Has it been half a year since we left off in the Vogel book? Since then I’ve picked up the revised edition and found some more shorts.
Pianissimo (1963, Carmen D’Avino)
Beginning with the lowest-quality source of the bunch. Turntable and player piano are embellished with stop-motion rainbows. It’s all extremely fun and colorful, and probably one of the great animated shorts of its time, but we need a better copy to know for sure.
Skullduggery (1960, Stan Vanderbeek)
Phone call over black, the respondent just repeating “hello.” Montages of early cinema and newsreel stock footage with cut-out politician and celebrities added. Stan was obviously a favorite of Vogel’s – I found all three of his films from this section of the book.
Science Friction (1959, Stan Vanderbeek)
Sound effect loops as a score, not as abrasive as these things often are. I wonder if the mad scientist segment is original photography or stock footage. Less politician obsessed and more focused on doing surprising things to recognizable images, this one is great, real snappy and absurd, while Skullduggery felt like Mad Magazine outtakes. Advertising, the space race, hammers hitting figures in their heads causing transformation (see also: Harry Smith)… by the end, pretty much everything has been launched into space.
Stan, from various sources:
A social satire aimed at the rockets, scientists and competitive mania of our time … If this film has a social ambition, it is to help disarm the social fuse of people living with anxiety, to point out the insidious folly of competitive suicide (by way of rockets). In this film and others I am trying to evolve a ‘litera-graphic’ image, an international sign language of fantasy and satire. There is a social literature through filmic pantomime, that is, non-verbal comedy-satire; a ‘comic-ominous’ image that pertains to our time and interests which Hollywood and the commercial cinema are ignoring.
A La Mode (1959, Stan Vanderbeek)
An “attire satire” with cut-outs from glamour, art and lifestyle magazines. The audio includes taped music on fast forward and excerpts from TV episodes or radio plays. I hate to have to say this whenever I see absurd comic cutout animation, but of course it reminds me of Monty Python. Stan: ”A montage of women and appearances, a fantasy about beauty and the female, an homage, a mirage.”
A Day in Town (1958, Hulten & Nordenstrom)
The town is Stockholm, and this is a travelogue, a city symphony in miniature (a city chamber concerto). Some segments are looped. Burst of abstract animation in a skit about a man who wants his name changed. Man with a suitcase of dynamite is chased around by two cops until one cop is poisoned by snake water. Increasingly rapid and random things accumulate until the city explodes.
Sort of a Commercial for an Icebag (1970, Michel Hugo)
Artist Claes Oldenburg wants to create a soft sculpture, or a motion sculpture showing the release and tension of materials, settles on an icebag shape. He wants to mass produce these, send them everywhere “and see what kind of meaning they acquire.” Artist monologue about his hopes for an icebag society feels like a put-on, but you never can tell with artists.
The Further Adventures of Uncle Sam (1971, Case & Mitchell)
Sleepy Sam runs a desert gas station, is knocked out and abducted in a potato sack by a would-be customer, witnessed only by a cameraman apparition. A cabal of tanks, bombs and capitalists plans to blow him up and kidnap Lady Liberty next, but Sam’s bald eagle friend sort-of rescues him and they hop a blimp. When you watch underground movies from this era, you’re gonna see a lot of Nixons. After a pause for a satanic shotgun murder montage, our heroes pull off a rescue mission and dance back into the desert.