Jumpin’ Jupiter (1955)

Jumpin’ Jupiter (1955)
Article 5894 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-30-2020
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Looney Tune

While camping out in the desert, Porky and Sylvester are shanghaied by a flying saucer from Jupiter.

Here’s another of that series of cartoons Chuck Jones made where Sylvester played a non-speaking but easily terrified cat who was a pet to the unflappable Porky Pig, who doesn’t understand Sylvester’s warnings in the least. In the earlier cartoon they were under attack by a group of homicidal mice; in here, the threat is one of those green birds that occasionally worked for Marvin the Martian. Though it’s fun to see the science fiction touches, this one is rather disappointing, and the reason for that is that threat this time isn’t really a threat; the bird is more curious than threatening and is easily confused. Without the threat being real, the premise loses its steam, and the cartoon has the air of just going through the motions. The best moment has Porky mistaking the bird for a Navajo Indian.


Ju jin yuki otoka (1955)

Ju jin yuki otoko (1955)
aka Half Human
Article 5893 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-30-2929
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Akira Takarada, Akemi Negishi, Momoko Kochi
Country: Japan
What it is: Yeti movie

The destruction of an expedition causes a search atop Mount Fuji for a yeti.

Those who have followed this series for a long time will know I’ve already covered the American version of this movie, HALF HUMAN. However, that version of the movie is different enough from the original that IMDB lists the two films as separate entities, hence my review of both. Being familiar with the American version helped with understanding this one, despite the fact that my copy of this one is in Japanese without English subtitles. It’s a tough picture to find; because of a politically incorrect portrayal of a Japanese ethnic subgroup in the movie, it is rarely revived or discussed. Oddly enough, most of the politically incorrect footage was in the thirty minutes not included in the American version. The Japanese version feels more organic, and it explains some obscurities to be found in the American version. Despite a strong beginning, the movie gets rather dull in its midsection until the Yeti physically manifests itself. I rather like this version; it treats the Yeti as a wronged character rather than just a monster.

Journey to the Moon (1959)

Journey to the Moon (1959)
aka Rehla ilal kamar
Article 5892 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-29-2020
Directed by Hamada Abdel Wahab
Featuring Rushdi Abazah, Souad Tharwat, Edmond Tulma
Country: Egypt
What it is: Science fiction comedy

A rocket is accidentally launched to the moon when an idiot falls on the controls. Hilarity ensues.

This marks the first movie I’ve covered for this series that comes from Egypt, and though it’s always an adventure to embark on a journey through a new nation’s cinema, it’s somewhat problematic when my initial encounter is with a comedy. If it’s not funny, who do I blame? Is it those in charge of the translation? Humor that doesn’t translate from one culture to another? Or could it be that it’s just not funny? That it’s a comedy is obvious, and that Ismail Yassin is the primary comic personality here is apparent. But I find myself not laughing. The translation may be part of the problem; the subtitles are slapdash (the word is “shoot”, not “shout”) to the point that they may actually impede projecting a sense of humor. But on a certain level beyond that, I just find Yassin painful; his main shtick seems to be that he does something stupid and then whines about it. It’s no surprise everyone describes him as an idiot.

As for the movie itself, it seems largely inspired by ABBOTT AND COSTELLO GO TO MARS, though not slavishly; certain elements of the movie, though not exactly original, aren’t borrowed from its model, such as the existence of a robot and a jarring anti-nuclear message involving a number of malformed men; the latter is somewhat effective but out of place will all the clowning. The special effects are inconsistent, but better than I would have expected. But for the most part, this falls flat. However, I did have one laugh when one of the characters says something like “Come out and see the damn thing we landed on”.

Jasper and the Haunted House (1942)

Jasper and the Haunted House (1942)
Article 5891 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-24-2020
Directed by George Pal
Featuring the voices of Alvin Childress and Glenn Leedy
Country: USA
What it is: Politically incorrect puppet animation

Jasper is tricked into delivering a gooseberry pie to a haunted house by Professor Scarecrow, who wants the pie for himself. However, there’s a resident haunt in the haunted house who’s willing to claim the pie as his own…

I covered the Jasper series as a single review many years ago, but I decided shortly after that that I wouldn’t review whole series anymore. I’m pretty sure I mentioned at the time that prior to his fame as a producer of sci-fi extravaganzas, George Pal directed a selection of puppet animation shorts, some of which featured a stereotypical black boy named Jasper. This is one of those. It’s an amusing and well-animated short, though not as wild as a fully animated cartoon would be. However, the stereotypes do make the short rather questionable for modern audiences.

Jack the Giant Killer (1925)

Jack the Giant Killer (1925)
Article 5890 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-23-2020
Directed by Herbert M. Dawley
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Silhouette fairy tale

Jack must battle a giant to save the countryside.

Herbert M. Dawley is the animator that gave us such dinosaur shorts as THE GHOST OF SLUMBER MOUNTAIN and ALONG THE MOONBEAM TRAIL. He also made a series of silhouette-style animated shorts, many of which are still extant. He’s no Lotte Reiniger, but nor is he a slouch; his animation has energy and wit, and this little short is enjoyable. It’s also shorter than expected; IMDB times it at 6 minutes, but my print only runs three. Granted, the story is quite rushed, as you might expect, but it’s effective nonetheless.

Jack Frost (1979)

Jack Frost (1979)
Article 5889 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-23-2020
Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr.
Featuring the voices of Buddy Hackett, Robert Morse, Paul Frees
Country: USA
What it is: Holiday special, Rankin-Bass style

Jack Frost falls in love with a beautiful girl, and asks to be made human so he can woo her. However, he has to defeat a local tyrant, Kubla Krause.

