Film Exercise # 4 (1944)

FILM EXERCISE # 4 (1944)
aka Fourth Film
Article 5270 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-13-2016
Directed by John Whitney Sr. and James Whitney
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Experimental film

Shapes move around while sound effects play.

During the mid-forties, John Whitney Sr. and his son, James Whitney made five film exercises numbered one through five. For some reason, IMDB sees fit to list these five movies as only three; the second and third movies are combined, as are the fourth and fifth. I don’t know if this reflects how they were first shown; all I know is that though I could find the fourth movie, I’ve not been able to locate the fifth. However, since the Walt Lee guide only specifies the fourth, that’s all I need for my review.

Once again, the fantastic content is the non-realistic nature of a movie featuring abstract images, though the sound effects on the soundtrack do sound like ones you’d expect from science fiction movies of the fifties. However, watching abstract images move around to sound effects isn’t really all that exciting, and though the film runs close to seven minutes, it simply doesn’t do enough with the idea to hold the attention for that length. In short, this one is rather dull. I’ll probably be watching other movies from these film-makers, but I hope they’re more engaging. And, given that the title of one of their movies is CELERY STALKS AT MIDNIGHT, I assume that somewhere in their hearts lies a sense of humor.

Fleur de Fougere (1949)

aka Flower of the Fern
Article 5216 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-28-2016
Directed by Wladyslaw Starewicz
Voice cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Animated fairy tale

A young boy seeks a flower in an enchanted forest that will grant him his greatest wish; to meet Cinderella.

Since the copy I found of this one was in French without English subtitles, I had a little trouble following the story until I read a plot summary afterwards. However, it doesn’t really matter; all you really need to know is that it is the work of Wladyslaw Starewicz, who, with every work I see of his, seems destined to be in my opinion the single finest animator who ever lived. He still dabbles in the insects that were his initial subjects for animation, but in this one, there are all manners of creatures, as well as humans. We see trees coming to life and chasing the main character, mushrooms and pine cones sprouting faces and singing, various animals interacting at a banquet… quite frankly, I’m amazed at his creativity. He has a way of transporting you to other worlds which in some ways seem as real as our own. This is a lovely film.

Faust and Mephistopheles (1903)

aka Faust et Mephistopheles
Article 5210 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-21-2016
Directed by Alice Guy
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Two minutes of the story

Faust makes a deal with the devil that ends up doing little more than tormenting him. Can a woman with a cross save him?

Alice Guy didn’t try to emulate George Melies all that often, which is understandable, because she really didn’t seem to capture the sense of fun that Melies had with his work. She does, however, try to tell a variation of the Faust story… or as much of a variation as she can manage in a two-minute running time. It mostly consists of the signing of the pact, people being turned into other people and a sudden happy ending. It’s cute and moves fast, but it’s not really all that enjoyable and the story doesn’t amount to much. There’s no dancing ladies… but no tumbling imps, either.

I fantastici 3 $upermen (1967)

aka The Three Fantastic Supermen
Article 5186 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-19-2016
Directed by Gianfranco Parolini
Featuring Tony Kendall, Brad Harris, Aldo Canti
Country: Yugoslavia / Italy / West Germany / France
What it is: Superhero shenanigans

An FBI agent teams with two old friends who have become supercrooks to form a crimefighting team known as the Three Fantastic Supermen. They take on counterfeiting plot that is also able to create counterfeit people.

My copy of this movie is in Italian without subtitles… and you know, I didn’t really care. It became obvious to me early on that the appeal of the movie wasn’t going to be the plot subtleties (and the general gist of the plot is pretty easy to follow), but in catching the looney energy of the athletic action sequences. As a whole, it comes across as something of a cross between the “Batman” TV series of the sixties and a James Bond movie with an emphasis on comedy. The stuntwork was actually pretty impressive, and it did keep me grinning throughout. The three supermen are bulletproof in their costumes, and their weapon of choice seems to be a metal ball on a string. I really enjoyed this one, though from some of the reviews on IMDB, I gather there is an English dubbed version out there, and I suspect it detracts from the fun.

