The Devil’s Rain (1975)

The Devil’s Rain (1975)
Article 6059 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-13-2022
Directed by Robert Fuest
Featuring Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino
Country: Mexico / United States
What it is: A 64-pack of Crayola crayons left in the sun.

A family in possession of a book of evil do battle with a Satanic cult.

With Robert Fuest’s name in the credits, I expected there would be some interesting stylistic touches to the movie, and there are. In fact, the movie’s vibe works pretty well for me during the first third of the movie. At that point the movie starts to wander, and once we reach the sequence in which we find out about the burning of a sorcerer three hundred years ago, it shows it’s not averse to traversing the path of well-worn cliches. The movie seems mostly remembered nowadays for two things. One is the presence of John Travolta in an early role, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to his fans as anything but a curiosity. The other is the extended meltathon that ends the movie, and since we get a taste of the effect in the opening scenes of the movie, it’s a bit like enjoying a hamburger in the beginning and then having to eat the whole cow at the end. It’s a shame; I like some of the aspects of the movie so well (especially the desolate locations) that I wish a decent story had been attached to the movie.

Dutiful but Dumb (1941)

Dutiful But Dumb (1941)
Article 5805 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-5-2020
Directed by Del Lord
Featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard
Country: USA
What it is: Three Stooges short

The Three Stooges are sent by Whack magazine to go to Vulgaria to get a photograph of a new secret weapon. However, no photographer sent to the country has come back alive.

This short isn’t listed in any of my sources, but with the presence of the fictitious country of Vulgaria, the plot element of an invisible death ray, and a gag in which the Stooges appear as a group of headless men, I’d say there is enough fantastic content to make it qualify. As for the short itself, there seems to be a general agreement among Stooges fans that Curly was the best and funniest of the Stooges, and I suspect that the makers of this short believed that as well; perhaps more than any other short I’ve seen so far, this is primarily the Curly show, with Moe and Larry spending much of the time on the fringes. Curly gets two long sequences all to himself; in one, Curly tries to prevent his enemies from finding him hidden behind a radio by performing a one-man band routine, and in the other, he has dinner at a cafe where he tussles with a very live oyster in his soup (I’ve seen Lou Costello do a similar sequence). Even when the other Stooges are present, Curly is the center of attention, such as the scenes in the darkroom and the cigar scene. I’ve never been a big “Curly is the best” advocate, but his performance here has convinced me of one thing; he’s the only one of the many Stooges who could’ve gone on to become a comedy star on his own right without the rest of the team. And keep in mind that I said “Comedy Star”; I’m fully aware that both Joe Besser and Shemp had successful side careers as character actors, which isn’t quite the same thing.

Dumb-Hounded (1943)

Dumb-Hounded (1943)
Article 5804 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-5-2020
Directed by Tex Avery
Featuring the voices of Bill Thompson and Frank Graham
Country: USA
What it is: Droopy cartoon debut

An escaped convict finds himself at the mercy of bloodhound who is able to track him to wherever he runs.

Currently, my rules for reviewing a cartoon are that there needs to be fantastic content beyond a) anthropomorphic animals used as a cartoon convention and b) comic exaggeration. I will make exceptions if the cartoon is listed in one of my fantastic movie guides (in particular the Walt Lee guide) as this one is. Occasionally I do find myself wondering if I should make exceptions, such as anytime I see one of Tex Avery’s MGM cartoons He took comic exaggeration to such unheard-of levels that they seem fantastic even by cartoon standards; take the scene here where the wolf tries to make a sudden change of direction and ends up sliding right off the edge of the film for a second. However, I do feel the need to pick and choose, as my review series could easily be overwhelmed if I tried to review every cartoon I saw.

As mentioned above, this cartoon marks the debut of Droopy, the slow-moving dog of the laconic and depressed demeanor who constantly breaks the fourth wall to address the audience. He also appears to be omnipresent, as no matter where the convict goes, Droopy is there ahead of him. Droopy is more overtly dog-like in this one; he walks on all fours and even has an encounter with a fireplug. Still, the character is intact, save for a possible breach of etiquette in the final moments of the cartoon when he gets a reward. Most of the humor involves the juxtaposition of Droopy’s terse one-liners with the wolf’s extreme reactions and reality-bending attempts to get away. Granted, you have to be a cartoon lover to appreciate Tex Avery, but I am one, so I do. And I’m a big Droopy fan.

Dreamy Dud. He Resolves Not to Smoke (1915)

Dreamy Dud. He Resolves Not to Smoke (1915)
Article 5803 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-3-2020
Directed by Wallace A. Carlson
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Cartoon of the silent era

A young boy steals a pipe and tries smoking it, but there are repercussions…

Most of the early silent animated films I’ve covered have been from relatively well-known names, such as Winsor McCay and Emile Cohl. But there was a wealth of other stuff as well, though most of it is lost. Some of them are only barely animated; they’re more like movie comic strips than cartoons. This is one of these obscurities, and it tells the story of a boy who learns not to smoke when the spirit of smoke raises him to the heavens and leaves him stranded on the (crescent) moon. Actually, this is one of the more satisfying of these little obscurities, as it is amusing and feels complete, unlike some of the others I’ve seen. Given the title, I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say this is all happening in a dream. At any rate, it’s worth catching if you’ve got about five minutes to kill.

