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Director: Tim Burton
Release Date: October 1, 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Vincent © Walt Disney‘Vincent’ a is short film, which director Tim Burton made while still working at Disney.

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:

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: 1982
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Dimensions of Dialogue © Krátky filmTogether with ‘Jabberwocky‘ (1971), ‘Dimensions of a Dialogue’ can be considered Švankmajer’s masterpiece. It mixes excellent design with virtuoso animation and astonishingly original story material.

With ‘Dimensions of a Dialogue’ Švankmajer defined a style he would maintain into the early 1990s, resulting in most of his best films, including the feature lengths ‘Alice‘ (1987) and ‘Faust’ (1994). ‘Dimensions of a Dialogue’ contains three different ‘dialogues’, without using any real dialogue in the soundtrack. These three dialogues are pure visual encounters, making this film very universal.

Like in all his films, Švankmajer’s visual language is highly surreal. Yet, the three dialogues follow their own inescapable inner logic, with disturbing results. The film does not as much feature dialogue as well as rather violent clashes. It seems to show the inability of humans to communicate.

The first, ‘Factual dialogue’, is the most violent of the three episodes. It shows three heads moving in a 2-dimensional space. The three heads are clearly inspired by renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo and consist of food, household tools and office equipment, respectively. The heads devour eachother, destroying their parts more and more before spitting them out. Like ‘Et Cetera‘ (1966) there is a sense of pointlessness in this endless string of violence, which tells something about humanity.

The second part, ‘A passionate dialogue’, is the most virtuoso episode of the three. ‘In this part Švankmajer and his animating collaborator Vlasta Pospíšilová introduce a new level in claymation. The film features a stunningly realistic human couple made out of clay. The man and woman are animated beautifully when they embrace passionately, until they become one moving lump of clay of pure desire. When they part again, however, there’s some leftover: a little lump of formless clay yearning for affection. Unfortunately, neither of the two lovers accepts this petty piece of clay, and the innocent leftover brings the couple to rage. In their conflict they once again become a clay lump, but now one of utter destruction…

The third part, ‘An exhausting dialogue’, is the most comical one, and seems to portray a discussion going haywire. It features two realistic heads on a table, producing a toothbrush and toothpaste, bread and butter, a shoe and a shoelace and a pencil and a sharper in more and more absurd combinations to the exhaustion of both. The soundtrack is perfect throughout the picture, but exceptionally so in this third part in its combination of Jan Klusák’s music and train sounds.

‘Dimensions of a Dialogue’ is inexplicable, but communicates on a subconscious level, like all great surreal art. It perfectly shows the power of animation in showing the human condition using the very outskirts of imagination. The result is no less than one of best animation films ever.

Watch ‘Dimensions of Dialogue’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Dimensions of Dialogue’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’ and on the DVD ‘Annecy – Le coffret du 50e Anniversaire’

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 25?, 1982
Rating: ★
Review:

Les géants © Procidis‘Les géants’ is the first of three adjacent and vaguely education episodes that have nothing to do with the main story.

In ‘Les géants’ Pierrot, Psi and Metro visit a huge planet, which, like almost every other planet in the Barillé universe, is an exact copy of earth, this time only bigger. On this planet our heroes encounter huge animals, like a giant caterpillar, a monstrous spider and a very cartoony rat.

Most of the episode, however, they are trapped in a termite colony. Thus, Barillé is able to tell us more about these little insects, which he does mostly through a lecturing Metro. There’s practically no story, and most of the time Pierrot and Psi are trying to get out of the colony. This fact and the lectures render one of the most boring episodes of Il était une fois… L’espace.

It seems this and the following two episodes were made to sell the series as an educational one. However, ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ remains far less educational than the previous ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ or indeed, the subsequent ‘Il était une fois… la vie’, and its charm lies mainly in Barillés story. Unfortunately, ‘Les géants’, ‘Les Incas‘ and ‘Chez les dinosaurs‘ are no part of that and form the low point of the entire series.

