Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Article 6062 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-23-2022
Directed by Nicholas Meyer
Featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
Country: USA
What it is: The end of an era

Kirk and McCoy get framed for the murder of a Klingon High Chancellor, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew must solve the mystery and rescue their friends from a Klingon prison colony.

This movie more or less marked the end of the original “Star Trek” from the sixties and begins setting things up for the follow-up *Star Trek: The Next Generation”. It’s not as good as the second and fourth movies of the series, but a definite improvement over the fifth of the series. There are a few touches that don’t quite work, but overall, it’s a good story with strong direction and a decent script. The Shakespeare references get a bit tiresome after a while, but I do like the Peter Pan reference that ends the movie. And I wish there was more of David Warner in the movie, but you can’t always get what you want.

The Sad Little Guinea Pigs (1938)

The Sad Little Guinea Pigs (1938)
Article 6057 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-5-2022
Directed by Manny Gould and Ben Harrison
No voice actors
Country: USA
What it is: More than a little unsettling

A mad scientist tries out his new tonics on three terrified guinea pigs.

Heaven knows what this nightmarish cartoon’s reputation would be if it were better known and not a forgotten Columbia cartoon. Certainly, animal activists would be appalled, though it would certainly be useful to them from a propagandistic standpoint. It’s basically a mad scientist subjecting his guinea pigs to his various sick-looking tonics (each of which seem to contain a mutant creature) and watching their bodies mutate and contort. No, it’s not whimsically amusing; it’s sheer nightmare, and the fact that the scientist gets a comeuppance at the end doesn’t quite make up for the nastiness. And, lest we forget, this is a children’s cartoon, and no doubt someone somewhere considered it a funny idea. Perhaps obscurity is the best place for this one.

So Does an Automobile (1939)

So Does an Automobile (1939)
Article 6037 by Dave Sindelar
12-23-2021
Directed by Dave Fleischer and Roland Crandall
Featuring the voice of Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: More anthropomorphic cars than you could shake a stick at

We visit Betty Boop’s Auto Hospital to find out how sick automobiles are tended to.

Most of the work of Dave and Max Fleischer could arguably fall into the world of the fantastic because they take place in what is clearly an alternate cartoon universe where practically any inanimate object can come to life. This one is packed to the gills with anthropomorphic cars, and even if the cartoon is only fitfully funny, it certainly satisfies in terms of weirdness. Betty is out of her usual costume here; she’s in a jumpsuit, sings a song, and mostly pops in to encourage sick cars to get better. The earlier Betty Boops are better, but I quite like this one, but I have a weak spot for those silly cartoon cars of the thirties.

Spooky Swabs (1957)

Spooky Swabs (1957)
Article 6034 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-13-2021
Directed by Izzy Sparber and Thomas Johnson
Featuring the voices of Jackson Beck, Gilbert Mack, Jack Mercer
Country: USA
What it is: The last Popeye cartoon

Popeye and Olive Oyl are adrift on a raft when they find a ship, unaware that their find is actually haunted, and that its inhabitants don’t want to return to civilization.

The Popeye cartoons of the fifties were pale shadows of the ones made in the thirties, and this one is no exception. Still, they were the best thing Famous Studios were putting out at the time, and given that this was the last theatrical Popeye cartoon, one can’t help but feel a little sad at reaching the end of the line for one of animation’s beloved characters. The cartoon is mostly scenes of the ghosts terrorizing Popeye and Olive Oyl until Popeye eats his spinach and the ghosts get their comeuppance. Still, despite all the ghost action, by favorite bit is before the ghosts appear, and that is the running gag of how Popeye, Olive and their game of checkers react to the waves of the sea. The ghosts look a little bit like the grown-up ones you’d see in a Caspar cartoon. It’s certainly not a high point for Popeye, but it’s sad to see him go nonetheless.

Spooking About Africa (1957)

Spooking About Africa (1957)
Article 6019 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-13-2021
Directed by Seymour Kneitel and Myron Waldman
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer, Sid Raymond and Cecil Roy
Country: USA
What it is: Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon

Casper befriends a sneezing elephant in Africa. He cures him of his affliction, but what happens when a sneeze is really needed?

By this time, Casper was a lot less angsty than he initially was. Even when he inadvertently scares a zebra, he takes it with what amounts to a shrug and moves on. Without the angst, this cartoon avoids the tear-jerking of most of his other cartoons, but it never quite succeeds on its on new terms; despite trying for bigger laughs, it falls flat. And without his angst, there’s just not a lot of character to Casper; in fact, I think the whole cartoon would have worked better if they just jettisoned Casper from the story. This one isn’t particularly memorable.

Spring Song (1949)

Spring Song (1949)
Article 6013 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-2-2021
Directed by Izzy Sparber and Myron Waldman
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer and Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Another opportunity to follow the bouncing ball

Spring is here! The sun wakes up, the woodland nymphs play their flutes, and we all get a chance to sing along.