Draftee Daffy (1945)

Draftee Daffy (1945)
Article 5802 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-3-2020
Directed by Robert Clampett
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Looney Tunes

Enthusiastic war supporter Daffy Duck sings a different song when he discovers that he’s about to be drafted. Can he avoid the little guy from the draft board?

I wasn’t initially going to review this one since for most of its length, the only fantastic content is an anthropomorphic animal (Daffy), but the final scene of the cartoon takes place in a location that belongs in the realm of fantastic cinema, so here it is. It starts out as a satire on hypocritical patriots who give the war effort plenty of lip service until they themselves have to contend with making a sacrifice. Then it turns to wild and manic slapstick comedy (Robert Clampett’s specialty) as Daffy takes ever-more-extreme efforts to escape/destroy the little man from the draft board, one of those characters who appear to be omnipresent and indestructible. This is a solid and hilarious Daffy Duck cartoon, with the character taking at least a half-step in the direction that Chuck Jones would later take him. Apparently, the little guy from the draft board is modeled off of a character that appeared in the radio series, ‘The Great Gildersleeve’.

Do or Diet (1953)

Do or Diet (1953)
Article 5801 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-1-2020
Directed by Izzy Sparber
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer, Sid Raymond, Alan Shay
Country: USA
What it is: Casper cartoon

In his quest to be friendly, Casper tries to help a turkey destined for Thanksgiving dinner to lose weight so he’ll be less appealing. However, the turkey can’t stop eating…

Casper is a little less angsty this time out, but somehow I don’t think a friendship that is dependent on one member losing weight is really not going to work out in the long run, but I’ll leave that for Casper and his therapist to work out. I will admit, though, it’s nice for a change to see Casper lose his temper a bit. I also find it interesting that he is able to find a nice house to live in despite being dead. And I’m still waiting for Casper to figure out that some of his problems end up working out by being able to scare the right people at the right time. At any rate, I find Casper easier to endure when he’s being less tear-jerky as he is here.

Don’t Panic (1988)

Don’t Panic (1988)
Article 5800 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-1-2020
Directed by Ruben Galindo Jr.
Featuring Jon Michael Bischof, Gabriela Hassel, Helena Rojo
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican slasher

A group of friends buy a teenager a Ouija board on his birthday and try to use it. Afterwards, the man who had the birthday begins having visions of his friends being killed, but his attempts to save them just make him a suspect.

Given my past experience with earlier Mexican movies, I was hoping that this late eighties entry might have some of those weird little touches that make them more interesting than they would otherwise be. There are a couple; there’s a slight touch of giallo here, and I liked that some of the messages received by the hero are through the TV set. Still, at heart, it’s really just a slightly cheesier version of a slasher movie, albeit one that forgoes some of the more pervasive cliches of the form. It’s not truly awful, but it really isn’t particularly special either.

Don Quixote (1934)

Don Quixote (1934)
Article 5799 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-29-2020
Directed by Ub Iwerks
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Cervantes cartoonized

Don Quixote escapes from Ye Olde Bughouse and embarks on a campaign of chivalry.

Is “Don Quixote” genre? It depends on through whose eyes you look, doesn’t it? Don Quixote really believes he’s fighting a four-armed giant when he attacks the windmill. And he really believes he’s fighting a fire-breathing dragon when he takes on the steam shovel. Wait a minute… did I say steam shovel? That’s just my way of pointing out that an eight-minute cartoon adaptation of the Cervantes novel is probably not going to be particularly faithful to its source. For all that, I found this take on the story to be rather entertaining, and given that Ub Iwerks began with Disney, his animation is somewhat superior to much of the other animated product of the time. And I should point out that even when the windmill is not being mistaken for a giant, it seems to have an anthropomorphic character all its own.

Dr. Dolittle und seine Tiere (1928)

Dr. Dolittle und seine Tiere (1928)
aka The Adventures of Dr. Dolittle
Article 5798 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-24-2020
Directed by Lotte Reiniger
No cast
Country: Germany
What it is: Silhouette whimsical fantasy

Dr. Dolittle must go to Africa to battle a plague that has hit the monkey people. He has adventures along the way.

This Lotte Reiniger short (33 minutes) was cut into three parts when it was released in the United States; I think I may have reviewed two of them as individual entities. However, the short tells a single story, albeit one that could be broken into three chapters. For those unfamiliar with Lotte Reiniger, she was a German animator who specialized in elaborate animated silhouette puppets. This one isn’t her best work, but it works well enough and is fun to watch. She was an excellent animator, and there are touches of whimsy throughout. Like any of her work, it is worth catching.

Diplodocus at Large (1953)

Diplodocus at Large (1953)
Article 5797 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-22-2020
Director uncredited (but probably Donald F. Glut)
Cast uncredited (but probably Donalf F. Glut and friends)
Country: USA
What it is: Amateur dinosaur invasion

A diplodocus runs rampant through a small town. How many people will point at it as it destroys everything in sight?

I don’t know if this is Donald F. Glut’s first amateur film, but it’s the first one in the DVD set of his amateur work. The special effects include a town built of toys and a sock puppet. The actors and actress have trouble not being cognizant that they’re being filmed (they keep looking at the camera), but they’re pre-teens, so what do you expect? There’s no story; the dinosaur shows up and ravages the town, and the movie ends. It only has a rating of 3.3 on IMDB, but ratings don’t really mean anything when you’re dealing with amateur films. Take it as someone’s early foray into the films of the fantastic and it is nothing less than delightful and hilarious. It makes you want to try it yourself and see if you can do any better.