A Dream Walking (1934, Dave Fleischer)

The soundtrack makes good use of the title song as Olive goes sleepwalking across rooftops into a construction site, while P and B beat each other up for the chance to be her rescuer. P “wins” and takes credit, but O gets home safely on her own. Some good 3D movement through the girder grid. Wimpy’s voice is different than I remembered it.


Adventures of Popeye (1935, Dave Fleischer)

Something different, a live-action child holding a Popeye comic gets beat up by the local bully, Popeye jumps out of the book and runs a clip show of action scenes from previous shorts, the kid gets the message, eats his spinach and pummels the bully.


Minnie the Moocher (1932, Dave Fleischer)

Betty thinks her parents are cruel for making her eat sauerbraten, so she runs away with Bimbo. They hide in a cave where Cab Calloway and his band perform the title song (they appeared in person over the opening titles but an animated walrus is his stand-in here) and this scares them into returning home. Anyway we’ve learned that Betty’ parents are German immigrants, so the name Boop might’ve been an Ellis Island misspelling of Boos or Rupp or Hoppe.


The Merry Musicians (1936, Aleksandr Ptushko)

Puppet animation: four old mistreated animals run away from home and form a traveling band, playing the same song over and over. Needing a place to stay, they find a house of thieves in the woods and scare away its residents, and live happily ever after. Not as much fun as it sounds.


The Barber of Seville (1944, Shamus Culhane)

I haven’t seen one of these in a while – is Woody meant to be chaotic evil? He goes into a barber shop to get a Victory Haircut to support the troops, but the shop is vacant so he takes over, terrorizing anyone who walks in. He does sing Figaro in the last scene.


Who Killed Cock Robin? (1935, David Hand)

How many Disney murder mystery musicals are there? A lady wren seems like a Mae West caricature. The cops respond to the crime with a wave of random brutality (actual lyric “We don’t know who is guilty so we’re gonna hang ’em all”). Turns out Cupid shot the robin, who was only dazed, wakes up to kiss Mae Wren in court. Travis Wilkerson later made a film with the same title. Oscar nominated, beaten by the same director/studio’s Three Orphan Kittens.


The Band Concert (1935, Wilfred Jackson)

Another orchestra toon, people were really into orchestras back then. Mickey’s conducting the William Tell Overture, and an early-model Donald interferes, as does a bumblebee and finally a tornado. Much violence ensues, excellent animation. The first technicolor Mickey, won an award at the third Venice Film Festival.


Clock Cleaners (1937, Ben Sharpsteen)

Literally clock cleaners, like with feather dusters on a clock tower, none of them especially competent. A nesting stork interferes. Some better aerial antics than the Popeye sleepwalking thing.


The Brave Little Tailor (1938, Bill Roberts)

A misunderstanding has Mickey appointed the town giant slayer, offered millions of “pazuzas” and the hand of the princess if he succeeds. I must’ve seen this short a hundred times as a kid, one of the few readily-available Disneys. MM getting swallowed is still a cool scene, and the giant swatting at MM in the same way that MM was swatting flies in the opening scene is nice. Our guy prevails, and the town harnesses giant-snores for wind power. Another oscar-nominated Disney short that lost to a rival Disney short, the far inferior Ferdinand the Bull.


Night on Bald Mountain (1933, Alexander Alexeieff)

Animated engravings? Ah, it’s pinscreens, invented by the director and his wife. Blobby 3D rotations, back-and-forth repetition, transformations, what looks like a photographed miniature town. This goes in a bunch of different directions, all set to familiar music. Can’t say I got what it’s going for (ghosts rampant on the mountainside?) but it’s a change of pace from the Disney stuff.


