Flip (2004)

Flip (2004)
Article 5624 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-21-2019
Directed by Kirk Demarais
Featuring Landen Knowlton, Harrison Knowlton, Jamey Clayberg
Country: USA
What it is: Slice of life short

A monster kid from the sixties named Flip is given a dollar by his grandma for his birthday, with the admonition to “Spend it wisely!” He fantasizes what might happen if he buys any of several different items from the novelty page in his favorite horror comic book.

The first thing you may notice about this short is that it looks like a pretty low-budget affair. However, it won’t take you long to realize that it doesn’t matter; the script is so clever and so perceptive that it wins you over. It does an excellent job of seeing the situation from the boy’s perspective, and it’s done almost entirely without dialogue; the only talking that occurs is during a movie-within-a-movie sequence, and the imagined “spend it wisely” admonition popping up sporadically – everything else is conveyed visually. The fantastic content occurs throughout; two of the items he considers buying (a werewolf mask and a u-control monster) are full of horror content, and the movie within a movie is a horror film. It’s also utterly charming to see the main character’s journey from hope to disappointment, only to have a coda illustrate how the nostalgia of a shared experience can change everything. This is a fine short, and highly recommended.

The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made (2004)

The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made (2004)
Article 5618 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-31-2018
Directed by Brandon Christopher
Featuring Carlos Larkin
Country: USA
What it is: Documentary

A countdown of the fifty worst movies ever made.

Since the lion’s share of the listed movies belong to the fantastic genres, I see fit to review this made-for-video documentary. I don’t plan to contest the choices for the fifty movies themselves; nobody but the makers are going to be completely satisfied with the choices, especially when the list is ranked, and that’s simply the nature of this kind of thing. However, with fifty movies being covered in only sixty minutes, you’re only going to get about a minute and twelve seconds dedicated on average to each movie, and that’s hardly enough time for any real insight. Granted, some movies are given longer segments (such as PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE), but that just means that other titles will have even less time (the segments for TEENAGE ZOMBIES and THE ROBOT VS THE AZTEC MUMMY are almost over before they begin). Furthermore, there’s not much information here that I’ve not already found elsewhere. Still, there is a bit of fun in the countdown format, and there are a few movies I wasn’t familiar with or haven’t seen. So, for what it is, I guess it’s okay.

The Friendly Ghost (1945)

The Friendly Ghost (1945)
aka Casper: The Friendly Ghost
Article 5613 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-27-2018
Directed by Izzy Sparber
Featuring the voices of Frank Gallop, Jack Mercer, Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Casper cartoon

Casper doesn’t want to scare people; he wants to make friends. But will people accept him even if he’s a ghost?

Oh, there’s a few laughs to be had here, usually involving the reactions of several characters to meeting a ghost. But let’s face it; some of these Casper cartoons are primarily tear-jerkers. As such, they can get pretty dark; even though we know he can’t be hurt, it is still pretty troubling to have the hero of your cartoon story attempt suicide. I remember seeing some of these as a kid, but I don’t remember how I felt about them. Nowadays I have to admit I don’t like them that much; they’re just a little too depressing, and the surrounding attempts at humor don’t sit well with me. And, of course, I’ll probably be covering a lot of them, because he is a ghost, after all.

Falling Hare (1943)

Falling Hare (1943)
Article 5605 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-21-2018
Directed by Robert Clampett
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc and Robert Clampett
Country: USA
What it is: Bugs Bunny wartime short

Bugs Bunny finds himself doing battle with a gremlin intent on destroying a military plane.

Here’s one of my favorite of Warner Brothers’ wartime Bugs Bunny cartoons. Outside of the usual cartoon fantastic content, we also get a supernatural character in the form of the destructive gremlin. Bugs is a bit out of his element here in that he’s the tormentee rather than the tormentor; it’s the gremlin that remains cool, calm, collected and in control. The gags come fast and furious, with my favorite being the reason the plane didn’t crash, though that one is followed up by one of those now obscure wartime references that you won’t get unless you know something about the era.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Article 5595 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-11-2018
Directed by Norman Jewison
Featuring Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey
Country: USA
What it is: Musical

In pre-revolutionary Russia, a Jewish milkman must contend with a changing world that challenges the traditions in which he believes.

I didn’t right away expect to be reviewing this one because I had forgotten that the movie does indeed have fantastic content; the fake nightmare that Tevye dreams up to convince his wife to change the marriage plans for their eldest daughter features corpses and ghosts risen from the dead. There’s also a somewhat more subtle touch of fantastic content here as well; the title character is an anthropomorphic metaphor rather than a real person, and he remains something of a mystical character. As for the movie itself, the story inhabits a special place in my world. Though I do some local acting, I’m not fond of musicals and don’t audition for them. There’s only one musical I would consider doing, and that’s the one this movie is based on. Why? Because for me, it’s the only musical I’ve seen that works on such a deep emotional level that it transcends the artifice of the form; the music deepens the emotional and thematic elements of the story in a way that I’ve not seen before or since. it may be a musical, but it inhabits a very real world indeed, and one that can be deeply tragic. Yet it’s Tevye’s emotional struggle to hold on to his faith while watching the traditions that define it fall apart that really make’s the movie so deeply satisfying to me. It’s hands down my favorite musical, and I’m glad the fantastic content allowed me a chance to review it here.

