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.

The Mysterious Stranger (1948)

The Mysterious Stranger (1948)
Article 5939 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-12-2021
Directed by Mannie Davis
Featuring the voice of Tom Morrison
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon

Oilcan Harry intends to make trapeze artist Little Nell his own, but a mysterious stranger keeps getting in his way. And where is Mighty Mouse? What a mystery!

This is a Mighty Mouse cartoon in the no-operetta/yes-serial parody mode, heavier on comedy than is usual, and is probably one of the better ones from the series. That review covers the cartoon in general, but do have a really interesting question having to do with my copy of this cartoon. The opening thirty seconds seem to consist of static scenes, and the only movement I see is Little Nell’s lips moving. It was the lips that threw me for a loop; though I can’t see it clearly, the lips looked more like human lips inserted over her mouth in much the same way you’d expect from a ‘Clutch Cargo’ cartoon. So my question is – Did Terrytoons beat ‘Clutch Cargo’ to this animation style? Or am I watching a print that doctored up the original cartoon many years after it was made? The latter seems more likely to me, but I don’t know for sure.

Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women (1979)

Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women (1979)
Article 5938 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-10-2021
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Featuring Steven Keats, Jaime Lyn Bauer, Jayne Kennedy
Country: USA
What it is: As silly as it sounds

An airplane full of nuns and girls crashes on a island. Years later, another plane lands on the island and has to deal with the man-hating tribe of women left from the earlier crash as well as visiting headhunters.

Left to my own judgment I wouldn’t have reviewed this; as silly and far-fetched as it is, the only element I would consider even remotely genre is the presence of the headhunters for a touch of horror. But as it’s listed in the Lentz guide, I felt it necessary to give it its review. Seeing as it was made for TV, it’s also a little too well-mannered to go the exploitation route. Nor does it try for camp; this movie takes itself quite seriously. Nevertheless, the dialogue is silly and the story is ludicrous, and it’s not really all that different from similar movies from the past (such as QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE) without even that touch of fun that those movies had.

Murder by Death (1976)

Murder by Death (1976)
Article 5937 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-6-2021
Directed by Robert Moore
Featuring Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers
Country: USA
What it is: Mystery parody

Several of the world’s most famous detectives gather together in the mansion of Lionel Twain to solve a murder that hasn’t happened yet.

I think this is the only movie I’ve reviewed to come from the pen of Neil Simon, as very little of what he wrote has any fantastic content. In fact, since this movie is a bit marginal, I wasn’t sure I would even review this one. However, since I’ve covered many movies that feature Charlie Chan (one of the characters parodied in the movie) and the general approach of the story owes a lot to the “old dark house” subgenre, it’s close enough for consideration; there’s also a plot point (if any of the plot points can count for anything here) that implies that one of the characters is merely an android of sorts. It’s definitely an unusual entry from Neil Simon; it feels as if he’s channeling Mel Brooks here. The all-star cast is impressive and well-used, with Peter Falk and Peter Sellers standouts in their parodies of Sam Spade and Charlie Chan respectively. It’s consistently amusing, but it’s best not to take the story the least bit seriously.

Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit (2008)

Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit (2008)
aka Girara no gyakushu: Toya-ko Samitto kikiippatsu
Article 5936 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-3-2021
Directed by Minoru Kawasaki
Featuring Natsuki Kato, Kazuki Alex Kato, Kei Akazawa
What it is: Kaiju parody

While the G8 Summit is being held in Tokyo, Guilala arrives from outer space and goes on a rampage. Rather than scurry back to their respective countries, the leaders of the world nations at the summit offer their help to rid Japan of this menace.

While the political and military leaders discuss the giant monster situation, an eight-year old boy shows up to give his advice and names the monster. The group reacts by telling him civilians aren’t allowed at the meeting, and guards escort him out. For having the scene pan out this way, this movie manages to stake its own special place in the kaiju genre as the only intentional parody of the form from within Japan. It’s a good thing it finds its own voice; otherwise, I would have kept wondering (as I did when I purchased it years ago) why they bothered reviving one of the most pathetic kaiju in history, Guilala. The fact that it’s a parody helps me forgive the cultural stereotypes embodied by the leaders of the various nations (such as the fact that the French member is more interested in seducing his interpreter than doing anything about the matter at hand) As a whole, the movie is scattershot, but it has its moments; I like the interviews in the street where Japanese citizens react to the monster by thinking about the money they’ll make by merchandising, the pathetic attempts by the various world leaders, and the final battle scene which references both KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and the ‘Ultraman’ series. Though far from perfect, this sequel is superior to the original.

Moans and Groans (1935)

Moans and Groans (1935)
Article 5935 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-1-2021
Directed by Frank Moser and Paul Terry
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Farmer Al Falfa cartoon

Farmer Al Falfa goes to the dentist.

For a Terrytoons cartoon, this one is not too bad, partially because it taps in to the fear we have of going to the dentist and because it’s a little more creative in the dream sequence after the patient has been dosed with the gas. It’s the latter section that has the fantastic content, as the patient drifts up into outer space and has a close encounter with the man in the moon; in fact, he meets a whole gaggle of moons. There are no big laughs here, but it is consistently amusing. This is one of the studio’s more consistent offerings.