Pigs is Pigs (1937)

PIGS IS PIGS (1937)
Cartoon
Article 3183 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-2-2010
Posting Date: 5-2-2010
Directed by Friz Freleng
Featuring the voices of Billy Bletcher, Bernice Hansen and Martha Wentworth
Country: USA
What it is: Animated glutton’s nightmare

A pig with an insatiable appetite has a nightmare where he is force-fed tons of food by an evil scientist.

It’s understandable that my memory incorrectly classified this one as a Porky Pig cartoon, but it isn’t; though Porky went through several changes in his evolution, he always maintained the stutter, and that is noticeably absent in the pig here. I also remember that this cartoon was the stuff of nightmares when I was a kid; despite the fact that this isn’t one of the great Looney Toons cartoons, if you’ve seen it as a kid, it sticks in the memory. Nowadays I appreciate it for the wittiness of the force-feeding inventions; in particular, a machine that serves pies functions like a jukebox, and an olive dispenser is modeled after a gumball machine (a mechanical hand has to keep feeding it pennies). Still, it’s a lot of fun seeing this one again; I hadn’t seen it in four decades.

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The Pit and the Pendulum (1913)

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1913)
Article 3177 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-24-2010
Posting Date: 4-26-2010
Directed by Alice Guy
Featuring Darwin Karr, Fraunie Fraunholz, Blanche Cornwall
Country: USA
What it is: Fragment of a Poe adaptation

A thwarted suitor joins the Inquisition to get revenge on a romantic rival.

The only copy I’ve been able to find of this movie is a seven-minute one on Yahoo video, and I suspect it’s only a fragment. It sets up a backstory in which a man is framed for the theft by sorcery of church property, and given that this is discovered by the Inquisition, this no doubt leads to the man being tortured in the method described by the Poe story. The movie cuts off just as the the man is framed for the theft, which makes me suspect that this is just a fragment. I suppose this shouldn’t count, but it’s late at night and I don’t have time to watch another movie, so I’ll beg your indulgence on this one.

The Prolific Magical Egg (1902)

THE PROLIFIC MAGICAL EGG (1902)
aka L’oeuf du sorcier ou L’oeuf magique prolifique
Article 3165 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-12-2010
Posting Date: 4-14-2010
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Trick film

A magician shows us the amazing things he can do with an egg.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re on a Melies streak here. This is one of Melies’s “magic act” films; these are the ones where he more or less plays a magician who is doing tricks, only with the help of camera special effects rather than sleight-of-hand alone. The egg grows, shrinks and turns into talking heads. At the end, he eats the egg and… well, you don’t want me to give away the ending, do you? Short and sweet.

Pulgarcito (1957)

PULGARCITO (1957)
aka Tom Thumb
Article 3126 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-18-2009
Posting Date: 3-6-2010
Directed by Rene Cardona
Featuring Maria Elena Marques, Jose Elias Morena, Cesareo Quezadas ‘Pulgarcito’
Country: Mexico
What it is: Mexican fairy tale

The diminutive Pulgarcito must save himself and his six normal-sized brothers from an ogre.

After having sat through two rather dry German fairy tale movies, I welcomed the opportunity to catch a Mexican fairy tale movie, even one that hadn’t been dubbed into English. At the very least, you can count on a Mexican children’s movie to have a strong sense of fun and energy, and this one does. Granted, it’s not as fascinatingly bizarre as some other children’s movies I’ve seen from Mexico (LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, for example), but I found this one entertaining enough. One thing that surprised me is that the special effects were actually not too bad; you can pretty much figure out the various camera tricks that were employed to make Pulgarcito seem as small as he is, but the illusion is sustained. Even in a scene where the ogre reaches for Pulgarcito where you can tell that the hand is fake, nonetheless the editing is brisk enough that the camera doesn’t dwell on the effect overmuch, and the hand moves convincingly enough that the illusion is sustained. For me, one of the funniest moments in the movie is when Pulgarcito gets the upper hand on the ogre by teaching the ogre’s wife and children hygiene and manners. The young actor who plays Pulgarcito would reprise the role five years later in LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE MONSTERS.

