Rocket to Mars (1946)

Animated Cartoon

Article 3584 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-19-2011
Posting Date: 6-7-2011
Directed by Bill Tytla
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer, Harry Welch, and Jackson Beck
Country: USA
What it is: Popeye cartoon

Popeye is accidentally rocketed to Mars, where he discovers an impending invasion of the Earth.

This is only the second Popeye cartoon I’ve covered; the other one was POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS SINBAD THE SAILOR from a decade earlier. I didn’t expect this one to live up to that one; after all, the earlier one was designed as a special project, and this one was probably just another entry in the Popeye series. By this time, the characteristic mumbling and the three-dimensional backgrounds had gone by the wayside, and I really miss them; they both served to make the earlier cartoons a bit more special. This was made fairly soon after the war ended, and there are a few references; in outer space, one of the planets is an Eight Ball with a Japanese character behind it, and after he takes his spinach, the imagery in Popeye’s muscles are of A-bombs. The head of the Martian army serves as the Bluto character here. It has some amusing moments, but it’s just not as much fun as the earlier cartoons.


Der Rest ist Schweigen (1959)

aka The Rest is Silence

Article 3574 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-8-2011
Posting Date: 5-28-2011
Directed by Helmut Kautner
Featuring Hardy Kruger, Peter van Eyck, Ingrid Andree
Country: West Germany
What it is: Modernized Shakespeare

A young man returns home to find his father dead… and his mother married to the man he suspects is his father’s murderer.

Here’s another movie that was rescued from my “ones that got away” list, those movies that I hunted for unsuccessfully for years. And, like most foreign movies that end up on that list, if it does manifest itself, it’s usually not on a copy with English dubbing or subtitles, and such is the case here. However, I was armed with one extra piece of info; this movie is a fairly faithful modernized adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, a play I am quite familiar with. As a result, I was able to match the characters in the movie with the equivalent characters in the play, and follow the thread of the plot. It’s a good thing, too; had I not been able to follow it, the plot wouldn’t have made any sense to me, and the fantastic content would have been invisible. In fact, I’m still not sure it’s there; in the play, Hamlet is clued in to the plot of Claudius by a visit from the ghost of his dead father, and there is no recognizably equivalent scene in this movie. There is, however, a mysterious phone call in a flashback sequence which may be indicative of a call from a ghost, and there’s an interesting scene where the main character discovers a secret safe from a clue in a painting of his father. However, since I was not privy to an understanding of the dialogue surrounding these scenes, this may be nothing but conjecture. I’m actually surprised that this is the first version of “Hamlet” I’ve encountered for this series, given the directness of the fantastic content in the story, and it would be ironic if this one didn’t contain that content. At any rate, I enjoyed the movie, and it saves its biggest departure from its source script for the ending scene, which leaves many more characters alive than the original does and makes the final act of justice come from an unexpected hand. My favorite scene is when Fee (this movie’s equivalent to the character of Ophelia) descends into madness and cuts off all of the flowers in a greenhouse; for some reason, I found this scene unbelievably sad.

Rock & Rule (1983)

ROCK & RULE (1983)
Article 3566 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-27-2011
Posting Date: 5-20-2011
Directed by Clive A. Smith
Featuring the voices of Paul Le Mat, Susan Roman, Don Francks
Country: Canada
What it is: Animated Rock and Roll fantasy

In a post-apocalyptic world where animals have evolved into human-like forms, a legendary rock performer tries to circumvent his waning popularity by summoning a demon from another dimension at his next concert. To do so, he needs a special voice, which belongs to a female singer in an unknown band. He kidnaps her, but the other members of her band set out to rescue her…

The first animated feature produced entirely in Canada owes a lot more to Bakshi than it does to Disney. Still, it’s not as jagged as some of Bakshi’s work, and overall, the animation is quite good. The story is merely passable, and the movie doesn’t really make much use of either the “evolved animals” or the “post-apocalyptic world”. What it does use, and what is probably its big selling point, is the talents of the rock artists involved; the music is provided by Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed and Earth, Wind and Fire (Iggy Pop is also in there somewhere). The movie also models its characters off of some of the rock performers; the main rock group in the movie more or less resembles Cheap Trick (with Debbie Harry sharing lead vocals with Robin Zander), with characters clearly modeled off of Bun E. Carlos and Rick Nielsen, the latter being played like a certain Bowery Boy who Nielsen resembles, though it should be pointed out that the rock stars only provide the singing voices and not the talking voices. Lou Reed does the singing voice for the main villain, who looks not so much like Reed as he does a cross between Mick Jagger and the Grinch. Overall, the movie was quite entertaining, if nothing really special.

