(AND WE'RE NOT overlooking any puns here, whether or not intentional )
SOME VERY WISE man said that "Brevity is the soul of wit."; and perhaps, to carry the point just a little further, a very slim or nearly non-existent plot or scenario if you will, may well be the safest and shortest route to yuckland !
THIS BLACK & WHITE short proves the point very well. Taking the simplest of a premise, two "dogs in heat", Popeye and Bluto, who are mooning at lovely Olive while they sit idly at the counter of the diner she is apparently running. Olive sings a special song, written especially for this one reel, which just coincidentally bears the same title "...(I want) A CLEAN SHAVEN MAN !"
INSPIRED TO PROMPT action, the pair heads out to find the nearest barber shop is now came to a business hiatus, with the barber (Wimpy) having left a note explaining that he has gone out for a shave himself, and probably a hamburger or two.
BOTH BOYS FIND to be extremely grubby, with quantities of unwanted facial hair and being in need of having their ears lowered. (Mainly Bluto here). So, the agree to a mutual haircut pact and an otherwise rare truce. The project quickly degenerates into one of their pier 9 brawls, with both guys now 'clean shaven', but in such a condition !
MEANWHILE, OLIVE OYL comes along with a very bearded character (from the THIMBLE THEATER Strip by Elzie C. Segar, himself-name unknown). The now somewhat allied twosome finally do the right thing, they kick each other in the backside.
HAVE THEY LEARNED anything here ? We doubt it; but will have to wait for the next screening on TCM, Saturday !
As A Cartoon Prototype For A Series................
..............................WE RESPECTFULLY AWARD This Perfect 10 Rating !
FROM THE VERY start of this one, it is obvious what is going on. Due to the popularity of Bugs Bunny & Daffy Duck at Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, as well as the ascent to the spotlight of Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker at Universal, Director "Tex" Avery wanted to present the motion picture viewing public with a wacky, manic character from MGM' Animation.
THAT HE HAD been around the animation industry for some years was ans is a well known fact. He was kept busy from the early 1930's to the 1950's, plying his ani ator's trade split between Leon Schlesinger's/Warner Brothers' studio and at MGM's animation unit. His work,wherever it appears, is unmistakable.
THE IDEA BEHIND a concept that was SCREWY SQUIRREL (as his name ws shortened to) was one of out and out madness and fueling such with rapid fire gags. The personality of Mr. Squirrel was really rather shallow, for he only acted on reacted and reacted to other, poor character who just happened to be in his same film frames. Humor and gags were plentiful in both visual and verbal forms.
IT IS OBVIOUS at the very beginning f this short that Mr. Avery was serving his notice to the World that this was definitely not disney animation, nor was he Uncle Walt ! The opening scene contrasting the highly idealized vision of Nature in contrast with his introduction of the rude, crude screwball character is an obvious example of this.
WE JUST READ that the series at MGM only lasted for 5 entries. This may be an indication that Avery & company perhaps did too good a job of making this character into a pillar of incivility. Even Bugs, ,Daffy and Woody took an occasional breather. A little contrast wouldn't have hurt. (just our opinion)
......................But Artistically ? Not So Much !
AND JUST WHERE are Hans & Fritz ?
THIS ENTRY INTO MGM's animated short subject category could best be described as adequate at its very best. We know that they had done some of these CAPTAIN AND THE KIDS one reelers and actually had seen some of these years ago on local TV here in Chicago. As we recall, unless our memory is failing us, there were at least some of the series entries that were done in color.
AS FAR AS this film is concerned, there is a bare minimum of elements infused int the various aspects of production. This assertion refers to: story-line & "plot" (such as it was), cast of characters, settings and originality & tailoring of gags to the characters.
IN GIVING THE Devil his due, we must make mention of what may well be not only an act of "follow the leader" in reference to the product of the "big boys" in the animation field. We refer to Walt Disney and Max Fleischer. Their advancement would be in their numbering of characters digital appendages (that means fingers, Schultz!) Not only do the human characters here (being only Mama and the Captain) have a thumb & 3 fingers on their hands (a la Mickey Mouse & Company), but the same lineup applies to their feet !
WHENEVER ONE CONSIDERS the comic strip characters of Hans, Fritz, Mama, the Captain, the Inspector and others; it should be stressed that there was a duplicitous situation here. There were in fact two separate and distinct comic strips featuring the same cast in similar, if not identical, situations. (You can read all about it in Wikipedia or in many other sources)
ALTHOUGH THIS WAS not a successful series, the characters were very familiar to the movie going public. There were both live action and animated cartoon screen adaptations dating from the earliest of movie history. Remember that THE KATZENJAMMER KIDS Strip started in 1897 and continued being produced with original material until January 1, 2006; after which reprint strips are still being syndicated to this day. THE CAPTAIN AND THE KIDS competitor strip lasted until 1979. That was "only" a six decade run.
THIS ANIMATED SERIES, however, was the only screen presentation of the Katzies under that title.
WE'VE RATED THIS a full 10 on the existing scale. This was not because of any compelling writing, direction, cinematography or any other of these topics. What is accomplished here in less than a minute is preserving the imagery of one Prussian born Stage Strongman & Vaudevillian, Frederick Mueller by name. He was to gain World-wide fame and fortune as Eugen Sandow.
IT WAS HIS de-emphasizing the actual Strongman Stunts in favor of the presentation of Physique posing that put him on the theatrical worls's map. He is also credited with giving Florenz Ziegfeld his big break as a theatrical impresario. This story of their collaborative effort as a sideshow attraction at the World Columbian Exposition (World's Fare) in Chicago is told in the film, THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (MGM, 1936). In the movie , Ziegfeld was portrayed by William Powell and Sandow by Nat Pendelton.
