The Glitterball (1977)

The Glitterball (1977)
Article 6067 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-10-2022
Directed by Harley Cokeliss
Featuring Ben Buckton, Keith Jayne, Ron Pember
Country: UK
What it is: The Children’s Film Foundation strikes again.

Two children have a close encounter with a tiny spherical alien that is stranded on planet earth and needs a massive amount of electrical energy to summon a mothership to rescue it. Will it get away despite interference from the military and a petty thief?

Those looking for another variation on the type of story Spielberg used for his E.T. will quickly recognize that this movie shares some definite plot elements with the later movie; there’s a definite similarity in the alien’s attempt to contact the mothership and the whole “E.T. Phone Home” plot element. Granted, this movie has none of the grandiosity of the later movie; it’s pretty slight, with a lion’s share of the plot focused on the hapless petty thief. Nonetheless, it’s watchable and harmless; it keeps the plot moving, even to the point where it starts running its end credits in the middle of the “final scene” of the movie; whatever its other flaws (such as a plethora of coincidences), the story is efficiently told. All in all, this is about average for a Chidlren’s Film Foundation movie.


Going Places (1948)

Going Places (1948)
Article 6015 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-2-2021
Directed by John Sutherland
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Propaganda designed to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.

A young boy is kept from fishing by having to help his mother make soft soap. He decides if he comes up with a more efficient way to make soap, he can find the time to fish, but instead it leads him down the road to the world of business.

It’s not the invention that puts this one in the realm of the fantastic; bar soap is hardly a novelty. Nor is there a fantastical character leading the protagonist by the nose, a prevalent type of character in the realm of file ephemera like this animated short. Rather, it’s the appearance of our old friends, the good and evil doppelgangers who try to tempt the protagonist into evil or keep him on the path of good; they pop up when the main character is tempted to join a monopoly and fix the prices. And therein lies the biggest problem here; it whitewashes the business world by presenting a rosy but not entirely accurate view of capitalism. But then, what do you expect of a short intended to encourage more people to go into business? Still, it’s an interesting and useful short in its way, though I will point out our hero never does get to go fishing.

Greedy Humpty Dumpty (1936)

Greedy Humpty Dumpty (1936)
Article 6011 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-30-2021
Directed by Dave Fleischer and Dave Tenlar
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer, Gus Wickie and Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Message cartoon

Humpty Dumpty is the greedy king of Mother Goose Land. When he grows to believe that the sun is made of gold, he enslaves the others to build a wall to reach to the sun so he can get it.

In this Fleischer cartoon, the four line nursery rhyme is transformed into a moral fable of the folly of greed and hubris, combining it somewhat with the story of the Tower of Babel. As you might expect from the Fleischers, it’s an impressive looking cartoon and there’s plenty going on; the highlight is the sequence where we see the wall being built. Of course, you know how it will end if you know the rhyme, but it certainly takes an elaborate route to get to that ending.

Ghost-Cat of the Cursed Swamp (1968)

Ghost-Cat of the Cursed Swamp (1968)
aka Kaibyo nori no numa
Article 5895 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-2-2020
Directed by Yoshihiro Ishikawa
Featuring Ryohei Uchida, Kotaro Satomi, Kyoko Mikage
Country: Japan
What it is: Ghost-cat movie

A pair of lovers find themselves in peril when the lord of the area takes a fancy to a woman. They run away to the cursed swamp…

This is perhaps the best ghost-cat movie I’ve seen to date, and there may be several reasons. One is this is one of the few that I’ve seen that actually have English subtitles, so I don’t have to guess what’s going on in the elaborate set-up that takes place before the scary stuff finally springs into action. A second reason is that this is the latest chronologically I’ve seen; those made during the fifties had this churned-out feel that this one avoids. But perhaps the biggest reason is that it has a nice, moody visual style, and it feels like a real effort was made to make this one stand out. This is a good thing, because the story itself is really pretty par for the course; it follows the basic template that I’ve found in place for almost all the ghost-cat movies I’ve seen. The one thing that is missing is the bizarre gymnastic theme; in most of the other movies, we have a scene in which the ghost-cat controls another character and makes them do gymnastic stunts; there’s no equivalent scene here. But for those looking for a solid and effective example of the genre, this is a good choice.

Gumbasia (1955)

Gumbasia (1955)
Article 5853 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-27-2020
Directed by Art Clokey
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Abstract animation

As a jazzy score plays, clay molds itself into various shapes.

