Once in a New Moon (1934)

Once in a New Moon (1934)
Article 5556 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-18-2018
Directed by Anthony Kimmins
Featuring Eliot Makeham, Rene Ray, Morton Selten
Country: UK
What it is: Romantic comedy masquerading as political satire masquerading as Vernesque adventure

A small town in England is plucked off the Earth by a passing star and turned into a new moon. The residents vie for power politically while a rich man’s son romances a newspaperman’s daughter.

This title has been on my “ones that got away” list for ages, and it’s finally shown up. And as a science fiction epic somewhat modeled after Verne’s OFF ON A COMET… well, it’s not much; special effects are kept to a minimum, and it mostly uses its concept as a springboard for its political satire, wherein the ruling class does battle with socialists. Given that the political satire seems to be the whole point of the movie, it’s rather disappointing that the movie opts for a deus ex machina ending in lieu of letting the satirical action play out, so I can only conclude that ultimately, it’s about the romance; at least that plays out to its end. As a comedy, it’s pretty short on laughs; Morton Selten comes off best as the wealthy man elected president who is more interested in his stamp collection then ruling. All in all, this is neither particularly fun nor particularly memorable.

Oh’phelia (1919)

Oh’phelia (1919)
Article 5553 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-11-2018
Directed by Anson Dyer
No cast
Country: UK
What it is: Shakespeare….maybe

Ophelia is driven mad by Hamlet… or was it the snail that did it?

Any adaptation of “Hamlet” that jettisons the ghost runs the risk of having its fantastic content removed, but then I’m not sure this is really an adaptation of the classic work; an irreverent reworking with a touch of the surreal is a better description. Sure, I remember the part where Hamlet drives Ophelia mad, but I don’t remember the part where he becomes a boy scout and saves her life. The scene in the queen’s bedroom is changed to that of the queen’s kitchen, Laertes looks like a western desperado, Claudius suffers from gout, and a censor is on hand to make sure the word that begins with “bloo” is acceptable to all ages. Furthermore, there are a few touches of the fantastic to the proceedings, including a tree with a face and a snail shell that puts out its own “for rent” sign. Quite frankly, I was delighted by this bizarre animated short, and I hope to see more work from Anson Dyer. Recommended.

O zlate rybce (1951)

O zlate rybce (1951)
Article 5523 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-18-2017
Directed by Jiri Trnka
Featuring the voice of Jan Wenrich
Country: Czechoslovakia
What it is: Fable

A poor fisherman catches a golden fish; the latter grants the former three wishes if he is released. The fisherman does so, but the three wishes unleash a greedy streak in the fisherman’s wife.

Before I started watching this one, I had to double check whether I’d already covered it, as I do recall having seen a puppet-animated version of this story before. It must have been a different version, but I’m glad I was already familiar with the story; unlike some other Trnka shorts, this one is full of narration in Czech without English subtitles. It is also not stop-motion puppet animated (Trnka’s usual approach); in fact, I don’t think it’s animated at all, as it consists of a series of expressive but static drawings. Which is not to say that it isn’t a good retelling of the story; it is, though the ending seems slightly different from the previous version I’d seen. All in all, it’s not bad, but I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed because I was expecting something a bit more elaborate; as it is, it’s not one of Trnka’s more striking shorts.

One Dark Night (1982)

Article 5404 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-25-2017
Directed by Tom Mcloughlin
Featuring Meg Tilly, Melissa Newman, Robin Evans
Country: USA
What it is: Scares in a mausoleum

A girl seeking to join a club called “The Sisters” undergoes an initiation rite where she must spend the night alone in a mausoleum. She is unaware that it is the new resting place for a strange psychic vampire who may not be quite dead…

After the antics of the flesh-eating zombies in the last film I saw, it’s rather hard to get many shivers from the zombies in this one, whose primary feats of horror are to look gross and invade your personal space. Of course, they’re not the primary horror attraction here when you have a psychic vampire who shoots blue lightning out of his eyes. And, if you watch this movie in its entirety, you’ll get a chance to meet these creatures, but be prepared for a long slog; this is one of those movies that is eighty percent buildup for a not-quite-satisfying twenty percent delivery of the goods. It’s also one of those movies where the special guest star (Adam West) plays the least important person in the story. This one could prove to be an adequate time-killer on a slow night, but I doubt you’ll remember much about it in a few days… except, perhaps, that a toothbrush plays the part of the most annoying personal prop in the movie.

The Overcoat (1952)

aka Il cappotto
Article 5345 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-14-2017
Directed by Alberto Lattuada
Featuring Renato Rescel, Yvonne Sanson, Giulio Stival
Country: Italy
What it is: Comedy / Drama

A harried and somewhat hapless government clerk becomes enamored with the idea of getting a fine new coat to replace his raggedy one. When he gets an unexpected bonus, he finally gets his dream… but for how long?

For those familiar with the Gogol story on which this was based, the fantastic content (the appearance of a ghost) doesn’t manifest itself until near the end of the story. This is the third adaptation of the story I’ve seen for this series. The first one I saw increased the amount of fantastic content, but only borrowed aspects of the original story and went in a different direction. The second one was more faithful, but ended the story previous to the manifestation of the ghost. This one, though it updates the action to the present and changes the professions of some of the characters, is perhaps the most faithful and retains the fantastic content.