45 Minutes from Hollywood (1926)

Article 5116 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-24-2016
Directed by Fred Guiol
Featuring Glenn Tryon, Charlotte Mineau, Jack Rube Clifford
Country: USA
What it is: Slapstick comedy

A young man goes to Hollywood to pay off a mortgage, but he is robbed when he ends up running into a bank robber dressed as a woman.

Let’s get the fantastic content out of the way first. After having seen this short, I had to go back to the Don Willis book to see what the fantastic content was supposed to have been, and it was supposed to have featured dinosaurs at some point. If it does, it’s in a sequence that is missing from the print I saw. The only point where I think it might have occurred is during a tour of Hollywood in which we see footage of some famous Hollywood personalities, such as Theda Bara and the Our Gang kids. If my print is complete, than this is a false alarm.

As for the short itself, it’s probably most famous as an early pairing of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, though not as a team. Stan Laurel plays a starving actor who bears an uncanny resemblance to James Finlayson, while Hardy plays a hotel detective. As far as I can tell, they don’t appear in any scenes together. Most of the comic antics involve Glenn Tryon, and they’re not particularly good; Ollie gives the most memorable performance here, and it’s a supporting role. I have to admit to having been disappointed with this one, but I went into it expecting a typical pairing of Laurel and Hardy, and that’s not what I got.

NOTE I have since discovered that my print was indeed missing footage. However, the dinosaur is so fleeting and distant, you’ll be lucky if you find it.

The Fatal Hour (1940)

Article 5115 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-23-2016
Directed by William Nigh
Featuring Boris Karloff, Marjorie Reynolds, Grant Withers
Country: USA
What it is: Mystery

Mr. Wong helps Captain Street investigate the murder of a fellow cop who was investigating a smuggling racket.

I have a copy of this movie in a fifty-movie megapack from Treeline called “Horror Classics”, but it doesn’t belong; it’s clearly a mystery, and never even nudges into horror. It does nudge into science fiction, however; one of the murders involves a “radio remote”, which can work from 200 feet away from the radio, and I suspect this was beyond the technology of the time. The use of this gimmick is certainly the most novel thing about this movie; the rest of it is a poorly written compendium of cliches and sometimes embarrassingly bad dialogue. Karloff does what he can with what he is given to work with, but far too much time is spent on the byplay between Grant Withers’ cranky cop and the intrusive female reporter played by Marjorie Reynolds. I’ve only seen one other movie in the Mr. Wong series for these reviews, and that one was superior to this one.

The Force Beyond (1978)

Article 5099 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-5-2016
Directed by William Sachs
Featuring Orson Welles, Donn Davison, Rosko
Country: USA
What it is: UFO documentary

Evidence is presented for the existence of UFOs.

Here’s another documentary about UFOs, and for good measure, it has some segments on Bigfoot, the attempts to use psychics to find out about the lost continent of Atlantis, and the Bermuda Triangle; only the latter really connects in any real way to the main thrust of the movie. Movies like this were a dime a dozen in the seventies, and most of them were shot in the same dreary way. I’ve seen more of them than I care to mention, but I have to credit director William Sachs for his handling of this one; he actually seems to be going out of his way to make the presentation interesting. This includes such clever touches as incorporating newsreel footage into the movie (Orson Welles appears in this movie only in footage making a quote concerning the “War of the Worlds” scare), arty presentation tricks (such as showing a car driving to a UFO conference while overlapping talks from the conference play over the soundtrack), and keeping the interviews quick and to the point; once one is finished he quickly switches to the next sequence. Is it convincing? Not particularly; in fact, in some of the vaunted footage I can’t see any of the UFOs that are supposed to be in them. Nor does its tendency to jump back and forth between scenes help with the movie’s coherence. It is, however, one of the more creatively mounted UFO documentaries I’ve encountered, and to my mind, that makes it one of the better ones.