BUT THAT WAS fiction and this little tiny, 38 seconds of film has immortalized the real man for us today and for all time. It is the genius or maybr just plain, old-fashioned dumb luck by the filming studio to have done this production.
Guess What POPEYE Short Was On Turner Classic Movies This Week ?
................."KING OF THE MARDI GRAS, you say ? Right !!
IN ALL SERIOUSNESS, sports fans, this cable station has been doing a fine job in living up to their name for years. This showing of the Max & Dave Fleischer b & w Popeye cartons from the 1930's is just one aspect of their on going efforts.
With that sort of written bouquet having been presented, let's get on with this review !
IN FOLLOWING WITH the precedent that has been set, the short puts the 4 regulars of Popeye, Olive, Bluto and Wimpy into yet another setting to do their thing. This time we have what has been called "Mardi Gras" : although it is indeed a highly e-x-p-a-n-d-e-d version of the annual "Fat Tuesday" New Orleans celebration.
TO PROVIDE THE proper venue for Popeye and Bluto to enter into their struggle and fistfight involving fair maiden, Miss Olive Oyl, the boys are rival sideshow acts. The eternal triangle is much in evidence as their fisticuffs extend across what seems to be half the fairgrounds and onto the very intricate and impossibly curvaceous Roller-coaster,
WELL, NEEDLES TO say, the short, balding, red-headed, one eyed sailor is triumphant in the end. His handy in shirt can of spinach saves the day.
THERE IS MUCH to recommend this entry into the series. Opening scene does feature what is a reasonable of a Mardi Gras street scene. (Although we cannot this with certainty; having never witnessed it with the naked eye.) The effect is accomplished with a rich array of costumed revelers lining the street, cheering and otherwise whooping it up. Its effect is enhanced with the use of the Fleischer Brothers patented Table Top Animation process; in which there is an extreme use of animation of moving both the human characters as well as the background. (musta been very expensive for a short !)
ALL CONSIDERED AND from what we've seen, 1935 surely is the very zenith of quality for Popeye on the screen. KING OF THE MARDI GRAS has to be "top shelf" in that year.
OUR FIRST VIEWING of the act that was the Brothers Ritz was on that old, now classic NBC sports/comedy hybrid, JACKPOT BOWLING WITH MILTON BERLE. Don't feel bad if you don't recall or have never heard of it.
THE FORMAT OF this series was to cover real, live pro bowlers, with a sort of intermission in which the guest star(s) would come on, do a little schtick with "Uncle Miltie" before rolling one ball for charity. (Hmm, could it be rebooted ?)
AS FOR THE film being reviewed, STRAIGHT, PLACE AND SHOW (20th Century-Fox, 1938) was a comical farce which pretty much was a typical representation of the sort of fare being done in that era. It had the comic team, the romantic interest and a fanciful, yet compelling, plot toward the notion of getting rich quick. This is always a winning formula, especially when there was still a Depression on in the country.
THE PRODUCTION TEAM manages to adapt a story by Damon Runyon and capitalize on the nation's love of horse racing. They throw in, just for good measure, a brief junket into the squared circle World of Professional Wrestling. Rather than being just a reason to have Harry Ritz do a comic impersonation of a pro grappler, this, sort of sidebar to the plot, helps in moving the story along.
ADDITIONALLY, WE FIND in the cast Phyllis Brooks and Ethel Merman. They provided the romantic sub-plot; with Miss Merman's singing making its contribution to our entertainment (not!)
SOME HAVE CALLED the Ritz Brothers a sort of road show or imitation of the Max Brothers (be they in the original 4 or later 3). We maintain that this could not be further from the truth. Both groups were actual, blood brothers; who just happened to be Jewish.* That's the end of their similarities.
WHEREAS THE MARX boys displayed their madcap zaniness in a fast-paced, rapid fire style, they still maintained individuality and distinctive personality. With the Ritz Brothers. the pace was no slower. But viewing them was like seeing things in triplicate. The singing, eccentric dance maneuvers and the distorted displays of mugging were all well coordinated and uniformly displayed.
OUTSIDE OF VIEWING this picture or others in their list, a very good impression of the Ritz comic genius can be seen on display in THE AUTOGRAPH HOUND (Walt Disney/RKO, 1939. This is a Donald Duck starring vehicle; which uses caricature of many Hollywood luminaries, including a very accurate at the Ritz Brothers brand of humor on the screen.
Bye, bye for now !
NOTE: * Someone once asked Jack Benny why all comedians seemed to be either Jewish or Irish. Jack thought for a brief moment, then replied; "Ever meet a funny Lutheran ?"
AS IS THE case in all of the POPEYE Series, this short makes use of a small number of repertory company "players"; having been recruited from the THIMBLE THEATRE/POPEYE Comic Strip. Hence, we find Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto and J. Wellington Wimpy (Wimpy for short) assuming different roles in a variety of situations.
AS IS THE norm for these shorts, we find very little to zero in the category of continuity. Normal conditions here are non existent. Most of the scenarios revolve around many a subject that is a far cry from the sea going trade of protagonist Popeye and antagonist Bluto. The one unifying element is a universal employment of the "eternal triangle" and its effect on the three participants.
BEING THAT FOOTBALL was by this time a major force in the American sports diet, it was chosen as the subject. This appears to have no pretense to the Collegiate game, as there is no representation of any fictional college trappings. Not a pennant, marching band nor organized cheering section is depicted. There is an allusion to cheer-leading by a female, namely Olive (who else), which also serves as a catalyst for bringing some variety of sight gags to the screen.
AS FOR THE competing teams, we have Bluto's bunch; being a huge bunch of ruffians like their QB & Captain. Bluto, like Julius Caesar befor him, wears a different colored jersey/tunic to distinguish himself from the "troops."
