Phony News Flashes (1955)

Phony News Flashes (1955)
Article 6069 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-28-2022
Directed by Connie Rasinski
Featuring the voice of Dayton Allen
Country: USA
What it is: Terrytoons news service

We see a series of news flashes about world events we may have missed.

This type of cartoon was very common during the forties, but not so much after that, so this one feels a little archaic. But when you open the festivities (such as they are) with three mother-in-law jokes, you’re really not trying to be innovative. As you might expect, this is a very uneven cartoon; the best moments to my eyes is a gag involving a slow motion spitball and the section about a town that passes an ordinance on noise control. One of the jokes involves an alien from another planet, and there is a bit where astronomers investigate a new heavenly body; neither bit is a highlight. Forgettable and harmless.


Perpetual Motion (1920)

Perpetual Motion (1920)
Article 6051 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-2-2022
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Featuring Roland Crandell and Max Fleischer
Country: USA
What it is: “Out of the Inkwell” episode

A crank inventor is fooled into believing he has created a perpetual motion machine by an animator. However, the clown created by the animator has a trick of his own up his sleeve…

The “Out of the Inkwell” series featured Koko the Clown interacting with real-life objects and people; the cast members listed above appear as characters rather than as voices. Throw in the perpetual motion machine and we’re nudging up against science fiction, though the fact that it doesn’t really work makes it only a nudge, but the fact that the machine interacts with the animated clown gives us plenty of fantastic content. Like most of the OOTI cartoons, this is amusing enough; I like the method Koko uses to repair his torn clown pants. Koko the Clown would reappear in the early Betty Boop cartoons, but would eventually be abandoned.

Pixie Land (1938)

Pixie Land (1938)
Article 6050 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-1-2022
Directed by Elmer Perkins
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: animated whimsy

While experimenting with formulas to grow and shrink things, a pixie inventor inadvertently causes a flea to grow to gigantic proportions. Will the pixies be able to save the land from this monster?

As an experiment, I wrote down a plot description of this short before I watched it to see if I would be correct. I was, more or less; the only thing I really got wrong was I thought the opening scenes would feature the pixies at play rather than at work. The cartoon is so-so; it does try for humor at times, mostly when it focuses on the dim-witted inventor, but ultimately there are few surprises in the cartoon. Oddly enough, IMDB claims that Mel Blanc supplies the voices of gnomes rather than pixies, though I have to admit I’m not sure if I have the insight to tell them apart.

Private Eye Popeye (1954)

Private Eye Popeye (1954)
Article 6035 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-18-2021
Directed by Seymour Kneitel and Thomas Johnson
Featuring the voices of Jackson Beck, Jack Mercer and Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Popeye cartoon

Popeye is hired by Olive Oyl to protect a huge emerald from theft.

The fantastic content is a bit light here; it has a couple of moments that fit into the “spooky old house” category, and the butler seems to be driving a kind of rocket sled at one point. As for the cartoon itself, it does vary the formula that the Popeye cartoons were settling into; instead of Popeye having to contend with a competing Bluto, he has to deal with a larcenous butler. In fact, the cartoon may actually be a parody of Droopy cartoons; no matter what the butler does, he always finds Popeye one step ahead of him like Droopy is with his antagonists. Still, the butler’s reactions to Popeye’s appearance are a far cry from those of the similar characters in Droopy cartoons, making this a far weaker cartoon. All in all, this is another mediocre Popeye cartoon.

Puppetmaster (1989)

Puppetmaster (1989)
Article 5970 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-25-2021
Directed by David Schmoelller
Featuring Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle
Country: USA
What it is: Malicious marionettes

An assortment of psychics show up at a hotel to discover that one of their group has died. The hotel was once the home of a puppeteer who knew how to instill life into his creations. His puppets are still around… and they’re homicidal.

One of my guides suggests that this may be Charles Band’s best movie, and maybe it is; I’m not about to embark on an exploration of his entire oeuvre to find out for myself. I will suggest it was one of his most successful, as it spawned at least sixteen sequels that I know of. By comparing to a few of Band’s other titles that I’ve seen, I’d say this is one of his better efforts; the POV sequences of the puppets running around are entertaining, the puppets are imbued with a nice sense of character, the human villain is suitably creepy, and I do like how this one ends. I do find myself asking why the original puppet master would design some of these puppets, though, especially the one with the drill on top of his head and the leech-spitting woman.