I’ve covered several of Famous studio’s Screen Songs before. If this one varies the formula at all, it’s that instead of opening with a series of blackout gags on its subject, it goes for a series of spring-inspired whimsy. It’s like a shortened version of the Pastoral Symphony sequence from FANTASIA, but that was the dullest section of that work, and this one is little better. There’s quite a few fantasy elements to win its inclusion here, but this is one of the weakest of the series.

Santa in Animal Land (1948)

Santa in Animal Land (1948)
Article 6008 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-10-2021
Directed by Stefan Sharff
Voice and Hand actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Christmas short

The animals in Animal Land wonder why they have no Santa Claus. Two of the animals travel to the North Pole to find out why.

For the record, whether a puppet short can be called an animated short depends on the type of puppet. George Pal’s Puppetoons are animated because it requires a frame by frame process to bring the puppets to life. For hand puppets, you just let the camera roll and let the puppeteers do their thing, and this is not animation. I probably wouldn’t make an issue of this, buy my copy is on the Mill Creek 600 Classic Cartoons collection, and it’s not a cartoon. But then, one doesn’t necessarily take the Mill Creek megapacks at their word; I’ve seen movies on their Action movie set that have no action, comedies on their Comedy sets that aren’t funny, Movies on their Horror set that aren’t scary‚Ķ but I digress.

The rating for this on IMDB is 4.8, and that’s about right. The presentation is static and dull, and there’s very little of interest here. Yes, I understand that some work went in to building the puppets, the scenery and the costumes, but beyond that, it looks like minimal effort was put into it. I’d find this one dull even if I was a kid who loved puppets. You could make a better movie at home, and I really mean it this time.

Santa’s Pocket Watch (1980)

Santa’s Pocket Watch (1980)
Article 6007 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-10-2021
Director unknown
Featuring the voice of William Rushton
Country: UK
What it is: Quaint Christmas whimsicality

What a young boy wants for Christmas is to meet Santa while the man is making his rounds. When he does, he hides in Santa’s bag and is taken to Santa’s workshop. There Santa allows him to spend Christmas celebrating with he himself and his elves.

You’d think that, given the title, that the timepiece would play a more significant role in the proceedings, but it’s merely an Item of Affidavit. And just what is an IOA, you ask? It’s merely that item that exists in a movie to provide proof that the adventure that preceded the character waking up in a familiar place did indeed truly happen. In action, it works like this.

A: Santa gives the boy his pocket watch as a present.
B: The boy wakes up in the corner of the living room, and begins to wonder if he really met Santa or not.
C: The boy finds the pocket watch, which serves as the Item of Affidavit to prove that yes, he did indeed meet Santa Claus.

Oops, did I give away the end of this Christmas short? Yes, it appears I did. But with an ending like that, does it really matter. When you get right down to it, there really isn’t much to this short; most of the running time is concerned with the elves performing gags. The end result isn’t godawful; it’s too congenial to really be that bad. It’s also nothing special, either. It’s a run-of-mill Christmas short that fills up twenty minutes of time.

The Ship of the Ether (1934)

The Ship of the Ether (1934)
Article 6004 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-5-2021
Directed by George Pal
No cast
Country: The Netherlands
What it is: Advertisement

A ship filled with music from all nations floats through the ether.

This was a very early Puppetoon by George Pal designed to promote the Philips Radio of 1934. Though it has recognizable characters, it’s similar to some of the more abstract animation of the time in feel; there’s no plot to speak of, it’s propelled by the music, and it’s mostly trying to impress with atmosphere rather than with laughs or whimsy. It is also very much a product of its time; I’m not exactly sure what’s going on during the sequence where a variety of music performances take place with a label for each one appearing, but I suspect I would know if I lived in that time. It is, however, an interesting curiosity nowadays.

Superfantagenio (1986)

Superfantagenio (1986)
aka Aladdin
Article 5998 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-15-2021
Directed by Bruno Corbucci
Featuring Bud Spencer, Luca Venantini, Janet Agren
Country: Italy
What it is: Pseudo-shopping-cart movie

A teenage boy finds Aladdin’s lamp and summons a genie who solves everyone’s personal problems when he isn’t drinking beer, annoying the cops and beating up people.

It’s an update of the Aladdin story in which the boy is named Al Haddin and the genie is played by Bud Spencer.  It plays out like a cheap imitation of a Disney shopping-cart movie and is an Italian movie shot in Miami.  Bud Spencer appears to putting forth the minimum amount of effort to put forward what can almost be called a performance, and the plot meanders in a way that makes you suspect the writers had only the vaguest idea of where they wanted the plot to go, if anywhere.  Yet, for all that, I’ll count my blessings, which is my way of saying better Bud Spencer than Franco Franchi.  Disney’s version of ALADDIN  a few years later would wipe memories of this one off the map.