THE OPPOSITION ON the other hand, is made up of what Bluto calls "runts"; that is smaller or even regular sized guys like our Popeye, who eventually recruit his help in playing the game. (Gee, what a surprise).
WE MUST MAKE mention of some of the original gags that were displayed to good effect here. First off, we are treated to a visual pun in our first long distance and the gradual close-up viewing of the football stadium. These are most often referred to as "bowls", due to their shape and expanding seating areas. So,Director Dave Fleischer gave us a real "bowl" shape here.
AS USUAL THE handy can of spinach saves the day! Now that should be no surprise and definitely wouldn't qualify as a "spoiler."
WE MAY HAVE seen some other entries into this CRIME DOES NOT PAY series of shorts from Metro Goldwyn Mayer, but damn if the memory has been able to access any such "file" deep in the recesses of our gray matter filing system. If this is episode of the series, they certainly made a fan in our house.
HAVING BEEN EMPLOYED as a Chicago Cop for 34+ years, it stands to reason that expectation of some degree of realism would be among the list of priorities in viewing any Police Procedural, Detective Story or Crime Drama. That would definitely be the case here. Our very skeptical nature is quick to analyze and put under a microscope just how much the story on the screen compares to the real world.
THAT IS NOT to say that all that we see has to be an extension of and an actual mirroring of that which we deal with daily in our lives. There is another side to this "Cops & Robbers" coin of ours.
THAT WOULD BE the escapist fantasy that is exemplified by such well known films such as RADIO PATROL (Universal,1937) a serial in 12 chapters; which was adapted from the King Features Syndicate comic strip. Any of the screen adaptations of Chester Gould's DICK TRACY would certainly fit into this category.
BUT IN GETTING back to our subject in the spotlight, we find that this little film was rendered in the most sincere way. It transcends the cops n' robbers sub-genre and reveals a powerful, truthful bit of morality play. Without being heavy handed, preachy or sanctimonious, a screening of this short may well impart the beginnings of a better and more moral life style on many of its viewers, be they young or old.
INASMUCH AS THIS is just one of many 20 minute mini-features, it struck us of how much it bears a resemblance to series television. The series that we see as its having a strong relation to is RACKET SQUAD (1951-53). It was an anthology series featuring Reed Hadley as Captain John Braddock, commanding officer of the bunco squad of a large, unnamed and fictional city's police department. Mr. Hadley's role was host, narrator and the detective who would show up at stories end to tie it all up.
AS WE'VE PREVIOUSLY said, this episode piqued our interest and we'll certainly be watching the listings for TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES to see more episodes, all of them we hope.
CONTINUING TO PRESENT we, the audience with the whole stockpile of those old black & white POPEYE shorts from the Brothers Fleischer, our good friends and benefactors at Turner Classic Movies screened this one this past Saturday. From what we've seen, they are doing their best to follow the chronological order of release in the best film historian's tradition.
WHAT HAS BEEN the most obvious revelation is that the currently presented output is from 1935; which surely looks to have been truly "the GoldenAge of Popeye" on screen. Each short seems to be as good and laugh-loaded as the next. The guys at the studio followed a certain formula in puting on the show. Hence, we would typically be treated to about 10 minutes of struggle between protagonist (the Sailor Man) and mean, nasty, old Musclebound himself, Bluto.
WITH ONLY ONE reel with which to work, the story line, such as they were, was always kept to the simplest of forms. The cartoons in this series always made use of familiar characters from the pages of the comics, mainly using Olive Oyl and Wimpy; but others appeared also, if only unbilled.
IN THIS EPISODE, we find Popeye and Bluto being set in a nautically related field of having competing commercial sea diving operations A brief truce leads to the two rivals for Miss Oyl returning to their once and future status as rivals. That's all we're going to say, rather than going any further and spoiling it for those who haven't seen it yet (both of you).
JUST ONE MORE thing, before we sign off; following the tried and true formula already established and successful, there are two regulars used as assistants to each of the boys. Popeye has Olive Oyl; with Bluto's getting Mr.J. Wellington Wimpy who works for hamburgers, not peanuts.
Ultimate Appearance For Gordon Scott As The Jungle Lord..................
..............and His Very Best Performance as TARZAN !
IN HIS 1968 film book, TARZAN OF THE MOVIES, author Gabe Essoe calls this entry into the series, "Tarzan the Best !" Without a doubt, this claim is not any sort of puffing on his part. Every aspect of the story, with the possible exception of there being no Jane, fits together like the parts of a jigsaw puzzle in the construction of a very intelligent and even "adult" Tarzan adventure.
TO BEGIN WITH, the production team has Tarz portrayed in a very civilized and intelligent manner. This is in keeping with the original concept as formulated by author/creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is further enhanced by the heretofore unrevealed of the high level of acting that was achieved by Gordon Scott. In turn the supporting players did a yeoman's job in delivering just what was needed.
THE STORY THAT we have was both simple and straight forward. Some truly evil thugs rob the local native village bank and in the process manage to kill a few people. Fleeing across the savanna in their War Surplus Jeep, they are encountered by Tarzan; who demonstrates a high of proficiency as an archer.
UNSEEN AND IN a rapid fire succession of on-target shots, he quickly manages to get the upper hand on the gang. The rest of the story is basically concerned with the Jungle Lord's returning to the victimized villagers with the wanted killer.
THE FILM IS interesting for its being shot mostly in Kenya, east Africa.This location provided the film makers with may an authentic, true to life footage; which greatly enhanced the movies believably.
AS IS SO often the case, the old adage of "less is more" applies here. The entire scenario revolves around the brutal killings and robbery; followed with the Ape Man's tracking down and bringing the killer to justice.
