The Shoemaker and the Elves (1935)

The Shoemaker and the Elves (1935)
Article 5990 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-11-2021
Directed by Arthur Davis
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Columbia Color Rhapsody

As a reward for taking in a freezing, helpless waif on a winter night, a shoemaker is visited by elves who make shoes for him all through the night while he sleeps.

If I were to count the number of times I’ve reviewed each fairy tale adaptation I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner was “Cinderella”. And this story is the one I suspect would be in second place, which I do find surprising, as it never struck me as a particularly popular fairy tale. Still, I do prefer the animated versions to some of the live-action ones I’ve seen; the latter tend to be filled with endless scenes of elves building shoes, which gets very old; at least a cartoon keeps the action abbreviated. The most striking thing about this adaptation is the addition of the starving waif, which implies that the cobbler has received the attention of the elves due to his unselfish act of charity for the waif (though the cartoon doesn’t make that explicit). The gags are standard, though we do get a couple of famous star caricatures in the mix, namely, those of Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo. Other than that, this is mostly business as usual.

Shiver Me Timbers! (1934)

Shiver Me Timbers! (1934)
Article 5989 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-11-2021
Directed by Dave Fleischer and Willard Bowsky
Featuring the voices of William Costello and Mae Questal
Country: USA
What it is: Popeye vs. Ghosks

Popeye, Olive Oyl and Wimpy board a pirate ship and are set upon by spooks and skeletons.

Here’s a Popeye short that doesn’t need the spinach excuse to argue its inclusion in fantastic cinema; the wealth of ghosts and skeletons does that. It’s also nice that it’s one of the earlier cartoons of the series when the quality was somewhat higher. The gags are typical of the genre but rather creative at times. It also made me wonder more about the power of spinach in these cartoons; you’d think the increase in physical power wouldn’t have much of an effect on non-physical entities, but it apparently does seem to give Popeye the power to battle of the winds; at least that’s the interpretation I put on the appearance of a character appearing from the stormy ocean. This is definitely one of the better Popeyes.

Shaolin Brothers (1977)

Shaolin Brothers (1977)
aka Shao Lin xiong di
Article 5988 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-5-2021
Directed by Joseph Kuo
Featuring Carter Wong, Chun-Erh Lung, Pao-Shan Chang
Country: Hong Kong
What it is: Your cinematic source for viewing aggressive rounds of patty-cake.

There are these Shaolin brothers and they are caught up confusing political allegiances and deal with it by-playing full-touch charades.

For the record, I made that up; this movie was so confusing I found very little in the way of plot threads to help me. I’m not even sure whether there are any Shaolin brothers in the story, as I’ve come to distrust the American titles for any of these martial arts movies. However, I can attest that it does have hopping zombies; in fact a good portion of the middle of the movie is all about a magician transporting a group of hopping zombies to another place. The movie prepares you for this with a prelude to the action that talks about the nature of these hopping zombies. The movie does dredge up a certain amount of mood from these scenes, though much of it is played for laughs. Those who like lots of action and use expository scenes as an excuse to raid the fridge may like it best if they stock up before the movie starts. The best part for me was the hopping zombie sequence; at least I had a little idea of what was going on in it.

Shaker Run (1985)

Shaker Run (1985)
Article 5987 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-4-2021
Directed by Bruce Morrison
Featuring Cliff Robertson, Leif Garrett, Lisa Harrow
Country: New Zealand / USA
What it is: Car chase movie

A New Zealand research scientist steals a deadly bio-agent from her lab because the military wants to develop it as a weapon. She hires a race-car driver to transport it across the country to her contact, but he doesn’t know how much trouble this will cause him.

