A Present for Santa Claus (1947)

A Present for Santa Claus (1947)
Article 5967 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-18-2021
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: How to bribe Santa Claus

A pair of children looking forward to their Christmas bundle are told that Santa has had a hard time of it this year and may not be able to give them all they want. So they decide to give him a present…

… and, of course, they get all they want. It turns out that the way to Santa’s generosity is through his stomach, as some hot cocoa does the trick. I have this one on a collection of cartoons, but oddly enough, it’s not a cartoon. In fact, it looks like one of those films they would play at school when I was a youth (if you’re much younger than me, you probably don’t share that experience), no doubt because of the “Official Films” logo. Still, I do have a nagging question about a Christmas tradition I’ve seen in these old movies that my family didn’t have; was Santa expected to decorate the tree as well as give presents? Just asking…

Predator 2 (1990)

Predator 2 (1990)
Article 5966 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-17-2021
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Featuring Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Kevin Peter Hall
Country: USA
What it is: Sequel

Predator is back, and he’s hunting on the streets of L.A. during a gang war.

If I remember correctly, I liked the original movie of the series well enough. This one moves the alien hunter into an urban setting and throws in any assortment of urban action cliches to fill the movie out. It’s probably due to the fact that I’m bored with urban action cliches that I care a lot less for this one, though it works well enough when it gets going. Despite the new setting, overall it does feel a bit like of a retread of the original; I would rather the makers had found a way to take things in a different direction. As it is, it’s predictable.

The Port of Missing Mice (1945)

The Port of Missing Mice (1945)
Article 5965 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4/16/2021
Directed by Eddie Donnelly
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon: standard plot number one

Sailor mice enjoying themselves on the Barbary Coast are shanghaied by cats. Can Mighty Mouse save the day?

Standard plot number one of the Mighty Mouse cartoons can be classified thusly: a group of mice is engaged in some activity but are interrupted by cats who mean them harm. Mighty Mouse shows up and saves the day. They’re usually narrated with no operetta. These are usually the most boring of the Mighty Mouse cartoons. However, this one manages to heighten the interest level quite a bit by dint of having the mice engage in somewhat more adult activities than is usual for the series; they’re in bars on the Barbary Coast, drinking beer and enjoying dancing mice doing the can-can. For Terrytoons, this is pretty racy. It was also amusing seeing the cats gathering up the mice by using vacuum cleaners. Once you get beyond the setting, everything’s strictly routine, but the setting is enough to make this one of the better Mighty Mouse cartoons as well.

Polly-tics (1928)

Polly-tics (1928)
Article 5964 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-14-2021
Directed by Otto Messmer
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Felix on the cusp of the sound era

A starving Felix tries to steal some milk, but his action is mistaken for a good deed after he defeats some mice who also had the same idea. The owner of the milk invites Felix to make himself at home, and he does… much to the consternation of the other pets in the house.

It looks like this cartoon is one of those that hovers between the silent and sound eras; though most of the dialogue is on title cards, there are some noise and sound effects on the soundtrack. It’s the usual type of fare you’d expect from a Felix cartoon of the era; the fantastic content beyond that is that the various animals trying to get rid of him dress up as a ghost at one point. By the way, it’s not just the other pets that get mad at Felix; the hat tree also takes a dislike to the feline and joins the pets in the plot to overthrow him. It’s not one of the best Felix cartoons, but it is pretty good.

Pixie Picnic (1948)

Pixie Picnic (1948)
Article 5963 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-13-2021
Directed by Dick Lundy
No voice cast
Country: USA
What it is: Animated musical number

A bunch of pixies perform “The Thieving Magpie” in the woods.

Given the title, I’m guessing these little folk in the woods are pixies, though they look a lot more like dwarfs, and that rather encapsulates the fantastic content of the piece. It’s similar to the superior RHAPSODY IN RIVETS from Warner Brothers, though that one (in which the Hungarian Rhapsody is performed to the building of a skyscraper) has a many more novel gimmicks. This one is good but not great; the gags are okay and it’s amusing enough to pass muster. There are no real standout gags in this one.

Mighty Mouse and the Pirates (1945)

Mighty Mouse and the Pirates (1945)
Article 5962 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-12-2021
Directed by Mannie Davis and Connie Rasinski
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon

A shipful of singing cat pirates are looking for female companionship and they’re willing to cross the species line to find them. Can a South Seas mouse maiden be rescued from a fate worst than death by Mighty Mouse?