ODDLY ENOUGH, AND not accidentally, this story could well have been an "Oater",set in the Old West of the USA. It has all the right elements' other than its venue in the jungles and savannas of Equatorial Africa. Even its antagonists, the"Banton Family" (father John Carradine & 3 sons) bear a strong resemblance to the Clantons of the John Ford Western MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (20th Century-Fox, 1946).
ONE BIT OF irony in this film's history is that eldest Blanton son, Jock Mahoney, would be stepping into the Tarzan part in 1962's TARZAN GOES TO INDIA. Although we found Mr. Mahoney's portrayal to be more than just credible, it's a shame that TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT marked the end of the Jungle trail for Gordon Scott. Both the tone of this story and his acting leads us to believe that there would have been some great vine swinging yet to come ! Pity !
Exponent For The Glories Of Depression Era Bachelorhood
WHATEVER THE PARTICULAR title, one can always rely on two things in a Max Fleischer/Paramount cartoon short:
1) There will be great use of the characters' interaction; which is usually just
about over the same situation, the "Eternal Triangle" between Popeye,
Olive Oyl and interloper, Bluto.
2) We will have very little to zero in the area of continuity with any previous
entries of the film series.
FOR THESE TINY transgressions and departures from the King Features Syndicate comic strip, THIMBLE THEATER/POPEYE by E.C. Segar, we can grant our forgiveness. Any adaptations that were used for sake of expediency of story line in the one reel, self-contained story-lines were both minor and necessary.
IN THIS INSTALLMENT, we find our hero living inn a Men Only Bachelor residence, struggling with the multi-tasking chores of housekeeping. His answer, go to the local Matrimonial Service and find a bride. At the service he runs into, you've guessed it, none other than Bluto, himself. In this and many cartoons in the series, it is if the characters were total strangers; and in this case, that goes for Miss Olive Oyl also.
INTERESTINGLY, IN THIS and many other of the Fleischer series, there are many other of Segar's characters cast in unedited, unbilled supporting roles. Here we find an unmistakably hamburger munching Wimpy cast as the Justice of the Peace. Perhaps not as obvious and far lesser in audience recognition power is Olive's former beau, Harold Hamgravy (Ham Gravy for short), who is cast as the clerk at the matrimonial service.
WITH THIS SHORT'S release, we saw the final appearance of voice actor, William Costello doing Popeye. He was replaced by animator Jack Mercer, who continued to do so right up until his death in 1984.
FOR BETTER OR WORSER is also a great example of the POPEYE Series at its very pinnacle, with 1935 marking the high water level.
WE'VE NOTICED FOR some time how the Hollywood crowd loves revisionism. Take for example: in FRANKENSTEIN (1818), author Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley named the main character Victor Frankenstein; yet for some unknown reason, UNIVERSAL PICTURES made his given name "Henry". To further complicate matters, they gave him a friend named "Victor !" In the 1942 Serial SPY SMASHER, Republic Studios gave the alter ego Alan Armstrong a twin brother "Jack" , that he never had in the Fawcett publication's WHIZ COMICS. In 1937, the same studio did a real number of revision in the DICK TRACY Serial by making him a G Man, making a "Gwen" his girlfriend and disposing of Tracy's comic page partner, Pat Patton for a "Mike Mc Gurk comic relief.
AS FOR OUR indictment of Metro Goldwyn Mayer, we call your attention to Tarzan's mate, Jane. In the original stories, author Edgar Rice Burroughs gave us Jane Porter, an American from Baltimore. The MGM version made her "Jane Parker", an English woman of Noble blood. Co figure. (and thanks for letting me get this gripe off my chest!)
AS FOR THIS 1959 remake of the 1932 Johnny Weissmuller/Maureen O'Sullivan original, all we can say is thumbs down. The limited budget shows, regardless of Techincolor; which no Johnny Weissmuller vehicle had. In a way it may have been an indicator of how the mighty Metro Goldwyn Mayer had fallen from its high perch in tinsel town.
TO ITS CREDIT, this film stuck very close to the original story, albeit in a somewhat updated version. The characterization of African Natives was somewhat upgraded, giving so many much more personality than the thin, shallow portrayals in the past. The movie starred newcomer Denny Miller and Joanna Barnes; who had enough talent for the roles. But we needn't remind you that they were no Weissmuller/O'Sullivan combo.
ANY POSITIVES THAT one may find are all too quickly undermined by the extensive use of now tinted, old footage from thr '32 original. In some scenes (particularly when Tarzan fights and kills the giant Crocodile, it is obvious that it's really Weissmuller or a very close double.
WHEREAS THE FORTUNES of the Lord of the Jungle were looking up and improving somewhat, TARZAN AND THE TRAPPERS would prove to be somewhat of a setback, or at least a course correction. Having been culled from the remnants of a failed TARZAN Television Series, it really did hold up fairly well.
WITH THE CURRENT and very capable talents of star, Gordon Scott, at the helm of the vine swinging, the action and story-line were all relatively believable. Although it seemed that Tarzan was just a little too tough a competitor for up to 6 or 8 opponents; well, what the hell; man, he's Tarzan !
ALTHOUGH THE CURRENT trend in the theatrical films of Edgar Rice Burroughs had the Jungle Lord conversing in the Queen's English, TARZAN AND THE TRAPPERS didn't follow along with this policy. It required Mr. Gordon Scott to revert back to the grunting "me Tarzan, you Jane" in the tradition of the Weissmuellerian dialect that had been so popular ever since the release of TARZAN THE APE MAN in 1932.
THERE PROBABLY WAS good reason with a lot of thought being put into the process. Inasmuch as both the MGM and RKO/Sol Lesser features starring Johnny Weissmuller had been released to television . It stands to reason that the couch potato crowd would be more at ease with the primitive, baby-talk conversation than with Tarzan's being a proponent and practitioner of the Queen's English.
