Mater and the Ghostlight (2006)

Mater and the Ghostlight (2006)
Article 6066 from Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-5-2022
Directed by John Lasseter and Dan Scanlon
Featuring the voices of Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Wallis
Country: USA
What it is: DVD extra feature

Mater the tow truck has a bad habit of playing scary gags on his friends. But when he hears the terrifying story of the Ghostlight, he becomes terrified. Will Mater get his comeuppance?

Yes, I’m an admitted Pixar fan, but the “Cars” franchise is one area where we part company; in fact, this short is the only thing I’ve seen connected to the series. And, despite the fact that he’s a fellow Nebraskan, I’m not particularly partial to the comedy stylings of Larry the Cable Guy, who provides Mater’s voice. That being said, this short (obviously intended as an extra on the CARS dvd) is an acceptably well done variation of a pretty standard story. For my money, the best moment is the final post-credits reversal-of-expectation gag. On a sadder note, according to IMDB, this short marked Paul Newman’s final performance before his death.


Mother Goose on the Loose (1942)

Mother Goose on the Loose (1942)
Article 6052 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-17-2022
Directed by Walter Lantz
Featuring the voices of Sara Berner, Mel Blanc, Dick Nelson
Country: USA
What it is: Revue style Mother Goose pastiche

A series of gags involving Mother Goose rhymes are presented, often to a swinging beat.

It’s your basic somewhat uninspired array of themed sight gags. There’s a running gag involving Simple Simon, and gags pop up involving Mary’s little lamb, Little Bo Peep, Little Jack Horner, Jack Be Nimble, and an accelerated take on the House that Jack Built. The end result is what you’d expect, and none of the gags really come to life. Not a high point.

The Museum (1930)

The Museum (1930)
Article 6030 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Arthur Davis, Dick Huemer, Sid Marcus
No voice cast
Country: USA
What it is: Toby the Pup cartoon

Toby the Pup works as a janitor at a museum, but he can’t help but play music.

I suspect one of the biggest effects of the advent of sound on cartoons was to downplay stories and character and emphasize the incorporation of music into the medium. For some animators, I think it gave them opportunity to be lazy, but others tried to see how weird and bizarre they could get. This is one of the latter; we have dancing fountain pens, statues coming to life, gargling dinosaur skeletons, mummies dancing and unwinding into skeletons dancing around maypoles…quite frankly, it feels a bit like a fever dream. It’s rather pointless, but weirdly entertaining in its way.

A Mutt in a Rut (1949)

A Mutt in a Rut (1949)
Article 6025 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-14-2021
Directed by Izzy Sparber and Dave Tendlar
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer, Arnold Stang, Jackson Beck
Country: USA
What it is: Bad tempered dog gets a cartoon comeuppance

Dogface becomes insanely jealous of a stray kitten allowed into the house during a wintry night, but will there be a punishment for his bad behavior?

What we have here is another manifestation of the “A Christmas Carol” plot – a miscreant is taught a lesson in his dreams.  A dog mistreats a kitten until he has an accident, dreams he has died, and goes to heaven only to find that he may not have gained admittance and must sit in judgment by Saint Bernard.  It’s probably one of the better Famous Studio cartoons of that time, and even at that it’s quite predictable and only mildly funny.  Dogface is another forgotten cartoon character, and his presence made me start wondering how many new characters Famous Studios created over their last twenty years that didn’t last; it seems like that Popeye remained far and away their most famous character.

Magic Mummy (1933)

Magic Mummy (1933)
Article 6022 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-16-2021
Directed by John Foster and Vernon Stallings
Featuring the voice of Margie Hines
Country: USA
What it is: Van Beuren cartoon

Two cops investigate the theft of a mummy from the museum.

Despite the fact that this cartoon is consigned to the “various” section of the dvd set upon which I found this one, the two cops look and act an awful lot like regular Van Beuren characters Tom and Jerry (not the MGM cat and mouse) who have their own section.  It’s a bit of a shame that it’s not included there; it’s easily the best of the T&J cartoons I’ve seen.  Granted, part of it is that it has lots of fantastic content; most of the action takes place underground in a cemetery, the main villain is reminiscent of the phantom of the opera, and there’s a whole audience full of skeletons.  And, of course, there’s a mummy as well; she looks a bit like Zita Johann and sings like Betty Boop.  This one is fun and would make for good Halloween viewing.

The Mechanical Cow (1927)

The Mechanical Cow (1927)
Article 6021 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-14-2021
Directed by Walt Disney
Featuring the voice of King Lawrence
Country: USA
What it is: Disney, pre-Mickey

Oswald the lucky rabbit has a mechanical cow which distributes milk around the neighborhood. When Oswald’s girlfriend is kidnapped by thugs, Oswald and his cow come to the rescue.

