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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 2, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo, Koko the Clown
‘Betty Boop, M.D.’ opens with Betty driving a tilt car into a town to sell a potion called Jippo, which is advertised as”flattens feet, makes young men old, removes teeth – grows tonsils, and stops breathing”.
Betty gets assistance from Koko and Bimbo to sell the product. First Koko performs some surreal acrobatic stunts, to no avail. Then Betty herself appears to sing a song, and the selling starts. The potion as some wondrous effects on the audience, e.g. a very thin man grows fat in an instant, and an old man turns into a large baby, while a baby turns into a tiny old man.
When Bimbo drinks Jippo himself, he starts the song ‘Nobody’s Sweetheart’, which contains a lot of scatting by members of the audience. To this jazzy sequence the imagery simply explodes with mind-blowing, surreal scenes. This fantastic string of events ends when a baby drinks Jippo, turning into a faithful caricature of Fredric March as Mr. Hyde from the 1931 horror film ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’.
As is often the case with the Fleischer films from the early 1930s, ‘Betty Boop, M.D.’ has a very weak and rather improvised story line, but this drawback is luckily compensated by original imagery, peppy music, and simply a lot of fun.
Watch ‘Betty Boop, M.D.’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Betty Boop, M.D.’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’
‘Sleepy Time Down South’ is a Screen Song featuring the Boswell Sisters, the most famous close harmony trio of its time, but later eclipsed by the similar Andrews Sisters.
The animated part of the short tells about a cat, who’s in the fire brigade, and who with his fellow firemen rushes to a burning house. This part contains nice cartoon versions of the three sisters singing help. When they get rescued they throw down the piano first, which falls apart, but which the three sisters reassemble in an instant. Cut to the live action Boswell Sisters, with lead singer Connee Boswell starting the title song ‘When It’s Sleepy Time Down South’, which had been a hit for Louis Armstrong in 1931. In the end the animation returns, and the three sisters lend their voices to three flames following the cat.
Because of the sisters’ subtle harmonies the song is very hard to sing along, so one wonders whether the cartoon was a success in the theaters. Yet, the combination of the Fleischer’s imaginative images and the Boswell Sisters’ intoxicating performance makes ‘Sleepy Time South’ a joy to watch.
Watch ‘Sleepy Time Down South’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Sleepy Time Down South’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’
Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: May 12, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Pluto, Goofy
‘Mickey’s Revue’ is famous for introducing Goofy, whose guffaw we had heard off-stage in the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon, ‘Barnyard Olympics‘.
In this cartoon he’s an elderly person, bearded and wearing glasses. We don’t hear him speak, only his guffaw can be heard, and together with Pluto he forms the running gag of the cartoon. Although Goofy literally has the last laugh, nothing points to the direction of a star career beyond the laugh itself, and indeed, in ‘Trader Mickey‘ his guffaw was used by a cannibal king, indicating it was not an exclusive trait, yet.
Nevertheless, Goofy would return in ‘The Whoopee Party‘, redesigned, christened Dippy Dawg, and here to stay. In fact, Goofy arguably is the first cartoon character, whose voice predates the screen persona, which is completely built around the stupid laugh, and ditto voice.
Apart from Goofy’s debut, there’s enough to enjoy in ‘Mickey’s Revue’, even though it revisits two themes explored earlier in the Mickey Mouse cartoons: that of Mickey and the gang giving a performance and that of animals causing havoc. Here, the source of havoc are the small kittens from ‘The Barnyard Broadcast‘ and ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ (both 1931). It was their last screen performance, for they would soon be replaced by little mice, first introduced in ‘Mickey’s Nightmare‘ (1932).
‘Mickey’s Revue’ follows the same lines as ‘The Barnyard Broadcast’, but is much better executed, cleverly intertwining the subplots of Goofy’s annoying laugh, Pluto trying to enter the stage, and the kittens interfering with Mickey’s performance. One of the gags involve a kitten caught in the hammers of Minnie’s piano, a gag looking forward to a similar one in the Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘The Cat Concerto‘ (1947). Despite it’s great comedy, ‘Mickey’s Revue’ was the last cartoon exploiting the ruin finale, as used in 1931/1932 cartoons like ‘Mickey Cuts Up‘ and ‘The Grocery Boy‘.
