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.

Rip Van Winkle (1960)

Rip Van Winkle (1960)
aka Rip van Wyk
Article 5567 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-24-2018
Directed by Emil Nofal
Featuring Jamie Uys, Wynona Cheyney, Gert van den Burgh
Country: South Africa
What it is: Fish-out-of-water comedy

A man from 1860 drinks a potion given to him by a bearded passer-by, and wakes up one hundred years in the future.

I bought the movie under the RIP VAN WYK title, but the title on the film itself is RIP VAN WINKLE, which made me suspect that it was to be a straightforward rendering of the old legend, and for the first ten minutes or so, it feels like it is. However, in place of the gnomes and the bowling game, we have a bearded man whose presence is responsible for the man’s jump to the future, and it doesn’t appear that he slept that long, either; he’s the same age as when he began. It’s basically a likable fish-out-of-water comedy in which the man tries to come to terms with his change of environment, only to run afoul of the police in the interim and to be believed mad. Though it’s amusing enough, you spend much of the movie wondering if there’s a point or a purpose beyond the comic set-up. There is, but it takes quite a while to get to it, and I won’t give it away except to say that it’s about the main character’s being given an opportunity to right an inadvertent wrong he committed in the past. In some ways the movie is a bit obvious, but it’s a solid, satisfying movie and lightly amusing.

Ransom Money (1970)

Ransom Money (1970)
Article 5481 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-16-2017
Directed by Dewitt Lee
Featuring Broderick Crawford, Rachel Roman, Gordan Jump
Country: USA
What it is: Crime thriller

A young boy is kidnapped and held for ransom. The distraught mother seeks the help of the police. Can they outwit the kidnapper?

This one popped up in the Mill Creek Action movie set, and is definitely on the side of marginalia, but since it kept throwing marginal content at me throughout the movie, I finally gave in and decided to give it a review. There’s a bit of marginal science fiction here; the kidnapper is an electronics expert, and he performs actions such as sending messages to the mother through the radio in her car and the television in her hotel room. He also tortures her at one point with loud electronic noise. Furthermore, there is a plot element involving an ink that disappears when exposed to light, and there’s a bit of a psychotic touch in the way that he seems to be terrorizing the mother. All of this may be marginal, but it’s there, and I chose to review it.

As for the movie itself, I will warn anyone who has the above mentioned Action set to ignore the plot description attached; Ralph Meeker is not in the movie, and other than the plot element of a boy being kidnapped, the story is different. The movie is definitely on the campy side; some of the dialogue is laughable, the plot relies on some fairly hard-to-swallow coincidences, and the production at times seems rushed. I do wonder if Broderick Crawford walked off the movie before production finished; his character is unceremoniously killed offscreen for very little reason before the climax of the movie. My favorite touch in the movie is that the kidnapper dares the mother to report the kidnapping to the police, so confident is he that he won’t be caught. My least favorite moment is the opening, which is a) a long driving scene, and b) features one of those faux singer-songwriter style ditties of the era that always seem to be so out of place in a movie of this ilk. And you should have no trouble figuring out which of the primary characters has a shady link to the kidnapper.