The Rookie Bear (1941)

Article 4916 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-2-2015
Directed by Rudolf Ising
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Cartoon

A hibernating bear discovers that he is the first one to be drafted into the army.

This cartoon is a comic snapshot of the process of being drafted and inducted into the army, which was no doubt a very topical subject at the time of our entry into World War II. It’s not a great cartoon, but it does have some good moments, and is a fairly amusing curio of its time. The anthropomorphic bear is the main fantastic content, though a few of the sight gags also cross the line into the fantastic. It’s a solid if unspectacular effort.

The Revenge of the Teenage Vixens from Outer Space (1985)

Article 4913 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-30-2015
Directed by Jeff A. Ferrell
Featuring Lisa Schwedop, Howard Scott, Amy Crumpacker
Country: USA
What it is: Alien babes on a budget

Drawn to Earth by a misdelivered teen magazine, several female space aliens seek men for mating, but swear revenge when the men prove disappointing.

I initially mistook this one for a Troma film; between the title and the fact that the opening shot of the movie looks similar to the Troma logo is what threw me off. Nevertheless, the title alone would lead you to believe that this was going to be like a Troma film – intentionally bad tongue-in-cheek horror/sci-fi with a plethora of exploitation elements (read: nudity). Oh, it’s quite bad, but what do you really expect from a movie which reportedly was shot on a budget of $32,000 over a four-year period with a cast of what mostly appears to be rank amateurs. But those looking for the exploitation elements will be sorely disappointed; there’s some near nudity in a couple of scenes, but the only thing that might have kept this one from a PG rating was a little too much cussing. Occasionally, a specific humorous touch will work; for example, I like that the old school has a sign in front of it that says “Old School”. But it’s mostly just dumb and amateurish. Keep your expectations very low.

Red Sonja (1985)

RED SONJA (1985)
Article 4885 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-29-2013
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brigitte Nielsen, Sandahl Bergman
Country: Netherlands / USA
What it is: Sword and sorcery

A female swordsmaster does battle with an evil queen who has acquired a destructive talisman.

Had the filmmakers been able to acquire the rights to the name, this would have been the third Conan movie; as it is, the Conan substitute is named Kalidor, and Schwarzenegger, despite getting top billing, is consigned to an awkward supporting role which was originally intended to be a mere cameo. As might be expected, there is much sword-clanging going on here, but the action sequences are merely adequate. The story is thread-bare and cliched, and much of the dialogue is written in a rather stiff and florid style that requires a certain aplomb from the actors; sadly, many of them aren’t quite up to the task, and it ends up sounding pretty silly. I also couldn’t help but notice that Sandahl Bergman’s scar make-up isn’t always there; usually, I don’t notice goofs like that, but they made such a big deal of it that you’d expect they would have taken more care. To me, the best thing about the movie was some of elaborate sets; as for the rest, I found it pretty forgettable.

Richard III (1911)

Article 4844 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-9-2015
Directed by Frank R. Benson
Featuring James Berry, Alfred Brydone, Kathleen Yorke
Country: UK
What it is: Silent Shakespeare

This short recounts the rise of Richard III to power through assassination, and his ultimate fall from power.

As might be expected, there’s no way a twenty-seven minute silent adaptation of a Shakespeare play is going to do the story justice, but this does about as good a job if it as you might hope. In order to follow it, you’ll have to be familiar with the play, but even if you’re not, you’ll get the gist of the story, which is that Richard is killing off everyone who gets in his way to the throne. You get at least a hint of Shakespeare’s language; the title cards feature direct quotes from the dialogue of the play, though it favors useful summary phrases over some of the more famous bits (there’s no lines about discontented winters or kingdom/horse swaps). The acting is very good if you bear in mind that acting styles have changed over the years. This short version even retains the main piece of fantastic content, in which Richard III is haunted by the ghosts of those he has murdered in a dream. This sequence even uses some cinematic special effects, mostly in jump cuts from one ghost to another, making them seem to appear out of nowhere. It’s no substitute for the real thing, of course, but for what it’s trying to do, it does a decent job.

Rumpelstilzchen (1955)

aka Rumpelstiltskin
Article 4807 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-26-2015
Directed by Herbert B. Fredersdorf
Featuring Werner Kruger, Liane Croon, Wilhelm Groothe
Country: West Germany
What it is: Fairy tale

When a miller’s daughter is imprisoned in the castle of the king because the latter is under the belief that she can spin gold out of straw (a lie told by the miller), she is forced to call on the help of magical king of the woods who has the ability… but who will exact a price upon her that she may not be able to pay.

This is another of those German fairy tales made during the fifties that K. Gordon Murray dubbed and brought to children in the United States during the sixties. The translated English dialogue is weak and the dubbed acting is fairly bad, but I hold the original movie at fault for the forced slapstick comedy provided by both the treasurer and the prime minister, characters who serve as both comic relief and the primary villains of the piece, as it is their greed that is really responsible for the events that happen. Still, I found myself diverted from the uneven presentation of the story by speculation on the characters in the story and the ways that their character flaws play on the events in the story. The miller’s tendency to lie, the king’s inability to keep his promise, the daughter’s choice to make a hasty and poorly-thought-out promise (in admittedly, a desperate situation), and the title character’s accepting of a promise that most likely won’t be kept and then offering a way out by virtue of a name-guessing game that he can’t resist singing about all show some pretty bad judgment; yet, they all remain fairly sympathetic characters. The prince comes off relatively clean in this regard; all he has to do is give up hunting the animals in the forest to solve his problems. So, in a sense, it might be said that the movie is a bit of a success; at least it got me to thinking in a different way about elements of a story I’d known for years.