‘Mickey’s Revue’ is a typical ensemble cartoon, also starring Minnie, Horace Horsecollar and no less than three Clarabelle Cows. By now Horace Horsecollar had caught up with his comic personality, and had grown in personality beyond that of a stereotyped horse. Unfortunately, Horace was not developed further on the movie screen – it was left to Floyd Gottfredson to explore Horace’s character further in his comic strip.
Watch ‘Mickey’s Revue’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Mickey’s Revue’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in black and white’
Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: June 2, 1933
Stars: Betty Boop
Betty Boop applies to the job, among hundreds of other candidates. However, Betty sings a sexy version of Irving Berlin’s 1919 hit song “You’d be surprised”, and she’s hired on the spot, while the boss quickly disposes of the competition.
Betty starts typewriting right away. Meanwhile her boss clearly fancies her, even though she’s not dressed as sexy as in her earlier films. He tries to steal a kiss, but then Betty cries for help, and about everybody comes to the rescue (the police, the army, the navy and the air force). This gag anticipates a remarkably similar gag in the Marx Brothers film ‘Duck Soup’, released later that year.
‘Betty Boop’s Big Boss’ is a cartoon full of sex and violence, and a clear example of a pre-code Betty Boop. Only a half a year later this short would have been impossible to make…
Watch ‘Betty Boop’s Big Boss’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Release Date: August 22, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
In ‘Stormy Seas’ Flip the Frog is a sailor, playing and dancing merrily with his fellow sailors, until their ship is caught in a thunderstorm. Soon Flip receives the S.O.S. of another boat in need, and he runs off to rescue a Honey-like female kitten in a long rescue scene.
There’s practically no dull moment in ‘Stormy Seas’, but the cartoon also demonstrates that Iwerks was looking back for inspiration, instead of forward. The scene in which Flip swims right through the waves is borrowed straight from the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Wild Waves‘ (1929), and the rescue scene borrows the lifeline gag from the Mickey short ‘The Fire Fighters‘ (1930). This type of gag borrowing would become worse in Flip’s next cartoon, ‘Circus’. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that it had also occurred occasionally in the early Mickeys themselves, as they reused several gags from Mickey’s predecessor Oswald.
There’s a great deal of anthropomorphism of lifeless objects in this cartoon: the cloud, the radio and even Flip’s chewing tobacco become humanized. However, the cartoon is most noteworthy for its very inspired music. It’s undoubtedly by MGM composer Scott Bradley, for it displays his unique style of intertwining several melodies in a classical way, mixing the hornpipe and ‘My Bonnie’ with Richard Wagner’s ‘The Flying Dutchman’ to great effect during the storm scene. This is the first testimony of Bradley’s mature style known to me, and it anticipates his celebrated work of the 1940s.
Watch ‘Stormy Seas’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Release Date: June 18, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
When a bully destroys the child’s balloon with his cigar, Flip and him start a fight. A passer-by suggests they continue their fight in the ring, which leads to a long boxing match scene that belongs to the most entertaining of the era, outplaying the similar ‘The Robot‘ (Fleischer, 1932) and ‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man‘ (1933), not in the least because Flip has to face the bully himself instead of letting a robot doing the work for him. The boxing scene is even more interesting than the one in the Laurel & Hardy short ‘Any Old Port’ from three months earlier, which is a more valid comparison.
The highlight of the fight is the knockout in which the bully hits Flip into orbit around the earth only to get floored by Flip falling on his head. The boxing match features some interesting and very vivid backgrounds of constantly moving spectators. It also features strong stereotypes of Afro-Americans and a homosexual.
At this point in Iwerks’s career his studio could produce cartoons with strong stories consisting of a continuous string of gags. In 1932 only Disney could tell more consistent stories. Unfortunately, the studio’s cartoons were hampered by silent era visual language, erratic animation, inconsistent designs and sloppy timing. In other words, Iwerks’s style was as modern as it was old-fashioned.
Watch ‘The Bully’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Directors: John Foster & George Rufle
Release Date: May 14, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
The cartoon is completely plotless, but very spirited and gag rich, making it one of the best of the Van Beuren Tom & Jerries. It uses a jazzy score, around a close harmony quartet of soup eating customers. Everything joins in, even many objects like kettles and sausages – for this is one of those early 1930’s cartoons in which everything can grow hands and feet. At the end, the wagon suddenly takes off, ends on the rails and clashes with a train.
