as you’re wearing that ring…”

I Like Mountain Music (1933)

I Like Mountain Music (1933)
Article 5881 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-4-2020
Directed by Rudolf Ising
Featuring the voices of Sara Berner, Pinto Colvig, Jack Mercer
Country: USA
What it is: Early Warner Brothers cartoon

In a drugstore, characters in magazines come to life and have a party.

One of the odder cartoon templates that has popped up several times over the years was that of characters in books coming to life in a bookstore, with BOOK REVUE perhaps the finest of these. This appears to be the earliest template of this idea I’ve encountered; sure, they’re magazines in a drugstore rather than books in a bookstore, but those are mere details. Like those later cartoons, there are musical numbers performed, a variety of celebrity caricatures show up (including ones of Edward G. Robinson, Will Rogers and Ed Wynn), and there’s a late-cartoon plot development; in this case, a gang of criminals tries to break into the cash register. To add to the fantastic content, we even have a parody of King Kong (called Ping Pong) show up. No, it’s not up to the level of some of those later cartoons, but it’s entertaining enough in its own way and may be one of Warner’s better cartoons from the times before Porky Pig or Bugs Bunny.

Hypnotized (1952)

Hypnotized (1952)
Article 5880 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-1-2020
Directed by Mannie Davis
Featuring the voice of Tom Morrison
Country: USA
What it is: Terrytoon Tom and Jerry take

The cat that chases Little Roquefort the mouse learns hypnotism, and uses it to humiliate the mouse. Can Little Roquefort turn the tables?

Of course he can; in these cartoons, the mouse is the hero and generally prevails. During a scene where the mouse is hypnotized into thinking he’s a bird and attracting the attention of an amorous parrot, the cartoon also taps into the Pepe Le Pew genre a little, though that may not be an imitation so much as the fact that both cartoons tap into the French lover stereotype. Of course, this being a Terrytoon cartoon, the animation is less fluid (the characters move jerkier than those of any of the other studios), the timing and music are ordinary at best, and one senses that these are second-hand imitations. In my opinion, Terrytoon does better when their cartoons don’t feel like imitations of those from the other studios.

Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star (1986)

Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star (1986)
Article 5879 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-1-2020
Directed by Peter R. Hunt
Featuring Dennis Holahan, Sydney Penny, Rosie Marcel
Country: Canada / USA
What it is: Family-friendly Sci-Fi

When a colony of humanoid aliens hidden on the moon decide not to let the people of Earth know of their existence, two children from the colony disagree and stow away to Earth to prove their point. Complications arise.

This family-friendly science fiction film doesn’t have much of a reputation (a 4.7 rating on IMDB at the time of this writing), but I rather like it. Not that the movie doesn’t have its share of problems; it’s slow-moving and has several awkward touches (not least of which is the distracting big hair of the alien children). But I rather like the gentleness and sincerity of the movie. I also am impressed with the children’s pet Kirbi, a truly alien-looking being with three legs and three eyes brought to life through animatronics. I also love Keenan Wynn’s performance as the eccentric grandfather who develops a friendship for the pet; it was his last role, and handles it well, especially in a long monologue directed at the creature. These touches helped me to forgive somewhat some of the movie’s weaknesses.

Hunger (1974)

Hunger (1974)
Article 5878 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-31-2020
Directed by Peter Foldes
No cast
Country: Canada
What it is: Nightmarish experimental animation

A man has an insatiable appetite.

This is a very striking experiment in computer animation. It does tell a story and has recognizable characters, so it’s not really in the realm of abstract animation. But the animation style is truly nightmarish; the characters mutate into other characters; for example, the main character doesn’t get into a car to drive somewhere; he mutates into a car. At one point he becomes a truly hideous eating machine with four arms and seven or eight mouths, all of which are being stuffed with food. It all ends in a literal nightmare that is very effective. It was nominated for an Oscar, but did not win; nevertheless, this is a very striking short, and I recommend it.