Fétiche / The Mascot (1933, Ladislas Starewicz)

No subtitles, but a feverish kid is haunted by the roomful of dolls he’s resting in, seeing them come alive in glorious stop-motion. A wizard conjures an orange, fought over by a cat and monkey.
Dollmaker mom takes the dolls out to the city, presumably to sell, but if you’re sewing together evil dolls with souls, it’s a mistake to create a knife-wielding thug. He arranges an escape from the moving car, but rather than a fun Toy Story 2 romp through Fontenay-sous-Bois, they get trashed and broken and lost, only the cute dog surviving to the shop, though he escapes his buyer immediately and then it does become Toy Story 2. The blending of controlled puppetry and live-action chaos is beautifully done. Suddenly the devil is there, resurrecting the skeletons of eaten animals, summoning creatures made of paper and shoes and vegetables to his lair, where they party all night. Our doggy comes too, with his prize orange, which he never bites into, so it keeps getting stolen. Some of his old housemates are there helping cause havoc. The devil tries to sow discord and provide entertainment but gets his ass beaten to death – as does everyone else when puppet cops with clubs start brutalizing the innocent. The dog makes it home with his two uncredited-actor people (while Ladislas, who appears for ten seconds in the film, gives himself a prominent opening credit).


L’Idee (1932, Berthold Bartosch)

Guy has a good idea – his idea is for a miniature naked woman he can hold. He puts her in an envelope and mails her to the society of overdressed men, who don’t appreciate her at all, wishing her to be overdressed. The dreamer reimagines her fullsized then goes to town square to convince others that his naked-woman idea is good, but they are dicks and have him arrested and killed. A creepy guy who hangs out in crypts rediscovers the idea in the modern era and has her mass-produced on paper, and this idea givess an overdressed guy a new idea: that he should send people to war in order to get rich. Thousands die, while the original idea re-merges with the cosmos. Dour black and white animation, hard to tell what technique was used from my low-res copy, but the wikis say it’s multiple layers on glass with paper backgrounds.


The Little Match Girl (1937, Arthur Davis)

The barefoot girl’s matches are battered by a merry bustling new year’s crowd. She finds a quiet spot and starts lighting matches in a futile attempt to stave off the cold. From other versions I’ve seen, I don’t remember her lovely fantasies (having shoes and a doll and a parade of naked angels, etc) getting destroyed by a violent storm as she dies.


Galathea (1935, Lotte Reiniger)

An excellent followup to L’Idee, about a guy who sculpts a naked woman who comes to life, to the distress of his wife. He assumes he’s got a new sex slave, but Galathea trashes his studio and runs off. When the sculptor hears that she’s carousing at the pub he brings her home, where the wife tries to solve the problem by putting clothes on Gal, but that doesn’t go well. While everyone’s fighting, Gal transforms back into a statue and all the town’s women get their men back. Shadow-puppet animation of course, nice and crisp looking.


Daffy Duck in Hollywood (1938, Tex Avery)

Daffy causes chaos at a movie studio, then cuts a bunch of random pictures together onto a single reel, driving an Italian pig director insane.

I thought this would be a cut above the other Marx Brothers movies since Zeppo isn’t in it, but there’s… opera. Right there in the title. Also the film’s editor doesn’t know what “comic timing” means. And anyway it’s not all madness and opera, the Zeppo romance plot is just shifted to some alternate nobodies. The Marxes made five features for Paramount, and this was the first of their plottier, less anarchic MGM era.

The lovely Rosa is Kitty Carlisle, not really a nobody, her career spanned through Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. Her hopelessly unfamous singer boyfriend Ricardo is Allan Jones of Show Boat, and the jealous spotlight-hogging star Rodolfo is Walter Woolf King (who also sang in Laurel & Hardy movies). The Bros are mostly reduced to opera singer managers in order to keep the plot moving. Once they get to the opera house finale and start swinging across the stage on ropes, it looks high-rent for one of these.