The cartoon is reminiscent of contemporary Fleischer cartoons, and anticipates their ‘Betty Boop Bizzy Bee’ from three months later, which covers similar grounds.
Watch ‘Pots and Pans’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Pots and Pans’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’
Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 14, 1931
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo
The king, a dirty old man, fancies her, but she prefers Bimbo. Nevertheless, she makes Bimbo and the old guy fighting each other. Suddenly knights pop up from nowhere and everybody is fighting.
In ‘Mask-a-raid’ some of the random surrealism of ‘Barnacle Bill‘ and ‘Mysterious Mose‘ (both 1930) returns to the screen. The cartoon is full of weird images and odd gags, and at times should be seen to be believed. It ends with some great scatting by Bimbo himself.
This is Betty’s first cartoon as a human being (apart from the Screen Song ‘Kitty from Kansas City‘ from only one week before), with her dog ears having changed into large earrings. It’s also the first to give her starring credits. It introduces the new story idea of old men fancying Betty, and harassing her against her will. This story element would also be featured in e.g. ‘Boop-oop-a-Doop‘ (1932) and ‘Betty Boop’s Big Boss‘ (1933).
Watch ‘Mask-A-Raid’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Talkartoon No. 27
To the previous Talkartoon: In the Shade of the Old Apple Sauce
To the next Talkartoon: Jack and the Beanstalk
‘Mask-A-Raid’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’
Director: Svend Noldan
Release Date: 1930
‘Hein Priembacke in Afrika’ is a silent film and uses German title cards in rhyme. Hein Priembacke is a sailor who’s washed ashore an African desert. Being hungry he first tries to retrieve a coconut, which turns out to be a wallaby. Later he goes to a settlement (which was visible in the background all the time), where he pulls two turnips, which turn out to be Negroes (forgive me the word – it’s used as such in the film itself). The angered cannibals soon chase our hero (“Jetzt wird’s bedenklich, lieber Christ. Der Neger ist kein Pazifist” reads the title card, which translates as “Now it becomes questionable, dear Christ, for the negro is no pacifist“), but he manages to escape to his homeland, hanging on the legs of a stork.
The animation is surprisingly well done, although the action is at times ridiculously slow. The film’s highlight are the animation of the waves and of the landscape on Priembacke’s flight back home. Done with cut outs, the landscape moves stunningly realistically under our hero, creating a great sense of depth, predating Disney’s multi-plane camera by seven years.
Indeed, special effects turned out to be Noldan’s expertise. His star rose when the National Socialists came to power in 1933, and many film makers left Germany. He later provided special effects for German propaganda films, like Leni Riefenstahl’s ‘Triumf des Willens’ (1935), and ‘Der ewige Jude’ (1939). During World War II he worked for the German war industry. Although his role in Nazi Germany is dubious to say the least, he survived the war unscathed, and returned to making films, which he kept on doing until the end of the 1960s.
Watch ‘Hein Priembacke in Afrika’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Hein Priembacke in Afrika’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation 2: Cannibals!’
Directors: Harry Bailey & John Foster
Release Date: January 18, 1931
Stars: Rita Mouse?
In this spoof of Red Riding Hood, the ill grandma is visited by a doctor. The doctor’s “jazz tonic’ makes grandma young and handsome, and the wolf starts to fancy her. He plays for her on the harmonium, while ‘grandma’ dances. However, when Red Riding Hood (a Minnie Mouse-copy, see also ‘Circus Capers‘ and ‘The Office Boy‘) enters, the wolf and grandma both flee in the wolf’s car to get married.
Red Riding Hood, meanwhile, warns the wolf’s wife and kids, who hurry to the wedding chapel. They tear the wolf away, leaving grandma crying.
There’s some nice animation on the wolf’s car, but otherwise the animation on this cartoon is wildly inconsistent. However, its story is so weird, it becomes enjoyable.
Watch ‘Red Riding Hood’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Red Riding Hood’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio’
Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: April 5, 1930
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar
While other studios, like Walter Lantz and the Max Fleischer drew inspiration from jazz, and while Warner Bros. could draw from an extensive music catalog, in the early sound days Walt Disney turned to (copyright-free) folk songs and classical music.
