Up to Mars (1930)

UP TO MARS (1930)
Animated short
Article 3745 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-3-2011
Posting Date: 11-15-2011
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Voice actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Bimbo cartoon

Bimbo gets into a tussle with a mouse, who outwits him and sends him rocketing to Mars on a fireworks rocket. There Bimbo encounters Martians.

Bimbo was the Fleischer’s star cartoon character in the period after Koko the Clown and before Betty Boop and Popeye. Though Bimbo was a fairly colorless character, he did have one really great cartoon in him (the classic BIMBO’S INITIATION, in which he is terrorized into joining a bizarre cult). This one ultimately promises more than it delivers; some of the gags look forward to CRAZY TOWN and PORKY IN WACKYLAND, but eventually the cartoon settles into a rather ordinary extended routine involving Bimbo being thrown into the Martian army and having to take part in a drill routine to music. Still, I do find it interesting that though Bimbo is your basic anthropomorphic dog, he ends up behaving like a real dog on a couple of occasions when his instinct in dealing with the drill sergeant is to bite him. All in all, this one is passable, but hardly one of the Fleischers’ best.

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The Untameable (1923)

THE UNTAMEABLE (1923)
Article 3693 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-9-2011
Posting Date: 9-24-2011
Directed by Herbert Blache
Featuring Gladys Walton, Malcolm McGregor, John St. Polis
Country: USA
What it is: Drama with horror overtones

When an architect is injured in an auto accident, he is taken to the house of a beautiful young heiress to recuperate. He falls in love with her, but one day she undergoes a strange personality transformation and throws him out of the house. He begins to suspect she has a dual personality, and begins to wonder if her doctor is actually helping her or if he has a more sinister purpose in mind.

With hypnotism and dual personalities on hand, this has a fair amount of fantastic content, though I wouldn’t call it a horror movie. It’s quite entertaining, with much of the credit going to Gladys Walton’s performance; the first time we meet her second personality, the shift is quite alarming, and Walton plays it to the hilt. I’ve don’t think I’ve seen the split personality theme handled in quite this way before, so the story has a bit of novelty value as well. And at only 65 minutes, it moves along at a brisk pace.

The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS (1966)
Article 3666 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-13-2011
Posting Date: 8-28-2011
Directed by T.L.P. Swicegood
Featuring Ray Dannis, Warrene Ott, James Westmoreland
Country: USA
What it is: Gore comedy

An undertaker and two restaurant workers combine forces to increase business. They form a biker gang that goes out and mutilates people, and then the undertaker gets the burial business while the restaurant workers use parts of the victims in their meat dishes.

According to IMDB, this movie got banned from a number of theaters until it was edited down to its present 63 minute length. In this form, it seems a little tamer than the usual Herschell Gordon Lewis movie of the period, and it’s more overtly comic. It’s bad, but it’s not quite as bad as I expected; some of the comedy works well enough to get by. Granted, it’s played a little too broad, but the undertaker’s business tricks are amusing; he charges a ridiculously low price and then ups the price with “extras”, and he also gives green stamps (seeing what his bare-bones funeral is like is a highlight). The acting is better than expected as well, though I’d hardly call it good. Yes, it’s tasteless and often stupid, but that’s no surprise. I’ve seen far worse.

The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (1975)
Article 3629 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-6-2011
Posting Date: 7-22-2011
Directed by Robert Clouse
Featuring Yul Brynner, Max von Sydow, Joanna Miles
Country: USA
What it is: After the apocalypse thriller

After a plague destroys most vegetation and animal life on Earth, the baron of a makeshift fortress in New York City recruits a fighting man ostensibly to help protect its residents from attacks by a well-organized gang of thugs. However, the baron has an ulterior motive; he wants the fighter to take a scientist’s new vegetable seed strain that is resistant to the plague out of the fortress to an island where the vegetation can thrive.

I quite like this “after the apocalypse” thriller that was made before they became fashionable, if for no other reason that it is quite different from how such movies would later turn out. Furthermore, I really like the performances of Yul Brynner, Max von Sydow and William Smith as the fighter, the baron, and the gang leader respectively. However, the movie has some problems that keep me from liking it more; it’s a little too dry and dull, the characters seem a little too well-dressed to make one feel it’s after the apocalypse, and there really aren’t very many sympathetic characters; I’m particularly disappointed at how the residents of the fortress are little better than the gang members. Still, there are good moments, and one very effective visual moment involving a reflection in a window.