L-R: Ricardo, Rodolfo, Rosa

Harpo innocent:

Baron Boris Karloff is an 1830’s tyrant, and right before the villagers can violently depose him, he suggests (to the surprisingly patient angry mob) trading places with his lovable, crippled twin brother Anton. Everyone (except maybe the brother) is pleased. Before going into exile the outgoing baron shows his brother around the place, takes him into the cursed Black Room, and shoves him down a hole to his death – then pretends to have a crippled arm and a soft, friendly manner in order to retain power and marry the pretty harpist Marian Marsh (the poor girl who turns Peter Lorre’s criminal life around in Sternberg’s Crime & Punishment).

Now all Fake Anton has to do is avoid using his right arm, and never return to the black room, where the ancient prophecy said he’ll die. But signing a marriage document, his would-be father-in-law (Thurston Hall of The Great McGinty and Renoir’s This Land is Mine) spies him in a mirror (in a lovely zoom shot) and has to get murdered, the crime pinned on the harpist’s other suitor Robert Allen (a Westerns regular also in The Awful Truth). Then on the wedding day a suspicious dog chases Karloff straight into the Black Room where he falls on his late brother’s sword.

Probably better than the other Karloff movie I watched this month. Playing identical twins is always a good actor showcase, and I thought the movie would avoid throwing both Karloffs together, but right after they meet they’re in an action scene together, neat. Neill was a directing machine, cranking out 100+ movies until he worked himself to death.

Harpist and dad:

I get barely over an hour of laptop time on the flights, and don’t wanna stoop to watching Prestige Cable TV Dramas, so this box set of 65-minute Boris Karloff movies was just the ticket.

Karloff plays a mad genius (the same year he donned the neckscrews for the third and final time in Son of Frankenstein), working with Dr. Lang (Byron Foulger, a Preston Sturges regular who would later work with the real Lang) to perfect a mechanized external glass circulatory system for reviving the dead, so patients’ hearts can be stopped then revived, rather than having to keep them alive during major surgeries. Maybe not a great era for Euro-accented scientists to advocate gassing people to death. Anyway, Karloff’s test subject is willing student Bob, whose girlfriend Nurse Betty (Capra regular Ann Doran) calls the police, who bust up the experiment, ensuring Bob can’t be revived. After receiving the death penalty, Karloff is allowed to walk around the court insulting everyone… of course he’s donating his body to science, and Lang is there to collect.

“Make it weird, make it dramatic, and make it snappy.” A megalomaniac vengeance-seeking undead mad scientist can’t be our 1930’s movie hero, so enter Karloff’s beautiful daughter Lorna Gray (the 1940’s Captain America serial and Adventure in Sahara) and her reporter boyfriend Scoop, who crash daddy’s months-later plot to trap his condemning judge and jury in a booby-trapped house and murder them one by one, using electrified walls and poisoned telephones. Lorna and Scoop and the cops stop the rampage after only a couple victims, and a dying Boris shoots up his glass contraption, because who deserves eternal life, who can say?

Karloff, Lang, and the glass contraption:

Scoop up front with a bunch of dead men:

Lorna is disappointed in her dad:

“Our tolerance was a mistake.” After the poisoning death of a martial arts master, a brown-suited dude is sent to insult and challenge his disciples during the memorial service, a crass move that earns the wrath of disciple Bruce Lee. This starts out way better than The Big Boss by pitting Bruce against forty guys early on instead of waiting for the second half – “Next time I’ll make you eat the glass.”

The titular fist:

Lee’s confuse-o-vision technique:

This is Shanghai, and all the villains are Japanese. Not a master of history, I’d forgotten that the Japanese colonized parts of China throughout the 1930’s and I was amazed at their nerve. Bruce goes on a righteous rampage through the city, smashing racist Japanese in their jerk faces, then in case we’re tempted to feel bad for them, the Japanese massacre all of Bruce’s friends (including poor James Tien again). There is a love interest, just barely, and a couple of fun disguises. The big boss sports an absurd long mustache and has hired an English-speaking Russian tough who fights in a bow-tie – Bruce punches a guy’s dick off before taking them on, the action in this movie always great. Same as The Big Boss, the army closes in on Bruce post-killing-spree. Must see Lo Wei’s New Fist of Fury, a sequel starring Jackie Chan in his first major role.

love interest Nora Miao:

the big boss Chikara Hashimoto:

“How could you do that?”
“Had to! Science, you know!”

