Saturday, August 31, 2019

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #34

Hello my friends and welcome back for another round of classic cartoons. 

With the incredible success UPA cartoons had in the 1950's, many cartoon studios began to follow the lead and make animated films like UPA did. As strange as it may seem Disney too made some films in the UPA style. This meant more stylized and seemingly simpler designs, as well as more intentionally limited animation. This is in many ways the opposite of Disney's lush and extremely detailed animation. However with these few cartoons the Disney studio pulled off the UPA style fantastically. The best of these UPA inspired Disney cartoons is Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953). This cartoon is also rare in that it was a sequel to an earlier Disney cartoon, Melody (1953). That film had been released in 3D. However Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom would not contain that gimmick. Instead this film would be in CinemaScope. In fact this was the first CinemaScope cartoon. This was a rare cartoon to feature Ward Kimball as a director. For those of you who don't know, Ward Kimball is one of the most important and talented Disney animators. In fact he was part of the group Walt called his Nine Old Men. Ward was one of the cartooniest of the Disney animators and his animation was often quite funny. With that in mind it should come as no surprise that this film should have such a great sense of humor. This cartoon ended up winning the Oscar for 1953, and that was certainly well deserved. This also received the 29th place in Jerry Beck's book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons. So enjoy this great cartoon.

Next comes an animated short film with an emphasis on the short. This is a cartoon, whose title should tell you exactly what to expect. This is Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969). No one can say it doesn't live up to that title. What simply is a one joke film has made people laugh for decades and will continue to do so. Film student Marv Newland made this film when he couldn't get the right shot of a sunrise for a live action short he was making. This film was made in only the last two weeks of his school semester, but it is better remembered than any other film made in that class. This film would receive the 38th spot in Jerry Beck's The 50 Greatest Cartoons.

Now comes a 1965 Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon starring Peter Potamus entitled Trite Flite.

Next up is an early sound cartoon with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. I admit to having quite a fondness for the Walter Lantz studio's Oswald cartoons and this one is no exception. I especially love how cartoony and rubber hose like the animation is. The gags are extremely cartoony and purely delightful. The dancing scene is certainly a highlight. So enjoy Snow Use (1929).

We end with a delightful black and white Terry Toons cartoon starring Gandy Goose and Sourpuss. Like later Hanna-Barbera cartoons, Terry Toons would some times base the voice and personality of characters on popular celebrities. Gandy Goose's voice is inspired by the comedian Ed Wynn (who animation fans will probably best know as the voice of the mad hatter in Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951)), Sourpuss's voice was based off of another popular comedian Jimmy Durante (who animation fans might know as the narrator on Rakin-Bass' Frosty the Snowman (1969)). Gandy and Sourpuss made a great comedy pair with Gandy's silliness annoying the heck out of grumpy Sourpuss. So enjoy Tire Trouble (1942).

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, August 30, 2019

Rereleasing "King of Jazz"

I have a real fondness for the movie, King of Jazz (1930). It is a one of a kind movie with lots of great music and an excellent cartoon segment from the Walter Lantz Studio. This movie was just as loved by audiences back in its day and was rereleased in 1933. That version added newly filmed comedy sequences but also cut nearly 35 minutes.

The following page from Universal Weekly shows various ways this movie was advertised upon its rerelease.

The following is a 1933 article about the film from Universal Weekly. 

Next is an advertisement for King of Jazz from the Universal Weekly.

As you can see by this follow page of Universal Weekly this was not the only 1930 Universal movie rereleased in 1933. Also rereleased that year was All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and Captain of the Guard.

One last article from Universal Weekly. The line "No producer in these times could afford to a picture near as costly as was 'King of Jazz,'" seems odd considering the movie was only three years old at this point. 

Now let's enjoy some great music from the movie. First is George Gershwin's Rhaposdy in Blue.

Now for So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together. This song is performed by The Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, Al Rinker)

We end our post with the cartoon segment for the movie. This was created by the Walter Lantz studio, and at the time their starring character was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit who can be seen briefly here.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Movie Review: Overcomer

Michael's Movie Grade: B

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's Grace.