Ulysses (1967)

ULYSSES (1967)
Article 3534 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-24-2011
Posting Date: 4-18-2011
Directed by Joseph Strick
Featuring Barbara Jefford, Milo O’Shea, Maurice Roeves
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Ambitious literary adaptation

The events in the lives of two men in Dublin for a single day are recounted.

Personally, I’m amazed anyone would actually aspire to adapt this James Joyce novel to the screen; it is such a singularly literary work that it may be untranslatable to any other medium. It’s no surprise that quite often the movie just takes passages from the book and adds visuals to it, especially the long nighttime musings of Molly Bloom that end the book. I read the novel many years ago, but I don’t remember it and I can’t say that I got much out of it, but I must admit that I had never prepared for this assault on such an extremely difficult work; I do plan to give the novel another try. Still, my lack of memory about the book makes me unwilling to judge this movie until I can make a decent comparison. On its own terms, the movie is sometimes interesting, sometimes quite dull, and it certainly doesn’t make the story seem easy to grasp. In fact, I’m not even sure I should be covering this one. It probably made the list for a few fantasy sequences in the imagination of Leopold Bloom, and perhaps for the fact that the novel itself somewhat parallels the story told in “The Odyssey”. For the record, my source for this one is “The Motion Picture Guide” which classifies the movie as a fantasy, as it has done for several other odd choices.

Une fee… pas comme les autres (1956)

UNE FEE… PAS COMME LES AUTRES (1956)
aka The Secret of Magic Island
Article 3256 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-19-2010
Posting Date: 7-14-2010
Directed by Jean Tourane
Voices unknown
Country: Italy/France
What it is: Bizarre children’s movie

An evil monkey infiltrates a carnival so he can sneak into a village and steal their treasure – a magic wand.

I’ve been dying to see this movie ever since I stumbled across a trailer of it. Once it popped up on my hunt list, it proved near impossible to find, but it finally turned up, albeit dubbed into Swedish. It’s a children’s movie with a gimmick, and that gimmick is that the cast is made up entirely of animals who, according to the ads “think they’re people”. So what you get are scenes of animals doing things that they don’t usually do; you see dogs tending bar, pigs using a bandsaw, frogs driving motorcycles, ducks driving trains and cars, dogs playing the organ, ducks shooting pool… you get the idea. The narrators tell the story, but with this sort of thing, the story is secondary; the attraction is the animal footage. Some of it gets really strange; there’s something truly unsettling about seeing a rabbit smoking a cigarette, or a fox giving a shampoo to a chicken. It’s the sort of movie where a critique is rather pointless; you’ll either find the gimmick irresistible or you won’t. Still, it does get old after a while, even with a running time of about an hour. At the very least, the movie is one of a kind.

Umorismo in nero (1965)

UMORISMO IN NERO (1965)
aka Death Travels Too Much
Article 3226 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-18-2010
Posting Date: 6-14-2010
Directed by Claude Autant-Lara, Jose Maria Forque, Giancarlo Zagni
Country: Italy / France / Spain
What it is: Black comedy anthology

Three comic tales involving death are told. In the first, an old woman believes the pain in her head is caused by a bug in her ear, and she visits a healer. In the second, a circus performer attempts to frame her assistant for the murder of a romantic rival. In the third, a hunter believes the beautiful woman he has encountered is actually Death.

This anthology film features three separate stories directed by three different directors in three different languages; in whichever country you saw it, at least two-thirds of the dialogue was dubbed. This was the one released in Spain, and since I saw it without subtitles, it was a bit difficult to follow. However, I could tell it was lightly comic more than darkly satirical, and it looks like a lot of fun. The first tale does feature a healer who dresses up like a personification of Death at one point, and this gives it a certain fantastic content. The second story climaxes with scenes involving a magician’s act, which adds a bit of fantastic content to that one as well. However, the massive amount of fantastic content is in the third story. This one is the most difficult to follow, but it looks fun; there’s a scene in a crypt involving a man coming out of a burial place with a skull strapped to his head, various attempts to murder Death (who survives and reappears with ease), and some other horror imagery; nonetheless, it’s played for laughs. This is one I wish I could see with subtitles.