Historians/Archaeologists being uncareful with their findings, discover the mummy of Imhotep who was buried alive. These guys have fragile British minds, and one goes instantly mad when he sees the mummy walk away from the dig site. Unlike the Hammer version, the mummy doesn’t return as a silent grey-ragged monster but as a well-spoken Boris Karloff, who helps the remaining dudes and one of their sons figure out where to dig next. Karloff hypnotizes a hottie named Helen to make her into his immortal queen, but the other guys needlessly interfere after realizing Karloff is their lost mummy by watching flashbacks in a magical TV-pool.

Imhotep’s funeral procession as seen in the Flashback Pool:

The hottie was Zita Johann of Howard Hawks’s Tiger Shark. Her movie career was as short as Freund’s directing career – he had shot Dracula and Metropolis, and after stepping up for this movie he made Mad Love and a few others before returning to his cinematographer role. David Manners, our young hero nobody cares about, also played the hero nobody cares about in Dracula, and his dad was Arthur Byron, sadly unrelated to Mary Shelley’s buddy Lord Byron.

L-R: Byron, Johann, Karloff, Manners

Reading my notes after the fact, it’s hard to piece the plot back together – a lot happening in 80 minutes, but it all made perfect sense at the time. Lange was working for a smalltime publisher named Batala, a scam artist and rapist. Lange just wants to write silly westerns and see them published. His dreams are working out, his stories gaining popularity, the cute Valentine is in love with him, but when Batala’s interference tries to bring it all crashing down, Lange kills him and goes on the run. Good movie, and commie film critics give it extra points for showing the publishing workers taking over production.

Lange is plain-looking René Lefèvre of Le Million. Valentine is Florelle of Lang’s not-great version of Liliom. This movie is set at a hotel where these two are crashing while fleeing for the border after the murder, most of the action shown as flashbacks as Valentine tells the story to the locals so they won’t turn Lange in. Jules Berry, who plays the villain, later costarred in Le Jour Se Leve – another film written by Jacques Prévert in which Berry is murdered and we learn the full story as the killer is hiding out in the aftermath.

A movie full of 1930’s big loud actors portraying 1750’s big loud actors trying to out-act each other. Brian Aherne (in both the 1950’s Titanic movie and a 1940’s movie with the same title as another Titanic movie) is Garrick, the “greatest” actor in Britain, off to France to work with the Comedie Francaise, but after a perceived insult they intercept him at an inn, pretending to be innkeepers and patrons, scripting a plot to make a fool of him. He’s onto their scheme and plays along, but Olivia de Havilland shows up unexpectedly and nobody knows what to do with her. Whale seems to excel at making horror movies that are secretly comedies, and when he makes a straight comedy here it’s not so amusing. The wikis say that Whale made an anti-nazi movie in 1937 that was neutered in re-editing by his nazi sympathizer bosses at Universal, so this wasn’t his year.

Nearly the same plot as Spaced: two down-and-out strangers apply for a couples-only newspaper ad. But here, another popular 1930’s plot is thrown in: the rich guy pretending to be a commoner. Trouble in Paradise star Herbert Marshall is a futurist auto mogul, God’s own Jean Arthur (same year as The Whole Town’s Talking) can cook very well, and they’re hired as cook-and-butler by some fellas. He’s trying to stay in charge of the company he founded, she is arrested when his secret auto designs are found in her possession, their criminal employer Leo Carrillo proposes to Jean, Herbert doesn’t fool anyone for long and when he returns to his old life, Leo kidnaps him from his society wedding – it’s a lot for a 70-minute movie, and it mostly works thanks to the cast.