La guerra ed il sogno di Momi (1917)

aka War and Momi’s Dream
Article 5369 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-11-2017
Directed by Segundo de Chomon and Giovanni Pastrone
Featuring Guido Petrungaro, Alberto Nepoti, Valentina Frascaroli
Country: Italy
What it is: War, human and puppet styles

After hearing a war story, a young boy who likes playing with his toy soldiers Trik and Trak falls asleep and dreams that his toys gather armies and go to war.

This is the last directorial effort of the great Segundo de Chomon, and I must admit that he went out with an ambitious effort. The movie is in two parts. The first features a live-action war story about a young boy who tries to save his mother from enemy soldiers; I’m assuming this half of the movie is the work of co-director Pastrone. The second half is the dream sequence with the stop-motion puppets, and though moments of this sequence seem inspired by events in the earlier story, it goes off in a different and fairly elaborate direction. On top of the toys coming to life, this sequence also has a super-cannon to add to the fantastic content, as well as a sequence where one of the toys escapes a trap by taking himself apart piece by piece and then reassembling himself. The most impressive sequence has a town being destroyed by an invasion from the air; there’s some very nice miniature work here. It’s an interesting short, but I’m not quite sure if there’s any point to the work as a whole; the first half concentrates on action and thrills, while the second half jumps back and forth between being comic and serious. Perhaps the answer lies in the title cards, but my copy is in Italian without an English translation. However, I really suspect that the title cards aren’t really necessary; it’s possible to appreciate the spectacle without them.

Goona-Goona (1932)

aka Kriss
Article 5296 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-12-2016
Directed by Armand Denis and Andre Roosevelt
Featuring natives of Bali
Country: France / USA
What it is: Half documentary / half melodrama

A Balinese prince returns to Bali from Europe to marry the daughter of a raja, but he desires a girl who works in the market who is married to a local worker. However, the local sorcerer has a love potion…

One could argue that this movie wanders away from the plot too often, but that would be missing the point that the movie seems primarily to be a documentary of sorts on the daily life of the natives of Bali. As such, it’s certainly more interesting for its snapshots of Balinese life; I’m especially taken with the native masks worn during a ceremony to drive evil spirits away before a marriage. The main title refers to the love potion that provides the movie’s fantastic content; the alternate title stands for a special type of knife handed down as an heirloom that plays into the story. This movie was distributed on a states right basis, most likely due to the extensive topless nudity in the movie; Balinese women only wear tops during ceremonial occasions. Due to the way it was distributed, lengths of prints of this movie range from 42 to 70 minutes long; for reference purposes, the print I saw ran 65 minutes. The story itself isn’t particularly novel, but it has its uses as a cinematic snapshot of an island culture.

Ginevra degli almieri (1936)

Article 5294 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-10-2016
Directed by Guido Brignone
Featuring Elsa Merlini, Amedeo Nazzari, Uberto Palmerini
Country: Italy
What it is: Historical drama

Two lovers discover the course of true love does not run smooth.

The copy I found of this was in Italian without English subtitles. It’s quite talky, so I can’t say that I was able to follow it very well. From the opening scenes, I would have guessed this was a musical comedy, but IMDB classifies it as a history and a drama, so I wonder if it was based on a true story. At any rate, I’m covering it because it contains plot elements of the “premature burial” sort and features a character being mistaken for a ghost. Though these plot elements alone might make it only marginally fantastic, I will say the sequence where two men break into a crypt during a rainy night and see a woman they believed dead starting to move does have some real authentic horror atmosphere. These sequences are quite effective; the rest of the movie I can’t evaluate because of its heavy reliance on dialogue. This movie also seems somewhat obscure; it’s one of the rare movies I’ve covered that has no votes on IMDB.

Gertie the Dinosaur (1915)

Article 5272 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-15-2016
Directed by John Randolph Bray
Featuring John Randolph Bray
Country: USA
What it is: Dinosaur antics

Gertie the Dinosaur… but not THAT Gertie the Dinosaur… has adventures in prehistoric times.

Winsor McCay’s GERTIE THE DINOSAUR must have been a sensation in its day to inspire an imitation like this. Apparently, during the seventies, Blackhawk Films distributed this one on 16mm as the McCay original, and truth to tell, if you’d never seen that one, it would be an easy mistake to make. Furthermore, much of this Gertie’s action is very similar to to that in the McCay film. What this film lacks is the sense that Gertie is a real character; Bray may bring his creation to life, but it isn’t imbued with the same sense of personality that comes shining through in McCay’s version. That being said, it’s animated well enough, and entertaining in its own right. It does lack the subtitles of the McCay version as well as the surrounding non-animated footage about the making of the film; I suspect, like the original, it was meant to be shown with a narrator.

Gentleman Jekyll and Driver Hyde (1950)

Article 5271 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-14-2016
Directed by David Bairstow
Cast unknown
Country: Canada
What it is: Public service short

Two working stiffs discuss the problems they have with bad drivers and tell the story of a truly noble gentleman… who turns into a demon when he gets behind the wheel of a car.

This is a rather entertaining public service short by the National Film Board of Canada. It’s narrated by a couple of likable character actors, and the fantastic content consists of taking the title literally; the driver magically transforms into an ugly monster when he gets behind the wheel of his car. There’s also one other transformation, but that makes for the climax of the short, and I’ll leave that as a surprise. The short is obviously intended to address the problem of reckless and inconsiderate driving, but it does it in a quite entertaining fashion. It’s not a bad little short for what it is.

