Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs (2008)

Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs (2008)
Article 5836 by Dave Sindelar
Date 8-2-2020
Directed by Peter Avanzino
Featuring the voices of Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio
Country: USA
What it is: Full-length Home Video version of an animated TV show

When a crack in the universe appears above the Earth, the members of Planet Express investigate.

After its first cancellation and before its later TV revival, “Futurama” filled in the dead time with the release of three made-for-video movies, of which this is the second. Having become a fan of the show, I picked them up and watched them, and I remember feeling that the first was easily the best, and each succeeding movie suffered a decline of quality. This one features a double-entendre title partially modeled off a very cheap AIP movie of the fifties. The story is mostly focused on Fry and how a rocky romantic relationship eventually leads to his encounter with a tentacled alien from another universe that has designs on the human race. Most of the other characters have their subplots, with only Hermes and Dr. Zoidberg remaining bystanders. This one is passable but not the show at its best. I like the first half better, especially when you find out how scientists settle their difference in the year 3008. Once the tentacled creature goes into action, things get a little tiresome, and I think the main story-line would have worked better as one of the regular episodes of the series.

The Frog and the Princess (1944)

The Frog and the Princess (1944)
Article 5835 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-22-2020
Directed by Eddie Donnelly
Featuring the voice of Tom Morrison
Country: USA
What it is: Terrytoons

Gandy Goose dreams the story of the Frog and the Princess.

Given that the main story here is from a fairy tale, I’ll argue that there’s enough fantastic content for it to be included. Despite the presence of Gandy Goose as a framing device for the story, it’s mostly a straight rendering of the story rather than a Gandy Goose cartoon. And you know what? I don’t really have a problem with that. That’s because I’ve come to the conclusion that Terrytoons was better at straight whimsy rather than humor; they seemed to strain less with the whimsy. In fact, the cartoon only really goes off the track when the Frog’s handsome prince alter ego turns out to be Gandy Goose, and the cartoon nose-dives into dumb slapstick; fortunately, this isn’t until near the end of the cartoon. Still, it is a Terrytoons cartoon, and that usually means that it’s eminently forgettable.

Frigid Hare (1949)

Frigid Hare (1949)
Article 5834 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-22-2020
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Bugs Bunny cartoon

Bugs comes to the rescue of a penguin being chased by an Inuit hunter, but finds it hard to leave when the penguin becomes attached to him.

I’m covering this one because it’s listed in the Walt Lee guide; by my own judgment, I would omit it because the only fantastic content is anthropomorphic animals. This was banned for several years (probably due to the presence of a stereotyped Inuit), but became available again. It features the first appearance of an unnamed penguin that would eventually pop up in other Chuck Jones cartoons. It’s not my favorite of these; the one where he has to take the penguin to the place he was born is my favorite. Still, it has its moments, including another sequence where Bugs dresses up as a woman to fluster the Inuit. The penguin is incredibly cute (especially when he cries), which is probably why he was revived; Chuck Jones had a weak spot for cuteness. It’s a solid cartoon.

Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie (1984)

Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie (1984)
Article 5833 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-20-2020
Directed by Myron J. Gold
Featuring Donald Pleasence, Yvonne Ferneaux, June Wilkinson
Country: UK / Mexico / USA
What it is: …..

Several descendants of Frankenstein return to the old castle just as the city council of a local village are about to claim the property as their own due to back taxes.

On title alone, I would guess this would be a comedy. Another feeling I get from the title alone is that if it is a comedy, it’s not going to be a good one. But even armed with these two (both correct) assumptions, I was still blind-sided by what this movie really is, which is one of the dreariest wastes of celluloid that I’ve ever been unfortunate enough to encounter in my cinematic journeys. I’m going to tell you right now that the name of the village in this movie is Mucklefugger, simply because finding this out is the closest the movie ever gets to even a slight snicker. The rest of the movie is filled with endless jabber, very tepid slapstick, and an occasional references to some earlier Frankenstein movies that lead nowhere, certainly not to any laughs. It’s one of those movies that tries to mine laughter by having characters recite archaically-phrased long-winded speeches that are more likely to incite slumber than laughs. Yes, there’s a monster here, but he adds no more interest value to this one than anyone else. Sure, Donald Pleasence is trying his best and June Wilkinson is sexy, but they’re working with a script that sucks the life out of everything. Believe it or not, but FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND is now, in my eyes, not the worst movie with Frankenstein in the title, and I never thought I’d say that.

Fortune Hunters (1946)

Fortune Hunters (1946)
Article 5832 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-15-2020
Directed by Connie Rasinski
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Gandy Goose cartoon

Gandy Goose dreams that a fortune teller leads him to the home of his grandfather, which turns out to be chock full of ghosts.

Perhaps I’m a little too hard on Terrytoons for over-using Mighty Mouse. After all, Mighty Mouse at least became something of a household name, which is more than you can say for the forgettable Gandy Goose. This one is listed in the Walt Lee guide because it featured a walk-through by the Frankenstein monster, but that’s selling it short in terms of its fantastic content; there’s also a talking tree, lots of ghosts, and a definite air of spookiness. What there isn’t is any real discernible plot; it’s ostensibly about Gandy Goose making a fortune with the help of his grandfather, but that plot line never gets off the ground; it’s mostly a series of ghost gags. Parts of it are pretty weird, so it has a little of that surreal vibe; unfortunately, the laughs are elusive. And it would have been nice if the Frankenstein monster had more of a resemblance to Boris Karloff than to Li’l Abner.