This movie has a high rating on IMDB, but I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed with the first half of the movie. That’s because the movie is very slow to get moving; it dedicates too much of its running time to comic scenes with the lead actor and to scenes featuring the pompous, self-important mayor. Not that the scenes are bad, mind you; they’re just overlong and interfere with the story getting into gear. The movie improves immensely once it decides to focus on the main plot, and the second half is immensely satisfying. Two scenes in particular stand out. One has the mayor’s dedication ceremony being interrupted by the appearance of a horse-drawn hearse. The other is the final scene in the movie, which should linger on in my memory, even if it somewhat modifies the ending of the Gogol story. This one is recommended, though I advise patience during the first half. And, after two days of foreign movies without subtitles, it’s nice to see one that has English subtitles in all their glory.

The Obedient Flame (1939)

Article 5342 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-11-2017
Directed by Norman McLaren
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Industrial film

The effectiveness of ovens for the kitchen that use gas is demonstrated.

You know, I don’t really mind covering as much animation for this series as I have been recently, since I’m a big fan of animated films. However, it’s become obvious that the selection of genre animated films in the Walt Lee guide (which lists this one) is very scattershot; it’s obvious many of these movies were added to the list with very little knowledge of what they were like. This one is an industrial film about how it is possible to adjust the levels of a gas stove and has demonstrations and explanations as to how the heat can be kept at a steady level. It’s not a useless of pointless film; I actually rather liked it, and I must admit that I learned about how these appliances work. It is, however, devoid of fantastic content; there’s not even an anthropomorphic flame to lead us on our journey to discovery. I do think a discussion of the nature of fantastic content in animation would be interesting; if I ever decide to write a book, that might be something I’d explore. But one thing I do know for sure; animation does not automatically mean fantastic content.

Ombres Chinoises (1908)

aka Les ombres chinoises, Silhouettes
Article 5288 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-4-2016
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Featuring Julienne Mathieu
Country: France
What it is: Special effects short

Two Oriental girls present a magical animated sequence to us.

A user comment on IMDB speculates that Emile Cohl may have been involved with this production, due to the fact that the middle section of this short involves an animated sequence that seems more at home in Cohl’s oeuvre than it does in Chomon’s. Though I suppose it’s a possibility, the sequence doesn’t really remind me of Cohl’s style. It does, however, remind me of the style of Terry Gilliam’s animated sequences for Monty Python, and I suspect the animation was done in roughly the same way with cutout figures. The animated sequence is the most interesting thing here; the framing live-action sequences are not memorable, and I haven’t a clue as to what’s going on during the last forty seconds of the movie when the women restructure a frame to add what looks like a screen only to remove it shortly afterwards. At any rate, this first came to my hunt list under a deceptive name, so I’m glad to have discovered that I actually had a copy handy.

Oramunde (1933)

Article 5286 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-31-2016
Directed by Emlen Etting
Featuring Caresse Crosby and Mary Binney Montgomery
Country: USA
What it is: Experimental cinema

Waves crash on the beach. A figure in white dances in and reacts to various landscapes.

This experimental piece of dance cinema is somehow inspired by the story of Melisande, and I had to look up the story from a play by Maurice Maeterlinck to learn more about it. I’m not sure if it really helped me to appreciate what was going on in this short, but it did give me a starting point. Granted, I’m never sure we’re supposed to understand movies like this in the usual sense; it seems we’re supposed to react more on a primal level. That being said, there does appear to be an emotional core of loss and grief to the short, and some of the visual elements are striking, in particular the final scene. As for the fantastic content… well, it’s certainly not realistic, and that figure in the boat may be another vision of Death. At any rate, I always feel out of my league in trying to discuss movies like this.

The Other Hell (1981)

aka L’altro inferno
Article 5181 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-14-2016
Directed by Bruno Mattei
Featuring Franca Stoppi, Carlo De Mejo, Francesca Carmeno
Country: Italy
What it is: Nunsploitation horror

Sisters are being brutally murdered at a convent. An ecclesiastical investigator is sent to look into them. Are they caused by the devil, or is it human evil?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Italian horror films from the seventies, it’s that convents are not havens of sanity and healthy minds; in fact, you’d probably find better adjusted residents in an asylum. I also know why the nuns’ outfits have white parts to them; it’s so that the blood shows up more clearly. That being said, I will have to admit this isn’t your usual foray into nunsploitation; for one thing, it eschews the usual sexual antics of that type of movie (at least visually – there is talk). It chooses to clearly go the route of horror rather than exploitation, but it does get pretty sleazy in that regard. It also goes in some odd directions; I was suspecting something in the vein of THE EXORCIST, but if anything, it ultimately owes a bit more to CARRIE before it’s all over. It even owes a bit to the more gothic Italian horror of the sixties, especially in the climax. It also gets more than a bit silly, but that may be partially due to the English dubbing. At any rate, it’s one of the odder examples of this type of movie.

L’oiseau bleu (1908)

aka The Blue Bird
Article 5177 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-6-2016
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Fairy tale

An evil queen schemes to have her ugly daughter marry a visiting prince, but the prince prefers the queen’s other daughter, who is beautiful. The beautiful daughter is imprisoned and the prince is turned into a blue bird. Will he be able to rescue her?

I’ve seen a couple of other movies with the title THE BLUE BIRD based on the Maeterlinck play and was expecting this to be an earlier version, but it’s an entirely different story with the same name. It’s a fairly standard fairy tale, though in these condensed early silent shirts, it can be a little difficult following the plot. The print I saw is in fairly poor shape, but it does look like the hand-painted color effects were well done. All in all, it’s a passable silent short of the era.