A moving and inspiring faith based film that overcomes faults in its storytelling with great messages and a good sincere heart.

This is a movie that always has its heart in the right place. Its messages are very important and as a Christian myself, I admit these can be tough lessons at times. It is too easy to not realize at times that we are not actually putting God first. We like to think we are but too often we put our own troubles in front of our faith. It is often too easy to say we will pray for somebody but not actually do it. It is also to struggle to forgive those who have hurt us. Most of all though this movie is about who we are in Christ. A common question characters ask each other in this movie is "who are you." This is a question all of us Christians should ask ourselves and make sure God has something to do with it. The main characters in this movie are very likable and easy to root for. They are not perfect but they struggle with the same things we do making them easy to root for. This is a movie without any real villain or antagonist. This is a movie where no character is beyond redemption and each one has good inside of them, that their faith helps bring out. This is truly a feel good movie that really makes you feel good. I certainly had a smile on my face after watching it.

One thing that surprised me and really impressed me with this movie was that it was such a visually good looking movie. Much of this is due to cinematographer Bob Scott. The opening shot as we move into the school from the outside is very impressive.

Despite this movie's good heart, it does have its faults. Much of the movie is very predictable and more than a little cliché. The film is mostly a family drama and not much of a sports movie. This is not a problem until the climax, which revolves completely around sports. This makes that climax feel like it wasn't properly built up to. There are also multiple lines that feel more than a little forced. Despite any of these faults this is meant to be a feel good movie and it makes you feel good. That means it did what it set out to do and when a movie does that it can be viewed as a success.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Silent Films on TCM this September

Hello again my friends. Since me and many of you are fans of both silent film and TCM, today I am going to give you a list of all the silent films that will play on TCM this September. This is a fantastic lineup, that includes some regular silent films for the channel and some that are a bit different.

Sunday, September 1st

The Mating Call
(1928) Director: James Cruze. Starring Thomas Meighan and Evelyn Brent. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

Wednesday, September 4th

Broken Blossoms
(1919) Director: D W Griffith. Starring Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess. 5pm Pacific. 8pm Eastern.

Little Annie Rooney (1925) Director: William Beaudine. Starring Mary Pickford and William Haines. 6:45pm Pacific. 9:45 Eastern.

The Three Musketeers (1921) Director: Fred Niblo. Starring Douglas Fairbanks and Leon Barry. 8:30pm Pacific. 11:30pm Eastern.

The Gold Rush (1925) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Mack Swain. 10:45pm Pacific. 1:45am Eastern.

Thursday, September 5th

The General
(1927) Directors: Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman. Starring Buster Keaton and Marion Mack. 12:30am Pacific. 3:30am Eastern.

Sadie Thompson (1928) Director: Raoul Walsh. Starring Gloria Swanson and Lionel Barrymore. 2am Pacific. 5am Eastern.

Friday, September 6th

The Cartoons of Winsor McCay
(2014) A compilation of classic silent cartoon shorts directed by Winsor McCay.

The Freshman
(1925) Directors: Sam Taylor and Fred Newmeyer. Starring Harold Lloyd and Joyba Ralston. 5pm Pacific. 8pm Eastern.

Sunday September 8th

The Circus
(1928). Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Merna Kennedy. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

Shoulder Arms (1918) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance. 10:12pm Pacific. 1:12am Eastern.

A Dog's Life (1918) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Enda Purviance. 10:50pm Pacific. 1:50am Eastern.

Tuesday September 10th

(1924) Director: Erich Von Stroheim. Starring Gibson Gowland and Zasu Pitts. 12:15am Pacific. 3:15am Eastern.

Sunday September 15th

Two Arabian Knights
(1927) Director: Lewis Milestone. Starring William Boyd and Louis Wolheim. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

Sunday, September 22nd

The Racket
(1928) Director: Lewis Milestone. Starring Thomas Meighan and Marie Prevost.

Tuesday, September 24th

The Unknown
(1927) Director: Tod Browning. Starring Lon Chaney and Norman Kerry. 1:45am Pacific. 4:45am Eastern.