After ‘The Opry House‘ (1929) and ‘Just Mickey‘, Mickey’s concert career reaches new heights in ‘The Barnyard concert’. In this highly enjoyable cartoon Mickey conducts a barnyard orchestra in Franz von Suppé’s overture to ‘Dichter und Bauer’. There’s one throwaway gag looking all the way back to his breakthrough cartoon ‘Steamboat Willie‘ (1928),in which Mickey torments some pigs, but most of the cartoon is forward looking.
Indeed ‘The Barnyard Concert’ looks like a blueprint for ‘The Band Concert‘ (1935), in which many of the gags introduced here are improved to perfection. The cartoon features no dialogue, whatsoever, but is full of clever sight gags.
Unfortunately, at this stage the animators still had problems with Mickey’s eyes: in one close-up in particular they are placed awkwardly in Mickey’s face.
Watch ‘The Barnyard Concert’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘The Barnyard Concert’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume Two’
Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: July 18, 1930
The Fleischer studio had already experimented with synchronized sound in 1924, four years before ‘Steamboat Willie‘, so of all cartoon studios they made the transition to sound the most easily.
The Fleischers’ first sound series were the Screen Songs, the first of which was released in February 5, 1929. Eight months later they were followed by the aptly titled Talkartoons. These Talkartoons didn’t have a single star, but like Disney’s Silly Symphonies explored a wide range of subjects.
These Talkartoons show the Fleischers’ disregard of lip synchronization. This feat was reserved for special scenes, like song sequences. Unlike Disney, the Fleischers recorded all dialogue after animation, inviting the voice actors to ad-lib at will. Thus the Fleischer cartoons were the most talkative of all 1930s shorts. This technique reached its peak when Jack Mercer became Popeye’s voice in 1935, but already peppers their earliest output.
The improvised dialogue suits the studio’s free spirited, and equally improvised animation style perfectly. Add a multitude of zany gags, strikingly jazzy soundtracks and remarkably adult subject material, and it’s clear why the Max Fleischer cartoons from 1930-1933 are among the most delightful of all studio cartoons from the golden age.
‘Wise Flies’, the seventh Talkartoon, is a perfect example. It uses the theme of ‘the spider and the fly’, a theme Walt Disney would also use one year later in ‘The Spider and the Fly‘ (1931). However, the Disney version lacks the sexual overtones present in this Fleischer’s version. In it a six-legged spider spots some flies on a hobo’s head. He tries to catch one, but returns home to his wife empty-handed.
However, later he seduces a female fly, playing ‘Some of These Days’ on his web (a delightfully fast piece of guitar jazz). He then starts singing this tune, popularized by Sophie Tucker in 1926, and a hit for Louis Armstrong in 1929. His song leads to a dance sequence much akin to Disney’s Silly Symphonies from the same era. The film ends when the spider’s wife gets jealous, and interrupts the spider’s courting.
The animation by Willard Bowsky and Ted Sears is crude and simple, but the swinging soundtrack is delightful. The end result is an enjoyable piece of rubberhose animation.
Watch ‘Wise Flies’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Talkartoon No. 7
To the previous Talkartoon: Fire Bugs
To the next Talkartoon: Dizzy Dishes
Director: Walter Lantz or Bill Nolan
Release Date: June 2, 1930
Stars: Oswald the Rabbit, Peg Leg Pete
In the spring of 1929 Universal announced that it had set up an animation studio to make sound cartoons of its own. Head of the studio was Walter Lantz. This was the beginning of the Walter Lantz studio, which lasted well into the 1970s, outliving all other contemporary cartoon studios.
With this contract Walter Lantz inherited Oswald the rabbit, a character originally conceived by Walt Disney in 1927, but whose copyright was owned by Universal. Universal demanded no less than 26 Oswald cartoons each year, and the results were consequently of variable quality.
‘Hell’s Heels’, Lantz’s 23th Oswald cartoon, is one of the better ones. It opens with Oswald, Peg Leg Pete and an anonymous grey dog being a gang of bandits wandering and singing through the desert. The three decide to rob a bank and Pete and the Dog send Oswald inside with dynamite. Oswald blows up the bank, killing Pete and the dog(!). Later, Oswald befriends the Sheriff’s little boy, which leads to some song-and-dance scenes, which surprisingly features a number of skeletons.