Though I’ve covered a few of their feature films, Rankin-Bass is mostly famous for their holiday TV specials; in particular, two of their Christmas offerings have become perennial favorites. Though this one could have been lumped in with them, it’s more obscure; in fact, if it’s geared to any holiday, it would be Groundhogs Day, which, in terms of cultural holiday heft, can’t compare with Christmas. It’s entertaining enough; it’s pretty much modeled after their other holiday specials, only the characters aren’t quite as memorable; the hero isn’t quite as engaging, the villain isn’t quite as fun, and the music doesn’t quite stick in the memory. Still, it does have a few inventive touches. Its relative obscurity is probably due to the fact that it doesn’t quite attach itself as memorably to its holiday as the other specials did.

Jack-Jack Attack (2005)

Jack-Jack Attack (2005)
Article 5698 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-29-2019
Directed by Brad Bird
Featuring the voices of Bret ‘Brook’ Parker, Bud Luckey, Eli Fucile
Country: USA
What it is: Comic animated short

A babysitter cares for a child who is the offspring of superheroes…and who is just on the verge of discovering his own superpowers.

When Pixar movies are released on DVD, they often include an original short featuring the characters and universe of the accompanying feature, in this case THE INCREDIBLES. In this case (according to IMDB), the short consists at least partially of footage cut from the original movie which involves the travails of a babysitter trying to deal with a baby’s development of superpowers. It’s easy to see why the footage was cut; had it remained, it would have given away a revelation that plays a major role in the climax of the movie too early. On its own terms, it’s an amusing item that fleshes out incidents in the original movie, but it really can’t stand on its own legs as a self-contained entity; it’s a bit confusing if you haven’t seen THE INCREDIBLES. Nevertheless, it’s a lot of fun.

James Tont Operazione U.N.O. (1965)

Article 5435 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-25-2017
Directed by Bruno Corbucci and Giovanni Grimaldi
Featuring Lando Buzzanca, Evi Marandi, Gina Rovere
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Spoof Spyghetti

Secret agent James Tont must defeat a plot by the international criminal Goldsinger to destroy the United Nations building.

Well, that didn’t take long; here I am with the first of the two James Tont movies. Once again, my copy is in Italian without English subtitles, so I can’t give a real evaluation of the movie. It is, however, full of gadgetry and concepts to add to the fantastic content of the movie. In fact, it slips into fantasy at times; when James Tont is able to escape from peril by escaping through mouseholes and flushing himself down toilets, you’re no longer in science fiction territory. Tont drives a tiny car that can go at super-speeds, change colors at the press of a button, and drives underwater. He also has a scuba-diving suit with a built-in outboard motor. This movie more directly parodies the Bond movies than the later one, with GOLDFINGER in particular the target of some of the jokes; we have characters and scenes designed to recall the characters and scenes of its model, including a bizarre variation on the laser torture scene of the Bond movie. As far as I can tell, Tont get secret messages delivered to him by pop music videos; the villains prefer classical music. All in all, it was quite interesting, but without an English translation, it’s really hard for me to say how funny it was; however, it does have a better reputation than its sequel.

James Tont Operazione D.U.E. (1966)

Article 5434 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-24-2017
Directed by Bruno Corbucci
Featuring Lando Buzzanca, France Anglade, Loris Gizzi
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Spyghetti, spoof style

James Tont is sent on a mission to prevent a plan to loot and destroy St. Peter’s Basilica.

Even though my copy is in Italian without English subtitles, it’s very apparent from the get-go that this is a spoof rather than a straight spy story. I’ve seen several other Italian spy spoofs already, but this one has one clear advantage over those; however, there is only so much benefit to be derived from the absence of Franco Franchi. The lack of English subtitles does cause a problem, but some of the gags are visual, and some of Tont’s gadgetry is amusing, such as the chewing gum that can make him airborne and the machine that can convert a man to a foldable two-dimensional image that can be returned to normal by adding water; the latter gives a significant boost the the fantastic content to the movie. My favorite scene has our hero disguised as a beatnik and meeting a girl in an apartment that has more breakaway easy-destructible furnishings than a Republic serial warehouse. He also sings a song in English at one point, and the lyrics are pretty silly; still, his accent is thick enough that I’m not sure what he’s singing part of the time. However, as a whole, I have to reserve judgment on this one unless I see a version with English dubbing or subtitles in the future. This is apparently the second in a series; I wonder when I’m going to get around to see the original.

Los jueves, Milagro (1957)

Article 5344 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-13-2017
Directed by Luis Garcia Berlanga
Featuring Richard Basehart, Jose Isbert, Paolo Stoppa
Country: Spain / Italy
What it is: Comedy /Satire

A group of men from a small village (once famed for its medicinal spa which then lost its power) decide to revive tourism by faking the miraculous appearance of a local saint. Things go well at first, but complications arrive when a stranger arrives in town who knows the truth about the miracle.

My copy of this movie is in Spanish without English subtitles, but the plot descriptions I found helped me through most of the movie; the action does become somewhat more obscure for me during the second half of the movie. The movie was directed by prominent Spanish film director Luis Garcia Berlanga, but reportedly it was held up from release for many years by censors, and what remains is a very watered-down version of what was intended. Still, I did get some enjoyment out of the movie; much of the humor is handled visually, and the scene where they first fake the appearance of the saint is a definite highlight of the movie. The fake miracle is the obvious initial fantastic content, but later developments augment that content and the movie becomes a fantasy of sorts; the first appearance of the stranger gives a definite clue to his secret. I liked this one, though the language limitations do mean that I can’t give a full evaluation of it.