Sunday, September 29th

(1912) Director: Charles L. Gaskill. Starring Helen Gardner and Harley Knoles. 9:45pm Pacific. 12:45am Eastern.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Movie Review: Good Boys

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Often times when a raunchy comedy tries to be sweet, it doesn't work and feels at odds with the humor. This movie is certainly an exception to this rule. Neither feel at odds with the other because they both come from the same place, the characters. The characters themselves are the best part of this movie. They are very likable and relatable. Each one has his own personality that is very different from the other two. When this causes conflict between the three friends, we buy it completely and even feel for these tweens. These characters are made more real by the three lead actors. Jacob Trembley, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon are not just great child actors but great actors for any age. The three also have perfect chemistry and it is a joy watching them share the screen.

When it comes to the film's humor, the funniest moments are the ones that come from the characters, while the weakest ones are raunchy for the sake of being raunchy. Some of the funniest moments are ones that aren't raunchy at all. For instance the boys getting stuck on the freeway, rule-abiding Lucas trying to act natural around a cop when the boys skip school, Max trying to fix Lucas' arm and Max thinking he can control the drone perfectly without hitting anything are some of the comedic highlights. However even the best raunchy moments come from the characters not the raunchiness. For instance that Lucas legitimately worries that animals might take Molly is very funny. Where the humor doesn't work is when it becomes about the raunchiness. For instance the dad congratulating his son as masturbating and the boys using a dildo to keep a door closed got no laughs from me at all.  

With these characters this movie captures very well the awkward time in our lives when we are kids but no longer want ourselves or others to view us as such. To prove we are adults, we break the rules, cuss like sailors (there is no one out there with filthier mouths than middle schoolers), and pretend like we understand everything sexual. But as this movie shows maybe growing up has its own downfalls, completely different from those of childhood. There is a very heartfelt message about growing up that takes place near the end of this movie. This message is not simplified but presented in all its complexity. With all the focus on high school and college movies, this time often gets overlooked. I am glad with films like this and Eighth Grade, this awkward time. My only reservation about that is with both movies being rated R, kids who could use the lessons these movies teach are too young to see the movies.  
This movie's plot is a good one but often times too similar to that of Superbad for its own good.

An often funny comedy with a surprisingly sweet and touching ending.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, August 26, 2019

Advertisements for Gene Deitch's Tom and Jerry Cartoons

Hello my friends and fellow cartoon lovers. Today I am going to share with you some original advertisements for Boxoffice magazine for Gene Deitch's 1960's Tom and Jerry cartoons. These cartoons may have a bad reputation among Tom and Jerry fans. However to me there is a charm to these films that I really like.



-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, August 25, 2019

...And The Blue Ribbon Goes to Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)

As mentioned before on this blog in the 1950's and 60's when Boxoffice Magazine gave out its Blue Ribbon Award to a movie "on the basis of outstanding merit and suitability for family entertainment," it very often went to a Disney film. Another example for you is when it went to the excellent but underrated live action feature, Miracle of the White Stallions (1963).

If the writing is fuzzy click on the picture and zoom in with touch screen.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Cowboy Church #24

Hello my friends and welcome to another service of Cowboy Church.

We begin our musical selection off with The Sons of the Pioneers' 1935 recording of When I Leave This World Behind. This was a Sons original written by the group's most prolific songwriter Bob Nolan. Bob puts a lot of great humor into this gospel song along with its message about heaven. At this time Leonard Slye later to rename himself Roy Rogers was still a member of the group. Next comes Roy Acuff's 1948 recording of Turn Your Radio On. Next comes a Charlie Daniels Band original, It's Happening Now, from their 1997 Christian album, Steel Witness. Just as much as Hank Williams recorded such toe-tapping upbeat gospel numbers like I Saw the Light or I'll Fly Away, he also recorded quite a few slower paced apocalyptic Christian songs like our next one, The Pale Horse and His Rider. Though this version of this song is from 1951 (on the Mother's Best radio show), the song was written by Johnnie Bailes (from the country-gospel group The Bailes Brothers) in 1939. This was not Hank's first recording of the song. He recorded it a year earlier with his wife Audrey. Though I like that version, I much prefer this solo version. The reason for that was not Audrey, but rather this version's slower pace and more sorrowful feel. Next comes Gene Autry singing Someone Bigger Than You or I in a clip from the feature film, The Old West (1952). Johnny Cash had wanted to be a gospel singer from the beginning. However when he worked at Sun Records, producer Sam Phillips had little interest in John recording gospel. Though he did get a few gospel songs recorded there, they were a rarity. When John moved to Columbia records, he wanted to record a full gospel album. His second album there was the fantastic 1959 album Hymns By Johnny Cash. One of the best songs on that album is the closing song for our musical selection today, The Old Account

What could be a better endorsement for the Hop-a-Long Cassidy movies than one from a 12 year old in 1935. You can see this endorsement in the following page of a 1935 issue of Variety.

You can zoom in to get a better look. If it is still fuzzy click here.

  Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4

Blessed is the one God corrects, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. Job 5:17

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your god will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Thank you for joining me for another service of Cowboy Church come back next week for more. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #33 - Disney Edition

Hello again my friends and happy Saturday Morning. Once again that means it is time for some classic cartoons. As this weekend is the D23 expo (where I am going to be enjoying myself today), I feel it is only right to have this edition of Saturday Morning Cartoons to be all Disney. 

Four of the early black and white Silly Symphonies each revolved around one of the four seasons. There was Springtime (1929), Summer (1930), Autumn (1930) and Winter (1930). Since it summertime right now, we will start our cartoon watching with Summer. Like many of the early Symphonies this film was directed by Ub Iwerks, who was at this time Walt's right hand man. As well as directing this film Ub also was an animator on this film animating the opening and ending of this film. When Ub would later head his own studio, he would return to the summer theme with a short called Summertime (1935). Also like many of the early Symphonies this film doesn't have much of a storyline to speak of. With this the film is often more of a mood piece than a narrative film. In this kind of cartoon, the music becomes very important. Luckily the score was provided by one of cartoondom's greatest musical masters Carl Stalling. Stalling would often incorporate other people's songs into his musical scores, and would become a master at this. In this film he uses three songs from the 1800's. These were Intermezzo from the ballet La Source, George L. Lansing's Darkies' Dream and Alphons Czibulka's Stephanie-Gavotte. So enjoy this lovely cartoon. 

Next comes one of director Jack King's best Donald Duck cartoons (of which he made many), Chef Donald (1941). Many of the best Donald cartoons steamed for Donald trying to perform a simple task and messing it up. Here he is trying to make waffles but it doesn't work out well when he uses the wrong ingredient. Like many of Jack King's Donald cartoons this is a fast paced slapstick affair with gags galore. Many of these gags are fantastic and the ending never fails to make me laugh out loud. I love the clever use of I've Got No Strings on Me (from the Disney feature film Pinocchio (1940)) in the musical score. The following is an exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald (dated June 13, 1942). "Chef Donald: Walt Disney cartoons - A very good cartoon that got a lot of laughs and worth a date on almost any program. - Mayme P. Mussleman, Princess Theatre, Lincoln, Kan. Small Town Patronage." A review in The Film Daily stated "Walt Disney and his staff of skilled assistants have turned out another hilarious reel which should provide a swell laugh for the program."

Next comes of the many great Goofy cartoons directed by Jack Kinney. Jack Kinney was the cartoon-iest and funniest of the Disney cartoon directors and this film certainly shows why. There are plenty of great cartoon gags galore in this film. So enjoy, Two Gun Goofy (1952).

Goofy wasn't the only of the Disney cartoon characters to get two gun in front of his name in a cartoon title. Case in point, Two Gun Mickey (1934). Notice that Pete is the villain in both these cartoons.

Let us end with a classic silent Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon, Oh Teacher (1927). Very common for the silent Disney cartoons, Walt directed this film himself. I love the scene where Oswald rides the word "help" like a horse, since this is one of those gags that can only be done in a silent cartoon.