It’s strange to watch Oswald and Pete being buddies in this film, and the story is rather inconsistent, but the cartoon is fast and funny, and full of gags. Its lively jazzy score by James Dietrich is highly enjoyable, and the animation by Bill Nolan and Clyde Geronimi is joyful and of a fair quality. ‘Hell’s Heels’ shows that in 1930 other animation studios still could match the Walt Disney studio.
Watch ‘Hell’s Heels’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: October 15, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Horse Horsecollar
When settled down, Mickey produces a piano out of nowhere, and performs a mildly jazzy stride tune on it. We also watch Horace Horsecollar without his usual yoke performing some drumming to Mickey’s organ tune.
This is Mickey’s second piano concerto cartoon (after ‘The Opry House‘ from seven months earlier), and thus contains some new gags involving piano playing. Mickey severely mistreats the instrument, even spanking it, so, unsurprisingly, the piano takes revenge in the end. The music can hardly be called jazz, however, even though it contains some nice stride piano. It would take two years before Mickey would turn to real jazz, in ‘Blue Rhythm‘ (1931).
As one may have noticed ‘The Jazz Fool’ is one of those early plotless Mickey Mouse shorts. However, there’s plenty of action, and Mickey’s piano performance is still entertaining today. Nevertheless, Mickey would turn to the violin in his next concert cartoon ‘Just Mickey‘ (1930).
Watch ‘The Jazz Fool’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: July 31, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete
We had already watched and heard Minnie singing “lalala” in ‘The Plow Boy’, and in ‘The Barnyard Battle’ a sergeant spoke a few words. But in ‘The Karnival Kid’ there’s suddenly a lot of singing: Pete sings, Mickey sings, and the complete second half of the cartoon is devoted to song.
‘The Karnival Kid’ shows that lip synchronization was far more difficult to master than synchronized sound itself. The animation of the mouth to form syllables was a totally new feat, and initially it was done all too literally. This leads to awkward facial expressions at times, with especially Mickey’s face distorting into a multitude of mouth gestures. This would be even worse in Mickey’s next cartoon, ‘Mickey’s Follies’.
At the same time, a lot of the characters’ action remains typical silent pantomime. For example, when Mickey offers Minnie a hot dog for free, this is acted out in complete silence.
‘The Karnival Kid’ is a wonderfully witty film. Mickey works as a hot dog seller at the fair, where Minnie is a shimmy dancer. The film is split in two parts: in the first Mickey sells living(!) hot dogs and gives one to Minnie. When the unlucky weenie is not very cooperative, Mickey spanks him! These hot dog gags are reused from the Oswald short ‘All Wet‘ (1927), but they still feel fresh, due to the added sound. Now we can hear the hot dogs barking and yelping. And so, after ‘The Karnival Kid’ these hot dog gags were reused a second time by Ub Iwerks in the Flip the Frog cartoon ‘Circus’ (1932).
The second part is introduced by a title card ‘later that night’, which melts before the scene starts. Here Mickey offers Minnie a serenade with the help of two cats who sing ‘Sweet Adeline’. The cartoon ends when Mickey is hit by a bed(!) which Pete has thrown at him.
As you may have noticed, ‘The Karnival Kid’ has very little story. It’s enjoyable because of the carnival atmosphere, the large number of gags, and the intoxicating singing.
Watch ‘The Karnival Kid’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 9
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Barnyard Battle
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Follies
Release Date: July 9, 1928
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
It features Oswald canoeing in the wild, shooting ducks and encountering wild animals, like a moose and a family of bears.
The cartoon’s story is sloppy (although it doesn’t help that some sequences are missing), but the short shows that Disney had advanced animation already before the advent of Mickey. For example, the cartoon features some spectacular waterfall animation, and a convincing falling rock sequence.
The falling rock eventually renders Oswald flat, and in a sequence animated by Hugh Harman we watch him wandering about a little as a flat character. In an attempt to get normal again, he becomes bulbous, which accounts for some surreal, almost trippy close ups of his inflated face, animated by Ham Hamilton.
‘Tall Timber’ was released in June 1928. By that time Disney had already started anew, trying to sell the very first Mickey Mouse cartoon, ‘Plane Crazy‘, to distributors.
