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.

Phantom Kung Fu (1979)

Phantom Kung Fu (1979)
aka You ling shen
Article 5959 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-7-2021
Directed by Tso Nam Lee
Featuring Don Wong, Yi Chang, Chung-Kuei Chang
Country: Taiwan
What it is: You can hear every gesture

A ruthless killer is hired to quell a rebellion, and he uses his “hands of death” power to do so. But can he be defeated by Magic Spiritual Kung Fu?

I hemmed and hawed a bit about reviewing this one. I’ve become convinced that movie Kung Fu has about as much in common with real Kung Fu as movie hypnotism has with real hypnotism, so a few unbelievable stunts won’t automatically net a review. However, about two-thirds of the way through this movie the ghosts start showing up, so that’s enough to tip the scales. The main review on IMDB claims this is the best Kung Fu movie in every department, and though I disagree in several aspects (the soundtrack is quite annoying at times and the English dubbing is ridiculous), I will say it’s one of the more enjoyable examples of the Kung Fu genre. It’s also relatively coherent for the form and the characters are well-defined enough that I can usually tell them apart. Yes, there’s lots of sound-enhanced gesturing, smoking hands, incredible leaps, and a comic warrior who does a lot of boasting and then fails to live up to his claims in a cowardly manner; the latter is never really effectively woven into the plot. This one is a little like a Japanese ghost movie.

The Peachy Cobbler (1950)

The Peachy Cobbler (1950)
Article 5958 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-1-2021
Directed by Tex Avery
Featuring the voice of Daws Butler
Country: USA
What it is: Tex Avery’s take on an old tale

A starving cobbler with more orders than he can fulfill is helped overnight by a group of elves.

Quite simply, it’s another version of “The Elves and the Shoemaker”, and since it’s a Tex Avery cartoon, it largely consists of a bunch of blackout gags centered around the concept. It’s an amusing cartoon; I’m particularly taken with the final take on a running gag involving an elf trying to thread a needle. Still, I do have to confess feeling a shred of disappointment with this one. It’s simply that Tex Avery’s name on the cartoon makes me expect more wildness than we really have here; the gags are good, but not particularly inspired. Still, it may be the most entertaining take I’ve seen on this particular story.

Pandora (1934)

Pandora (1934)
Article 5957 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-28-2021
Directed by Frank Moser and Paul Terry
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Terrytoon entry

Two children are terrorized by a witch who leaves Pandora’s Box in their home. Can they resist opening it?

This cartoon has a pretty low rating on IMDB, but I have to admit I liked it a bit better than the usual run of cartoons from the studio. At least I got one good laugh from it; the box spewing out bottles of Castor Oil as part of the evils of the world I found pretty amusing. Still, I suspect this one was supposed to be scary, and it doesn’t quite pull it off. There are gags involving a dachshund, some snatches of operatic singing and a few touches of surrealness. All in all, this is a mixed bag.

Pathfinders to Mars (1960)

Pathfinders to Mars (1960)
Article 5818 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-26-2020
Directed by Guy Verney
Featuring George Coulouris, Gerald Flood, Pamela Barney
Country: UK
What it is: Juvenile science fiction adventure

A spaceship en route to the moon runs into peril when an impostor aboard the ship hijacks it to Mars, where he believes intelligent life will be found.

This is the second of a trio of British teleseries which involve adventures in outer space, and I appear to be watching them in reverse order; I’ve already seen PATHFINDERS TO VENUS, and have yet to see the first. For the record, I prefer this one to the VENUS entry, as it feels more focused and keeps the suspense up a bit higher. The George Coulouris role is the de facto villain of the first two and a half episodes, and he is definitely not a man to be trusted throughout, though he does solve some of their dilemmas as well. There are a few interesting camera angles during the scenes inside the spaceship, though the backdrops in the Mars scenes are painfully obvious, especially when you can see the cast’s shadows on them. Overall, I found this one merely passable, though better than it might have been. I wonder what I’ll think of the first series when I see it…

Pathfinders to Venus (1961)

Pathfinders to Venus (1961)
Article 5777 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-26-2020
Directed by Guy Verney and Reginald Collin
Featuring George Coulouris, Gerald Flood, Graydon Gould
Country: UK
What it is: TV limited series outer space adventure

A group of British astronauts go on a mission to rescue an American astronaut stranded in an orbit around Venus. They are all forced to land on the planet and explore.

This was the third of three TV-serials about a group of space-traveling people; in the first two stories, they explored the Moon and Mars (to the best of my knowledge). I’ve not seen the first two serials, but this one bears a certain resemblance to the U.S. TV series “Lost in Space”, what with the fact that a couple of the astronauts are children and that the character of Dr. Harcourt Brown (played by perhaps the biggest name in the cast, George Coulouris) is clearly the series’ equivalent to Dr. Zachary Smith. Alas, there’s no robot; instead the girl totes around a pet guinea pig named Hamlet who gets to share in the dangers, including almost being eaten by a carnivorous plant. Still, this series predated “Lost in Space”, so if there was any influence, it would have been in the other direction.

As for the story, it’s certainly not up there with the Quatermass stories (and given the fact that this is clearly a juvenile production, I wouldn’t expect it to be). Still, I was hoping something a little more interesting than what I got here; most of what occurs feels like variations on any number of space travel movies from the fifties. It’s also very cheaply made, and I suspect it had a rushed production; I’ve never seen as many technical gaffes in a production before. Yet somehow they do manage to cough up a little bit of stop-motion to add to the proceedings. Nonetheless, I found this one to be a bit on the dreary side, though if I’d seen it as a kid, I might have liked it better. As it is, the high point for me in this series was reading the credits for episode seven, which had so many technical gaffes they felt they needed to acknowledge it in the credits, a moment which certainly belongs in TV history.

Psyched by the 4D Witch (A Tale of Demonology) (1973)

Psyched by the 4D Witch (A Tale of Demonology) (1973)
Article 5731 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-31-2020
Directed by Victor Luminera
Featuring Margo, Esoterica, Tom Yerian
Country: USA
What it is: DAUGHTER OF HORROR, stoned

A girl is possessed by a witch ancestor from the astral plane, who leads her into increasingly bizarre sexual experiences.

I’ve got to hand it to Something Weird video; they actually managed to find a companion movie that would almost make its main movie on the DVD (MONSTER A-GO-GO) feel like the superior film. Still, take note that I said almost; to my mind, the stupid weirdness of this film is still more interesting than the dead-in-the-water empty space that fills most of its companion film. Granted, I can see why they paired these two films; they both feature endings which belie the notion that the rest of the film ever really happened in the first place. In MAGG, this ending felt like a bizarre money-saving scheme to avoid having to shoot an actual ending; here it’s no surprise at all. Basically, this film was shot silent and had all of its sound added afterwards, with narration, psychedelic music, and snippets of “Night on Bald Mountain” filling up the soundtrack. It feels like a drugged-up sexed-out cross between DAUGHTER OF HORROR and the 3D sequences from THE MASK. Yet, for all of its weirdness, it more or less remains focused and coherent; it knows what it’s about and sticks to it. Which is not to say it’s good; it’s pretty awful. But I’ve seen weirder and I’ve seen worse.