The following page from Movie Makers Magazine in 1932 lets you know how you could buy these cartoons in 16mm film.

Come back for more cartoon treasures next week. Until then peace love and cartoons.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Movie Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

Michael's Movie Grade: A

A good-hearted feel-good movie that never delves into cheap or forced sentimentality.

This movie offers exactly what one should want out of this type of movie. A story about three misfits on the road and finding a family in one another may sound cliché, but many similar movies just simply are not told anywhere near as well as this movie is. Each of our three main characters felt completely real to me. I felt I knew them. Not only that but I felt glad I knew them. The characters are extremely likable and just a joy to spend time with. It doesn't hurt that the three actors (Shia LeBeouf, Dakota Johnson and Zack Gottsagen) cast in the roles play their parts to perfection. Even with how great the other two are, Zack Gottsagen (in his first feature film role I might add) is a clear standout. He hits all the right notes and easily is a huge part of why his character feels so real. The script by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwatz (both of whom also directed the film) is as human and honest, as it is feel good and heartwarming. A film that is heartwarming but also feels real is too rare these days. It is true that the script can get a little corny. However it is the good kind of corny that makes you feel happy inside opposed to the bad kind that makes you cringe. Also not hurting this film is the lovely cinematography by Nigel Bluck. There are so many shorts here that are so completely memorable and will stay in your mind long after watching the movie. The film also has many laugh out loud moments.

I also have to say as a fan of country and folk music, I loved the choice of songs used in this movie's soundtrack. It was a delight to hear such artists as Sara Watkins, Ola Belle Reed, Chance McCoy and Parker Ainsworth as I was watching this movie. Each of these songs was used very well fitting the on screen action fantastically.

If you want a feel good summer movie, you can not do better than this.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Movie Review: Where Did You Go Bernadette

Michael's Movie Grade: B

A very interesting, if still flawed, character study.

I'm not sure how many of you can relate to the character of Bernadette the way I do. You see I have an anxiety disorder and it can be so easy to let the anxiety take control of me. Though Bernadette seems to not fully realize what the anxiety does to her in the way I can, I can see much of myself in her. Because many of you may not have this, I don't know if you'd connect to this movie the way I did, but in this film's best moments it felt very personable to me. Of course making this feel much more real was Cate Blanchett's masterful performance as the title character. She completely loses herself in the character and never becomes a caricature of someone with high anxiety, the way a lesser actress could have easily done.

This is also a very visually beautiful film. Director Richard Linklater of course is an incredible director and brings much of his great directorial flair to this movie. Cinematographer Shane F. Kelly also gets to show how talented he is as the movie has many great and memorable shots in it. Production designer Bruce Curtis also truly drags us into the world of the film.

Where this movie falters is that things happen much too quickly. While the ending is a good one, the story and characters felt like they needed more time to get to the point they are at when the movie ends. Certainly much of this movie simply feels much too rushed, as if the movie did not want to give us time to spend with the characters between plot points. I have not read the book, but I would assume this is a problem that happened adapting it to the screen. Another problem is that as real as Bernadette and her daughter (Emma Nelson, in a very impressive performance for her feature film debut) feel, the husband (Billy Crudup) does not feel as real. In fact there were times I felt irritated by his character. This is not helped by the fact that the character's arc is probably the most rushed thing in the film. However these flaws where completely overcome by just how much I cared about and related to the main character.

While certainly flawed this movie hit me in just the right emotional spot and because of that I certainly recommend it.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Movie Review: Mission Mangal

Michael's Movie Grade: B

If you are looking for a serious look into how this amazing feat (The Indian Space Research Organization sending a satellite to orbit Mars), you should look somewhere else. However if you want a fun but safe popcorn movie that is exactly what this film provides.

What makes this movie work so well is that we completely feel the passion of the main characters. When they talk about the project, you can just see and hear the passion in them. Even if you aren't into science, you get swept away in how much this means for them and you easily root for them. This makes many of the scenes very exciting. Especially the very well done climax. Of course it doesn't hurt that this is a great story, based off an amazing real life achievement. The film was made in India and is told in an extremely patriotic way. The patriotism feels completely real and unforced. Plus this is a very appropriate thing to feel patriotic about. The cast is really good in this movie as well. Each nails down the part perfectly. There is also some great humor here as well.