‘Tall Timber’ was followed by two more Oswald cartoons by Disney (the recently rediscovered ‘Sleigh Bells’ and the lost ‘Hot Dog’), then by nine by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, before the series was given to Walter Lantz’s studio. Lantz by far produced the most Oswald cartoons, releasing 142 in total. The character lasted until 1938. But by then Oswald looked quite different from the version in ‘Tall Timber’…
Watch ‘Tall Timber’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon No. 23
To the previous Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: The Fox Chase
To the next Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Sleigh Bells
Director: Priit Pärn
Release Date: 1984
It shows the filmmaker’s idiosyncratic style and unique surrealism, without the dark side, often present in his other films. The film is filled with child-like wonder, and a happy atmosphere, enhanced by the joyful reggae music by composer Olav Ehala.
The film opens with a room in which a very stressed out cat lives. The cat is in a constant need to check his alarm clock, which is on a shelf too high for him. When he finally reaches the clock, he discovers he can’t read it without his glasses, so he has to find them first, etc. Pärn shows this pointless ritual in several variations over and over again, following the cat running around in his room.
At one point, however, the alarm clock breaks, and time stands still. At this point of the film the cat finds himself in a fantastic world where everything can happen. This part is extremely rich in visual tricks, which go all the way back to Émile Cohl’s ‘Fantasmagorie’ (1908). Nothing is what it seems, and metamorphosis runs freely. Unfortunately, in the end, time is restored, and the cat has to face his former stressful life once again.
‘Time Out’ certainly shows Priit Pärn’s mastery, and excellent timing. His fantasy is extraordinary, and the film shows the power of animation like few other films do. It’s also a reminder that we should snap out of the daily routine, and let our mind wander, and be really creative. When one takes time, everything may be possible!
Watch ‘Time Out’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: 1989
In it we watch a woman who’s tied down to a hospital bed. She apparently consists partly of vegetables, which are quickly rotting away, as if life is leaving her by the seconds. There’s a relieving glass of water nearby, but out of her reach. This is a puzzling and rather unsettling image, which knows no release.
Flora was the Roman goddess of flowers, and her features resemble that of a Giuseppe Arcimboldo-character, another homage by Švankmajer to the Renaissance-master, after ‘Dimensions of Dialogue‘ (1982). But how did the goddess come into this setting of utter distress? Watching her decaying alive is painful, even within this short time-frame.
Watch ‘Flora’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Flora’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’
Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: September 1988
Švankmajer treats Hugh Cornwell’s charming if rather forgettable song in his own typical way: the setting is one windowless room, he films the ex-Stranglers singer’s mouth a lot in close-up, there are objects with tongues (in this case singing shoes) and there’s a beautiful clay woman, who shares features with the woman in ‘Dimensions of Dialogue‘ (1982), apparently because the same template has been used.
Highlights form the deformations of the singer’s head, whose features have been reproduced very well in the clay model, and the clip’s finale, in which the woman emerges from the wall to embrace the singer, and drawing him into the wall, leaving the room empty.
Watch ‘Another Kind of Love’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Another Kind of Love’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’
Director: Tim Burton
Release Date: October 1, 1982
The short is as typical for Tim Burton as it is atypical for Disney. First, it’s a stop-motion film, something the studio was not famous for, at all. The only other stop-motion film ever released by the studio was ‘Noah’s Ark’ from 1959. Second, the film is in black and white, and third, it has a genuine horror theme, miles away from the child friendly worlds of contemporary Disney films, like ‘The Fox and the Hound‘ (1981) or ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol‘ (1983).
The film uses the deep voice of classic horror star Vincent Price to tell the story of Vincent in rather Dr. Seuss-like rhyme. Vincent is a little seven year old boy, who wants to be like, well… Vincent Price. Because his mind has become twisted by reading stories by Edgar Allen Poe, Vincent imagines himself a madman haunted by his deceased wife, and locked in by a cursed house. In the end his imagination runs haywire, taking hold of him.
Burton does an excellent job mixing horror with silliness. The result is a rather twisted version of ‘Gerald McBoingBoing’ – equally weird, equally expressionistic, but much darker. In ‘Vincent’ you find much of the Tim Burton to come. It’s not hard to see the link between this wonderful short and ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’ (1993), ‘Corpse Bride‘ (2005) or with his live action films like ‘Beetlejuice’ (1988) or ‘Sleepy Hollow’ (1999).
Interestingly, in the same year, Vincent Price would also lend his voice to the Michael Jackson song ‘Thriller’.
Watch ‘Vincent’ yourself and tell me what you think: