Catching an Early Train (1901)

Catching an Early Train (1901)
Article 5641 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-27-2019
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: In reverse

A man needs to dress in time to catch an early train. Will his clothes cooperate?

One thing I wonder about the very early years of film-making is at what point certain novelties started to get old. For example, this movie’s sole trick is a simple one; they filmed a man entering a room, quickly undressing, and jumping into bed, and then ran the footage backwards so it looks like he’s getting up and dressing with the clothes jumping into his hands from wherever they were thrown. Sure, it’s a fun trick if used right, and I’ve seen it used in a few other films, but I wonder if the trick still had a freshness about it at this point. And even at that, it isn’t as fun as the tricks Melies was using at this point in his career.

The Cabbage Fairy (1896)

The Cabbage Fairy (1896)
aka La fee aux choux
Article 5631 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-16-2019
Directed by Alice Guy
Featuring Alice Guy, Germaine Serand, Yvonne Serand
Country: France
What it is: Not this easy in real life

A cabbage fairy plucks babies out of a cabbage patch.

If you’ve ever been asked by a child where babies come from, and you’re too uptight to tell them truth, you can show them this early silent short; however, if they never took you seriously after that, that’s your problem. Be aware that the movie I saw on YouTube may not be this movie at all; at least one of the user comments on IMDB points out that the movie is lost, and this is a remake from four years later. It also lays claim to being the first fiction movie (implying, of course, that the cabbage fairy is not real), which would mean that it beat out Melies’s LE MANOIR DU DIABLE. At any rate, watching it gave me something quick to review at a time when I’ve slowed down my reviewing routine quite a bit. And I do love covering these very early silents.

City Beneath the Sea (1962)

City Beneath the Sea (1962)
Article 5619 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-14-2019
Directed by Guy Verney and Kim Mills
Featuring Gerald Flood, Stewart Guldotti, Denis Goacher
Country: UK
What it is: Limited run TV serial

A reporter and a photographer stow away in a stolen submarine and end up in an underwater city run by an evil scientific genius.

Seeing as how I’ve covered several of the Quatermass TV serials, I feel entitled to cover other British limited run TV serials that have sufficient fantastic content, and this one fits the bill. Mind you, it’s not up to the level of the Nigel Kneale Quatermass episodes; this one is a bit stodgy and predictable. The story is somewhat Vernian in feel, and had the evil genius of this story been more of an antihero (like Captain Nemo) rather than an obvious villain, it might have been more intriguing; as it is, you’ll be better off concentrating on the secondary characters who don’t seem to see the evil genius for what he is and seeing how long it goes on before they see the light. The special effects are fairly ragged, but then, what do you expect for a TV show of this era? It’s passable, but not really compelling.

A Corny Concerto (1943)

A Corny Concerto (1943)
Article 5610 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-27-2018
Directed by Robert Clampett
Featuring the voices of Arthur Q. Bryan and Bea Benaderet
Country: USA
What it is: Parody of FANTASIA

Conductor Elmer Fudd introduces cartoons made to two famous classical pieces.

Before deciding whether to review a cartoon, I always double check to see if it’s listed in Walt Lee’s “Reference Guide to Fantastic Films”; if it’s listed, I definitely review, and if it’s not listed, I make a judgment call. In this case, I’m reviewing it because it’s listed; had I made a judgment call, I wouldn’t have reviewed. That’s because the fantastic content seems to be no greater than that of your average cartoon. In fact, it might be even less, given there are no talking animals here, only anthropomorphic ones and ones holding up signs. Still, I did notice an angel shows up at one point, and I suppose a buzzard angel isn’t something you see every day. As for the cartoon itself, it’s pretty much a parody of FANTASIA done in the classic Warner Brothers style; the first half, done to “Tales of the Vienna Woods” has Porky hunting Bugs, and the second half, done to “The Blue Danube”, is something of an “ugly duckling” variation. The bigger laughs are in the first half, though my favorite gag is in the second, when the little black duck revives the mother swan who has fainted in the river.

Case of the Missing Hare (1942)

Case of the Missing Hare (1942)
Article 5606 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-22-2018
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Bugs Bunny cartoon

After he is humiliated by a stage magician, Bugs Bunny vows revenge and gets it during the magician’s stage act.

For the record, at this time I’m not covering cartoons in which the only fantastic content is talking animals and/or comic exaggeration; I regard these as “cartoon conventions”, and a cartoon has to have an element beyond these to make me consider it for review. This one throws a magician into the mix, thus making it qualify. Chuck Jones had a preferred rule for Bugs Bunny cartoons, and this one qualifies – Bugs is most effective only if his antagonist strikes first (usually prompting Bugs to say “Of course, you realize this means war!”), and such is the case here. Most of the jokes play around with the usual stage magician tricks, such as pulling a rabbit out of a hat and sticking swords through a wicker basket. This one is pretty solid, and my favorite moment has the magician trying to tempt Bugs with a carrot (as per Bug’s suggestion).

Camille 2000 (1969)

Camille 2000 (1969)
Article 5594 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-9-2018
Directed by Radley Metzger
Featuring Daniele Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo, Eleanora Rosso Drago
Country: Italy
What it is: Sexed-up classic

A young man falls in love with the courtesan of a rich nobleman.