While the mission scenes are very fun, the family drama scenes pale in comparison. They simply feel bland and uninspired. This movie also has quite a few cliché moments, where regardless of what you know about the true life story you can see what comes next. Still what is good about this movie overcomes these faults.

A good movie based off, a great story.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Tom and Jerry Win Oscars and Leo the Lion Toots His Own Horn

As any classic film buff knows MGM loved to brag about itself. After all they are the studio who famously said they had more stars than there are in heaven. Because of this it should come as no shocker that the studio had no problems tooting its own horn when its Tom and Jerry cartoons won Oscars. Here are some advertisements from film magazines proudly stating that they had an Oscar winning cartoon series.

Motion Picture Herald 1952

Motion Picture Herald 1946

Variety 1949

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Cowboy Church #23

Hello my friends and welcome to another addition of Cowboy Church.

We start our musical selection off with The Sons of Pioneers 1937 recording of Heavenly Airplane. This is an original song written by the Son's own Bob Nolan. This song was from the last year Roy Rogers was a member of the group. Next comes Johnny Cash and Ray Charles with a duet of Kris Kristofferson's Why Me Lord. Next is Gene Autry singing The Angel Song in a clip from his Cinecolor feature film, The Strawberry Roan (1948). Gene co-wrote this song with Curt Massey and Mary Millard. After this comes Rex Allen's 1959 recording of Sleep Little Moses. This song came from his album Mister Cowboy. Next comes Hank Williams performing Thank God. This song was written by Hank's producer Fred Rose. Though Hank recorded this song in either 1948 or 1949, it would not be released until 1955, after Hank had passed away. This song does not feature his famous backing band, The Drifting Cowboys. Instead this is just Hank and his guitar. We end our musical selection with Loretta Lynn singing the gospel classic In The Garden.

Below is a 1935 advertisement from The Motion Picture Herald advertising the early HopaLong Cassidy movies. You may notice that this advertisement states that James Gleason will be playing Hopalong, instead of William Boyd. The part was originally offered to Gleason and various advertisements for the movie stated he would be in the title role. However when negotiations could not be worked out, the part would go to William Boyd who was originally offered the role of the lead villain.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

 The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2
God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Habakkuk 3:19

 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10

Thanks for joining me for another service of Cowboy Church. Come back next week. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #32

Hello my friends and happy Saturday Morning. Once again it is time for some classic cartoons. 

We start our cartoons off with a Hokey Wolf cartoon from The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958-1961). This one is called Lamb-Basted Wolf .

Next comes one of the all time classic Merrie Melodies cartoons, A Corny Concerto (1943). This cartoon is very much a parody of Disney's recent animated feature, Fantasia (1940) with the unrefined Elmer Fudd taking over the Deems Taylor role. Earlier the same year this cartoon was released another Merrie Melody parodied Fantasia with an unrefined wolf doing the Deem Taylor role. That cartoon was called Pigs in a Polka (1943). A Corny Concerto was directed by Bob Clampett and written by Frank Tashlin. It is odd to have Tashlin write a Warners cartoon he didn't direct. Tashlin had in fact just returned to Warners after a stint at Disney, making him a perfect candidate to write this Disney parody. This film features another rarity for a Warners cartoon. That is the fact the Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig share the screen. It has been debated weather or not the Duck that appears in the second part of this cartoon is or isn't Daffy. I like to think of him as Daffy, myself. Also notice that Bugs makes Porky and his dog into a couple of boobs.

Up next comes another Warners cartoon from 1943. This one stars Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd and is entitled To Duck or Not To Duck. This cartoon is directed by Chuck Jones. Up until this time Chuck's cartoons had been slower paced and less comedy oriented, than the other Looney Tunes directors' films. While this cartoon is no where near as fast paced as Chuck's later films, it definitely moves faster and has more comedy compared to what he did in the past. Elmer's dog Larimore gets some of the best laughs in the film. It is also worth noting that Daffy had not become a born loser at this time yet. We will not see Elmer shooting Daffy's bill off in this cartoon. Instead Daffy can and does outsmart Elmer.