Football Now and Then (1953)

Football Now and Then (1953)
Article 5831 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-14-2020
Directed by Jack Kinney
Featuring the voice of Dennis Day
Country: USA
What it is: Sports cartoon

After his grandson praises the abilities of the number one football team in the country, a grandfather argues that the teams in his day were better, and shows the boy a game between a modern-day football team and a turn-of-the-century football team on TV.

I fully didn’t expect to be reviewing this one when I popped it into the DVD player to watch; from its title, I expected a nothing more than a series of blackout gags comparing football in 1953 to football in 1901. Instead, the cartoon goes the route of pitting a 1901 football team against a 1953 team, and after a few minutes of this, it suddenly dawned on me that this must be taking place in some bizarre time warp world , which certainly puts it in the realm of the fantastic. Since it’s from Disney, it’s well-animated; there’s no doubt about that. But I also found it even less funny than I expected from a Disney short cartoon; I never expect a Disney cartoon from this era to be as funny as a Warner Brothers cartoon, but this one is downright dismal. In the end, the most memorable thing about it is the rather queasy surreal flavor of it all, which is best exemplified by the commercial interruptions by a weird washing machine salesman who gets the best joke of the short almost by default when the phone number he mentions over the air doesn’t match the phone number on the screen. I found this one in a Disney rarities collection, and after having seen it, I’m not surprised it’s a rarity.

Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The ‘Plan 9’ Companion (1992)

Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The ‘Plan 9’ Companion (1992)
Article 5830 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-13-2020
Directed by Mark Patrick Carducci
Featuring Forrest J Ackerman, Carl Anthony, Stephen C. Apostolof
Country: USA
What it is: Documentary

This movie explores the making of Ed Wood’s cult classic, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

Technically, a documentary like this isn’t genre, but its subject is so steeped in genre material that I had no problem covering it. In fact, it’s a tribute to the movie’s immense cult appeal that this documentary got made. No, it’s not a totally serious exploration of the making of the movie, but it’s far more serious than it might have been and makes certain discoveries that were new for its day, such as the location of the soundstage where the movie was shot as well the revelation of exactly what was used to make the flying saucers. For lovers of the movie and members of science fiction fandom, there are a lot of familiar faces here to add to the fun. No, it’s not as fun as the movie itself, but it makes a fine companion piece to it.

The Fly II (1989)

The Fly II (1989)
Article 5829 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-12.2020
Directed by Chris Walas
Featuring Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, Lee Richardson
Country: USA / UK / France
What it is: A gooey mess

Will Seth Brundle’s son turn into a hideous mutant like his dad?

I have to confess that at this point, I haven’t seen the Cronenberg movie to which this is a sequel. It’s a shame; I would have liked to compare them both to see how much of retread this one might be. As it is, I’ll just react to it as an individual movie. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Then I began to notice certain things about the movie; the soundtrack is a bit on the overbearing side, there’s way too many bad guys acting like bad guys (especially that repulsive security guard). The problem with having such obvious bad guys is that it makes it hard to care when the movie nears its climax; we don’t really find ourselves in their shoes when they’re being stalked. Yes, the special effects are good, but what do you expect when the director is the guy who did the special effects in the original? In the end, I found that, despite the attempt at fleshing out the characters during the first half of the movie, it largely turns into a “monster on the loose” movie with an extra helping of gore and goo. I’m afraid this one didn’t quite do it for me.

Fleshburn (1984)

Fleshburn (1984)
Article 5829 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-10-2020
Directed by George Gage
Featuring Steve Kanaly, Karen Carlson, Macon McCalman
Country: USA
What it is: drama thriller

A native American escapes from a mental institution to wreak revenge on the four people who placed them there. He leaves them in the desert to fend for themselves.

It’s easy to see how this one could be mistaken for horror; after all, it has an evocative title, it appears on a collection called HORRIBLE HORRORS, and the plot elements include madness and native American mysticism. Nevertheless, those fantastic touches remain side issues to the story, and the movie simply doesn’t play like a horror movie but as a revenge drama with more talk than action. So I’m not really surprised it has a lowly 4.3 rating on IMDB; horror fans will probably feel cheated, and action fans will find it dull. But as a drama about four people trying to survive in a seemingly hopeless situation, I found it engaging enough to hold my attention throughout. The biggest problem I had was that I did get tired of the yelling and whining on occasion, though I do find it easy to believe that being caught in an impossible situation would not necessarily bring out the best in people. In the end I found it entertaining enough, though I wouldn’t call it a classic.

Flagpole Jitters (1956)

Flagpole Jitters (1956)
Article 5828 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-9-2020
Directed by Jules White
Featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard
Country: USA
What it is: Recycled Stooges

The Three Stooges try to raise money to help a crippled friend walk again, and towards that end, they come under the employ of a hypnotist who is secretly behind a bank robbery scheme.

As I watched this late-period Stooges short, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that what I was watching was recycled Stooges; the comic bits feel like tired retreads of earlier Stooges bits, only not as well timed. Still, one reason it feels recycled is because it is; it’s a remake of HOKUS POKUS, and it in fact uses footage from the earlier short. You’d probably have to go through both shorts piece by piece to figure out what’s new and what’s recycled, but I know that the Stooges look noticeably old in some of the scenes here, and that’s probably a clue that the scene is new footage. This is one of the last Stooges shorts to feature Shemp, who had in fact died the year previously to this one’s release.