Spooky Hooky (1936)

Article 3186 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-5-2010
Posting Date: 5-5-2010
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Featuring Eugene ‘Porky’ Lee, George ‘Spanky’ McFarland, Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer
Country: USA
What it is: Little Rascals short

The Little Rascals hatch a scheme to play hooky so they can go to the circus; however, when they discover that the teacher actually plans to take the kids to the circus, they try to retrieve the forged note they planted to excuse them from class. Unfortunately, the school is locked, and they have to sneak inside during a spooky, rainy night.

Basically, this consists of setting up the above plot, and then Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat and Porky scaring each other or being scared of each other. There’s some scary noises, an owl, people dressed as ghosts, and a skeleton. Of course it’s not scary; it’s too cute. Nonetheless, this is a mildly amusing short.


Spooks (1931)

SPOOKS (1931)
Article 3185 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-4-2010
Posting Date: 5-4-2010
Directed by Ub Iwerks
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Funny skeleton cartoon

Flip the Frog takes refuge from a storm in a scary mansion where his host is a friendly skeleton. However, the skeleton has an ulterior motive; it turns out that Flip is just the right size to fill the box that will complete the skeleton’s skeleton collection.

Of course I feel deja vu; it’s another Ub Iwerks skeleton cartoon like yesterday’s. This one isn’t nearly as musically inclined, though there is a musical section which uses one of the same gags as SKELETON FROLICS; namely, a skeleton dancer breaking into two parts after each twirl. Flip the Frog is largely forgotten nowadays, but I kind of like him, mainly because he has a catchy little title melody. My favorite scene here has the host offering dinner to Flip – a chicken skeleton, which Flip finds inedible but feels he must be a gracious guest.

Skeleton Frolics (1937)

Article 3184 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-3-2010
Posting Date: 5-3-2010
Directed by Ub Iwerks
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Dancing skeleton cartoon

Skeletons arise from the graves and form a band.

There seems to be a sub-genre of musical skeleton cartoons during the early talkie era. This one is directed by Ub Iwerks, who worked as an animator for SKELETON DANCE in 1929, so he was returning to familiar ground. There’s no plot, but the animation is good and the gags are passable, and, unlike the others I’ve seen, this one is in color. This cartoon is available on the DVD of THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA.

Stop, Look and Listen (1949)

Animated cartoon
Article 3181 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-28-2010
Posting Date: 4-30-2010
Directed by Eddie Donnelly
Voice actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Animated serial operetta parody

Oilcan Harry has both Pearl Pureheart and Mighty Mouse tied to a bull that is running from a locomotive. Pearl’s father is rushing to drill an oil well to get the money to pay for her ransom. Will Mighty Mouse be able to save the day?

From what I’ve seen of the various Mighty Mouse shorts so far, I’m of the opinion that the series only really achieved transcendence when it introduced Pureheart and Oilcan Harry, took on serials and operetta, and lifted the whole concept to levels of hilarious absurdity. The use of music in these cartoons helps keep the action fast and lively. It takes Mighty Mouse three minutes to remember he has superpowers; if that doesn’t seem all that long, keep in mind that’s half the cartoon. These cartoons may very well represent the pinnacle of Terrytoons’s output.

The Singing Princess (1949)

aka La rosa di Bagdad
Article 3175 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-22-2010
Posting Date: 4-24-2010
Directed by Anton Gino Domenighini
Featuring the voices of Julie Andrews, Patricia Hayes, Stephen Jack
Country: Italy
What it is: Animated Arabian Nights story

The beautiful princess Zeila becomes the amorous target of the corrupt Sheikh Jafar, who uses a magician named Burk to cast a spell over her. Only her childhood friend Amin can save her.

If you do a chronological sort on the movies of Julie Andrews on IMDB, you may be startled to find that her first movie was this animated fantasy from Italy made in the late forties; she would have been 14 years old when this one was made. However, if you pay attention to the opening credits, you will see the copyright for the English version is much later – 1967; this was obviously not her first film. I can’t help but notice that several of the user comments on IMDB fail to take this into account. The movie makes a lot of fuss about her involvement here; it stars “the magical voice of Julie Andrews”, but, truth to tell, the semi-operatic tunes she warbles here just aren’t very memorable. The animation is obviously modeled off of the work of Disney, and even if it doesn’t flow as well, it does seem to have a rhythm all its own. The story itself is a variation of Aladdin, with the genie from that story making an appearance late in the movie. The English version isn’t done with a lot of care; the syncing is off, and there are moments where characters speak with no voices coming out at all. This makes for a very uneven viewing experience, but there are some neat moments in the story; I love a creatively staged dance with three snakes, and Amin’s final confrontation with the evil magician is a definite highlight.

Seven Thunders (1957)

aka The Beasts of Marseilles
Article 3174 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-21-2010
Posting Date: 4-23-2010
Directed by Hugo Fregonese
Featuring Stephen Boyd, James Robertson Justice, Tony Wright
Country: UK
What it is: War drama

During WWII, two British POWs lay low in the old quarter of Marseilles, which they discover is populated by a number of refugees from the Germans. But how long can they hide here safely…?

“The Motion Picture Guide” partially classifies this movie as horror, but I suspect any horror fan would walk away from this one frustrated and disappointed. It does contain a horror element (there is a serial killer present), but this element remains peripheral to the plot for the most part, and furthermore, it’s the type of serial killer that’s in it for the money, and this detail tends to lessen the horror vibe of the concept. Those who decide to see it through will find a not uninteresting wartime drama, albeit one that feels a little cluttered with too many characters; it’s one of those movies that is based on a novel and feels like it. The serial killer does provide some memorable moments, especially during a scene where he describes to a victim just what is going to happen to him, and it builds to a nice climax when the Nazis take some extreme measures to flush out the refugees in the old quarter. I’d say it’s good, but not great.

Satan in Prison (1907)

aka Satan en prison
Article 3166 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-13-2010
Posting Date: 4-15-2010
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Silent trick film with home furnishing subplot

An elegantly dressed man is thrown into a prison cell. He magically conjures up all the creature comforts of home, but the guards object, so he…

The Melies-a-thon continues, this time with a more elaborate variation of Melies’s “magic act” movies. Here, with the help of a white sheet, he conjures up chairs, a table, a fireplace, paintings for the walls, and even a beautiful woman to keep him company. The movie has a bit of a twist ending, but since the title gives it away, it’s really hard to call it a surprise. All in all, it’s an entertaining if minor entry into Melies’s oeuvre.