Le reve des marmitons (1908)

aka Scullion’s Dream
Article 4799 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-14-2015
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Strange trick short

A group of kitchen workers drink a potion left by an imp. This puts them all to sleep, and then the imp cuts off their hands, which then work independently of the bodies.

If there’s one thing I can say about Segundo de Chomon, it’s that he’s quite capable of getting extremely weird in his work. That’s also the time when he’s most likely to come out from under the shadow of Melies and make his own mark. Most of the effects in this short make use of stop-motion animation, and some of it is quite impressive; a sequence where a basket is woven magically is quite impressive. And, what with all the hand dismemberment going on, it’s a rather grotesque short as well, but fortunately, the imp has the good manners to reattach everyone’s hands. The title implies that it’s all a dream, but I’m not sure who the dreamer is; maybe they’re all dreaming. At any rate, this is one of Chomon’s most striking shorts.

Remote Control (1930)

Article 4797 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-11-2015
Directed by Nick Grinde, Edward Sedgwick and Malcolm St. Clair
Featuring William Haines, Charles King, Mary Doran
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy / Thriller

A cocky opportunist attempts to save a dying radio station by hiring new talent. However, he ends up hiring a phony spiritualist who uses his airtime to pass info on to a criminal group known as the “ghost gang”.

From what I read on IMDB, William Haines was a phenomenally popular actor of the time who was one of the top draws near the end of the silent era. He is the one who dominates this film and I gather from this movie’s high rating on IMDB (7.6 at the time I write this), there are many who find his shtick irresistible. Unfortunately, I don’t appear to be one of them; I sat stone-faced through his antics in this film, though I will entertain the possibility that he may have to grow on you a bit, as I found myself growing less annoyed with him as I got used to him. At any rate, the most amusing scene in the movie is when he auditions a series of questionable radio-star-wannabes, including a hog caller and a stuttering piccolo player. The movie eventually becomes more of a crime thriller when Haines gets kidnapped by the gang, and must find a way out of his captivity and to let the police know where the gang will strike next. The fantastic content is the phony spiritualist act, which really doesn’t come into play that much during the movie, so it’s pretty light in this regard. Ultimately, I would probably only recommend this to Haines devotees.

Road Hogs in Toyland (1911)

Article 4791 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-2-2015
Directed by Arthur Melbourne Cooper
No cast
Country: UK
What it is: Early stop-motion animation

Several racing cars wreak havoc in a small town.

I’ve seen a couple of other works by this stop-motion pioneer, and I’m beginning to see a pattern. The actual stop-motion animation is rather crude (but then, so were some of Willis O’Brien’s early efforts), but they’re fascinating to watch nevertheless because he usually has several planes of action going on at once. There’s not much in the way of a plot; various characters interact in the scene, and then the racing cars show up, destroy things and run over people, which gives a rather dark and slightly disturbing edge to what is supposed to be comic. All in all, this is an interesting curio from a past time.

Rabbit Punch (1948)

Article 4789 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-29-3015
Directed by Chuck Jones
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc and Billy Bletcher
Country: USA
What it is: Bugs Bunny cartoon

When Bugs heckles a brutal boxing champion, he finds himself tossed in the ring and forced to go several rounds with him.

Though I have a slight preference for the partial remake (BUNNY HUGGED), this is still an example of prime Bugs Bunny. As usual, Bugs is up against an all-brawn no-brain adversary (whose name is McGook if I heard the opening announcement correctly) who finds himself befuddled by Bugs’ stratagems. Oddly enough, Bugs doesn’t always come out on top in this one, but he proves far more competition than the champ ever expected. One gets the sense this cartoon could have gone on forever if it didn’t make a bizarre detour into a surreal world in the final round, where it turns from a parody of a boxing match to something that looks like it was out of an old time serial and ends with a gag worthy of Tex Avery. This one is great, solid fun.

La revanche des humanoides (1983)

aka Revenge of the Humanoids
Article 4743 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-27-2015
Directed by Albert Barille
Featuring the voices of Annie Balestra, Roger Carel, Claude Chantal
Country: France
What it is: Animated space opera

Space travelers have adventures and battle evil.

Yes, the plot description is extremely vague, but that’s because the only copy I could find of this one was in French. Usually, when the plot is a simple good-vs-evil story, that’s not a big problem; however, I’m not sure that summary is quite accurate for this one, though it seems so at first. I had quite a few impediments in trying to follow the story visually. The first problem is simply that the movie is several episodes of an animated series edited together; the series was a French animated series called IL ETAIT UNE FOIS…L’ESPACE, and any time you edit a series like this into a movie, it’s usually hard to follow even if you understand the language. Furthermore, because much of the animation is of the limited variety, you can’t read character expressions very well to tap into the emotional sense of the dialogue. Combine that with a bewildering array of characters, and the movie becomes rather impenetrable, and the fact that several sequences seem to be flashbacks certainly doesn’t help. So I’m mostly at a loss with this one; all I can say is it starts out feeling like an animated STAR WARS imitation but seems to end on cosmic/mystical note. Well, at least I can mark this one as “seen” on my list.