AS FOR THIS film's being released and promoted as a theatrical feature, it doesn't come up to the standards set by previous efforts. Butto its credit, it restored Jane (Eve Brent) and Boy/Tartu (Ricky Sorensen) the series. That was both worthwhile and commendable.
IT'S JUST TOO bad that it didn't succeed as a series on the small screen in our living rooms. After all, that's what was the original intent and objective.
Greatest ? Well At Least "Most Adult" as we see it !
RATHER THAN CHOOSING the title of "Tarzan's Greatest......". perhaps something like "Tarzan's Most Adult Picture". That would apply, at least up to this release in 1959.
NOW BY THE use of terms like "Adult", we are not suggesting that this Gordon Scott entry into the Jungle Lord's lengthy resume of motion pictures is in any way akin to "porn" or to the X Rated categorization. It does, however have much to recommend it to those who have grown past the age bracket of the "Saturday Afternoon Matinee Crowd."
THE MOST STRIKING bit of evidence that would support our assertion would be the relationship between Tarzan and the character of African Bush Pilot (and maybe medic), Angie-as portrayed by Sara Shane. After helping to nurse the Ape-man back to a reasonable facsimile of his former fighting trim, the two have a scene together that cuts away very quickly. In the fade out, Angie is rushing toward Tarzan with great expression of passion on her face. When the screen action returns to the pair, it shows Miss Angie adjusting, closing and tying her blouse.
NOW WE ADMIT that is not very much, but this was 1959 and a small dose of implication went a long way; especially when compared to the explicit sex portrayed in today's cinema. Any pretense of subtlety or allowing the audience to draw its own conclusion have log ago vanished.
ONE THING THAT was a sort of borrowed bit of on screen business from so many of our Westerns; be they "B" or otherwise. was the opening sequence. In it a group of 4 Black men in native dress approach a local village Hospital and manage to kill at least two men, while in the progress of robbing the institution of some explosives. We are soon made aware (if we hadn't already surmised) that the renegade African tribesmen were in reality renegade Whites, masquerading as locals. It was a matter of using a slight variation the old "Outlaws disguised as Indians" that we've seen so many times in the "Oaters."
AS FOR THE CAST, it was small, but very effective. It featured Anthony Quayle and Sean Connery; both of whom would be moving up the cinematic ladder with roles in some big, big films. For Mr. Quayle it was as Colonel Harry Brighton in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and for Sean it was that of James Bond, 007 in DR. NO.
ROUNDING OUT the very international cast were: Niall MacGuiness (Ireland), Al Mullock (Canada) and the very lovely,Scilla Gabel (Italy).
ONE THING THAT makes this entry into the Tarzan saga is its return to the basics. There is very little to the screenplay and scenario. It is essentially the story of two very disparate factions, the bad guys vs. Tarzan and his lovely companion. Both groups are desperately trying to get somewhere, with both getting in the other's way.
IN THE END, as we all thought, it was Tarzan and Angie, who triumphed before going their own, separate ways. She wanted her airplanes and Modern Western Civilization, he said he preferred living in his Jungle home.
WITH REGARD TO Tarzan' s seeming indiscretion with Sara Shane's character of Angie, what would we or should we tell Jane ? Well, we think this happened before Lord John Greystoke (Tarzan) met Jane Porter, his future spouse.
TAKING THE LEAST complicated of situations, the Brothers Fleischer brought us as good a POPEYE picture as is possible. The short involves the arrival of the two already feuding rivals for the affections of the maiden, Olive Oyl to her residence at the same time. Popeye arrives at the front door, Bluto to the back. (WE know which is which as the front door has a welcome mat.)
FROM THAT POINT, it's just one continuous and very inventive series of great gags. All were intended to decide which one would please the lovely Olive and hence determine who would stay.
AS WE HAVE already stated, this one is most elemental in form and execution. With only the three characters, the production team was able to give us what was perhaps a one reel look at the "Eternal Triangle." We could have seen entrances by Wimpy (who was used extensively by the Fleischers) or some other nondescript characters but the chosen route was simplicity, and the uncomplicated worked very well.
ONE THING THAT struck us while viewing this cartoon on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) was how great a comedy mind that Director, brother Dave Fleischer, possessed. He had a great sense on how to frame a gag; as well as how to give a particular bit of comic play the right length of time to play out it course to near maximum effect.
IN THIS SENSE, we are comparing him to perhaps as great a comedy director as the silver screen had produced. That would be Arthur Stanley Jefferson; better known to the World as Stan Laurel.
WE ARE AWARDING this one reel cartoon, PLEASED TO MEET CHA (Paramount/Fleischer Studios, 1935) a full 10 on the rating scale.
ONCE AGAIN WE find ourselves indebted to Turner Classic Movies for bringing us so much more than the usual, well known feature pictures that we all know and love. The inclusion of these short subjects fills in so much of the otherwise empty gaps in one's movie knowledge.
WHILED IT'S TRUE that all celluloid historical accounts are, by their very nature, at least somewhat fictionalized, they do at least serve in whetting the curiosity; which does lead to one's doing further investigation into a given area of study. If one can be introduced to an historical figure, which was heretofore an unknown, all the effort is worthwhile.
CONSIDERING TODAY'S LUCKY subject, PONY EXPRESS DAYS (Warner Bros./Vitaphone, 1940), we have before us a telling of the establishment of this service. It ran between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California; promising to, and delivering on that promise deliver letters in ten days between the two points. The point is made in the film of how important tghis was to the Union then. The hostilities known as the American Civil War had begun and the new State of California neede to be kept in contact.
