The Elf and Mr. Little (1953)

The Elf and Mr. Little (1953)
Article 6010 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-11-2021
Director unknown
Featuring the voices of Tommy Alexander, Jack Beveridge, Carol Blessing
Country: USA
What it is: Either a deservedly obscure TV Christmas short or a horror classic waiting to be rediscoveredAr

Toymaker Mr. Little is feeling grouchy after years of trying to keep up with the Christmas demand and offers anything in the shop to someone who will work for him. An elf volunteers. Will the elf lead the toymaker back to the true Christmas spirit? Or will they all be destroyed by fiendish creatures from another dimension?

What happens when you cross A CHRISTMAS CAROL with THE ELVES AND THE SHOEMAKER and PUPPET MASTER. This, and it ain’t pretty. Sure, it’s meant to be a heart-warming variation on the Scrooge story (all done with marionettes), but you’ll suss that out quick enough. No, what makes this memorable (though probably not in the way intended) is that the sight of the boys’ choir that sings all the carols throughout the short is something to make you run screaming; they’re simply nightmarish. They’re the only puppets in the short with movable mouths, and once you see them, you’ll understand why the others don’t have movable mouths. This is the Christmas short the bad little kids got in their stocking.


The Extraordinary Waiter (1902)

The Extraordinary Waiter (1902)
Article 5817 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-23-2020
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Special effects comedy

An irate patron keeps attacking a black waiter who appears to be unkillable.

Since the waiter survives being beheaded, I’m going to say that this early silent short qualifies for me to include it in my review project. I’m pretty sure the short is intended to be comic. The fact that the action takes place between a white customer and a black waiter makes me wonder if there’s a racial message here, but frankly, it’s rather hard to tell. The waiter may be a white in blackface (and it probably is), but the camera doesn’t get close enough to the actors to say for sure. If the waiter was being incompetent, it doesn’t appear in his actions; in fact, he’s more of a special effect than a character (and in some of the scenes, he’s obviously played by a dummy). The customer is the one who behaves badly; he comes across as tyrannical, ill-mannered and cruel for very little reason. At heart, I think the short mostly exists for its chance to do a special effect of a man being decapitated, regaining his head, and coming back to life.

The Explorer (1931)

The Explorer (1931)
Article 5816 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-22-2020
Directed by Frank Moser
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Early Terrytoon Talkie

Farmer Al Falfa goes to the North Pole in his autogyro.

Because Farmer Al Falfa has an autogyro (combination car and plane), this one gets by on having some science fiction content. Of course, the autogyro may be arbitrary; in fact, the whole cartoon feels arbitrary. For example, a flight of cats goes up in an airplane to attach a box of skunks to the autogyro. Why? No explanation is tendered. Pretty much anything that happens is punctuated by dancing. A cat dies, his nine lives dance. Al Falfa gets to the North Pole and dances with a (non-polar) bear. Two kissing walruses are revealed when their igloo is pulled away, so they dance. And once Al Falfa runs into the North Pole sign, the cartoon suddenly repeats a bunch of footage from the beginning of the cartoon. This cartoon sits with a lowly 3.0 rating on IMDB. It does little to merit any higher rating.

Evil Dead II (1987)

Evil Dead II (1987)
Article 5815 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-20-2020
Directed by Sam Raimi
Featuring Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks
Country: USA
What it is: More of the same… only sillier…and a lot more

More people are in the cabin in the woods terrorized by evil undead beings. Who will survive?

So how do you follow up a movie as audacious as the original? Well, if you’re Sam Raimi, you basically do a remake, bring your star up front and center, use a bigger budget, and make what was an undertone in the first movie an overtone here; the first movie hinted at comedy, this one IS a comedy. Much of the violence has a knockabout Three Stooges vibe to it, it’s fully aware that it’s working as both remake and parody, it sends up the cliches rather than succumbing to them, and it does it all with a rollicking sense of fun. It’s the kind of a movie that when one character does something monumentally stupid, you smile because it’s part of the joke. No, it’s not scary; it doesn’t slow down enough to let fear creep in, but that’s all right with me. This is simply a fun ride from beginning to end.

Eternal Evil (1985)

Eternal Evil (1985)
aka The Blue Man
Article 5814 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-19-2020
Directed by George Mihalka
Featuring Winston Rekert, Karen Black, John Novak
Country: Canada / USA
What it is: Ghosts? Vampires? Possession?

A failed-filmmaker-turned-commercial-director takes an interest in astral projection, but then some of the people in his life begin dying in horrible ways…

This movie has a pretty dismal rating on IMDB, and I can understand why; it’s slow-moving, sometimes very cheesy (especially the score), not particularly well-mounted, and lacking in the gore that was pretty common for the genre of horror at that time. It does, however, have some novel ideas at its core, and those ideas did sustain my interest enough that I never found the movie intolerable. It also had a few plot surprises up its sleeve, which also helps. The big name in the cast is Karen Black as the girlfriend to the main character, and her performance is a little on the weird side, though given some of the plot developments, it makes a certain amount of sense. All in all, I liked it enough that I was able to set aside it’s dodgier aspects, but your mileage may vary; its 3.6 rating means quite a few people found little of interest here.

