Przygoda w paski (1960)

Przygoda w paski (1960)
aka An Adventure in Stripes
Article 5625 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-22-2019
Directed by Alina Maliszewska
No cast
Country: Poland
What it is: Animated short

A lonely female striped elephant is rejected by the herd of white elephants she follows. Meanwhile, a lonely male striped elephant is rejected by the herd of black elephants he follows. What will happen when these two striped elephants meet?

I think most anyone could make a guess as to what would happen when these two elephants meet, so I can’t exactly say that unpredictability plays a big role in this animated short. Fortunately, it’s the character touches that lift this one up. The hunger of two elephants for love and their affinity for dealing with children (elephants) in a positive way make you feel their yearning for love and companionship. And there is at least one plot point that isn’t easily predictable. I’m not sure if this is the first Polish animated short I’ve encountered for this series, but I found this one fairly entertaining and likable.

Pencil Mania (1932)

Pencil Mania (1932)
Article 5609 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-27-2018
Directed by John Foster and Vernon Stallings
Featuring the voice of Margie Hines
Country: USA
What it is: Tom and Jerry (you know who they’re not) cartoon

Tom has a magic pencil that can create things that come to life… or is it Jerry who has the pencil..?

You know, I just realized that after sitting through several of these cartoons, I don’t know which of the characters is Tom and which is Jerry. Not that it matters; in terms of personalities, they’re nonentities, and only exist as catalysts for the gags. The magic pencil is the extra level of fantastic content here, making this cartoon a bit more on the level of a “Felix the Cat” cartoon, which is a marked improvement of the proceedings; in fact, I’ll go so far as to say that it’s the best of the T&J cartoons I’ve seen so far. The second half of the cartoon is mostly a parody of mellerdrammers, though things do get pretty surreal, especially with a train that vanishes into the Twilight Zone. If you’re really curious about this series, this is the one to catch.

Plane Dumb (1932)

Plane Dumb (1932)
Article 5607 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-26-2018
Directed by John Foster and George Rufle
Featuring the voices of Aubrey Lyle and F.E. Miller
Country: USA
What it is: Tom and Jerry (NOT the cat and mouse) cartoon

Tom and Jerry take a plane trip to Africa, and plan to blend in by disguising themselves as natives.

As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, these early Tom and Jerrys are not the famous cat and mouse, but a pair of humans, one tall and thin, the other short and fat. And, as you might have gleaned from the plot description, this cartoon is far from politically correct as they disguise themselves in blackface. As if that wasn’t bad enough, their having done so makes them feel it is necessary to talk like Amos ‘n’ Andy. If this didn’t make you want to skip the cartoon, then the fact that it’s another dose of subpar lowbrow slapstick should give you another reason to keep away. The fantastic content includes an encounter with a giant octopus, several monsters (I think they’re supposed to be wild animals, but they look like nothing I’ve ever seen), and a scene in a creepy cave that has a giant bat and some singing skeletons.

Prelude (1927)

Prelude (1927)
Article 5580 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-28-2018
Directed by Castleton Knight
Featuring Castleton Knight
Country: UK
What it is: Early music video

To the strains of Rachmoninoff’s Prelude, a man imagines he’s being buried alive.

This is, for all practical reasons, an early music video. It visually interprets Rachmoninoff’s Prelude as the story of a man who, upon reading the Edgar Allan Poe story “The Premature Burial”, falls asleep and dreams he has been buried alive. It’s a visually rich short with a few horror touches. My favorite is that we see the coffin turn partially transparent (the lines of the wood grain remain visible) and we see the trapped man struggling in terror. It’s very efficient and very well done. I have only one minor complaint; given his fame, you would have hoped they would have made sure that Poe’s name would have been spelled correctly.

Peter Pan (1924)

Peter Pan (1924)
Article 5560 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-7-2018
Directed by Herbert Brenon
Featuring Betty Bronson, Ernest Torrance, George Ali
Country: USA
What it is: Fantasy

A flying boy who never wants to grow up meets a girl and takes her to Never Never Land to be a mother to the Lost Boys. However, Never Never Land is also a world of pirates…

I’ve never read or seen the original play by J.M. Barrie, so I can’t say how closely the various versions of the story hone to the original story. All I can say is that of the various versions I’ve seen, this one is my favorite (and, yes, that means I like it better than the Disney version). It manages to avoid feeling like a photographed stage play while retaining some of the crucial elements that would make a viewing of the stage play a magical experience; I love the fact that both Nana the dog and the crocodile are played by actors in costume. For me, the story in this one feels more complete and unified; the other versions I’ve seen feel more episodic. A couple of odd elements stand out. The movie breaks the fourth wall on one occasion by exhorting audience members to clap their hands in order to save Tinkerbell’s life (which I suspect is from the original play), and for some odd reason, there’s a streak of American patriotism in this version; given that J.M. Barrie is Scottish and this is primarily an English story, this nationalism feels a bit forced.

Prichozi z temnot (1921)

Prichozi z temnot (1921)
Article 5554 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-13-2018
Directed by Jan S. Kolar
Featuring Theodor Pistek, Anny Ondra, Josef Svab-Malostransky
Country: Czechoslovakia
What it is: Strange horror film

A landowner must find a way to protect his wife from two predators; one his neighbor and the other an ancestor of his who has gained eternal life with the help of an alchemist.

