Rebirth of Mothra (1966)

Rebirth of Mothra (1996)
aka Mosura
Article 5710 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-27-2020
Directed by Okihiro Yoneda
Featuring Megumi Kobayashi, Sayaka Yamaguchi, Aki Hano
Country: Japan
What it is: Moth mayhem

An industrialist unwittingly removes a seal that kept a destructive monster under control. Can Mothra and her child defeat this terrible monster before the Earth is destroyed.

I find it easy to forget about the trio of Mothra films made in the gap between the Heisei and Millennium Godzilla series. I can certainly understand why they were made; there’s a fairy tale quality to Mothra that hadn’t been tapped for decades, largely because after her first appearance, she only showed up in Godzilla films. And if there is anything this movie does right, it’s that it clearly taps into that feel; this movie is one of the least realistic-looking kaijus I’ve seen. I wish the story was better and the movie was shorter; the movie spends a lot of time spinning its wheels, and many of the scenes go on far too long. We see far too much of the twins as well; they work better when they’re used sparingly, though it is a nice touch that there is an evil third sister. There was a lot of eye candy here, but I’m afraid it really wore out its welcome before it was all over.

Return of the Monster Maker (1958)

Return of the Monster Maker (1958)
Article 5706 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-19-2020
Directed by Donald F. Glut
Featuring Donald F. Glut, Charles Martinka, Wayne Moretti
Country: USA
What it is: A labor of love

Dr. Frankenstein creates a new monster. It goes berserk.

I have a certain amount of trepidation in reviewing an amateur film made by a teenager; it certainly can’t and shouldn’t be compared to professional product. Nor was it ever intended for the general public; it was a labor of love made by a kid who loved the movies and loved the classic monsters. If I’d had access to a movie camera in my youth, I might have tried the same thing myself. Watching something like this helps me recapture that sense of wonder I had about those classic movies, and it feels good to rekindle that feeling and remember that it was and is shared by millions of us. Still, the coolest thing about this amateur short is the excellent Frankenstein monster mask worn by one of the actors. It may be an amateur film, but it warms me in a way that very few professional films can.

Red Nightmare (1962)

Red Nightmare (1962)
Article 5701 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-26-2019
Directed by George Waggner
Featuring Jack Kelly, Jeanne Cooper, Peter Brown
Country: USA
What it is: Government anti-communist propaganda film

A married man who is lax in his civic duties dreams that his town has been taken over by communists.

I found this short as an extra on my DVD of INVASION USA, and it makes an apt companion to that feature. Both movies feature people who haven’t been sufficiently motivated to fight the threat of communism undergoing a transforming dream experience (one hypnotically induced, the other a normal dream) which makes them reform; incidentally, it’s from the same template from which A CHRISTMAS CAROL was built. The main difference between the two is that the feature was primarily concerned with the horrors of an invasion of American soil (the political philosophy could have been easily changed to any other threat), whereas the short was more concerned of the horrors of actually living under a communist regime.

Of the two, this short is the more effective; it’s professionally made, well-acted, and not swamped with stock footage. It does have its faults, however; the townspeople during the dream sequence mostly behave like heartless robots spouting occasional Marxist propaganda, which is very stereotypical. It also gets long-windedly preachy at this time. Still, I suspect this choices were intentional; after all, this was a government film (albeit one that had a lot of professional Hollywood help) whose purpose was to scare people away from communism. Several name actors and familiar faces appear: Jack Webb narrates, and both Andrew Duggan and Robert Conrad appear. Nowadays, it’s a bit of a curio.

Rip Van Winkle (1921)

Rip Van Winkle (1921)
Article 5671 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-2-2019
Directed by Edward Ludwig
Featuring Thomas Jefferson, Milla Davenport, Daisy Jefferson
Country: USA
What it is: American fantasy

In an effort to get away from his shrewish wife, Rip Van Winkle escapes to the forest where he encounters a strange group of men. He falls asleep, and wakes up twenty years later.

I found this one on YouTube, and watched it under the impression that it was the 1914 movie of the same name (it was marked as such on YouTube), but when the story description on IMDB didn’t match up with what I saw, I was able to deduce from the cast list that it was the 1921 version I saw. Both versions starred Thomas Jefferson, whose father Joseph Jefferson made a career of playing the role of Rip; I’ve covered some of the very early silent shorts with Joseph in the role. Had it been the 1914 version, I would have found it a bit more praiseworthy; it has a nice sense of humor and fleshes out its story well. However, for a 1921 movie, it comes off as a little creaky for its year. It was based on the Washington Irving story as well as the play version cowritten by Joseph Jefferson and Dion Boucicoult. A couple of sudden transitions and an abrupt ending may indicate the print I saw was not complete, but I rather enjoyed this version anyway.

Rip Passing Over the Mountain (1896)

Rip Passing Over the Mountain (1896)
Article 5635 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-20-2019
Directed by William K. L. Dickson
Featuring Joseph Jefferson
Country: USA
What it is: The eighth episode of the first serial

Rip climbs up a hill.

When you get right down to it as far as the three individual episodes of the Rip Van Winkle serial, none of them really show their fantastic content as stand-alone movies; they have to be seen together and taken in the context of the original story. This one has the least overt fantastic content; all you really see is an old man climbing a hill. That being the case, it must be said that sometimes identifying fantastic content is a matter of context and perspective; it’s what you bring to the table that helps you decide. Granted, what I’ve said here doesn’t amount to a review of such, but I think it’s a fitting way to end this series of reviews of these shorts.