Escape from Galaxy 3 (1981)

Escape From Galaxy 3 (1981)
aka Giochi erotici nella terza galassia
Article 5813 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-18-2020
Directed by Bitto Albertini and Luigi Cozzi
Featuring Sherry Buchanan, Fausto Di Bella, Don Powell
Country: Italy
What it is: Uhhhhh….

Two survivors from a destroyed planet try to escape Oroclon, king of the night. They land on planet Earth after the apocalypse, meet natives, and learn about love…

The first third of the movie is a STAR WARS clone. The second third of the movie becomes an after-the-apocalypse coming of age story in which the child-like immortal aliens learn about the joys of love, a plot element which causes the already idiotic story to descend to even lower levels of dumbness. The third third of the movie returns to being a STAR WARS clone, only dragging it’s new-found dumbness with it. Many of the special effects were lifted from STAR CRASH; in fact, in some places, this movie was known as STAR CRASH 2. Incidentally, STAR CRASH was better, and you can’t say that about many STAR WARS clones. I heard a rumor that despite the nudity and sexual themes, this movie got a G rating, but I have been unable to confirm that and find it highly unlikely; if it is true, it would be proof positive that those giving the ratings didn’t watch the movie. This is perhaps the dumbest movie I’ve seen in a long time. If there’s one dumber out there, I hope it waits until I recover.

Escalofrio diabolico (1972)

Escalofrio diabolico (1972)
aka Diabolical Shudder
Article 5812 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-18-2020
Directed by George Martin
Featuring George Martin, Patty Shepard, Mariano Vidal Molina
Country: Spain
What it is: Unhealthy people with secrets in an old castle… you know the routine

Mysterious and unhealthy things go on in a sinister castle; there’s a cult and imprisoned people.

I just watched a copy of this movie that I had lying around for years, and of course, it’s in Spanish without English subtitles. As such, I can’t really give this movie a meaningful review (not knowing Spanish), but I also have to admit that I didn’t see anything happening that wasn’t really out of the ordinary for this sort of movie. You know the women are in peril and the men can’t be trusted and that the plot will mostly meander around until the climax when everyone shows their true colors. The first two-thirds is a lot of talk, so it’s not surprising that the only story arc you can follow is that of the mute man-servant, whose secrets are revealed visually. Maybe it will be a little better if I find a subtitled version, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be a considerable improvement. At any rate, I can check this one off.

Enoken no Tobisuke boken ryoko (1949)

Enoken no Tobisuke boken ryoko (1949)
Article 5810 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-15-2020
Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa
Featuring Ken’ichi Enomoto, Yuki Daigo, Kiyoko Hanashima
Country: Japan
What it is: Comic fantasy

A puppeteer is injured when he tries to rescue a little girl from a kidnapper. The little girl takes the puppeteer on a quest to a place where he will be healed, but the path is filled with perils.

My copy of this obscure movie has no English subtitles, so I can’t really go into more plot details than I have above. It is, however, a very visual movie, and it held my attention as the travelers encounter any number of strange people, places and creatures. The set design is also highly non-realistic, and that adds to the appeal. Let’s hope this one is released with English subtitles in the future.

The Emerald Isle (1949)

The Emerald Isle (1949)
Article 5809 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-12-2020
Directed by Seymour Kneitel
Featuring the voices of Jackson Beck, Jack Mercer and Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Follow the bouncing ball

The world of Ireland is explored, and everyone gets to sing a song.

Famous Studios at Paramount put out a whole slew of “Screen Songs”, shorts that were half-cartoons and half “follow the bouncing ball” singalongs of some song, in this case the song being “MacNamara’s Band”. Though they were probably fun events in a crowded theater, as cartoons they were rather forgettable. I don’t think I’ve covered any of these before this, and I probably wouldn’t have reviewed this one if a few ghosts hadn’t popped up and done a jig as one of the gags. As far as I can tell, this is a typical entry of the series, and unless one of them really ratchets up the fantastic content, I probably won’t be covering another one.

Eliza on Ice (1944)

Eliza on Ice (1944)
aka ‘Eliza on the Ice’
Article 5808 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-11-2020
Directed by Connie Rasinski
Featuring the voice of Tom Morrison
Country: USA
What it is: pretty ironic

The chase scene in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is performed as a sporting event. Will Mighty Mouse prevent Simon Legree from prevailing?

Given how many ordinary, uninspired and just plain dull Mighty Mouse cartoons there are, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people wonder where the imagination and creativity (which should be there) have gone to. I think I found the answer; it went here. It is one of the most energetic, funniest, and fastest-moving of the Mighty Mouse series, and it has an absurdist Tex Avery feel to it as well. It might be considered one of the best of the Mighty Mouse cartoons if it didn’t have a major problem; it is so full of offensive racial stereotypes that it will probably languish in obscurity. It certainly won’t be popping up on TV any time soon.