I found the plot of this movie very confusing, but for a very good reason; only forty minutes of this one hour movie are still extant, and given that some of the story is told through nested flashbacks, it doesn’t take too much footage to be missing before the plot thread is lost. Fortunately, things start to settle down a bit during the second half, and I was able to more or less follow it at that time. Visually, it’s an enjoyable movie, and certain of the plot elements bear a resemblance to the various mummy movies over the year, only without a shambling wrapped creature. Still, I don’t feel I can fully evaluate the movie without the missing footage, and though I found it interesting enough, the jury is out until a more complete version manifests itself.

The Phantom in the House (1929)

The Phantom in the House (1929)
Article 5546 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-29-2018
Directed by Phil Rosen
Featuring Ricardo Cortez, Nancy Welford, Henry B. Walthall
Country: USA
What it is: Crime drama

An inventor takes the fall for a murder committed by his wife. When he is paroled fifteen years later, he discovers his wife has made a fortune from his patents and changed her identity so as to avoid the stigma of having been married to a convict. His plan to keep out of her life changes, though, when she decides to keep their daughter from marrying her true love, and he stays around to defend his daughter.

Of all the words in movie titles that conjure up visions of the fantastic, I’d have to pick “phantom” as the most deceptive; there are quite a few movies with that word in the title which contain little or no fantastic content, and this is one of them. Here the word is metaphorical; the convict’s decision to hang around makes him an unwanted “ghost” of the past. Here is another one I wouldn’t be covering if it weren’t on my suggestions list. On its own terms, however, it’s actually pretty decent, especially considering its creakiness as an early talkie. Walthall is the convict, and he should get top billing because he’s the main character, and he gives the best performance here. The thing I admire most is how concise the story is; the plot is pretty involved for a movie that runs only about 58 minutes. In fact, when the movie throws in a major plot turning point with only about three minutes left to go, I found myself wondering how in the world they were going to resolve it all with the limited time left. Still, this is one of those movies where the primary plot motivation throughout involves people trying to keep the truth from being known, and I always find such stories to be a little suspect.

Petrol (1957)

Petrol (1957)
Article 5517 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-3-2017
Directed by Enrico Cocozza
Featuring Jack Smith and Eddie Cairns
Country: Scotland
What it is: Very short horror movie

A man whose car has broke down has an encounter with a psycho.

This short little experimental runs just under two minutes, and was added to my suggestion list as an example of one of those obscure little movies that has fallen through the cracks. It’s probably only marginally horror due to the fact that it’s so succinct it doesn’t provide us any motivation for why the killer does what he does. Still, one does have to admire the efficiency of telling a miniature little cinematic story without sound. It makes for an enticing little curiosity.

The Phantom Creeps (1949)

The Phantom Creeps (1949)
Article 5501 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-23-2017
Directed by Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind
Featuring Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold
Country: USA
What it is: Feature version of serial

The evil Dr. Zorka plans to take over the world with his giant robot, his invisibility belt, his meteorite with secret powers, and his crawling spiders that put people in suspended animation.

For some reason, I never got around to covering this feature version of the serial of the same name, but there’s a reason for that. Most feature versions of serials had different names from the serial themselves, so when you saw it listed, you could tell from the title alone whether it was the feature version or the serial. This one used the same title, and my sources rarely specified if it was the serial or the feature version, so I assumed the former.

Actually, as far as these things go, this is one of the better ones insofar as it feels more like a feature than a condensed serial, and there are reasons for that. For one, unlike the many Republic serial features of the mid-sixties, it wasn’t obsessed with capturing every single action sequence at the expense of the plot, so it doesn’t short-change the plot or inundate you with abrupt scene changes. However, this serial itself was much easier to adapt. All you had to do was concentrate on the plot development in the first two episodes and the climax from the last episode, and then have just enough of the middle episodes to capture the flavor of the three way struggle for the meteorite between the spies, the law and Zorka that makes up the rest of the serial. The ugly robot and Lugosi’s presence are the main attractions here. It’s no classic, but for what it is, it’s passable.

Porky’s Garden (1937)

Porky’s Garden (1937)
Article 5496 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-9-2017
Directed by Tex Avery
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc, Earl Hodgins, Charles Judels
Country: USA
What it is: Porky Pig cartoon

Porky gets into a competition with his Italian neighbor as to who is going to win first prize at the county fair for the largest product.

This one is pretty marginal when it comes to the fantastic content, but when the cartoon came up with three moments that pushed the envelope a bit, I went ahead and decided to review it. The first moment has Porky using hair tonic to make his garden grow huge vegetables. The second moment has a baby chick eating spinach and getting super-strength; yes, I know that I rejected that in the Popeye cartoons themselves, but I was amused enough by the fact that the chick turns into a miniature version of Popeye (thereby having the cartoon parody a character from another studio) to let it pass in this case. The third item is when a huckster hawks weight loss pills that are powerful enough to turn an elephant into a mouse. On a side note, I can’t help but notice how the neighbor looks like a big version of Mario. It’s nice to see one of Tex Avery’s earlier works here, but he didn’t really hit his stride until he moved to MGM. All in all, this is an okay Porky Pig cartoon.