Given that Disney’s first talking cartoon was STEAMBOAT WILLIE, and given the fact that Mickey Mouse was created as a replacement for Oswald after Disney lost the rights to the character, I can only conclude that the various voices and sound effects here were added on a rerelease of this one. At any rate, this is a fun if not outstanding early Disney effort. For the most part, the mechanical cow acts pretty much as I’d expect any (cartoon) cow to act, though his mechanical nature does allow a few gags to come through. It has a couple of good laughs, but it doesn’t really stand out a lot from the pack.

The Mite Makes Right (1948)

The Mite Makes Right (1948)
Article 6014 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-2-2021
Directed by Bill Tytla and George Germanetti
Featuring the voices of Mae Questel, Sid Raymond, Izzy Sparber
Country: USA
What it is: Noveltoon

When he begins to feel unwanted at home, Tom Thumb runs away with his pet mouse, vowing to do big things. Can he accomplish his goal at a passing circus?

As inspirational whimsy, this variation on the Tom Thumb tail is uninspired but passable. It is predictable; it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out how Tom Thumb might make a big splash in a circus. Nor does it take a lot of imagination to figure out what will happen when the acrobatic elephant act runs into his pet mouse. Still, that latter incident did provide for me the biggest laugh in the cartoon when an elephant tries to seek sanctuary by hiding in a sousaphone. The rest is just your typical “outcast makes good” story.

Mighty Mouse and the Pirates (1945)

Mighty Mouse and the Pirates (1945)
Article 5962 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-12-2021
Directed by Mannie Davis and Connie Rasinski
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon

A shipful of singing cat pirates are looking for female companionship and they’re willing to cross the species line to find them. Can a South Seas mouse maiden be rescued from a fate worst than death by Mighty Mouse?

Given their penchant for singing and synchronized swimming, I’m guessing these are cat pirates of the Penzancian variety, which means that even though neither Mighty Mouse nor the maiden engage in any of the warbling, we’re pretty close to one of the operetta-style Mighty Mouse cartoons here. They manage to vary the formula enough on this one that it increases the interest level, with Mighty Mouse engaging in a Tarzan yell at one point and the fact that the pirates are interested in… not just dinner, anyway. Actually, the maiden does a pretty decent job of defending herself against the lusty captain so that about the only thing Mighty Mouse really needs to do for her is to rescue her from being drowned; he fills in the time by making mincemeat of the pirate choral society. This is easily one of the better Mighty Mouse cartoons, and it even manages to net a laugh or two in the process.

The Mystic Circle Murder (1938)

The Mystic Circle Murder (1938)
aka Religious Racketeers
Article 5941 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-14-2021
Directed by Frank O’Connor
Featuring Robert Fiske, Helene LeBerthon, Arthur Gardner
Country: USA
What it is: Phony spiritualism

A rich young woman wants to contact her dead mother, but falls prey to a phony spiritualist who is after her money. But he doesn’t follow his own advice and falls in love with his intended victim…

I’m a little surprised that I haven’t reviewed this one earlier, as I’ve watched plenty of movies for this series in which phony spiritualism is the major fantastic content. This one concentrates on the spiritualist himself, as he uses every means in his power to keep his victim on the hook while evading the law, even to the point of moving his headquarters to other countries and changing his identity (and appearance) at the drop of a hat. Though it does have a bit of novelty the plot, there really isn’t a whole lot in the way of surprises. The most interesting touch to the movie is a segment involving the wife of the late Harry Houdini (played by herself) coming to the conclusion that her husband was right and all spiritualists are phony. Oddly enough, the only murder in the movie takes place near the end despite the title, though we have one person who drops dead and another who is almost killed.

Mystery on Monster Island (1981)

Mystery on Monster Island (1981)
aka Misterio en la isla de los monstruos
Article 5940 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-14-2021
Directed by Juan Piquer Simon
Featuring Terence Stamp, Peter Cushing, Ian Sera
Country: Spain
What it is: Bogus

A young man and a dancing instructor are stranded on an island inhabited by monsters.

This movie is purportedly based on a novel by Jules Verne, though they don’t specify which one. Having read a complete collection of Verne’s works a couple of years ago, I can’t really say which one (unless it’s “The Mysterious Island”, and even then I have to squint a lot). I do know that at least one of his novels features a comic relief sidekick similar to the one we have here, but I’m pretty sure the story was nothing like the one here. But while we’re on the subject of the comic relief sidekick, I think this movie should stand as a warning to anyone making a movie of this type and making the hero so bland that the comic relief sidekick has to work extra hard to take up the slack, because if that happens, this is what you will end up with. This is my way of saying that the comic relief sidekick may be one of the most agonizingly painful examples of the form; he’s prissy, cowardly, stupid, constantly whining, chattering endlessly, and dominates the action throughout. Yes, there are monsters, but they look terribly fake and appear in droves out of nowhere for a few scenes of cheap thrills and then vanish entirely. Don’t let the star power fool you; Terence Stamp and Peter Cushing barely appear, and I have no idea who Paul Naschy played except to say that the role must have been pretty dinky. It’s all explained in the end in one of the lamest plot twists of all time. Avoid.