I could skip reviewing this one if I wanted to, but it’s been a while since my last review and it is listed in one of the John Stanley guides. Even there, they dismiss it as little more than a car chase movie, and it has to be said that the bio-agent (the only fantastic content in the movie) serves purely as a gizmo maguffin; no one would be chasing anybody if it didn’t exist. As a car chase movie, I found it moderately entertaining, if nothing special. At least there’s a sense of humor to the proceedings and a lot of the movie floats on Cliff Robertson’s charisma. Still, you do have to wonder about the gullibility of someone who thinks they can prevent the bio-agent from being developed by the military by turning it over to the CIA, but that particular thorny issue is ignored by the end of the movie.

The Seapreme Court (1954)

The Seapreme Court (1954)
Article 5986 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-20-2021
Directed by Seymour Kneitel and Tom Golden
Featuring the voices of Jackson Beck, Jack Mercer, Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Little Audrey cartoon

Little Audrey falls asleep while fishing, and dreams she is pulled into the ocean and put on trial for the human race’s crimes against fishdom.

When this cartoon popped up on my list, I was sure that I had already reviewed it, but a quick check of my records revealed that was not the case. Now I know that I’ve seen several cartoons similar to this one (in both the Little Lulu and Little Audrey series), and I’m sure another one involved fish putting a human on trial, but then, that seems to be the basic pattern of these cartoons Little whoever has a dream wherein she discovers the dangers of the acts she’s engaged in, and learns a life lesson. Granted, that means a lot of these have fantastic content to them, but after a while you really get the sense that these series are treading a well-worn path and being written to formula. This one really gives a sense of an animation team in a creative rut.

Screwball Squirrel (1944)

Screwball Squirrel (1944)

Article 5985 by Dave Sindelar

Date: 6-20-2021

Directed by Tex Avery

Featuring the voices of Cal Howard, Wally Maher, Dick Nelson

Country: USA

What it is: Tex Avery cartoon

After ridding the cartoon of its cute star, Screwy Squirrel takes over and spends the rest of its running length tormenting a bird dog.

This cartoon is listed in the Walt Lee guide, so I’d review it even if its fantastic content consisted of no more than the usual cartoon conventions. But the most striking element in this cartoon is its self-awareness that it IS a cartoon, and a Tex Avery cartoon to boot. The cartoon opens with a cute singing, dancing squirrel gathering nuts, only to be interrupted by Screwy Squirrel, who quizzes him on what type of cartoon this will be; the squirrel more or less describes it as a whimsical cartoon with cute characters. Screwy beats the crap out of the squirrel and takes over, turning it into a self-referential compendium of split-second gags. This opening scene may actually provide the manifesto of the Tex Avery style; manic gags with whisper-thin plots rather than cuteness and whimsy. A chase scene is interrupted by a skipping record player, a game of hide-and-seek takes place on a railroad track, the seasick gag caused by tilting a picture of an ocean knowingly and unapologetically recycled… this is Tex Avery territory. And though he’s done better, this is perhaps one of Tex Avery’s definitive cartoons.

Scream Bloody Murder (1972)

Scream Bloody Murder (1972)
Article 5984 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-17-2021
Directed by Marc B. Ray
Featuring Fred Holbert, Leigh Mitchell, Robert Knox
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho Killer on the loose

A young boy with an Oedipal complex is sent to an institution after killing his father but losing his hand in a farming incident. When he returns home to find his mother has remarried, he becomes even more homicidal, seeing every woman as his mother and all her loves as evil fathers…

So why haven’t I covered this movie earlier? After all, it’s easy to find and is listed in most of the movie guides I used to cull my review list. It’s the result of a technicality. There were two movies from this era that had the same title, and the various guides would conflate them, giving the plot of this movie but listing the credits of the other movie (which is better known now by its other title, MY BROTHER HAS BAD DREAMS). When this sort of thing happened, I made the rule that I would follow the credits first, and this movie was constantly overlooked. So much for the explanation.