The Fourth Man (1983)

aka De vierde man
Article 5078 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-12-2016
Directed by Paul Vehoeven
Featuring Jeroen Krabbe, Renee Soutendijk, Thom Hoffman
Country: Netherlands
What it is: Ambiguous thriller

A bisexual Catholic writer who is a recovering alcoholic is having nightmarish visions of doom and death. He ends up having an affair with a woman who may have a skeleton in her closet…or possibly, even more than one…

Every plot description I’ve seen of this one gives away a revelation that does not reveal itself until fairly late in the plot, so I won’t give it away here. However, since I was aware of it, I was able to figure out the meaning of some of the strange and disturbing visions during the first third of the movie; however, there are still some surprises to be had. I went into this one not really knowing what to expect or whether I’d like it, but the first third of the movie is so stylishly unsettling that I was drawn in. The movie ended up being also a lot more ambiguous than I thought it would be; in the end, I’m not sure how much is true and how much is the result of the overactive imagination of the writer, and interestingly enough, that last facet of the story makes it dovetail in an odd way with the movie I saw yesterday, THE FANTASTIC WORLD OF D.C. COLLINS, in which a child’s imagination causes him to fall out of reality occasionally. As for the fantastic content, it doesn’t matter that much if the presence of a serial killer and/or a witch is ambiguous or not; the writer’s visions are clearly prophetic and possibly mystical. Ultimately, I found this a fascinating and complex movie, and I really enjoyed it.

The Fantastic World of D.C. Collins (1984)

Article 5077 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-10-2016
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
Featuring Gary Coleman, Bernie Casey, Shelley Smith
Country: USA
What it is: Walter Mitty, Gary Coleman TV-Movie style

A young boy with an overactive imagination becomes the target of spies when he unknowingly comes into possession of a secret cartridge, but given his imagination, no one believes him…

What we have here is THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY tailored to the talents of popular child actor Gary Coleman, who become something of a phenomenon when he appeared on the TV series “Diff’rent Strokes”. He was sixteen at the time he made this, but, due to a medical condition that stunted his growth, he looks much younger. He was a skilled comic actor, and if this TV-Movie works at all, it is because of his talent and appeal. Unfortunately, the script really doesn’t give him much help; it’s obvious, it’s not particularly funny, and the fantasy sequences (which reference STAR WARS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, James Bond, Superman, the TV series MAS*H and others) are pretty tepid. My guess is that how much you like this will depend on your fondness for Coleman; it’s pretty much his vehicle.

Fairy Tales (1978)

Article 5076 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-10-2016
Directed by Harry Hurwitz
Featuring Don Sparks, Sy Richardson, Irwin Corey
Country: USA
What it is: Fantasy musical comedy nudie

The prince has reached the age of 21, but he must prove he can sire an heir or lose his kingdom. Unfortunately, the only woman who excites him is a princess who has been missing for years.

I knew going into this that it was a nudity-filmed comedy on fairy tale themes; it was only after I started watching the movie that I found it was a musical, too. However, that last discovery is neither here nor there as far as the very low expectations with which I went into this one. And… it didn’t even live up to those. Even for this type of genre, this is a dim-witted and dismal affair; about the only element I found the least bit clever in this one was the fact that one of the musical numbers is made to sound like the Andrews Sisters. There’s a few interesting names and faces in the cast, though. Sy Richardson, Linnea Quigley and Angelo Rossitto all make appearances. The most jarring and unexpected appearance, though, is from Motown artist Martha Reeves, who had no idea what type of movie this was, and I couldn’t help but notice that her only scene (she rises from a witch’s cauldron to sing a song) has no nudity, and she only shares the frame with two other members of the cast; she only discovered the truth when she brought some members of her church to see it (according to IMDB). There’s lots of nudity, though there’s very little sex for this type of thing, which is why I’m more inclined to classify this one as a late-period nudie.