THE STORY FURTHER circles in on one of the Pony Express' most famous alumnus; that being one William Frederick Cody (1846-1917). He, of course later became famous as Buffalo Bill. The real Mr. Cody who was hired as a Pony Express rider at the age of 14, found himself being portrayed by a then 26 year old actor named George Reeves. That's right the future "Man of Steel" showed off his great range of acting ability in playing the role as a somewhat shy, awkward youngster.
THE CRUX OF the story involves young Mr. Cody's heroic multi station ride, fighting off hostile Indians and voluntarily substituting for fallen or disabled riders. His ride proves to save the Union, keeping Californians happy and secure with the guy in the White House, Mr. Lincoln.
AS IS True with the other Warners/Vitaphone non comedic short subjects that we've seen, our curiosity is piqued with this viewing. And having one's curiosity piqued is a good thing, isn't it Schultz ?
One Small Step For Tarzan, One Giant Leap For Gordon Scott.
WITH THIS BEING the second Tarzan romp starring Gordon Scott, the improvement that was evident in the initial Scott feature, TARZAN'S HIDDEN JUNGLE, was continuing to come to fruition. The speech pattern displayed by Mr. Edgar Rice Burroughs' creation was going much more toward that of an educated person and away from the "Me Tarzan, you Jane" routine.
PRODUCED BY THE combined forces of America's Sol Lesser and Britain's Solar Productions, this was filmed mostly in the United Kingdom, with some great deal of footage being filmed in Africa. The making of movies was becoming less a regular thing for Mr. Lesser, who would turn over his screen rights to the character to producer, Sy Weintraub.
AFTER TAKING OVER the Tarzan series from MGM, Mr. Lesser first used the reigning apeman, Olympic swimmer, Johnny Weismueller, who in turn gave way to Lex Barker and then to Gordon Scott. The pictures were his productions, but they were released by RKO Radio Pictures. Their association lasted up to the first Scott feature and then various other distributors were employed.
THIS FEATURE MARKED the return of MGM to the Tarzan stories as the prestigious 'Tiffany Studio' was retained as the films' booker in the U.S.A. Reviving their interest in the Jungle epic, MGM would soon do its own production of TARZAN THE APEMAN (remake,1959) with Denny Miller in the loincloth this tome.
THE PHOTOGRAPHY, BOTH in studio and on location, was well integrated into what appeared to be seemless; kudos to the photography guys. All of the animals you'd suspect showed up and to the first time (at least to our recollection), they were all of the species Loxodonta africana or in our vernacular, African Bush Elephant. In just about every prior picture, the Pachyderms were of the Elephas maximus persuasion (Indian Elephant). Some sported "falsies" on screen; those being add-on larger false ears to render heir appearance to look African.
THIS PICTURE MARKED the first time that Tarzan was seen in color, a habit that he wouldn't shake for a long time. (Although at least one other movie, the patch quilt TARZAN AND THE TRAPPERS-a combination of 3 episodes from the failed and unsold Tarzan TV series, reverted to B & W. )
AS FOR THE story, we have nothing out of the ordinary; just another day at the (Jungle) office. Lost expedition from crashed airplane is saved from hostile natives who are being employed by evil White Hunter/Ivory poacher, Tusker Hawkins (Robert Beatty. Lovely ladies Yolanda Donlan and Betta St. John are present to make an absent Jane potentially jealous. The rest of the featured cast is rounded out by Wilfred Hyde-White, Peter Arne, Nigerian born Orlando Martins and former Orson Welles associate, George Coulouris. Veteran character actor, Don Beddoe, makes an uncredited appearance as a partner in the illicit Ivory trade.
WE FOUND THE picture to be a worthwhile Jungle tale and what was most important about a Tarzan movie, it was fun.
WITH THE RELEASE of this Popeye short, the Fleischer Studio managed to keep up a high standard of quality that was second only to that output from the Disney people. Artwork and animation continues to advance the cause of the craft toward that of a true art-form. (or at least a sub-genre of the motion picture).
AS IS THE case with all of the POPEYE Shorts of that period, te music was outstanding and tailor made to every picture. Other than the obvious adaptation of the Segar Comic Strip from King Features and the fulfilling of its purpose in providing the movie going public with some chuckles before any feature, the Fleischer team filled yet another niche. That would be providing a series of mini-musical comedies to add to any film exhibitors' programming.
THE ONLY DOWN side to the Popeye series was that it (much the same as the later Fleischer SUPERMAN cartoons) was Max & Dave Fleischer's top rated characters. This fact flew in the face of their being only licensed to the brothers from other copyright owners; those being King Features Syndicate and National Comics Publications respectively.
IT'S QUITE OBVIOUS from the very get-go that this is a product of the 1930's; that being the very early '30's, when the various studios were all gearing up for this age of the Talkies. In fact, the fashion design presented appears to be all left-overs from that era of the 'Flapper' and the Hip Flask. Small wonder as to why they weren't selling !
THE OPENING SETS the stage for the musical presentation/fashion show hybrid that follows. Things aren't going so well, the company chief exec laments and his office stooge hatches the on-stage singing & dancing extravaganza; all designed to push the product.
THIS VITAPHONE SHORT holds up least well of all that we have seen. This is perhaps due to the musical numbers, which, of course, were of that long bygone era. Also, the fascination with the very notion of the sound film was itself a contributor.
Classic, Even Text Book Example Of What A Good "B" Should Look Like
WHAT A SURPRISE this one was to us. We found it in the off hours at Turner Classic Movies and due to the marvelous invention of the DVR, we were able to view it at our leisure.
IT IS TRULY A fine example of how good a "B" movie can be. Without any pretensions of the serious message film or "Art" if you please, this is the sort of "potboiler" that makes movie going the pleasure that it is. In short, it is fun.