Given their penchant for singing and synchronized swimming, I’m guessing these are cat pirates of the Penzancian variety, which means that even though neither Mighty Mouse nor the maiden engage in any of the warbling, we’re pretty close to one of the operetta-style Mighty Mouse cartoons here. They manage to vary the formula enough on this one that it increases the interest level, with Mighty Mouse engaging in a Tarzan yell at one point and the fact that the pirates are interested in… not just dinner, anyway. Actually, the maiden does a pretty decent job of defending herself against the lusty captain so that about the only thing Mighty Mouse really needs to do for her is to rescue her from being drowned; he fills in the time by making mincemeat of the pirate choral society. This is easily one of the better Mighty Mouse cartoons, and it even manages to net a laugh or two in the process.

The Pied Piper of Basin Street (1945)

The Pied Piper of Basin Street (1945)
Article 5961 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-12-2021
Directed by Shamus Culhane
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Walter Lantz Swing Symphony

The mayor of a rat-infested city hires the Pied Piper of Basin Street to rid it of the pests. But what will happen when the mayor tries to underpay the piper?

Despite the fact that it updates the story with a modern setting and swing music, this is more or less a straightforward rendition of the tale, and therefore has the necessary qualifications for inclusion in the reviews. One thing that is outstanding in this cartoon is the excellence of the animation which I attribute to the presence of Shamus Culhane at the helm. The music (which features the work of jazz trombonist Jack Teagarden) is also excellent. The gags are fairly run of the mill, though, and I’m not quite sure why they opted to give the mayor a Lou Costello voice when he doesn’t appear to be modeled off the comedian. In general, the cartoons that came from Walter Lantz were a mixed bag, but this is one of the better ones.

The Phantom of the Opera (1983)

The Phantom of the Opera (1983)
Article 5960 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-9-2021
Directed by Robert Markowitz
Featuring Maximilian Schell, Jane Seymour, Michael York
Country: USA
What it is: Another classic remake

After he becomes disfigured while taking vengeance on the people who humiliated his wife and drove her to suicide, a conductor withdraws to the underground of the city and terrorizes the opera house.

Sometimes while watching remakes of this sort, I find myself wondering what exactly the motivation of the makers was in reviving the story for another production. I can understand it if they have a bold new vision for the story or if earlier versions had fumbled in their attempts, but I don’t see either of those motivations playing much of a role in this one. There’s some novelty value in shooting in on location in Hungary, I suppose, and there are a couple of moderately interesting and offbeat characters added to the mix, and there are some mildly arty touches to the proceedings, but these just don’t make up for the fact that this version is glum and necessary. I’ve also come to the conclusion that I like the versions of this story that save the phantom’s backstory for later in the movie; telling it in straight chronological order takes a lot of the mystery out of the proceedings. There’s one good plot twist near the very end of the movie, but that’s really not enough to compensate for the dreariness of this take on the tale.

Phantom Kung Fu (1979)

Phantom Kung Fu (1979)
aka You ling shen
Article 5959 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-7-2021
Directed by Tso Nam Lee
Featuring Don Wong, Yi Chang, Chung-Kuei Chang
Country: Taiwan
What it is: You can hear every gesture

A ruthless killer is hired to quell a rebellion, and he uses his “hands of death” power to do so. But can he be defeated by Magic Spiritual Kung Fu?

I hemmed and hawed a bit about reviewing this one. I’ve become convinced that movie Kung Fu has about as much in common with real Kung Fu as movie hypnotism has with real hypnotism, so a few unbelievable stunts won’t automatically net a review. However, about two-thirds of the way through this movie the ghosts start showing up, so that’s enough to tip the scales. The main review on IMDB claims this is the best Kung Fu movie in every department, and though I disagree in several aspects (the soundtrack is quite annoying at times and the English dubbing is ridiculous), I will say it’s one of the more enjoyable examples of the Kung Fu genre. It’s also relatively coherent for the form and the characters are well-defined enough that I can usually tell them apart. Yes, there’s lots of sound-enhanced gesturing, smoking hands, incredible leaps, and a comic warrior who does a lot of boasting and then fails to live up to his claims in a cowardly manner; the latter is never really effectively woven into the plot. This one is a little like a Japanese ghost movie.

The Peachy Cobbler (1950)

The Peachy Cobbler (1950)
Article 5958 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-1-2021
Directed by Tex Avery
Featuring the voice of Daws Butler
Country: USA
What it is: Tex Avery’s take on an old tale

A starving cobbler with more orders than he can fulfill is helped overnight by a group of elves.

Quite simply, it’s another version of “The Elves and the Shoemaker”, and since it’s a Tex Avery cartoon, it largely consists of a bunch of blackout gags centered around the concept. It’s an amusing cartoon; I’m particularly taken with the final take on a running gag involving an elf trying to thread a needle. Still, I do have to confess feeling a shred of disappointment with this one. It’s simply that Tex Avery’s name on the cartoon makes me expect more wildness than we really have here; the gags are good, but not particularly inspired. Still, it may be the most entertaining take I’ve seen on this particular story.