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.

Polly-tics (1928)

Polly-tics (1928)
Article 5964 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-14-2021
Directed by Otto Messmer
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Felix on the cusp of the sound era

A starving Felix tries to steal some milk, but his action is mistaken for a good deed after he defeats some mice who also had the same idea. The owner of the milk invites Felix to make himself at home, and he does… much to the consternation of the other pets in the house.

It looks like this cartoon is one of those that hovers between the silent and sound eras; though most of the dialogue is on title cards, there are some noise and sound effects on the soundtrack. It’s the usual type of fare you’d expect from a Felix cartoon of the era; the fantastic content beyond that is that the various animals trying to get rid of him dress up as a ghost at one point. By the way, it’s not just the other pets that get mad at Felix; the hat tree also takes a dislike to the feline and joins the pets in the plot to overthrow him. It’s not one of the best Felix cartoons, but it is pretty good.

Pixie Picnic (1948)

Pixie Picnic (1948)
Article 5963 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-13-2021
Directed by Dick Lundy
No voice cast
Country: USA
What it is: Animated musical number

A bunch of pixies perform “The Thieving Magpie” in the woods.

Given the title, I’m guessing these little folk in the woods are pixies, though they look a lot more like dwarfs, and that rather encapsulates the fantastic content of the piece. It’s similar to the superior RHAPSODY IN RIVETS from Warner Brothers, though that one (in which the Hungarian Rhapsody is performed to the building of a skyscraper) has a many more novel gimmicks. This one is good but not great; the gags are okay and it’s amusing enough to pass muster. There are no real standout gags in this one.

The Pied Piper of Basin Street (1945)

The Pied Piper of Basin Street (1945)
Article 5961 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-12-2021
Directed by Shamus Culhane
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Walter Lantz Swing Symphony

The mayor of a rat-infested city hires the Pied Piper of Basin Street to rid it of the pests. But what will happen when the mayor tries to underpay the piper?

Despite the fact that it updates the story with a modern setting and swing music, this is more or less a straightforward rendition of the tale, and therefore has the necessary qualifications for inclusion in the reviews. One thing that is outstanding in this cartoon is the excellence of the animation which I attribute to the presence of Shamus Culhane at the helm. The music (which features the work of jazz trombonist Jack Teagarden) is also excellent. The gags are fairly run of the mill, though, and I’m not quite sure why they opted to give the mayor a Lou Costello voice when he doesn’t appear to be modeled off the comedian. In general, the cartoons that came from Walter Lantz were a mixed bag, but this is one of the better ones.

The Phantom of the Opera (1983)

The Phantom of the Opera (1983)
Article 5960 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-9-2021
Directed by Robert Markowitz
Featuring Maximilian Schell, Jane Seymour, Michael York
Country: USA
What it is: Another classic remake

After he becomes disfigured while taking vengeance on the people who humiliated his wife and drove her to suicide, a conductor withdraws to the underground of the city and terrorizes the opera house.

Sometimes while watching remakes of this sort, I find myself wondering what exactly the motivation of the makers was in reviving the story for another production. I can understand it if they have a bold new vision for the story or if earlier versions had fumbled in their attempts, but I don’t see either of those motivations playing much of a role in this one. There’s some novelty value in shooting in on location in Hungary, I suppose, and there are a couple of moderately interesting and offbeat characters added to the mix, and there are some mildly arty touches to the proceedings, but these just don’t make up for the fact that this version is glum and necessary. I’ve also come to the conclusion that I like the versions of this story that save the phantom’s backstory for later in the movie; telling it in straight chronological order takes a lot of the mystery out of the proceedings. There’s one good plot twist near the very end of the movie, but that’s really not enough to compensate for the dreariness of this take on the tale.