WE FIND THE starring roles Margot Grahame (a Brit import) and Gordon Jones (from Iowa,USA). This was most pleasing to us to see "Mike the Cop" (from the ABBOT & COSTELLO Television series) in a starring role. This was at the very early stages of actor's career, when anything could happen. His looks, athletic ability and muscukar physique served him well in this regard.
BUT AS IS the case with so many, be it in show business or wherever, he didn't quite make the cut to stardom. Instead, the former USC Trojan footballer (starting Guard as "Bull" Jones) and pal of another football player there named "Duke" Morrison (John Wayne) found his niche as supporting player and character actor. Having gradually "filled out", his build helped to establish him in many a role, both villainous and sympathetic.
IN REGARD TO this short feature's merits and why we sing its praises, it has the whole package for a movie of its station in life. At 57 minutes, it only occupied an hour of the double bill on Saturdays. This left plenty of time for the cartoon, the live action comedy short, the serial chapter and the trailers (aka "Previews of Coming Attractions"). Its bright and cheerful attitude groomed its audience for more to come on the screen.
ONE OTHER ASPECT of this title NIGHT WAITRESS is the manner in which the production team so skillfully puts together the supporting cast. It has been said that you'll never see a bad scene that has Billy Gilbert or Marc Lawrence in it. Well here we have both. Added to the mix, one Don "Red" Barry, Willie Best, Walter Miller (former lead in serial king) and Paul Stanton.
PERHAPS THE MOST interesting tidbit of trivia is the casting of Antonio Rodolfo Oaxaca Quinn in an uncredited role as a gangster. This was undoubtedly a great start and boosted his career, getting it off to great start. His tie on the screen is far greater than one would think; bringing us to conclude that Mr. Quinn made such an equally spectacular impression on those bigwigs at RKO.
BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY the greatest single attribute and accomplishment of this little picture was in its ability to entertain us and ultimately leave us happy. Then we could move on to the "main event" (Featured "A" Picture).
IN FILMING THE behind the scenes of the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Primary, the production team found what was probably a natural. While primary time lacks the punch and long-lasting effects on we, the electorate, it is nonetheless an unavoidable step in the process .
SHADOWING TWO ASPIRING candidates, the film tells the story of how differently the two candidates' campaigns sized up the run for the State delegation's voting at the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in July of 1960. The differences that are dramatized are much more those of tactics and logistics; as neither man is shown saying much (if anything at all) about his Primary opponent. Both men seem to have concentrated in criticizing in the broadest terms the course that the nation was headed under the previous 8 years of G.O.P. policies of the Administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
THE CAMPAIGN OF Senator Hubert H. Humphrey consisted of short jumps between stops at many a rural farming community. The Humphrey campaign reasoned that his strength would be in the country folk, of whom Hubert was also born and bred; his father being a small town pharmacist.
CONTRASTING SHARPLY FROM that was the Kennedy central tenet that the heavily populated Big City districts would render a far greater return on his investment of time. Greater crowds could be reached and there would be a greater identifying by the urban gentry with JFK; although this is one of varying shades; for how well could a blue collar worker in Kenosha accept a Harvard educated, Bostonian Millionaire as one of his own ?
BUT THERE WAS yet another, perhaps unspoken reason to exploit the minor contrast that would be present. That would be Mr. Kennedy's having been born and raised a Catholic. That was a big deal in 1960, especially following in the wake of 1928's Presidential election where Democrat Al Smith, a Catholic, lost big time to Herbert Hoover.
KENNEDY'S CAMPAIGN REASONED that they could turn his religion into a plus factor by concentrating on the more urban districts with heavy Polish populations; with the Poles, of course, being very predominantly Catholic.
WITH ALL OF the various series that the Sailor Man starred in over the years, it is the Max Fleischer Black & White shorts that are by far the best. Retaining the look and style of the Popeye creator, Elzie Crisler Segar for Hearst's King Features Syndicate.
AS CONTRASTED WITH the Popeye made for television product, there is no real comparison. This brings to mind a family gathering circa 1974. Our first born, Jennifer, was watching a made for TV Popeye with the rest of us (including Gramma Ryan-3 generations), when the usual "Olive Oyl's in trouble" scenario played out. Well, little jumped the gun, beating Miss Oyl to the punch with cries of "Help ! Help. Popeye !" Nuff said about that.
IN SUNSCREEN THIS short recently (courtesy of Turner Classic Movies), it became ever so obvious to us just what made the 1930's B & W format stand out . Most every short was musically centered and most often had some original songs featured very prominently. The animation and artwork was impeccable, with the look of the characters followingnthat which was displayed in the THIMBLE THEATER Comic Strip, which was the title even about ten years before Popeye's arrival and eventual rise to the top as its star.
ALSO INCLUDED WERE other of Segar's creations; such as Bluto and, for real comic relief, Wimpy. For it was one J. Wellington Wimpy's constant and seemingly insatiable cravings for grilled beef patties that gave us the immortal, classic and oft repeated plea of; "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today !"
THE GREATEST AND most coarse and revolting cartoon screen villainy came from that huge, musclebound vulgarian, Bluto. The character had bowed to the public in the newspaper strip and was soon adapted to the animated shorts, becoming Popeye's chief adversary and rival for the affections of Olive Oyl.
IN TODAY'S HONOREE, this production of the Fleischer Brothers (Max & Dave), simply titled WE AIM TO PLEASE, Popeye and Olive have opened up a diner and are anxious to bring in the business. Following the opening song (sung as a duet) Olive complains that their location is all too far from the foot traffic. Popeye quickly remedies the situation, via his already pre-spinach consumption prodigious strength. From there, it's strictly interaction with customers, Wimpy and Bluto and of course, that ever present use of a can of spinach. (Today's ingestion of the iron-rich leafy green comes from a huge, special restaurant sized can.)
