Cubby’s Stratosphere Flight (1934)

Article 4131 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-13-2013
Directed by Vernon Stallings
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Cubby the bear cartoon

Cubby the bear decides to take off for the stratosphere, but he ends up at the North Pole at a walrus night club.

Van Bueren was one of the more obscure cartoon studios of the thirties, and Cubby the Bear wasn’t a particularly memorable character. Still, there are a few decent moments in the cartoon; I like the means of locomotion Cubby uses to rise to the stratosphere (think of the old “horse-and-carrot” trick only using a pelican and a fish), and at least one gag got a laugh out of me (what happens to a fisherman’s can of bait after a giant snowball makes off with him). The rest is pretty typical early thirties animation, with things coming to a dead halt at one point when a quartet of walruses warble a song.

The Cabbage-Patch Fairy (1900)

aka La fee aux choux, ou la naissance des enfants
Article 4120 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-30-2012
Directed by Alice Guy
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Novelty short

A woman displays babies found in a cabbage patch.

Sometimes the title is the main source of the fantastic content of the movie; if this one had been called WOMAN FINDING BABIES HIDDEN IN A GARDEN, no one would have seen any fantastic content at all. It’s the title that tells us that the woman is a fairy, and the garden is where the babies come from. Well, at least the movie doesn’t steal any special effects from Melies, but that’s because there are no special effects to speak of; the babies are hidden behind garden displays, and she just finds them and sets them down in our line of vision. And that’s about all this slight little short gives us.

A Colour Box (1935)

Article 4111 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-21-2012
Directed by Len Lye
No cast
Country: UK
What it is: Abstract animation/commercial

Abstract images pulse along to Brazilian music, and then you find out what a good deal it is to ship your packages with GPO.

This is, like ESCAPE, another venture into the world of abstract animation, which throws it into the realm of borderline fantasy. Reportedly, the film was not originally a commercial for the GPO (General Post Office); the latter bought the rights to the short, and added the advertisements that pop up during the last minute. Still, at least these advertisements seem well integrated into the short, enough so that they actually added a bit of charm to the proceedings. I quite like abstract animation, as long as it doesn’t go on too long, and this clocks in at about three to four minutes.

La cueva de Ali-Baba (1954)

aka The Cave of Ali Baba
Article 4096 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-3-2012
Directed by Mario C. Lugones
Featuring Mario Amaya, Alejandro Anderson, Gogo Andreu
Country: Argentina
What it is: Musical comedy

Two variety performers inherit an old factory that they decide to convert into a nightclub, unaware that the site is being used by a gang of criminals.

Okay, you’re compiling a list of fantasy genre movies, and you come across an Argentine movie with the translated title of THE CAVE OF ALI BABA. You know nothing about the plot of the movie, so you’re left to your own devices to figure out whether it qualifies as genre or not. What would you assume, based on the title? I’d assume it would be a retelling of the classic Arabian nights tale with the magic cave and the “Open Sesame” password. That would certainly seem more likely than assuming that it was the name of a themed nightclub.

This is my way of saying that I can forgive the various sources that listed this one as genre; the latter description is the one that is correct in this case, and, though I may be wrong (my copy is in unsubtitled Spanish), there appears to be no genre elements in this one at all. No, I couldn’t follow it, but it does seem like your typical comedy musical. I missed the jokes, but at least the musical numbers don’t need explanation, and some of them are pretty silly. At least one of the musical numbers is in English; a duo sings a version of Hank Williams’s “Hey, Good Looking”. As a result of the musical numbers, the movie was sporadically entertaining for me. Nevertheless, the lack of real genre content makes this movie one of the false leads that I’ve found on this journey through genre movies.

The Calico Dragon (1935)

Animated short
Article 4065 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-28-2012
Directed by Rudolf Ising
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Animated dream fantasy

A little girl falls asleep reading a story about a princess being held captive by a dragon, and dreams that her dolls and stuffed animals go to the rescue of the princess.

The story itself is pretty ordinary cartoon fodder for the time, but in terms of the design of the fantasy world, it has its charms. The world seems entirely made of various clothing materials like calico and gingham; even the animals and monsters are made of cloth. Occasionally specific pieces of clothing can be spotted as well; for one, the bridge that the characters cross is clearly a corset. The cartoon makes the cloth material part of the story material, so it makes good use of the motif. All in all, this one is quite charming.

A Crazy Composer (1905)

aka Le compositeur toque
Article 4063 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-25-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Another Melies dream short

A manic composer has a dream in which musicians and dancers appear.

It’s another Melies dream short, and taken on its own merits, it’s not particularly special; he’d already done several similar shorts. However, if you do catch this one, I highly recommend you go for the one with the Donald Sosin score; not only does his music fit the action perfectly, but it adds a comic dimension and a flavor that shows just what a difference a decent score can make.

The Cook’s Revenge (1900)

aka La vengeance du gate-sauce
Article 4061 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-22-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

A cook gets into a fight with his manager. Who will survive… and what will be left of him?

This is a pretty short early Melies piece that mostly trots out decapitation and living head special effects. In the Melies world, decapitations are bloodless and not necessarily fatal; in fact, the heads can reattach and take revenge, as the title says. There’s a bit of a plot, but at one minute, it’s hardly necessary. This is an amusing early short.