I am personally a big fan of the underrated Little King cartoons the Van Beuren studio did. I love their gentle pantomime and slapstick, as well as the great imagination in these films. So enjoy A Royal Good Time (1934).

For the most part in the 1930's Disney's Mickey Mouse cartoons starred reoccurring characters, while the Silly Symphonies starred one-shot characters. It was rare for a character from the Mickey series to star in a Symphony. However Pluto did this twice. These cartoons were Just Dogs (1932) and Mother Pluto (1936). Our last cartoon is the first one, Just Dogs. In this film Pluto is teamed with a little pup. While this pup would not appear in any more animated Disney cartoons, he would become a reoccurring character in Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse newspaper comic strip. One of Pluto's animators in this film was Norm Ferguson, who would help define the character's personality with his animation for Playful Pluto (1934). Burt Gillett the director of this film would soon direct the most famous Silly Symphony, The Three Little Pigs (1933). One of the working titles for Just Dogs was the rather on the nose The Dog Symphony.

For an extra treat to read a 1963 article from Boxoffice magazine about Walter Lantz cartoons plus an advertisement for Terrytoons from the same year click here.

Thanks for joining me. Come back next week for more animated treasures. Until then Peace, Love and Cartoons.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, August 16, 2019

Overlooked Classics: The Steel Helmet (1951)

There have been many movies over the years about World War 2, but very few about the Korean War. However The Steel Helmet stands as not only a great film about the Korean War, but a fantastic war movie on any level. 

Samuel Fuller (the movie’s director, writer and producer) was a veteran of World War 2 (he would later make a World War 2 film that was essentially autobiographical called The Big Red One). He felt previous war movies were often dishonest and naïve about what soldier’s went through, and that the full brutality of war had never yet been depicted on screen. Since this film was made on a rather small budget of $100,000, this brutality was not shown through excessive violence or massive battle sequences (in fact there were only 25 extras (all students from UCLA) and they played both American and Korean soldiers), but rather through the characters’ psyche. The characters were filled with thoughts of hopelessness and desperation. To show soldiers at war as this beaten mentally was something that had not been seen in almost all previous war movies.

The film was not only shot on a low budget but in only ten days of shooting. This may have helped create the real, gritty, and natural feeling of this film that is so different from any big budget Hollywood studio film from this era. This is not an action movie by any means, nor is it an inspiring story of how the U.S. army can defeat powers of pure evil leaving good victorious. Rather it is a film about the mental hardships that those who fight in wars face every day. This film leaves me with more respect for those soldiers fighting overseas for my country. What they have gone through is something I could never imagine, and the mental pain they push themselves through is incredible. I am not a veteran, so I cannot say how real this film represents that mental torture, but I can say to me it feels unbelievably real.

This movie was a center of great controversy when released. It was considered by many to be anti-American. This was because throughout this movie the characters were always unsure exactly what they were fighting for or even who their enemy was. The main cast included a black soldier (James Edwards) and a Japanese-American soldier (Richard Loo). A prisoner of war tests their allegiance by bringing up Jim Crow laws and Japanese internment camps. There was also an American soldier (Steve Brodie) who was a clear racist. This sat uneasy with some who felt Fuller was trying to make America look like a racist country. Fuller denied this saying he was just trying to be brutally honest about history and what happened in war. All the decisions that created this controversy help make the film even more powerful and shocking to audiences then and now. The movie has a feeling of brutal honesty that few movies can capture so well.

A review in Variety stated "Lippert Pictures has what would seem a sure money film in 'The Steel Helmet.'" (To read the whole review click here.) This turned out to be true as the film earned over $2 million at the box office and made big studios take notice of the film's director.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

My Top 10 Flintstones Episodes.