Watch ‘Les géants’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 12th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 11th episode: Les naufragés de l’espace (Shipwrecked in Space)
To the 13th episode: Les Incas (The Incas)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 18?, 1982
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Les naufragés de l’espace © ProcidisThis episode starts immediately where ‘La planète déchiquetée‘ has left off: the space vessel ‘Ursus’ has crashed on, luckily, an earth-like planet.

Unfortunately, its captain is ill, and our heroes have difficulties with the second in command, the skeptical and cowardly lieutenant Sanders. While Metro is used for all kinds of reparations, Pierrot and Psi go on two expeditions.

On the first they encounter strange lifeforms, like walking trees, spider-like aliens, green gorillas, and friendly little black people called Ptax. Like the lizards in ‘Les Sauriens‘, the Ptax are telepathic and they help our heroes against the green gorilla creatures.

On the second expedition, our heroes go searching for metal, but what they find is a military ship from Cassiopeia… Aware of the threat, Pierrot and Psi hurry back to the camp, only to learn the captain has died. Only when a riot breaks out between Pierrot and Sanders, Omega comes to the rescue.

The animation is painstakingly slow in this episode, and there’s more urge in the dialogue than in the action. Because of these shortcomings the episode is only half as captivating as it could have been.

Watch ‘Les naufragés de l’espace’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 11th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 10th episode: La planète déchiquetée (A Planet Blown to Pieces)
To the 12th episode: Les géants (The Giants)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 11?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

La planète déchiquetée © ProcidisThe exciting episode ‘La planète déchiquetée’ undoubtedly is one of the highlights of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’.

It starts immediately where ‘À Cassiopée’ had left off. In this episode Cassiopeia leaves the galactic union, an act reminiscent of Japan’s resignation from The League of Nations in 1933. Like ‘À Cassiopée’ this episode starts with politics, with the absent-minded Maestro as a comic relief. Maestro also tells us how a sun explodes at the end of its life, thus adding a small educational touch to this episode.

A dying sun plays a major part in the political scheme of things, threatening a military base Cassiopeia is building nearby. When the sun does explode, Cassiopeia tries to save the material, leaving its own slave-like people behind, leaving them to be rescued by the allies.

Only after 20 minutes we meet our heroes, trying to save the last Cassiopeian people from the threatened planet. The time element and the contrasting goals of Cassopeia and Omega make this episode particularly thrilling. The suspense is supported by Michel Legrand’s exciting score.

At the end, the rescuing vessel The Ursus, with our heroes on board, crashes into another planet, leading to the first real cliffhanger in the series.

Watch ‘La planète déchiquetée’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 10th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 9th episode: À Cassiopée (In Cassiopeia)
To the 10th episode: Les naufragés de l’espace (Shipwrecked in Space)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 4?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

À Cassiopée © ProcidisEpisode 9 of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ is closely tied to episode 10 and 11, constituting the first episode-exceeding story within the series.

It’s also one of the more political episodes. Indeed, its first half is about politics only. It starts with general Teigneux (Pest) reflecting on the past, how he failed to colonize planets because of Omega, referring to the events in episodes 2-6. Then consul Le Nabot (Dwarf) shows him the tapes from earth he had stolen in the previous episode.

The images of earth shows Barillé’s cynical view on the earth’s future: 30 billion people, many of which overfed, a lot of pollution, age-long traffic jams (reminiscent of those from Halas & Batchelor’s cartoon ‘Automania 2000’ from 1963), and a pride in producing weapons. After watching these images, Cassiopeia plans to invade earth.

After this long introduction, our heroes are sent to Cassiopeia to find out what their plans are, but they’re immediately captured and sent into prison. The second half of this episode consists therefore of a classic prison break, with a starring role for the rather matter-of-factly Metro. Our heroes eventually escape using the same meteor trick the Millennium Falcon did in ‘The Emperor Strikes Back’ (1980), one of the numerous influences of George Lucas’ films on Barillé’s series.