As for the movie itself, I’ll start out by saying that I’ve never been much of a believer in the Oedipal complex, and so this movie’s harping on it just made me take it less and less seriously. However, only the first third of the movie emphasizes this aspect. The middle third of the movie however turns to one of my less favorite horror situations, in which a woman is held prisoner and tormented by the psycho, so naturally we have the obligatory long sequence where she desperately tries to escape but you’ll know she’ll fail because that’s how these movies work. For me, the movie only starts to come to life when the woman begins turning the psycho’s stunted sexuality against him, and even if things don’t quite come out as she expected, it’s the only time the movie surprises me. The ending follows logically from this and is perhaps too arty for its own good. Nevertheless, the movie ends up better than I expected it would be, especially after seeing the first two thirds of the movie.

Scrappy’s Side Show (1939)

Scrappy’s Side Show (1939)
Article 5983 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-16-2021
Directed by Arthur Davis
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Scrappy cartoon

Scrappy tries to make some money by putting on a homemade side show, but a mischievous little girl interferes with his acts.

I wasn’t sure whether to give this one a review or not, but I decided to for two reasons. The side show was one of the sources of horror content in the early days of cinema (consider FREAKS and some other Tod Browning movies), and this one has a couple of non-existent exotic (albeit faked) animals, such as a turtle dog (a real dog wearing an umbrella top). Scrappy was a regular cartoon character at Columbia during the thirties who at least didn’t come across like a Mickey Mouse imitation, though he really doesn’t have much of a character (though the picture of him in the opening segment of the cartoon makes him resemble Peter Lorre a bit). The cartoon is fitfully amusing, with my favorite moment coming early on when the little girl digs herself into the side show only to find herself on exhibit as an animal. This one is okay, but nothing special.

The Scared Crows (1939)

The Scared Crows (1939)
Article 5982 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-13-2021
Directed by Dave Fleischer and Dave Tendlar
Featuring the voice of Margie Hines
Country: USA
What it is: Betty Boop cartoon

Betty and her dog Pudgy are planting crops on their farm only to discover that the seeds are being eaten by crows. Will their scarecrow get rid of the pests?

To my understanding, a scarecrow would keep the crows away not by necessarily being scary, but rather by making it appear there was a human being in the field, thus making it less likely that the birds would invade. Such is not the case here; the crows have no fear of either Betty Boop or Pudgy the Dog and only flee when a scary-looking scarecrow is pulled out. This explains why this cartoon qualifies for my reviews; a scarecrow as a scary manifestation makes the cartoon move a little into the realm of horror, especially near the end when Betty dons the costume to frighten the birds. On its own merits, this is one of the lame cartoons from near the end of the Betty Boop series; she is so removed from her sexy flapper image here that she spends the whole cartoon wearing farming clothes. In general, you can guess the quality of a Betty Boop by taking a look at which secondary character is emphasized, and Pudgy was only used after Betty was effectively rid of her early bawdy image. This is one of the weaker cartoons from the Fleischer era.

Satan’s Waitin’ (1954)

Satan’s Waitin’ (1954)
Article 5981 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-11-2021
Directed by Friz Freleng
Featuring the voice of Mel Blanc
Country: USA
What it is: Tweety and Sylvester cartoon

Sylvester ends up dead after an unsuccessful attempt to capture Tweety and finds himself in hell which is run by a devil dog. Fortunately, he has eight more lives, but how long will that last, especially with the dog egging him on?

Truth to tell, I was pleasantly surprised by this one, largely because I had originally mistaken it for a different cartoon (whose name eludes me at the moment) in which a character’s descent to hell is the framing story for a bunch of footage from earlier cartoons, meaning I would end up having another opportunity to grouse about recycling footage, which I never enjoy. Still, this isn’t really one of the better Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, largely because it makes very poor use of Tweety, who is really little more than the prey of the cat here. Perhaps is no surprise that my favorite moment here is a Tweety one, in which he mistakes Sylvester’s frantic flapping of two feathers as a generous attempt to return them to the bird. To my mind, the funniest thing about this particular series is how Tweety generally proves more than a match for Sylvester.