Rocketeers (1932)

Article 4256 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-25-2013
Directed by John Foster and George Rufle
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Cartoon

Tom and Jerry plan to take a rocket into outer space, but the rocket fizzles and they end up on the bottom of the ocean.

When it comes to cartoons, everyone remembers “Tom and Jerry”, but only completists remember “Tom and Jerry”. What I mean by this is that there were two cartoon groupings called “Tom and Jerry”; the latter (and more famous) one was the cat and mouse duo at MGM, while the earlier (and more obscure) one was a pair of men, one tall and thin and the other short and fat. Come to think of it, that description may also serve as complete character descriptions of them as well; if there are any differences in personality between the two characters, they are well hidden here, and it’s somehow fitting that one of the most surrealistic moments here has the two characters’ mouths melding together into a single one. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if there’s enough personality between them to make for even one character; they are animated ciphers. Despite the title, there is no outer space adventure here; almost all of its action is at the bottom of the sea, with various sea monsters, anthropomorphic fish, shipwrecked skeletons, mermaids, and Neptune all making appearances. This one manages to get by by virtue of its weirdness at times, but even taking that into account, it’s still pretty weak, and serves as another example why, with certain notable exceptions (from Disney or the Fleischers), the early thirties was one of the weakest eras for theatrical cartoons.

Rip Van Winkle (1903)

Article 4255 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-23-2013
Director unknown
Featuring Joseph Jefferson
Country: US
What it is: Adaptation of the legend

Rip Van Winkle encounters a group of dwarfs and sleeps for 20 years.

This movie was listed in my source book with a year of 1896, but I was unable to find a movie with that title from that year. However, it lists an alternate year of 1903, and it matches this one. The reason for the double dates is interesting; this movie was originally from a series of short films made in 1896 that were edited together and copyrighted in 1903 by Biograph. This movie is sitting with a lowly 4.8 rating on IMDB, and, judged as a 1903 movie, it probably merits the rating; it looks static and primitive for that time. However, judged with an 1896 year, then it looks considerably more ambitious, and one thing I can sense is that actor Joseph Jefferson (who also wrote the play adaptation from which this was based) actually does give a skilled performance. I do wonder if I’m going to end up watching the individual films, though taken as such, not very many of them may have fantastic content.

Rhythm in Light (1934)

Article 4254 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-22-2013
Directed by Mary Ellen Bute, Ted Nemeth, and Melville Webber
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Abstract music illustration film

A series of images are shown to a musical segment of Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite”.

Yes, we’re in the realm of the abstract art film again, and the reason for their inclusion is because the abstract images make the movie a virtual fantasy. This one mostly consists of undefinable images moving in rhythm to the music. It makes for rather pleasant viewing, though it doesn’t quite have the kinetic power or sense of brilliance of the Man Ray movie I saw recently. It looks like the directors made several of these, one of which (ESCAPE) I’ve also reviewed.

Le retour a la raison (1923)

aka Return to Reason
Article 4253 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-20-2013
Directed by Man Ray
Featuring Kiki of Montparnesse
Country: France
What it is: Experiment in Dadaism

A succession of abstract images are shown.

Man Ray was a proponent of the Dadaist/Surrealist art movements of the first half of the twentieth century, and what we have here is his first foray into cinema. If the trivia on IMDB is correct, he made the film when he discovered that he was credited with the exhibition of a film at a Dadaist festival, and he threw this together so he would have something to present. Dadaism essentially was an anti-art movement that rejected meaning and reason in art, and relied on abstraction and absurdity; it was a reaction to the horrors of World War I. So what we have here is another abstract film, and as usual, these can be interesting but are hard to review, especially with Dadaism, which eschewed meaning. Nonetheless, I found this short quite enjoyable; it involves a few images actually taken with a camera (the lights of a carousel ride and shadows projected over a naked female torso) along with images created in a darkroom with various objects placed directly over the film itself. It has a certain kinetic energy, and does not run on too long, which is pretty important for these kinds of films.

The Rajah’s Dream (1900)

aka Le reve du rdjah ou La foret enchantee
Article 4252 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-17-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Trick film

A rajah’s nap is interrupted by a nightmare.

Here’s another one of Melies’s earlier trick films. One of the advantages of his earlier films is that he kept them short and quick-moving; some of his later work suffers from pacing problems. During the dream, he encounters a huge butterfly, one of those pieces of furniture that teleport from one place to the next, a tree that turns into a demon wrestler, and the usual coterie of dancing girls, in this case armed with axes and with other ideas in mind than merely entertaining the rajah. Though certain odd touches help, this one doesn’t really stand out from the crowd of early Melies shorts.

Rabbit Transit (1947)

Article 4251 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-16-2013
Directed by Friz Freleng
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Bugs Bunny cartoon

Bugs Bunny has a race with Cecil Turtle to Grant’s Tomb. Bugs thinks he has it in the bag, only to discover that Cecil Turtle has a jet-propelled shell.

The Bugs Bunny cartoons featuring his races against Cecil Turtle are somewhat odd entries in the Bugs Bunny canon in terms of his character. Here he’s neither the wild zany of his early cartoons nor the cool-headed master of all situations of this later ones. In these cartoons, his character is pretty similar to that of Daffy Duck’s in his later years; he’s ego-driven, underhanded, and given to temper tantrums. Granted, Cecil himself is no saint; he can be equally underhanded and can play the con man himself; in fact, he’s perhaps the only character Bugs has encountered several times who has proved the ultimate master of the situation. Well, whatever role these cartoons play in the evolution of Bugs Bunny, they’re still pretty amusing and full of great gags, and it is one of the better cartoons from Friz Freleng.

Les roses magiques (1906)

aka Magic Roses
Article 4195 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-3-2013
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

A magician does a variety of tricks, mostly involving turning flowers into women and vice versa.

This short is included on the Georges Melies “Encore” disc from Flicker Alley, though it isn’t a Melies short. It was intended as an example of one of the several Melies-inspired filmmakers that came in his wake. From that point of view, this is a good choice; of the ones I’ve seen from Chomon, this one most feels like it was Melies-inspired. Still, one of my favorite moments from this one involves the creation of an elaborate flower design that uses backwards footage extensively, and that’s one innovation that I don’t recall seeing from Melies. There also seems to be a touch of romanticism to this one that feels unique to Chomon. If anything, I think this does show that Chomon was more than just an imitator.