Watch ‘À Cassiopée’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 9th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 8th episode: Le long voyage (The Long Voyage)
To the 10th episode: La planète déchiquetée (A Planet Blown to Pieces)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 27?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Le long voyage © Procidis‘Le long voyage’ is a nice episode about space travel.

Star of the episode is an ancient forefather of Maestro who, after a journey of more than a 1,000 years, awakes near Omega, only to be greeted by descendants of humans who had made the trip after him, with better, larger and faster spaceships.

This episode excels in beautiful backgrounds and designs, especially of the spaceships. Highlight, however, are the ancient Maestro’s fantasies about extraterrestrial life, just before he encounters the all too familiar inhabitants of Omega.

With ‘Le long voyage’ we firmly return to the main story of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’. The strange incident from episode 1 is mentioned again, and in this episode we learn that earth still exists, ultimately leading to our heroes visiting their mother planet in episode 17. It also contains an unclear mystery about a hijacked ‘train’, indicating more troubles to come. Moreover, this episode shows Psi’s psychic powers in full, saving Pierrot who has become adrift in space.

Maestro’s ancestor is a great character and he would return to the screen in episodes 17 (‘Terre!‘) and 18 (‘L’Atlantide‘).

Watch ‘Le long voyage’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 8th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 7th episode: La planète Mytho (The Planet Mytho)
To the 9th episode: À Cassiopée (In Cassiopeia)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 20?, 1982
Rating: ★★
Review:

La planète Mytho © ProcidisIn this seventh episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ our heroes Pierrot, Psi and Metro land on a planet, where the survivors of a stranded spaceship play Gods.

This episode toys with Erich von Däniken’s ideas about the gods having been astronauts (Barillé would revisit that idea in ‘Les Incas‘). The stranded people are like the gods of the ancient Greek, sharing their names and habits.

The commander of the ship, Zeus, is a strong and valiant man, but he is also selfish, autocratic, and paternalistic. He keeps the mortals, the original humans populating the planet, ignorant and miserable. Pierrot and Psi disagree with the commander’s choice, and secretly give the humans bricks, the wheel, the sail, music and fire, thus turning them into some Prometheus and Athena, and showing Barillé’s personal political view.

Unlike its predecessor, ‘La révolte de robots‘, ‘La planète Mytho’ is more or less a stand-alone episode. It is also vaguely educational, telling kids a little about Greek mythology, although this is much easier to understand and to enjoy by the educated viewer than by the intended audience.

Apart from the Gods, Barillé shows us three Greek myths: Peleus and Thetys, Pan and Syrinx, and Eris’s apple of discord. The bronze giant Talos is transformed into a robot.

Because of the use of Greek mythology, the overall episode is inconsistent, hard to follow and slow. One wonders what Barillé’s aim was with this entry: did he want to educate or did he want to tell about political ethics?

Watch ‘La planète Mytho’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 7th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 6th episode: La révolte des robots (The Revolt of the Robots)
To the 8th episode: Le long voyage (The Long Voyage)


Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 13?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

La révolte des robots © ProcidisLa révolte de robots’ is the first highlight in the ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ series.

Unlike the earlier episodes the threat does not come from stock villain Cassiopeia, but from a rebelling robot planet called Leto. We’re introduced to this planet first, with our heroes only entering the scene after twelve minutes. Our heroes save the day, especially the little robot Metro, who battles a large robot, which looks like a copy from Grendizer (Goldorak), the famous robot from the Japanese 1970s series of the same name.

However, who is really responsible for the robots’ rebellion remains unknown. This would grow into the series’ most important story element, dominating its great last third. If anything, this episode shows the risks of man’s dependency on technology, but Barillé clearly states that humans are superior to robots, something he tries to illustrate rather unconvincingly in this episode. The whole argument of humans vs. machines would come back with a vengeance in the 23rd episode, ‘Le grand ordinateur‘.