The Prize Guest (1939)

The Prize Guest (1939)
Article 5969 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-21-2021

Directed by Mannie Davis and Connie Rasinski
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Terrytoons

A strange guest who signs his name with a question mark arrives at a hotel. His curious behavior catches the attention of the hotel detective, who vows to keep an eye on him.

The curious behavior includes levitation and having a disappearing dog, which to my mind puts us in a magical/mystical mode and in the territory of the fantastic. Like a lot of other Terrytoons cartoons, it doesn’t quite work; for example, there’s something a bit off in how the hotel detective reacts to things. Still, this is one of their cartoons where the strangeness is intriguing rather than alienating, and I myself grew quite curious as to what the strange guest’s secret would prove to be. And even if I do find that final revelation a bit of a disappointment, I’m not sure I could think of one that would be much better. Nevertheless, this is one of the studio’s more engaging entries.

Pride of the Yard (1954)

Pride of the Yard (1954)
Article 5968 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-18-2021
Directed by Eddie Donnelly
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Not Droopy

Two criminals escape from jail. Percival Sleuthhound is put on the case.

Whatever good points can be made about Terrytoons cartoons, it’s usually better for them if they can avoid direct comparison with the output of the other cartoon studios. That will happen if you try to create a new character that is obviously modeled off of a well-known animated star from another studio; Percival Sleuthhound is obviously a rip-off of Droopy. And without someone like Tex Avery at the helm, it’s going to feel like a very tired imitation of its model. I suspect Terrytoons figured that out; as far as I know, this is their only use of the character. For the most part, this cartoon really doesn’t qualify to be reviewed for this series, but one gag involves a rocket to Mars and the momentary appearance of Martians, so here it is. This is one of the most forgettable and unnecessary efforts from Terrytoons.

A Present for Santa Claus (1947)

A Present for Santa Claus (1947)
Article 5967 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-18-2021
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: How to bribe Santa Claus

A pair of children looking forward to their Christmas bundle are told that Santa has had a hard time of it this year and may not be able to give them all they want. So they decide to give him a present…

… and, of course, they get all they want. It turns out that the way to Santa’s generosity is through his stomach, as some hot cocoa does the trick. I have this one on a collection of cartoons, but oddly enough, it’s not a cartoon. In fact, it looks like one of those films they would play at school when I was a youth (if you’re much younger than me, you probably don’t share that experience), no doubt because of the “Official Films” logo. Still, I do have a nagging question about a Christmas tradition I’ve seen in these old movies that my family didn’t have; was Santa expected to decorate the tree as well as give presents? Just asking…

Predator 2 (1990)

Predator 2 (1990)
Article 5966 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-17-2021
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Featuring Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Kevin Peter Hall
Country: USA
What it is: Sequel

Predator is back, and he’s hunting on the streets of L.A. during a gang war.

If I remember correctly, I liked the original movie of the series well enough. This one moves the alien hunter into an urban setting and throws in any assortment of urban action cliches to fill the movie out. It’s probably due to the fact that I’m bored with urban action cliches that I care a lot less for this one, though it works well enough when it gets going. Despite the new setting, overall it does feel a bit like of a retread of the original; I would rather the makers had found a way to take things in a different direction. As it is, it’s predictable.

The Port of Missing Mice (1945)

The Port of Missing Mice (1945)
Article 5965 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4/16/2021
Directed by Eddie Donnelly
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Mighty Mouse cartoon: standard plot number one

Sailor mice enjoying themselves on the Barbary Coast are shanghaied by cats. Can Mighty Mouse save the day?

Standard plot number one of the Mighty Mouse cartoons can be classified thusly: a group of mice is engaged in some activity but are interrupted by cats who mean them harm. Mighty Mouse shows up and saves the day. They’re usually narrated with no operetta. These are usually the most boring of the Mighty Mouse cartoons. However, this one manages to heighten the interest level quite a bit by dint of having the mice engage in somewhat more adult activities than is usual for the series; they’re in bars on the Barbary Coast, drinking beer and enjoying dancing mice doing the can-can. For Terrytoons, this is pretty racy. It was also amusing seeing the cats gathering up the mice by using vacuum cleaners. Once you get beyond the setting, everything’s strictly routine, but the setting is enough to make this one of the better Mighty Mouse cartoons as well.