The Iron Giant (1999)

The Iron Giant (1999)
Article 5703 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-11-2019
Directed by Brad Bird
Featuring the voices of Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston
Country: USA
What it is: A Boy and His Robot

A young boy encounters an amnesiac giant robot from outer space and befriends him, but a government agent seeks to have the robot destroyed.

I remember seeing the ads for this movie when it was out in the theaters, and sadly, they did little to pique my interest in the movie. The movie subsequently bombed at the box office. It wasn’t until it was offered at the Creepy Classics website that I became interested in the movie; the listing claimed the movie had copious references to science fiction movies from the fifties, and so I thought I’d pick up a copy and give it a watch. When I finally saw it, it wasn’t the fifties references that held my attention; it was the movie itself, which was one of the best and most moving animated films I’d seen, and I feel sad that I never caught it in the theater.

Nowadays the movie is considered the classic it is, and I still find myself getting totally caught up in it when I watch it. It’s both hilarious and moving, the characters are a fun and fascinating bunch, and Brad Bird’s direction is marvelous. Plus there are lots of touches of fifties culture in the movie; there’s a “duck and cover” animated movie being watched in schools, a Maypo commercial, and the owner of the junkyard is a beatnik. The only problem I have with the movie is that the villainy of the government agent is too broad; he’s not quite as convincing as the other characters. Still, that’s a minor quibble, and I have an enduring love for this movie, My highest recommendation.

The Invisible Man (1984)

The Invisible Man (1984)
TV Miniseries
Article 5702 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-10-2019
Directed by Brian Lighthill
Featuring Pip Donaghy, David Gwillim, Lila Kaye
Country: UK
What it is: Faithful Wells adaptation

A mysterious stranger arrives at a country inn and stays to perform mysterious experiments. It turns out he is a scientist who has turned himself invisible.

No, this TV miniseries of the H.G. Wells novel is not up to the classic Universal version from 1933, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. It’s a solid and faithful take on the tale, and even if there aren’t any big names in the cast, it is adequately acted and directed; the most familiar names in the credits were Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts, both veterans of DOCTOR WHO. It was originally shown in 6 30-minute segments, but was edited into 3 60 minute segments when sold abroad; it is that version I’ve watched. Though it’s certainly made with a small budget, it does have a few interesting moments in the special effects, especially of the invisible man eating. It’s a bit long for one sitting, but that’s what you’d expect from a mini-series.

The Incredibles (2004)

The Incredibles (2004)
Article 5697 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-27-2019
Directed by Brad Bird
Featuring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson. Holly Hunter
Country: USA
What it is: Animated superhero action

When superheroes fall out of favor, a family of them goes incognito and tries to live an ordinary life. However, a supervillain is out to destroy all of the superheroes for his own profit, and they must do battle with him.

I’m not particularly keen on superheroes, but I saw this one in a theater when it first came out on the strength of Pixar’s reputation and my admiration for Brad Bird’s THE IRON GIANT. It was well worth the effort; I can confidently say that of the superhero movies I’ve seen, I like this one the best. In fact, it made me realize that I’d rather see well-made movies featuring new and original superheroes rather than the well-worn Marvel and D.C. ones that dominate the movies. I love the way the family life / family problems motif dovetails with the superhero sections, and I really like the characters, especially the Edith Head-inspired superhero costumer Edna Mode (voiced by Brad Bird himself). And, like THE IRON GIANT, Brad Bird can’t resist throwing in a few fifties SF movie references; the underground traveling machine near the end of the movie looks very familiar, and I love the clever reference involving Syndrome’s computer password.

L’insaisissable pickpocket (1908)

L’insaisissable pickpocket (1908)
Article 5653 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-19-2019
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Comic special effects short

Cops chase a pickpocket who also manages to be a snazzy dresser as well as an accomplished magician.

