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Director: Seymour Kneitel
Release Date: September 18, 1942
Stars: Superman
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Japoteurs © ParamountNo sooner were the Fleischer brothers removed from their own studio, or their stars Superman and Popeye were fully put to the war effort.

No other American cartoon stars featured in as many propaganda shorts fighting the foe. Superman stars in five, of which ‘Japoteurs’ is the first.

In this entry three Japanese spies try to steal the world’s largest bomber on its test flight. Of course, Lois flies along, and both she and the plane have to be rescued by Superman.

‘Japoteurs’ is an unfortunate cartoon, which adds to the idea of a fifth column of Japanese within The United States, making every Japanese person suspicious. Indeed, due to this type of paranoia, during the war no less than 110,000 Japanese Americans, including women and children, were put into internment camps.

This is Superman film No. 10
To the previous Superman film: Terror on the Midway
To the next Superman film: Showdown

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Director: Isadore Sparber
Release Date: September 4, 1942
Stars: Popeye, Bluto, Olive Oyl
Rating:
Review:

Alona on the Sarong Seas © ParamountPopeye and Bluto are on a battle cruiser stationed somewhere in the South Seas.

There they meet a ‘princess Alona’ (Olive Oyl in a sarong). Her parrot warns the two suitors that if the princess get’s harmed, the volcano will erupt. In the end all turns out to be just a dream.

In this cartoon the comedy is mostly silent, and princess Alona doesn’t speak at all. Unfortunately, Jack Mercer’s jabbers are absent, too, and they are certainly missed. The result is the weakest Popeye cartoon in years.

Watch ‘Alona on the Sarong Seas’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This Popeye film No. 110
To the previous Popeye film: You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap
To the next Popeye film: A Hull of a Mess

Director: Dan Gordon
Release Date: August 7, 1942
Stars: Popeye
Rating: ★★
Review:

You're A Sap, Mr. Jap © Paramount‘You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap’ is the first Popeye short by the Famous studio, after Paramount had taken over business from the Fleischer Brothers.

This film is immediately the most vicious propaganda film in Popeye’s career, and one of the most extreme cartoons of the entire World War II era. In it Popeye encounters some vicious caricatures of Japanese who doublecross him while suggesting to want to make peace. Their small boat turns out to be on top of a giant battleship which Popeye defeats singlehandedly. The cowardly admiral then commits suicide by drinking nitroglycerin and eating firecrackers, destroying the whole ship.

‘You’re a sap, Mr. Jap’ is as propagandistic as it is ferocious. In the Fleischer’s  ‘Fleets of Stren’th’ from five months earlier, the enemy was still rather abstract, but in ‘You’re a sap, Mr. Jap’ the Japanese people themselves are attacked. The film was the first, but not the only one to feature extreme caricatures of Japanese, which in this cartoon are killed by the dozen. Later, cartoons like ‘Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips’ and ‘Commando Donald’ (both 1944) would follow suit.

These cartoons mark a clear difference between the two enemies: the Germans and the Japanese. While the Nazis were always portrayed as silly, the German people were almost never seen in cartoons, and when shown, they were regarded as victims of their leaders, like in ‘Education for Death‘ (1943). The Japanese, on the other hand, with their less visible regime, were treated as one and the same, from the military top to the average soldier. No doubt, a sizable dose of racism accompanied this view. And it’s views like this that resulted in the arrest and internment of American Japanese, something that also happened to Germans living in the United States, but on a much smaller scale…

In ‘You’re a sap, Mr. Jap’ the anti-Japanese sentiment results in a remarkably unfunny cartoon, and the short is more famous for its lack of politic correctness than for its humor.

Watch ‘You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This Popeye film No. 109
To the previous Popeye film: Baby Wants a Bottleship
To the next Popeye film: Alona on the Sarong Seas

Director: Dan Gordon
Release Date:
 April 26, 1943
Stars:
 Superman
Rating:
 ★★★★★ 
Review:

Jungle Drums © ParamountThe Superman cartoon ‘Jungle Drums’ blends the war theme with the adventure setting of ‘The Mummy Strikes‘.

This time the setting is a vague African island, populated by scary natives who are under control of some mysterious Nazis. They shoot an American plane out of the sky, which contains Lois and some secrets concerning the American fleet. While the natives try to burn Lois, Clark Kent/Superman only arrives just in time to save her.