Fearless Harry (1926)

Fearless Harry (1926)
Article 5578 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-21-2018
Directed by Albert Herman
Featuring Earl McCarthy, Charlotte Merriam, John J. Richardson
Country: USA
What it is: Slapstick silent short

Can Hairbreadth Harry rescue Beautiful Belinda from the clutches of that villain Relentless Rudolph?

This was apparently the first of 11 shorts based on a comic strip that appeared to be a parody of the mellerdrammer genre – dashing hero, beautiful girl, slimy villain. Oddly enough, the fantastic content here isn’t the secret formula the villain is after, largely because the movie doesn’t specify in any way what the secret formula is for. Instead, the fantastic content is that the villain brings the girl to his hideout, a horror house, and the hero has to contend with things like a living mummy and live skeletons. For a fleeting second, I thought the black manservant was going to be spared having to act out the usual stereotypes of the era, but that changes once he encounters the skeleton. As for the rest of the movie, the villain yells “Curses!” a lot, and is easily funnier than the bland hero. I’d have to say that as far as silent shorts go, this is about average; I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse.

The Fury of Achilles (1962)

The Fury of Achilles (1962)
aka L’ira di Achille
Article 5568 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-25-2018
Directed by Marino Girolami
Featuring Gordon Mitchell, Jacques Bergerac, Cristina Galoni
Country: Italy
What it is: Sword and Sandal poem adaptation

During the Trojan war, Achilles becomes enraged with Agamemnon and refuses to take part in battle, thus turning the tide of the war against the Greeks. Can Achilles be swayed to return to the fight?

Given the number of sword and sandal movies I’ve already seen, and given the lack of plot variety in the form, I’m almost surprised that I was able to notice right off the bat that I hadn’t seen and reviewed this one. But then, I would have remembered one based on Homer’s great epic poem, “The Iliad”, which I have read. Still, I’m not surprised that this movie isn’t listed in many fantastic movie guides; since the Iliad is based on a war that is now believed to have actually occurred, it was thought of as a historical film rather than a fantasy. However, there are fantastic touches here (and in the poem); the ancient gods are active in the story, and Achilles himself, though he doesn’t have supernatural strength, does have supernatural invulnerability, and that detail does play a role in the plot. One thing I liked about “The Iliad” is that it does not attempt to tell the whole story of the war, but just a dramatically united section of it; it’s the story of the events that lead to Achilles’ estrangement from and subsequent return to the Trojan war; the poem ends when the Achilles story arc is completed. To its credit, the movie follows suit, and roughly follows the story of the poem, though it does spend a lot more time on romantic subplots absent from the poem and takes about half of its running time just to get to the beginning of the poem. It’s certainly one of the more ambitious sword and sandal movies out there, but I’m not sure it really manages to rise too far above the general quality of that form. Gordon Mitchell does a decent job in the title role, and some of the fight sequences are pretty good. It is definitely on the long side, though.

Filibus (1915)

Filibus (1915)
Article 5552 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-10-2018
Directed by Mario Roncoroni
Featuring Mario Mariani, Cristina Ruspoli, Giovanni Spano
Country: Italy
What it is: Supervillainess vs. detective

Supercriminal Filibus sets up a trap for the detective who is trying to discover her identity by which he himself will be mistaken for her

Here’s an Italian take on the French supervillain genre pioneered by Louis Feuillade; this is like a long episode of Feuillade’s FANTOMAS serial. In fact, it looks like it was intended to be the first in a series; the ending of this one seems to promise more Filibus adventures, though as far as I can tell, this is the only one made. Filibus has some sci-fi gadgetry to help her; she works out of an airship, uses a sleep spray, and has a technique to use other people’s fingerprints in her crimes. There is also a miniature camera that may be a little advanced for its time. It’s entertaining if a little far-fetched; it’s hard to believe that the villain can sneak up on people by being lowered in a big canister from an airship so high it can’t be seen. It also has the novelty in that the primary villain is a woman rather than a man.

The Furies (1934)

The Furies (1934)
Article 5524 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-26-2017
Directed by Slavko Vorkapich
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Experimental music video

Avenging angels arise out of the blood of a murdered man.

For the record, in Greek mythology, the furies were avenging spirits who set upon Orestes after he murdered his mother (Clytemnestra) as vengeance for the murder of his father (Agamemnon). What exactly they’re up to in this short I’m not sure; they seem to be breaking the windows of people making out in skyscrapers. Still, the fact that this doesn’t quite make sense to me doesn’t detract from the fact that this short is visually impressive and stirring; it’s fascinating to watch the title characters fly over this urban landscape. It runs less than three minutes, and even feels a bit incomplete, but I quite liked what I saw.

Fifty Million Years Ago (1925)

Fifty Million Years Ago (1925)
Article 5518 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-7-2017
Director unknown
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Short animated science documentary

A summary is made of the history of earth before the rise of man.

This is more science fact than science fiction, but fans of the fantastic may find it interesting anyway because of the inclusion of stop-motion footage of dinosaurs. However, it is best to keep one’s expectations in check here; the stop-motion footage is very low on what we would call “action”, and many of the dinosaurs do little more than move their head and neck. Granted, with a running time of eight minutes and with footage dedicated to other subjects (such as the creation of the planet), there really isn’t time for much more. And there is a certain fun ambiance to this short to compensate. Still, this one is largely for stop-motion dinosaur completists.