The plot is simple as pie; it’s a series of gags in which police are constantly thwarted by the pickpocket’s magic transformations. Though the special effects are good, it’s the breezy and confident humor that really sells this; the pickpocket is played with such cocky confidence that he becomes a fun character. A lot happens in the short’s four-minute running time, but, except for a few moments where it looks like a bit of footage is missing, it’s easy to follow. My favorite moment has the police thinking they’ve got the pickpocket trapped in a barrel.

The Invincible Masked Rider (1963)

The Invincible Masked Rider (1963)
aka L’invincible cavaliere mascherato
Article 5590 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-2-2018
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Pierre Brice, Daniele Vargas, Helene Chanel
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Buckled swashes

A corrupt lord in Spain hatches a scheme to get a rival’s fortune by killing him and forcing the rival’s daughter to marry his own son. However, a heroic masked rider stands in his way…

Despite the constant references to “Robin Hood” in the movie, the obvious model for this one is Zorro; our hero even has a signature sign he carves on his foes. This being the case, I was expecting that this title would turn out to be one of those false alarms; the Zorro story (as well as the Robin Hood story) really doesn’t have much in the way of fantastic content, and I was expecting that someone would mistakenly classify it as such due to the world “invincible” in the title. However, there are some touches to this movie that increase the fantastic content a bit; in one scene, the hero seems to disappear, reappear and teleport, and though that may be the imagination of the man he’s fighting, it nonetheless gives a supernatural twinge to the action. Furthermore, the hero is dressed head to toe in black, and in the fight scenes it almost looks like his opponents are fighting a shadow. Yet for me, the most striking element of the movie is that, if my imagination hasn’t gotten the best of me, it might be a strange adaptation of Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”; consider the otherwise odd subplot involving the plague and the fact that it ends with a costume ball. This brings up the question as to whether the hero is, in fact, an ordinary human; when he refers to his homeland as his place where your troubles will go away, I find myself wondering if this place exists on Earth. Granted, this may all be my imagination going wild, but I will say this much; these touches of the fantastic are far more interesting than the humdrum story.

The Iron Super Man (1974)

The Iron Super Man (1974)
aka Tie chao ren
Article 5579 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-24-2018
Directed by Ting Hung Kuo, Koichi Takano
Featuring Lin Lin Li, Paul Chun, Stephan Yip
Country: Japan / Hong Kong
What it is: Pretty goofy

A crack team of fighters takes on a fleet of giant killer robots that have been terrorizing the Bermuda Triangle.

So what is this freaky little movie with a title that conjures images of two different superheroes that I found on Amazon Prime? Why, it’s the perfect companion piece to INFRAMAN. Sure, it falls short of the same level of accelerated goofiness of that movie, but in its own way, it comes pretty close. We have lots of giant robot action, a villain with the most elaborate hair style in history, and a sidekick who comes to the rescue in a bicycle-driven balloon. It’s cobbled together from episodes of a TV series, and it looks it. Yes, it’s stupid, but it’s the kind of stupid I’m a bit of a sucker for.

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Isle of Dogs (2018)
Article 5539 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-9-2018
Directed by Wes Anderson
Featuring the voices of Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton
Country: USA / Germany
What it is: Boy and his dog story… among other things.

Twenty years in the future, the city of Megasaki banishes its entire dog population to an island used for trash, ostensibly to prevent a canine plague from passing on to humans. However, a young boy arrives on the island, intent on finding his dog, and a pack of dogs helps him on his quest.

I’m glad to be covering a Wes Anderson film here, as he’s one of my favorite directors; I haven’t covered him so far because for a long time my series didn’t cover recent movies. His previous animated film, FANTASTIC MR. FOX, worked as both a good example of his oeuvre and as a children’s movie. This one is decidedly more adult, which means that its probably destined to remain in the art house circuit. Still, I found it a fascinating and thrilling film, so visually rich that I suspect it might take several viewings to catch all the details hidden around the edges. It’s both science fiction (futuristic setting, technology, robot dogs) and fantasy (talking dogs), and it could possibly be described as a political satire (and, given its theme of political scapegoating, a very relevant one) masquerading as a weird variant of the “boy and his dog” story. Many of the scenes are signature Anderson, and the movie is infused with a great deal of Japanese culture. Despite the fact that a good number of name actors provide the voices for the characters, this never becomes a distraction where you keep noticing the voices; the focus remains squarely on the characters. If I had to pick my favorite touch in the movie, it’s that the scenes that take place on the various television screens in the movie are done in a different style of animation as the main movie. If you’re not a Wes Anderson fan, I doubt this one will convert you, but for me, it was a real treat.