Superman beats the Nazis, while Lois warns the US Air Force against Nazi submarines threatening the fleet. The last shot is that of an angered Hitler listening to the radio how his plans were frustrated.

Although this short, like most Superman cartoons, contains a weak and badly build story, it stands out for its great shots of scary natives, with their original camera angles, stark color designs and large shadows. The end result is arguably Superman’s best film.

Watch ‘Jungle Drums’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 15
To the previous Superman film: The Mummy Strikes
To the next Superman film: Underground World

Director: Isadore Sparber
Release Date: February 19, 1943
Stars: Superman
Rating:
 ★★½
Review:

The Mummy Strikes © ParamountWith ‘The Mummy Strikes’ the Superman series entered the realm of the adventure movie, albeit with rather unsuccessful results.

One doctor Jordan is mysteriously killed in the museum and Clark Kent is invited to investigate the murder. Lois follows him secretly. After a very lengthy explanation, four gigantic mummies come to life, but Superman defeats them in an all too short battle. This finale is not in proportion to the boring explanation scene preceding it.

In all, ‘The Mummy Strikes’ is one of the weaker entries in the Superman series, because of this ill-constructed story. Luckily, Superman’s next adventure, ‘Jungle Drums‘, would be much better.

Watch ‘The Mummy Strikes’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 14
To the previous Superman film: Destruction, Inc.
To the next Superman film: Jungle Drums

Director: Isadore Sparber
Release Date: 
December 25, 1942
Stars:
 Superman
Rating:
 ★★★½
Review:

Destruction Inc. © Paramount‘Destruction Inc’ was Superman’s third war cartoon, after ‘Japoteurs‘ and ‘Eleventh Hour‘  from earlier that year. Like ‘Japoteurs’ it features saboteurs on American soil, a paranoid idea, well-fed by government propaganda.

This time the danger comes from the inside: some American gangster saboteurs threaten a munition plant. Lois discovers them at a factory, but she’s captured and put inside a torpedo. Luckily Superman is in the neighborhood, not as Clark Kent, but as an elderly general. However, he only arrives just in time to rescue Lois from a certain death in a short that belongs to Superman’s more entertaining films.

‘Destruction, Inc’ opens with a shot of someone being murdered. Such a shot would open the next film, ‘The Mummy Strikes‘, too.

Watch ‘Destruction, Inc.’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 13
To the previous Superman film: Eleventh Hour
To the next Superman film: The Mummy Strikes

Director: Dan Gordon
Release Date: November 20, 1942
Stars: Superman
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Eleventh Hour © Paramount‘Eleventh Hour’ is Superman’s second war cartoon, after ‘Japoteurs‘ from earlier that year. It’s one of the earliest World War II cartoons dealing with Japan.

In this short Superman himself is the saboteur, destroying ships, bridges, airports and tanks in Yokohama, Japan. The furious Japanese capture Lois, who stays with Clark Kent in Japan, and threaten Superman to execute her if he doesn’t stop his sabotage.

Superman reads this ultimatum all but too late and he’s only just in time to rescue Lois from the firing squad. Lois returns home, but Clark Kent stays behind, implying that Superman keeps on doing his sabotage work, a message that must have been comforting to the home-front.

The story of this cartoon is quite original, if not very well-constructed. Unfortunately, by now Superman has been reduced to an expressionless figure, making him a boring character to watch.

Watch ‘Eleventh Hour’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 12
To the previous Superman film: Showdown
To the next Superman film: Destruction, Inc.

Director: Isadore Sparber
Release Date:
 Oct 16, 1942
Stars:
 Superman
Rating:
 ★★★★½
Review:

Showdown © ParamountIn an original twist to the Superman formula, a sneaky fake Superman steals jewelry for his gangster boss.

Meanwhile Lois and Clark  have to report an opera performance. Luckily, the fake superman is there, too, pickpocketing the attendants. Superman captures his look-alike and his boss.

‘Showdown’ clearly has the most original story line of all superman cartoons, and this makes the short arguably the best entry of the series. At least the cartoon contains the funniest line in the series, when Lois makes Clark Kent the sarcastic remark “fine Superman you‘d make”.

Watch ‘Showdown’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 11
To the previous Superman film: Japoteurs
To the next Superman film: Eleventh Hour

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