Rip’s Toast to Hudson (1896)

Rip’s Toast to Hudson (1896)
Article 5634 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-19-2019
Directed by William K. L. Dickson
Featuring Joseph Jefferson
Country: USA
What it is: The fifth episode of the first serial

Rip Van Winkle makes a toast and has a strange reaction.

I’ll dispense with a repeat of the historical context of this short that I covered in the second episode. This is perhaps one of the more entertaining of the episodes; he’s partying with the dwarfs and makes a toast, but then starts having a strange reaction. I suspect that it’s the moment when the grog he is drinking is starting to overcome him and he’s preparing for his deep sleep. The story as a whole has definite fantastic content, but like the previous one I’ve covered, the primary fantastic content here is the presence of the dwarfs, although if you didn’t know the story, you probably wouldn’t know who they were.

Rip Meeting the Dwarf (1896)

Rip Meeting the Dwarf (1896)
Article 5633 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-18-2019
Directed by William K. L. Dickson
Featuring Joseph Jefferson
Country: USA
What it is: The second episode of the first serial

Rip Van Winkle meets a dwarf.

First, here’s a little background. In 1896, director William K. L. Dickson made a series of eight films that told the story of Rip Van Winkle. The reason he split the story into eight films was simple; at this time in history, you simply couldn’t make a movie longer than a minute or so, and telling the whole story in one go would have been (for that era) epic. The eight movies would in 1903 be collected together into a single movie called RIP VAN WINKLE. I’ve already covered that film, but since IMDB also has a separate listing for all eight early films, and some of the segments have been classified as fantasy on that site, I have an excuse to review them separately. However, only three of the eight films have been classified as such, so those are the only ones I’ll be covering.

That being said, there’s not a lot to be said for any one of these segments individually, largely because so little happens. This segment plays out just as the title describes; Rip meets a dwarf. Taken on its own, the dwarf’s existence is the sole fantastic content, and that’s only if we use the fantasy definition of a dwarf rather than the real-life definition of meeting someone like Billy Barty or Angelo Rossitto. Any further critical evaluation is rather pointless.

Rendezvous in Space (1964)

Rendezvous in Space (1964)
Article 5626 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-23-2019
Directed by Frank Capra
Featuring Marcia McBroom, Jim Backus, Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Short documentary about space exploration

There’s really no plot to this documentary about space travel; in fact, I’m not sure whether it really has much in the way of a real focus. After an opening in which we see captioned footage of the Earth as seen from a capsule in outer space, we are treated to faked “man on the street” interviews (many of those interviewed are well-known character actors such as Sid Melton and Charles Lane), various animated bits about various aspects of space exploration, and a few predictions of developments that would occur in the near future of space exploration. It was Frank Capra’s last film, and it was filmed for the Marietta Corporation and was shown at the Hall of Science Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. If anything is holding it together, it’s the sense of wonder and adventure that pervaded the space race at the time. It makes for an entertaining watch, but the scattershot feel of the short prevents it from having any real focused impact.

Red Riding Hood (1931)

Red Riding Hood (1931)
Article 5616 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-30-2018
Directed by Harry Bailey and John Foster
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Van Beuren cartoon

Red Riding Hood’s grandmother is prescribed to take jazz tonic by her doctor, and the tonic rejuvenates her and returns her to youth. This makes her a very different target for the Big Bad Wolf.

Two factors played into my choosing to review this one; it’s an adaptation (albeit a very loose one) of a famous fairy tale, and the rejuvenating jazz tonic adds a bit more fantastic content to the mix. It’s also very much a product of its time; like other early thirties cartoons, it’s full of extreme animated exaggeration, sometimes surreal visuals, lots of music and dancing, and characters that look like Mickey Mouse but aren’t. Van Bueren also put out the human Tom and Jerry cartoons, and the quality of this one is about on par with one of those; it has a few moments, but over all, it’s only so-so. It’s also a little on the adult side; the plot, such as it is, involves bigamy.

Road to the Stars (1957)

Road to the Stars (1957)
aka Doroga k zvezdam
Article 5569 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-3-2018
Directed by Pavel Klushantsev
Featuring Georgi Solovyov, Leonic Khmara, Georgi Kulbush
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Documentary about space travel

The history of space travel from the point of view of the Soviet Union is shown.

Given the Soviet Union’s propensity for using political propaganda in their movies, I wouldn’t be surprised if this documentary skewed the history a bit in favor of their own country. However, that doesn’t make this documentary any less informative or entertaining, and the only overt hint I get of it is the criticism of the Czarist regime for overlooking the work of scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. The first half of the movie covers the development of the theories of space travel (primarily from Tsiolkovsky) and the experiments toward that end; this half climaxes with the launch of Sputnik. The second half is speculation on what the next few years of space travel will bring, and it is here the movie turns into science fiction, though it never loses its documentary flavor. The special effects are excellent, and though events didn’t quite pan out in the way predicted, it was nonetheless fairly accurate about what some of the developments would be (such as finding out if humans could live in space and the first space-walk). I found this quite enjoyable, and it was nice to see a documentary for this series that wasn’t made in the seventies and didn’t discuss ancient astronauts, psychic phenomena, or cryptozoology.