Invaders from Space (1965)

Invaders from Space (1965)
Date: 1-28-2018
Directed by Koreyoshi Akasaka, Teruo Ishii and Akira Mitsuwa
Featuring Ken Utsui, Minako Yamada, Junko Ikeuchi
Country: Japan / USA
What it is: Japanese superhero mayhem

The great superhero from space Starman (aka The Padded One) takes on a nasty group of salamander aliens.

I’ve already covered the other three Starman movies edited out of a series of shorts for American consumption, but most of my sources seem to omit this one for some reason. That’s a bit of a shame, as this one is the most entertaining of the batch. Not that it’s the most thrilling and exciting, mind you; it’s that it’s the most hilarious one of the bunch. What does it say about the salamander aliens that they have two forms (a salamander form and a human disguise form) in which the human disguise form requires that they wear face masks to hide the fact that they don’t look human at all? Or that there modus operandi requires that they infiltrate the earth as an avant-garde dance troupe? The salamander aliens also have the ability to make beakers float in the air and to run footage backwards, so you know they’re a real threat. Starman does his usual athletic battle routine with the aliens, and you’ll probably figure out how it will all turn out; still, there’s plenty of surreal laughs in this one.

L’igiene di Tombolino (1932)

L’igiene di Tombolino (1932)
aka Tombolino’s Hygiene
Article 5511 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-3-2017
Directed by Luigi Pensuti
No cast
Country: Italy
What it is: Cautionary public service animation

On a trip to the zoo, Tombolino encounters a doctor whose magnifying glass shows germs underneath his fingernails. Running to get away from the doctor, Tombolino trips and injures his knee, and then touches the wound with his unclean fingers. And then…

I remember once having had a nightmarish children’s book in which misbehaving children would have horrible things happen to them tied to their misbehavior; the one that sticks most in the memory for me was a thumb-sucking boy who had his thumbs cut off by a skinny fiend with a giant pair of scissors. I got roughly the same impression from this Italian animated short, in which a boy dreams he is dragged to hell by devils who release bacteria that enter his wounded knee, and the final scene involving the doctor is certainly ominous if you consider what instruments he’s pulling out of his doctor’s bag. There’s no listing on IMDB for this one, which I suspect may have been a public service film, as the end of the movie shows the boy giving his hands a thorough scrubbing. The print I saw had Italian subtitles which I can’t say I totally understood, but the story isn’t really that difficult to follow. This one was rather interesting.

Inspirace (1949)

Inspirace (1949)
Article 5479 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-11-2017
Directed by Karel Zeman
Featuring Karel Zeman
Country: Czechoslovakia
What it is: Inspiration in miniature

A maker of glass figurines tries to find inspiration on a rainy day, and dreams of a world inside a drop of water on a leaf.

I’ve long been a fan of the work of fantasist Karel Zeman, but until now, I’ve not delved into any of his early shorts; I thank the friend who pointed me in the direction of this one. It’s a beautifully rendered short, the central scene of which involves a world existing inside a drop of water on a leaf, and a dandelion seed invades the drop, turns into a clown and becomes enamored with a dancing ice skater. This sequence is done in stop motion animation, and if an eleven-minute short can be described as an epic fantasy, this is one, albeit one that is fragile. The short is bookended by some live-action footage of the artist at work, who we only see through the glass of a rain-spattered window. There are also sequences that are reminiscent of the experimental abstract shorts I’ve been known to cover. It’s quite breathtaking, and very unlike the other work I’ve seen from Zeman, but I’m not really surprised; he mastered so many types of special effects that I’d almost expect him to show excellence in a form like this one. This one is highly recommended.