Watch ‘La révolte des robots’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 6th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 5th episode: Les Cro-Magnons (The Cro-Magnons)
To the 7th episode: La planète Mytho (The Planet Mytho)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 6?, 1982
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Les Cro-Magnons © ProcidisThis is the fourth episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ in which the evil constellation of Cassiopeia threatens a green and primitive planet in the Andromeda galaxy.

This time it’s the planet Diane, which is inhabited by humans, who apparently have descended from humans from earth. Against the regulations, Pierot and Psi visit the small population, who, like the title suggests, live like Cro-Magnons.

Like in ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ this population knows its own versions of our main protagonists, so they have their own Pierrette, Maestro, le Teigneux and le Nabot. In the end, the visit by the people from Omega induces tales of Gods within the Cro-Magnon population, echoing the ideas of Erich von Däniken.

This episode opens in a neighborhood and a bar on Omega that is very similar to Mos Eisley in ‘Star Wars’ (1977), one of quite a few influences of that film on Barillé’s series. The most interesting part, however, is the computer search for the planet Cassiopeia probably wants to invade, showing several planets inhabited by weird alien creatures.

Watch ‘Les Cro-Magnons’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 5th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 4th episode: Du côté d’Andromède (Towards Andromeda)
To the 5th episode: La révolte des robots (The Revolt of the Robots)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 30?, 1982
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Du côté d’Andromède © Procidis‘Du côte d’Andromède’ is the first episode of Il était une fois… l’espace in which Pierrot, his love Psi, and the little robot Metro are presented as a team.

Psi replaces Pierrot’s former co-pilot, Petit Gros, whose star would soon fade away. The trio’s routine inspection flight turns into a disaster when they crash into the planet Clarus, which orbits a dying star. In search of fresh air, our heroes meet a people called Terks, who are outcasts from Andromeda.

They also discover that the Terks are secretly armed by the evil constellation of Cassiopeia in order to invade Andromeda, making Clarus the third of four planets in the Andromeda Galaxy Cassiopeia is trying to use for an invasion. Naturally, the Terks aren’t fond of spies, and our heroes are about to get executed, when their friends from Omega come to the rescue.

Like ‘La planète verte‘, ‘Du côte d’Andromède’ shows Barillé’s love to show and explain political manipulations to children. This episode also introduces the vague, angel-like creature who visits Psi and tells her that evil will never win.

Watch ‘Du côté d’Andromède’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 4th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 3rd episode: La planète verte (The Green Planet)
To the 5th episode: Les Cro-Magnons (The Cro-Magnons)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 23?, 1982
Rating: ★★★
Review:

La planète verte © ProcidisUnlike the majority of the episodes of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’, ‘La planète verte’ starts with politics: we witness a political conflict between Omega and Cassiopeia.

Like in ‘Les Sauriens‘, Cassiopeia tries to invade a green, primitive planet in the Andromeda section (something they would also try to do in the fifth episode). Only after more than eight minutes our heroes Pierrot and Petit Gros enter the stage. They check the planet, which turns out to be inhabited by intelligent plants, who have captured their invaders, including general Teigneux (The Pest) and ambassador Nabot (Dwarf) themselves.

This episode show us more of Cassiopeia than the two previous episodes. This society turns out to be very militaristic with Nazi-like characteristics. Because of Cassiopeia’s more prominent role, ‘La planète verte’ is more interesting than the previous two episodes, if not too exciting.

Watch ‘La planète verte’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 3rd episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 2nd episode: Les Sauriens (The Saurians)
To the 4th episode: Du côté d’Andromède (Towards Andromeda)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 16?, 1982
Rating: ★
Review:

Les Sauriens © ProcidisIn this second episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ the feisty little robot Metro gets his name.

Metro joins Pierrot and Petit Gros on their first mission. The trio explores a Jurassic planet inhabited by large iguana-like people who communicate by telepathy.

If anything, this episode shows how differences between cultures can lead to aversions and misunderstandings. Nevertheless, it is one of the slowest and weakest episodes of the series.