The Flintstones is one of my favorite TV shows, and I am more than happy that the series will be airing on Me-TV starting September 30th. To celebrate why I love this show so much let's look at my top ten episodes. As is always with lists like this, these are just my opinions. If you disagree with any of these, or if your favorite isn't own here, don't take any offense. There are lots of great Flintstones episodes and to only do 10 is leaving off quite a few excellent episodes.

10. No Help Wanted In this episode, Fred in an effort to get Barney a raise, instead gets his friend fired. Fred then helps Barney get a new job, not knowing that now Barney with have to reposes Fred's TV set. Lots of fast paced slapstick and a great joke about hungry lions make this episode a pure delight.

9. Christmas Flintstone To make some extra Christmas money, Fred gets a part time job as a department store Santa. While in my mind the last two seasons of the show pale in comparison to the preceding four, this episode is a definite exception. I am a sucker for all things Christmas and this episode is just dripping over with Christmas. This may not be as funny as the other episodes on this list, but what it lacks in laughs it more than makes up for in charm. Plus it is nice to see Fred get a job where he is truly appreciated. This episode would be somewhat remade as the made for TV movie, A Flintstone Christmas (1977), but that movie would not quite recapture the charm of this episode.

8. Swedish Visitors "I am Ollie, he is Sven." A very funny episode in which Wilma rents the house to some musicians while the family goes on vacation. A catchy song, lots of great jokes, quotable lines and a cameo by a smarter than your average Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, make this episode a complete delight.

7. The Hot Piano A fast paced and very funny episode. This episode takes some notes from the classic Laurel and Hardy short, The Music Box. While that short is a masterpiece until itself, the slapstick of Fred and Barney trying to sneak the piano into the house without waking Wilma is some of the funniest this show has done. However this slapstick sequence is not the only highlight as the scene with the salesman is very funny as well.

6. Dial "S" For Suspicion This episode takes to parodying two classic movies from the 1940's. Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity and Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion. This is a very clever episode, with tons of great jokes. Plus Fred being paranoid always leads to some great laughs.

5. Fred's New Boss It is extremely relatable to see Fred having to deal with his friend being promoted over him. Many of us have gone through something like this and it is difficult. Not only is this one of the most relatable episodes but it also one of the funniest. This is a joke a minute episode that never lets up on the laughs.

4. Mother-in-Law's Visit So many sitcoms relied on the old trope of a feud between the husband and the mother-in-law. However no sitcom did this better than the Flintstones. The episodes with Fred's mother-in-law were always a pure delight as they offered a great battle of wits between the two characters. In this episode Fred wants to prove to Wilma the two can get along and goes out of his way to be nice to mother. Mother is nowhere near as nice to him though and Fred being Fred has trouble keeping his cool. Fred repeating "I love my dear sweet mother in law" over and over is hilarious. In the end Fred finally wins the battle of wits in one of the show's funniest moments.

3. Love Letters on The Rocks In this episode Wilma discovers an old love letter from Fred. She leaves it out on the counter. Fred doesn't remember writing it tough and when he sees it thinks Wilma is cheating on him. To find out who it is Fred hires a Cary Grant like detective. This episode is one great joke after another.

2. Alfred Brickrock Presents Possibly the show's most laugh out loud funny episode. Hanna-Barbera loved to parody Alfred Hitchcock. In fact a reoccurring character in their Yakky Doodle cartoons would be a caricature of the master of suspense. While Dial "S" for Suspicion borrowed from Suspicion, this episode borrows from Rear Window. This episode has a darker sense of humor than any of the others I listed, but it works perfectly. The ending is one of my favorite Flintstones endings.

1. Little Bamm-Bamm It was rare for this show to have emotional moments as it mostly centered on humor. However this episode has one of the best emotional moments I have seen in a TV cartoon. This is when Betty and Barney wish on a star for a baby. They know it is hopeless and silly, but they are so desperate they do it anyway. This scene shows that we not only find these characters funny but we truly care about them. This moment is not forced but so naturally comes out of the characters that it is irresistible. Other than that scene this is a typically funny Flintstones episode with quite a few great gags and cartoon silliness, but it is that scene that makes this episode stand out as something special.    

-Michael J. Ruhland