ONE THING THAT we've noticed now, in our golden years, is the true beauty of Black & White photography. The various shades of grays, silvers and even black seem to stand out on the screen. Black and white also holds up much better than most colour filming.
THE MOST FAMOUS screen Tarzan was (the People's Choice), Johnny Weissmuller. The firsyt Tarzan picture we saw (on Channel 2's Early Show) was Lex Barker; though we're unable to recall which of his 5 films it was. But it was Gordon Scott of whom we had the greatest impression. Let us explain (read on).
BEING BORN IN the Post World War II Baby Boom era, it was at about the age of 8 years old that we encountered our first Tarzan Dell comic book. The inside artwork was done by one artist named Jesse Marsh, but not the outside. The cover was a publicity still photo from one of the Tarzan movies, though we couldn't sat which it was most likely from this TARZAN'S HIDDEN JUNGLE and it featured a very handsome, muscular visual interpretation of the Ape-man by Gordon Scott. The movie still became reality in our young mind as we thought this to be "the real Tarzan", himself.
AS FOR THE plot of this movie, it really wasn't much; serving as much to introduce Mr. Scott as anything else. Tarzan does find himself in the middle of some troubles that were being waged by a group of big game poachers against the local natives, as well as being hostile to a UN sanctioned veterinary team.
ALTHOUGH THE VERY lovely Vera Miles provided the potential love interest as the veterinary nurse, Tarzan never puts any moves on her and remains faithful to the unseen Jane.
THIS MARKED THE last collaboration between independent producer, Sol Lesser and RKO RADIO PICTURES ; although Sol would continue on with Scott as Tarzan for yet another 4 pictures using other distributors.
ON A VERY personal note, we had the good fortune in meeting Gordon Scott at a film fan convention right here inour Windy City hometown of Chicago. He was most personable and willing to visit with us as long as we wanted.
ONCE AGAIN, WE have been most impressed and amazed with the wide ranging numbers subject matter and quality that has been injected into the field of the Short Subject. Most commonly viewed of these being that of the Comedies (Laurel & Hardy, 3 Stooges, Joe McDoakes, Our Gang, Pete Smith, etc.), we seem to be all too unaware of the multitude of other treasures in this category.
IN ADDITION TO their role of providing film exhibitors with inexpensive or even free fodder with which to fill out their programs, shorts also provided the studios witha sort of experimental lab. New ideas could be employed in the making of a short and up and coming and inspiring Directors could be tested and found.
THIS MAY WELL BE the case in point with the production of THE TELL TALE HEART. Director, Jules Dassin, would soon become one of the most important filmmakers of the Post World War II era. Among his output we have: BRUTE FORCE, THE NAKED CITY, THIEVES HIGHWAY and NIGHT AND THE CITY.
AS FOR THIS short film, itself, it has much to recommend it. First of all, the cast of Joseph Schildkraut, Roman Bohnen, Will Wright (uncredited) and Oscar O'Shea (ditto), was most effective in conveying the horror and eerie mood throughout. A sort of underplaying lent itself to the prevailing feelings of loneliness, isolation and frustration.
ONE OTHER QUALITY that we noticed is how the films 2 reels (20 minutes) are so skillfully used. There is naught a wasted moment nor is there any overly long presentation of any aspect of the story. In what may well have been a great coincidence, Mr. Dassin and company may well have given us a key to future productions. What we mean is that intentional or not, this production of THE TELL TALE HEART may be viewed as a sort of blueprint for the half hour television dramas that we seen so frequently over the years. Titles such as Rod Serling's THE TWILIGHT ZONE and NIGHT GALLERY, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, ONE STEP BEYOND and THE OUTER LIMITS are extreme examples of this notion.
ADAPTED FROM THE story by Edgar Allen Poe, we're sure that he would be well satisfied with the final screen product.
..........little gems from Hollywood's store rooms the forgotten .
IT NEVER CEASES to amaze us how so much great cinematic art seems to be locked away, forgotten or just plain discarded. Rather than being a part of the mainstream output of features, the short subjects field, although intended to be a sort of bonus and throw in for the studios' product, have in their own right left us with a wealth of on screen gems of their own.
WE DRAW YOUR attention to this case in point, GIVE ME LIBERTY (Warner Brothers/Vitaphone, 1936. With its viewing, we are treated to a sort of mini-masterpiece that easily succeeds on several levels. It is an historical novelette; which tells in depth a story which we are all familiar from our own American Revolution. The title is derived from Virginia Patriot, Patrick Henry's most famous quotation; being the first half of: "Give me Liberty or Give me Death !"
THE PRODUCTION TEAM goes into great lengths in making such historical moments as the meeting held while the Virginia House of Burgesses debated its continued relationship with the Crown. Director, B. Reeves Eason, gives us living scenes that may well be the celluloid counterpart to the finest oil painting representations around. In doing so, the production team and he were able to deliver 1936 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Color).
BUT THERE IS one point that we must emphasize is the underrated, though nonetheless, fine acting that is displayed (in this short in particular). And it is the virtuoso performance of John Litel (as Patrick Henry) that has the center stage spotlight.
AS IS COMMON knowledge, every film buff knows of the work of Mr. Litel. He is an ever present force in so many features, giving credence to whatever is the role of the day. This makes him undeniably forever numbered among those players classified as "supporting" or "character" actors.
WELL, THE PERFORMANCE by Mr. John Litel, here in GIVE ME LIBERTY, provides we, the viewers, with solid evidence of the outstanding talents possessed by so many in the movies, who rarely get opportunity to display same.
STRICTLY AS A suggestion from the standpoint of a non-professional, maybe some Hollywood bright boy could come up with puting a whole collection of these Historical Shorts together; making them available for tools of educational supplementation. They generally hold up very well and, being basically "Period Pieces", there is no danger of any fashions displayed going out of style.