Ghost Ship, Part Two (1957)

aka Yureisen: Kohen
Article 5263 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-5-2016
Directed by Sadatsugu Matsuda
Featuring Ryutaro Aoyagi, Iwao Daimaru, Kensaku Hara
Country: Japan
What it is: Japanese swashbuckler

When the princess is kidnapped by pirates, an expedition sets out to rescue her and to solve the mystery of the ghost ship.

I was wondering if there would be more about the ghost ship in the second movie of the series, and sure enough, there is; in fact, the movie opens with a spooky scene in which several people board the ghost ship, and the son soon finds himself stranded aboard it, until… well, let’s just say that this scene turns out not to be on the same level of reality as the rest of the movie. This half is somewhat more successful than the first half; in fact, it abandons the whole warlord/Kyoto story and concentrates on sea-faring adventure, and the plot rolls along a little more comfortably as such. This one feels somewhat Vernian in its telling, and is more consistently entertaining. In fact, the two movies could be watched and enjoyed as distinct movies rather than as a single story. And, if the above phrase about “solving the mystery of the ghost ship” implies that the fantastic content is somewhat compromised… well, I can’t really say I was all that surprised. Still, I found this one satisfying.

Ghost Ship Part 1 (1957)

aka Yureisen: Zempen
Article 5262 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-4-2016
Directed by Sadatsugu Matsuda
Featuring Yaoei Yakichi, Hideo Azuma, Tokumaro Dan
Country: Japan
What it is: Samurai drama

A young man goes to a war-torn Kyoto to live with his merchant uncle and become a Samurai, but gets caught up in a class conflict between rebels and a warlord. Disliking his uncle’s role in the conflict, he decides to join with the rebels.

As you might expect, this movie only tells part of a story, but not to worry; I also have part two and will be seeing that one tomorrow. Despite the ghostly title, the movie is primarily a drama, and I’m not surprised to find that it was based on a novel; it has that air about it. There is a ghost ship in the story believed to be helmed by the dead father of the protagonist, but exactly what role it plays in the proceedings is still a mystery; its presence isn’t acknowledged until near the end of this half. There’s also a touch of fantastic content at another point where a deserted mansion is believed to be haunted by demons. On it’s own terms, the movie seems to be merely okay; it’s one of those movies that looks as if it doesn’t quite have the budget to live up to its ambitions, and up to this point, it’s only mildly interesting. Then again, since this is only the first half of the story, I may have to wait to see the second half before I can give it a full evaluation. More to come.

Gypsy Life (1945)

aka Mighty Mouse in Gypsy Life
Article 5261 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-3-2016
Directed by Connie Rasinski
Featuring the voices of Betty Jaynes and Tom Morrison
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon

A band of gypsy mice is attacked by a flock of vampire cats. Can Mighty Mouse save the day?

It’s Mighty Mouse in operetta mode here, though not in serial parody mode; in fact, this cartoon takes things more or less seriously and never goes for a laugh. It’s actually pretty well animated, and it looks like a bit of extra work went into this one. It seems mostly geared to those who get into the operetta-style music, and since I’m fairly immune to that, I have to admit I found this one rather predictable and dull, with the most interesting moment being when I discovered that the inevitable villain cats were portrayed as bats. This is not one of my favorites from the Mighty Mouse library.

Goldtown Ghost Riders (1953)

Article 5243 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-5-2016
Directed by George Archainbaud
Featuring Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis
Country: USA
What it is: Weird Western

Gene Autry arrests a man for murder who claims that he can’t be convicted for his victim’s death because he’s already served his sentence for killing the man. The whole story is then told in flashback.

Though you can’t really tell it from the plot description, there is a fantastic element to the story; one of the plot details involves a gang of ghost riders who emerge from Ghost Canyon to frighten prospectors away from their claims. However, I must admit that this element of the story is pretty disappointing; when they appear, they look very much like ordinary cowboys, and the only proof we have that they’re ghost riders is because Smiley Burnette says they are, and that means that the fantastic content of this movie has been left in the hands of the comic relief. Furthermore, the whole “ghost rider” part of the story is a pretty clumsy plot contrivance that does little more than lend an element of confusion to the story. Gene Autry does a fine job and sings a couple of songs, but I have to admit that I’m not a Smiley Burnette fan, and this movie just features way too much of him for my taste. The movie also tries to have it both ways as far as the fantastic content goes, but if the ending was supposed to send a shiver up my spine, it didn’t work. This is not a favorite of mine from this subgenre.

The Golden Touch (1935)

Article 5227 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-13-2016
Directed by Walt Disney
Featuring the voice of Billy Bletcher
Country: USA
What it is: Disney Silly Symphony

A greedy king is given the ability to have everything he touches turn to gold by an elf, but he discovers the power is a curse.

Here’s a musical cartoon version of the famous story of King Midas, and if you’re familiar with it, there’s not a whole lot of surprises here in the plot. The opening song about gold is fun, though, and the story even has some touches of horror when he begins to see visions of death surrounding him when he discovers he is unable to eat. It’s also quite well animated; in fact, this short would be the last time that Walt Disney would hold the directorial reins himself. However, Disney himself hated the short and refused to talk about it, which is probably why it was his last one as a director. It’s a decent enough cartoon, but not one of the studio’s best.