I haven’t covered anything as of yet from animator Art Clokey, largely because he mostly worked in television; he was responsible for the Gumby series, as well as “Davey and Goliath”. I originally thought I wasn’t going to review this as well, as my copy of it was nestled in the middle of a set of Gumby shorts, but a quick look at it as well as a quick check on IMDB cleared up that it was not made for a TV series; it was, in fact, a student film. It’s another of those abstract animation films (such as you’d expect from Norman McLaren) where images pass by as music plays, only in this case, Clokey’s chosen medium to animate is clay. As such, it’s about average for this sort of thing. It was striking enough, though, that it won Clokey the contract to do the Gumby series. I’m not sure who performs the score; no one is credited, and if some of the notes on IMDB are correct, it was shot without the score, which was added later.

The Great Experiment (1934)

The Great Experiment (1934)
Article 5852 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-23-2020
Director unknown
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Scrappy cartoon

A mad scientist is trying to concoct a potion, and Scrappy is his unwilling test subject.

This cartoon falls roughly into two parts. In the first, a mad scientist performs experiment on Scrappy and Baby. During the second, the action shifts to the 1990s, where Scrappy and Baby experience the world of the future where everyone wears working beanie-coptors. There’s plenty of fantastic content here to go around, but it doesn’t appear that much effort really went into concocting the story. It’s a little scary, a little humorous, a little whimsical, and has a little sense of wonder, but not enough of any of these qualities to make it stand out. Chalk it up as another cartoon obscurity.

The Great Cognito (1982)

The Great Cognito (1982)
Article 5851 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-21-2020
Directed by Will Vinton
Featuring the voices of John Morrison, Tim Conner, Brian Bressler
Country: USA
What it is: Claymation comedy

An impressionist not only can imitate the voices of people from World War II, but his face can change into them as well.

What we have here is a Claymation short where an impressionist gives a rapid-fire monologue in which he imitates historical personalities from the WWII era not only with his voice, but his face transforms as well. The transformations get more bizarre and outrageous as the short progresses, even to the point where he’s imitating whole groups of people (like The Andrews Sisters) as well as inanimate objects (like battleships). It’s pretty amusing, and it reminded me a little of some silent special-effects shorts in which clay would transform itself into famous people (I remember one involving Teddy Roosevelt). Will Vinton was one of the founders of Claymation, and coined the term as well. I’ll probably be covering a few other items of his before I’m all over.

The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg (1936)

The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg (1936)
Article 5850 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-19-2020
Directed by Burt Gillett and Tom Palmer
Featuring the voice of Walter Tetley
Country: USA
What it is: Van Bueren cartoon.

Felix the Cat has the goose that laid the golden eggs, and he’s using the riches it provides to help the poor and destitute. However, Captain Kidd the pirate discovers Felix’s secret, and makes off with the goose. Can Felix recover the goose?

My favorite Felix cartoons are from the silent era, where his reality-twisting tricks were highly entertaining. I don’t quite feel the same spirit in his sound era cartoons; though Felix does use some of his old tricks for a short time in the cartoon when he’s trying to figure out how to get aboard the pirate ship, for the most part he’s no different from the other run-of-the-mill cartoon heroes of the period. Still, this is a solidly made cartoon, and there are some fun moments, especially when Felix figures out how to take the pirate’s crew out of the action.

Goo Goo Goliath (1954)

Goo Goo Goliath (1954)
Article 5849 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-19-2020
Directed by Friz Freleng
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc, Bea Benaderet, Norman Nesbitt
Country: USA
What it is: Looney Tune

An inebriated stork is tasked with the job of delivering a giant’s baby. When the baby is misdelivered, an ordinary-sized family has to cope with a giant baby.

Though the giant baby does show a certain resemblance to Elmer Fudd, this is a one-off cartoon that at least partially serves as a parody of an educational film about the care and maintenance of a baby. Though it’s not one of the studio’s better entries, it does have a few good moments; my favorite is the scene where a giant tries to change a diaper on a normal-sized baby. The fantastic content is represented by the whole “stork delivering the baby” cliche, plus the existence of giants (living at “the top of the beanstalk”. It’s an okay entry from the studio.

Good Morning, Eve! (1934)

Good Morning, Eve! (1934)
Article 5848 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-16-2020
Directed by Roy Mack
Featuring Leon Errol, June MacCloy, Vernon Dent
Country: USA
What it is: Musical comedy short

Adam and Eve take a walk through time.

Well, there’s Adam, Eve, a talking snake (such as it is), some cavemen, the Roman god Mercury, King Arthur and some time travel; at least it doesn’t stint on the fantastic content. Still, at heart it’s just basically a comedy musical short; at each period of history there’s a dance number. Given the raciness of some of the costumes, I’m guessing this is pre-code, but the color photography is truly stunning. It’s a moderately entertaining bit of fluff, but nothing more.