Le pays san etoiles (1946)

LE PAYS SAN ETOILES (1946)
aka Country Without Stars
Article 3105 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-23-2009
Posting Date: 2-13-2010
Directed by Georges Lacombe
Featuring Jany Holt, Gerard Philipe, Pierre Brasseur
Country: France
What it is: Somewhat eerie meditation on fate

A man undergoes a strange case of deja vu when he visits a village. He soon finds himself living the life of a man who lived there many years ago.

I got most of my plot description from other sources, as my print of the movie is in unsubtitled French. When I researched this for my list of movies I was then unable to find, I summarized it as a man who lives the life of someone from long ago. This is the type of concept that demands expository dialogue, and, sure enough, this movie has a lot of talk. It’s got some eerie moments and memorable scenes (one in which a woman goes crazy and attacks a painting is quite memorable), and I am able to piece together bits and pieces about how the lives of three people from the present replay the lives of three people from the past, but the main plot threads and the revelations are all dialogue-driven. If I hadn’t known about the basic plot ahead of time, the only fantastic content I would have noticed would consist of the appearance of a ghost at one key moment. Though I suspect the movie is pretty uneven, I do hope to see a subtitled copy some day. For one thing, I’d love to know why the musical score seems to go wild in scenes that often seem rather quiet.

The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)

THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH (1970)
Article 3084 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-26-2009
Posting Date: 1-23-2010
Directed by Chuck Jones, Abe Levitow and Dave Monahan
Featuring the voices of Butch Patrick, Mel Blanc, Daws Butler
Country: USA
What it is: Animated children’s story

A bored young boy travels into another world, and undertakes a mission to reunite a divided kingdom by rescuing the princesses of Rhyme and Reason.

Though three directors are listed, the primary director of this one is Chuck Jones, one of the true geniuses of animation. Still, it’s important when judging this work of his to keep several things in consideration.

1) The vast majority of his finest work consisted of movies that lasted about seven minutes long.

2) It was as an animator and a director that he excelled, not as a writer or a producer, and he works in those capacities on this film.

3) Since most of the theatrical animation studios had closed up by this point, he most likely didn’t have access to the same experienced team that he had with him during his Warner Brothers days. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of his help was from people who were specializing in the kind of limited animation that had become the mainstay of TV animation.

4) Two of his crucial associates at Warner Brothers (writer Michael Maltese and musical director Carl Stalling, both of whom contributed mightily to the quality of his shorts) are not involved with this production.

To his credit, he does garner a strong group of voices; Daws Butler, Hans Conried, June Foray, Shepard Menken and the wonderful Mel Blanc are on hand to lend their talents. And there are moments here and there where one can sense the hand of Chuck Jones at the helm. Still, the story is a disappointment; it’s something of an uninspired cross between “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Wizard of Oz” with some occasionally tiresome lapses into lesson-teaching. The songs are particularly weak, as well. It’s not awful, by any means, but it’s too sporadic in its good moments to be truly effective.

Primal Impulse (1975)

PRIMAL IMPULSE (1975)
aka Le orme
Article 3068 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-1-2009
Posting Date: 1-7-2010
Directed by Luigi Bazzoni and Mario Fanelli
Featuring Florinda Bolkan, Peter McEnery, Lila Kedrova
Country: Italy
What it is: Bizarre arty horror / science fiction movie

A woman discovers that she has lost two days of her life. She investigates the reasons for the memory loss, with her only clues being a torn-up postcard of a Hotel and recurring memories of a movie about a man left stranded on another planet.

The premise is certainly intriguing, and the movie seems to have a very good reputation (based on a good user rating and comments on IMDB). Based on these factors alone, it might well warrant a rewatching, as I suspect that there may be certain important plot details I have missed. However, on this, my first viewing of the movie, I find myself more frustrated than intrigued. For me, the ending, though truly eerie, still leaves me unsatisfied insofar as I don’t feel that what exactly is going on has been explained to my satisfaction. Even had this problem not occurred, I still would have some problems with the movie, as I think the sequences where she tries to discover the details of the missing two days go on for too long with too little payoff. There is one explanation that may make sense, but if so, I’m not particularly taken with that one, either. Still, the movie is incredibly stylish, though not in the usual Italian giallo sense (some of the user comments refer to this one as a giallo, but I think it’s something else altogether); rather, it’s more arty than anything. Klaus Kinski is given a prominent credit, but I think he may have less than a minute of screen time, and it sounds as if somebody else dubbed his voice. I may like it better upon re-viewing, but at this point of time, it doesn’t work for me.