A Roadside Inn (1906)

aka L’hotel des voyageurs de commerce
Article 3547 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-6-2011
Posting Date: 5-1-2011
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Minor Melies

Three pranksters invite a drunkard to spend a night in a room in a hotel so they can play jokes on him.

The primary joke involves a dummy dressed up to look like a ghost and run by strings; this is to frighten the drunkard. For a Melies film, this is singularly unambitious, though it does have a sort of split-screen effect with half of the screen in the bedroom and the other half out in the hall. Though the fantastic content involving the ghost is faked, the ending has a twist that moves it into the realm of fantasy, although I’m not sure of exactly what happened. As stated above, this is fairly minor entry in Melies’s oeuvre.

Robinson Crusoe of Mystery Island (1966)

Article 3542 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-1-2011
Posting Date: 4-26-2011
Directed by Ray Taylor and Mack V. Wright
Featuring Mala, Mamo Clark, John Picorri
Country: USA
What it is: Serial thrills in convenient feature form

A federal agent is sent to Clipper Island to investigate the possibility of sabotage being performed on a dirigible company. It turns out the island is the hideout of a gang of international spies who are manipulating the natives by controlling the volcano.

It seems like eons since I’ve covered a feature version of a serial. Not that I really missed them, mind you; I always thought that serials crammed into features generally come off as repetitive; what works in twenty minute spurts doesn’t necessarily work in a 100 minute chunk, especially if you feel compelled to edit out plot points to make room for more action. This one is pretty typical; jagged editing leaves the storyline a confused mess. Nowadays, the original serials are easier to find than these condensations, so there’s no real reason to hunt for these, unless you’re a completist like me.

Rentadick (1972)

Article 3531 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-21-2011
Posting Date: 4-15-2011
Directed by Jim Clark
Featuring James Booth, Richard Briers, Julie Ege
Country: UK
What it is: British comedy

A detective agency is hired to guard a secret paralysis gas. However, some of the detectives at the same agency have been hired to steal the formula for the gas. Hilarity ensues.

When I heard that the movie was co-written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman, my expectations went up in the hopes of enjoying some Python-style humor. My first clue that all was not well should have been the opening credits, where the names of Cleese and Chapman do not appear; in fact, the only writing credits are for “additional dialogue”. It turns out that upon seeing the movie (based on a script of theirs with the less racy title RENTASLEUTH), the pair asked that their names be removed. I don’t blame them; this is a desperately unfunny farce, confusing, unfocused and messy. The only gag that even approached being funny was having one of the detectives become trapped inside a mansion and being thwarted in his every attempt to escape. The fantastic content is a nerve gas that paralyzes people from the waist down, but it’s used mostly as a Gizmo Maguffin, and given the bawdy title, I was surprised that the concept wasn’t used once for a suggestive joke; in fact, outside of a couple of near-naked shots of Julie Ege, the movie is surprisingly tame. The basic premise could have resulted in an interesting and fun comedy, but I’m afraid this one is a disaster.

Le retapeur de cervelles (1911)

aka The Brain Inspector
Article 3508 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-26-2011
Posting Date: 3-23-2011
Directed by Emile Cohl
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Partially animated medical movie

A man goes to a noted brain inspector for help. After observing the goings-on inside the man’s head, the inspector concludes that an operation is necessary.

This short is a combination of live action and animation. The animated segments occur when the inspector uses a megaphone-like tube to inspect the man’s brain and sees various surreal visions, and again during the operation when the inspector removes a long rope from the man’s head. The rope then goes into a animated transformations, indicating that this is the cause of the man’s ailment. The animated transformations are very entertaining, almost Freudian at times, and it has a stream-of-consciousness flow to it. This makes for an interesting viewing experience, and makes me long for a rediscovery of Emile Cohl and his work.