For the record, the Lentz guide lists this movie as genre, but the Walt Lee guide consigns it to the “Exclusions” list for movies lacking fantastic content. A viewing of the movie makes me give the point to Walt Lee, but I can’t really blame Lentz; we have a right to expect any movie made before the millennium change that ends with “2000” to be science fiction. And maybe it does take place in the year 2000; that might explain why some of the costume and set design choices are so bizarre (though my own belief is that some set and costume designers just like it that way). But there’s nothing in the script that specifies that it takes place in the future, and really, is there any reason to set this Dumas tale in the future when the present could work just as well? As for the movie itself, it’s an update of “Camille” that takes advantage of the new permissiveness in the cinema to add a bunch of softcore sex scenes to the mix. For all that, the movie is a straightforward telling of the story; it’s pretty to look at, but nothing special. And as for all of the sex scenes, I will fall back on my belief that one man’s erotic fantasy is another’s consummate silliness, and after the S&M D&S party scene, I found it hard to take the movie seriously anymore.

The Company of Wolves (1984)

The Company of Wolves (1984)
Article 5561 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-14-2018
Directed by Neil Jordan
Featuring Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, David Warner
Country: UK
What it is: Fairy tale/horror/art movie hodgepodge

A girl dreams of living in a medieval village where her grandmother warns her about werewolves.

That this movie has a cult following is no surprise. I’m also not surprised that it has a bit of a lukewarm reputation; though it’s sometimes fascinating to look at and is original, in the final analysis it’s not quite satisfying. It’s basically a variation on the Red Riding Hood story with something of a horror spin to the proceedings and a strong sexual atmosphere. At times it even feels a bit like an anthology movie, as it occasionally goes off on a tangent when it reenacts a werewolf tale one of the characters is telling. The performances are solid and the medieval world and the ominous-looking forest are very well-realized. Those expecting a more conventional horror movie will not be satisfied, but even those expecting something different may be a little put out by it; I emerged from the movie with the feeling that for all it’s trying to do, it’s still missing something.

Cinderella, or The Glass Slipper (1912)

Cinderella, or The Glass Slipper (1912)
aka Cendrillon ou La pantoufle merveilleuse
Article 5548 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-2-2018
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Louise Lagrange, Jacques Feyder, Marthe Vinot
Country: France
What it is: Fairy tale

This is pretty standard late period Melies; he’s still glued to his tableaux style of filming, and he’s more interested in special effects and spectacle than story-telling. Granted, when the story is as familiar at this one, you don’t need to spend a lot of time in telling it, but during the scenes where he’s advancing the plot, it’s pretty dull. The special effects are fun, though not quite as tight as in his better shorts. In fact, he goes out of his way to add more special effects sequences; the creation of the carriage takes much longer than necessary, and a scene where Cinderella is terrorized by a giant clock striking midnight is also unneeded, albeit fun. As far as the spectacle goes, I notice that Melies has a favorite technique; he crowds the frame with as many characters as possible. If you’re a Melies fan, this is a passable short, but I do wonder how it would have gone if Melies had studied and incorporated the new cinematic techniques pioneered by the likes of D.W. Griffith. As it is, it’s another example of why he eventually fell out of favor as a filmmaker.

Coco (2017)

Coco (2017)
Article 5536 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-18-2018
Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Featuring the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
Country: USA
What it is: Animated feature, Pixar style

A young Mexican boy dreams of being a musician despite his family’s anathema to the profession. When, on the day before the Day of the Dead, he desperately attempts to steal the guitar of a famed music star so he can play it in a music competition, he finds himself trapped in the world of the dead and can only return to the land of the living if he can get the blessing of one of his dead blood relatives.

Though this is the first time I’ve reviewed one of their features, I’ve been a big fan of Pixar for a while, and even though as a whole they aren’t quite as consistent as they were about ten years ago, they’re still able to deliver a top-notch animated feature when their quality-control department is working in top form. This one is inspired; it uses a traditional Mexican holiday as the springboard for a multi-leveled exploration of several subjects, including family, music, memory, and, of course, death. It confidently walks the line between drama and comedy, the characters are well-drawn (in every sense of the word), and it manages to be hilarious one moment and deeply moving the next without straining for effect. Furthermore, the visualization of the world of the dead is stunning, and Pixar’s push to expand the range of animation is also on full display. Whenever Pixar is in top form, I have a harder time deciding which of their features I like best; this is another one that is in the running.

Cirkus Hurvinek (1955)

Cirkus Hurvinek (1955)
Article 5527 by Dave Sindelar

Date: 1-13-2018
Directed by Jiri Trnka
Featuring the voices of Vratislav Blazek and Jiri Trnka
Country: Czechoslovakia
What it is: Puppet animated whimsy

A young child dreams he is performing in a circus with his father as the ringmaster.

I wasn’t initially sure whether I would be covering this one; I was unable to find a plot description, and a quick peek at the footage didn’t yield any immediate fantastic content. However, the fact that it was listed in Walt Lee’s guide made me decide to go ahead with it. It does have a certain amount of fantastic content; the pet dog does display a certain degree of anthropomorphism (especially during the dream sequence), and when the boy takes on the job of wild animal tamer, he encounters drawings of animals in a giant book that come to life, move, and talk. Some of the plot details are lost on me because the dialogue was in Czech, but in terms of its whimsical content, it’s fairly easy to follow. It’s not one of Trnka’s more striking works, but it’s certainly well done and quite entertaining. My favorite moment comes early on, where the young boy’s attempt to elude his father causes a certain amount of confusion to a bill poster.