At the Circus (1944)

At the Circus (1944)
Article 5728 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-25-2020
Directed by Eddie Donnelly
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon

Lions break loose at the mouse circus. Can Mighty Mouse save the circus people?

For every Mighty Mouse cartoon worth catching, there seems to be four or five that can safely be skipped. This is one of the latter group. The story is utterly routine. It appears to be part of a group of cartoons where his adventures are presented like a radio show; I know I’ve seen at least one other of these that did so. Still, I will give it a bit of credit; though it’s not playing for laughs, it does have a few gags that almost work; my favorite is discovering what animal serves as the lady mouse acrobat’s trapeze partner.

Assassin (1986)

Assassin (1986)
Article 5727 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-22-2020
Directed by Sandor Stern
Featuring Robert Conrad, Karen Austin, Richard Young
Country: USA
What it is: TV-Movie-style Terminator

When an agent goes on a killing spree, a former member of the agency is called in to catch him, only to discover that he’s chasing a robot.

Given that, at the time of this writing, Robert Conrad passed away only a month and a half ago, and given that “The Wild Wild West” was my favorite TV show as a kid, I’m glad to have a chance to encounter him in action, albeit in such a highly derivative TV thriller. His presence is welcome and familiar, and most of my pleasure in this movie is due to his presence. I wouldn’t call this movie a TERMINATOR clone; it only uses the concept of a killer-robot-on-the-loose and fashions a similar title. The plot they dredge up for this take on the idea is by the numbers. When you’re less than a minute into the movie, and you find yourself wondering if Conrad is going to turn out to be a former agent who is called back into action to fight a new menace, and the movie promptly obliges, you know you’re not dealing with writers struggling to come up with something new. Conrad made it watchable for me, but it is a pretty weak movie with a rather silly ending.

Asesinos de otros mundos (1973)

Asesinos de otros mundos (1973)
aka Santo versus the Killers from Other Worlds
Article 5726 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-21-2020
Directed by Ruben Galindo
Featuring Santo, Juan Gallardo, Sasha Montenegro
Country: Mexico
What it is: Santo vs the Blob

Santo battles gangsters, evil scientists, and a killer blob.

The minute I saw the primary monster in this one was a blob, I asked myself how Santo was going to wrestle such an unanthropomorphic beast in the final reel. Actually, the solution to that would have been very simple; he could have pulled the tarpaulin off and revealed a bunch of very anthropomorphic extras. This is just my way of saying that the blob special effects in this one are some of the most bargain basement ever, and those who like goofy monsters will have plenty to laugh at here. On a side note, this movie is singularly short of two common items found in Santo movies; there are no extraneous wrestling scenes, and no nightclub sequences. There is a sequence where Santo has to do battle with a couple of guys armed like gladiators (followed by a guy armed with a flamethrower). No, I couldn’t follow the plot subtleties (if there were any) since there were no English subtitles to help me out, but that’s hardly the first time I’ve had that problem with a Santo movie. I just can’t believe I’ve had this one sitting around in my collection unwatched until now.

Around is Around (1953)

Around is Around (1953)
Article 5725 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-21-2020
Directed by Evelyn Lambart and Norman McLaren
No cast
Country: Canada
What it is: Abstract depth

No plot.

I’m not sure I would have decided to review this one if left to my judgment, but since it is listed in the Walt Lee guide and I’ve already covered many other titles from the world of abstract animation, I felt I should cover this one as well. At heart, though, I have no real objection to doing so, as this is one of the best examples of abstract animation I’ve seen. The only sad thing about it is that I’m watching a 2-D version of a film that was originally made for 3-D. Still, I can imagine what it must have been like to have seen it in 3-D; much of the abstract action seems to take place in places which offer enormous depth to them, such as a starscape or a cloudscape. If it lived up to what I imagined, it would be stunning. Being an abstract film, it isn’t possible to give a clear description to the action, but it is lovely to look at and the music is very effective.

Appetit d’oiseau (1964)

Appetit d’oiseau (1964)
aka Appetite of a Bird
Article 5724 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-20-2020
Directed by Peter Foldes
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Animated allegory on the battle of the sexes

An animated exploration of the battle for dominance between the sexes eventually presents itself as a confrontation between a lion and a bird.

Though I’ve seen a lot of animated shorts lately that I would call cartoons, I wouldn’t use that word to define this animated (with short non-animated segments) exploration of sexual dominance. Though it eventually settles on its allegorical symbols being a lion and a bird, it has a stream-of-consciousness feel of an Emile Cohl cartoon matured and minus the innocence. It’s overtly sexual, which is very appropriate in this case. I found it nightmarishly fascinating, though I can fully understand many people being put off by this one; its rating of 5.6 on IMDB certainly indicates that there’s not a lot of love for this one. Nevertheless, I found this to be definitely worth a viewing.

