Torture Money (1937, Harold S. Bucquet)
Caught on TCM’s Oscar Month – this beat out Deep South and Should Wives Marry? for best two-reeler. A cop from the Bunco Squad goes undercover to investigate a ring of scammers who beat a guy up in a back room then fake a car accident complete with paid “witnesses” to fraud insurance companies. The scammers purposely run over a little girl, just in case insurance fraud wasn’t enough of a crime to get our attention. Our officer blends in successfully thanks to his knowledge of 30’s street slang and his ability to fake a hatred of cops. He’s chosen to be the “accident victim” (that’d be the titular torture), manages to contact his men, spring the trap and send the baddies to jail. I don’t recall the character names, so our cop was either George Lynn (I Was a Teenage Frankenstein) or Edwin Maxwell (The Great Moment, His Girl Friday). The director went on to better things (a Katharine Hepburn feature, the Dr. Kilgare series), as did the writer (T-Men, Robinson Crusoe On Mars).
Three half-hour shorts from the 1997 Africa Dreaming series:
Sophia’s Homecoming (Richard Pakleppa, Namibia)
Sophia arrives in town after years in South Africa and finds that her husband, kids and sister aren’t so happy to see her. Turns out the sister and husband are in love… Soph tries to break it up, but when the sister says she’s expecting the husband’s baby, Sophia packs up her kids and returns to S. Africa. Other than a solo dish-destroying kitchen tantrum, there’s surprisingly little screaming and fighting, considering the situation.
Sabriya (Abderrahmane Sissako, Tunisia)
Hot, uninhibited, waterfall-loving foreign woman comes to town and shakes up the home life of a local chess-playing tavern dweller. He falls in love, but I think she leaves town without him at the end… I was too busy staring at the nice visuals and trying to remember scenes from Waiting For Happiness.
So Be It (Joseph Gai Ramaka, Senegal)
Doctor arrives in town (people are always arriving in town in these movies), sees a mute retarded kid who hangs around. Everyone seems to dump on the retarded kid… finally outta nowhere (actually I predicted it, but I was kidding) the townsfolk come with torches to kill the kid. Why? I dunno, but the doctor is right upset. The written description on the box calls it an African Heart of Darkness (although I would prefer an African Heart of Darkness to concern an adventurer from the Congo on a dangerous mission to England to retrieve a countryman who’d encamped in a rural British village up the Thames and established himself as a god among the locals). The box seems to know a lot that I couldn’t figure out from the movies. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention?
Egged On (1926, Charley Bowers)
Charley invents an overly-complicated machine in his girlfriend’s parents’ barn which makes eggs unbreakable (rubbery, you open them with scissors) and aims to sell it to the egg-shipping industry. The investors are coming, but Charley has no eggs for the demonstration, so he fails to gather some in various ways. Finally gets an egg from a hen who’s been eating dynamite… test goes well until he hits the egg with a hammer to prove its indestructibility and destroys the whole barn. Worth watching for the scene shown below in which a batch of eggs, incubated by Charley’s car engine, hatch into hundreds of little cars in a massive and delightful stop-motion display.
He Done His Best (1926, Charley Bowers)
Another one involving eggs, and complicated machinery, overall more entertaining then Egged On. Charley needs his girl’s dad’s consent for marriage, ends up working at his restaurant. Gets dad in union trouble, so invents an automatic server/cook machine (powered by stop-motion, natch). Dad is cheered immensely, girl holds wedding at the restaurant, but she’s marrying some other guy which is supposed to be a funny surprise but is instead kind of an anticlimactic ending after a great movie, a la Chaplin’s One A.M.
Azur and Asmar (2006, Michel Ocelot)
Not supposed to be a short, but we ditched after 45 minutes because this was so bad. I can’t even think when’s the last time I walked out on a movie (though I remember itching to leave Sam Raimi’s The Gift). The critically-raved-on animation looked to me like weakly-puppeted low-detail Flash, and the story was going nowhere we couldn’t easily predict, so there seemed no point in staying. As a rule, I don’t put half-seen movies on the website, but I’m making an exception here and I don’t need a reason, nyeah.
Euro/African kids grow up with same mum/caretaker, Euro kid is sent away to become classy, African kid/mum is kicked out of house, sent back to whatever country to become super-rich merchants. Eurokid goes to africa, hides his blue eyes, runs into his mum and a hunchback liar fellow, and sets out to locate the three keys and marry some mythic fairy. Africa stuff is all Eurocentric wide-eyed wonder, and the other kid disappears for huge chunks of the movie, so the idea that we were seeing some kind of African tale faithfully told by a Frenchman went out the window.
Then we snuck into the animated shorts program and caught Varmints (Marc Craste) – wordless depresso-short with very good CGI about a bunny in a polluted Wall-E world trying to use his potted plant in order to get captured by giant floating jellyfish to live in meadowy heaven with the girl he met in the elevator – Gopher Broke (Blur Studios) – slick, commercial-looking animal comedy, unlucky gopher upsetting trucks on their way to the farmer’s market in order to get himself some food – Skhizein (Jeremy Clapin) – guy is hit by an asteroid and finds that his consciousness is some number of centimeters to the side of his body, neat premise but in the end it turns out he is just deranged – and Hot Dog and John and Karen which I’d already seen in The Animation Show 4 but played better with a crowd.