Antique Antics (1933)

Antique Antics (1933)
Article 5723 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-18-2020
Directed by Manny Gould and Ben Harrison
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Spooky early 30s animation

When proprietor Krazy Kat goes to bed, the antiques in his shop come to life and have a party.

I don’t think I’ve covered much of Columbia’s cartoon output up to this point, but then, much of their work has been forgotten. However, this one is pretty good, and it plays up the spookiness of the situation, especially during the first half of this cartoon. We have singing and dancing inanimate objects, skeletons, cigar store Indians, pianos, grandfather clocks, etc. It’s creative and even a little offbeat. There’s no real plot; what happens is mostly there to flesh out the music and dancing. Still, this one is worth hunting up and being given a look.

Alien Species (1996)

Alien Species (1996)
Article 5722 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-8-2020
Directed by Peter Maris
Featuring Charles Napier, Hoke Howell, David Homb
Country: USA
What it is: Low budget aliens invade

Aliens invade Earth, but most of the action takes place in a small town.

By this time, even a small-budget independent movie such as this one could manage to work up the wherewithal to have a few CGI effects; however, there’s still no guarantee that the script will be any good, and this tired compendium of cliches bears this out. It also doesn’t help that most of the middle of this movie takes place in a poorly-lit cave; nothing can sap the pleasure out of a movie as quickly as having to squint and concentrate just to see what’s going on. The acting is merely passable, but that’s okay; with the script the way it is, it doesn’t really give much opportunity for great acting. It also promises a sequel that never saw the light of day, but I won’t complain about that. Ninety minutes of time have been killed.

Alice of Wonderland in Paris (1966)

Alice of Wonderland in Paris (1966)
Article 5721 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-7-2020
Directed by Gene Deitch
Featuring the voices of Luce Ennis, Norma MacMillan, Howard Morris
Country: USA
What it is: Odd little animated anthology

Alice of the Wonderland stories wishes to go to a real Wonderland – Paris! She does so with the help of a mouse doing a cheese survey. In the process, several stories are told.

This animated movie has a fairly dismal rating on IMDB, and I can see why; those expecting a variation on the Lewis Carroll stories will find very little of it here (though two stories are told featuring fellow fictional character Madeline), and the animation is on the threadbare side (Gene Deitch mostly worked with Terrytoons). I myself wasn’t sure what to expect, but an animated anthology was certainly a surprise. Yet, for all of the weaknesses of this one, I eventually found it to be rather charming. I think what did it for me was the denouement of the story about the princess who wanted the moon; the princess’s explanation about how the moon can be up in the sky as well as hanging about her neck has just the right touch of magical wonder to warm my heart. The other stories are merely okay, and the framing story with Alice and the talking mouse is mostly forgettable, though even that has a charming moment when Alice first meets Madeline. I wouldn’t exactly call the movie a success, but it has its points of interest.

Affairs of Cappy Ricks (1937)

Affairs of Cappy Ricks (1937)
Article 5720 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-1-2020
Directed by Ralph Staub
Featuring Walter Brennan, Mary Brian, Lyle Talbot
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy

A sea captain returns home to find his family has been seduced by easy living and that he is on the verge of losing a controlling interest in his company. He concocts a scheme to teach his family the value of hard work as well as protecting his control of the company.

There are early hints in this movie that there may be a bit of science fiction content to the proceedings when the main character discovers that one of the doors in his house is self-opening, and there’s some talk of a boat that is so highly automated it only needs a crew of three. If that’s all that had happened in the movie, I would have consigned it to the realms of marginalia, but the discussed boat does make an appearance in the final reel and plays a significant role in the plot, so it qualifies. On its own terms, it’s a mildly amusing comedy, which mostly relies on a series of “the worm turns” type of situations. It’s fun to see Brennan and Talbot, but the whole cast fares well, even if the story is only so-so.

The Adventures of Sam Space (1955)

The Adventures of Sam Space (1955)
Article 5719 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-29-2020
Directed by Paul Sprunck
Featuring the voice of Paul Frees
Country: USA
What it is: 3-D Space Opera with puppets

A scientist take two children on a space voyage to battle an evil space island.

I hoped it looked good in 3-D; as far as the story goes, it’s pretty lame, and is largely played for laughs. It’s done in puppet animation, and at least one character bears a certain resemblance to the child in DAVEY AND GOLIATH (a Sunday morning Christian TV show I’m certain many of you remember). It all takes place in that futuristic year 2001, and there are spaceships and flying saucers and robots. It’s mildly entertaining hokum, but not very good and not very memorable.