Watch ‘Les Sauriens’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 2nd episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 1st episode: La planète Omega (The Planet Omega)
To the 3rd episode: la planète verte (The Green Planet)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 9, 1982
Rating: ★★½
Review:

La planète Omega © ProcidisAfter the success of ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ (Once upon a Time… Man) Albert Barillé returned with the boldest and most artistic children series of his entire career.

Largely abandoning education, the raison d’être of his last series, he embarked on a fictional and after a while remarkably integrated story, set in the far future, telling about a United Nations-like intergalactic union, and its problems.

Even more than the previous series, ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once upon a Time… Space) is a vehicle of Barillé’s highly personal views on the world and mankind. The series expresses a strong love for nature and mutual understanding, and an aversion to imperialism, war and, to a certain extent, technology.

New is a strong spirituality, embodied by the mild, and vaguely South American-looking girl Psi, who possesses psychic powers. Unlike the other main characters, she had not been in the original series, and she is less stereotypical than the rest of the cast. Her role in this first episode (in which she’s introduced as ‘Mercedes’, but everyone calls her ‘Psi’) is still minor, but soon she would become as important as Pierrot (Peter), the series’ main hero.

Pierrot, like all other good guys from ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ has been redesigned and fixed into a single role. Pierrot now is a guy in his early twenties. Petit Gros (Jumbo), too, has changed. He is less dim, less strong and less obese than in the original series. In fact, he’s only recognizable by his red hair. His dad is equally slender and has grown a blonde mustache, while a stern-looking Pierre, head of the intergalactic police, is fixed at an older age (say 50).

The most surprising transformation may be that of Pierrette, who is head of the Union, and who has received a modern hairdo and some fancy glasses. By placing her as head of the union Barillé makes a strong feminist statement that was still pretty bold in the early 1980s. The only characters to remain the same are Maestro, and the two villains Le Nabot (The Dwarf) and Le Teigneux (The Pest). Remarkably, children are totally absent from the series.

In this first episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ Maestro conceives the little robot Metro, who would play a major part in the series, eclipsing his master, while Le Teigneux and le Nabot are introduced as the ambassador and general of Cassiopeia, a galaxy with militaristic ambitions, but which is part of the Union nonetheless. Taking time in introducing all these characters, there is very little action in ‘La planète Omega’. Nevertheless, the stage is set when the Union is confronted by an unknown spaceship of some supreme alien race…

Apart from Barillé’s original story and its classic characters, ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ is a highlight of television animation because of its great music by Michel Legrand and its superb backgrounds by Philippe Bouchet, Manchu and Afrula Hadjiyanakis. This trio clearly draws inspiration from contemporary science fiction illustrators like Lukas Foss, Colin Hay, Angus McKie and Tony Roberts.

The animation itself, by the Japanese Eiken studio, is better than in ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’, but it’s still mediocre and uneven, and especially the designs of Psi are far from consistent. This would remain a problem throughout the series, together with a sometimes terribly slow narration. These drawbacks, however, do not overcome the series’ merits, and ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ may be praised as Barillé’s masterpiece.

Watch an excerpt from ‘La planète Omega’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 1st episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 2nd episode: Les Sauriens (The Saurians)

Director: Don Bluth
Release date: July 3, 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Secret of NIMH © Don BluthDissatisfied with the studio’s policies, Don Bluth left the Walt Disney Studio in 1979, taking some fellow animators with him, thus severely delaying the production of ‘The Fox and the Hound‘ (1981).

Bluth set up his own animation studio, Don Bluth Productions, to make animated features in the spirit of the early Disney masterpieces he admired. In doing so, he became the first serious competitor of Disney in the animated feature field since Max Fleischer, who had made two animated features in 1939 and 1941.

‘The Secret of NIMH’ was the brand new studio’s first feature, and a testimony of Don Bluth’s high ambitions. Like ‘The Fox and the Hound’ it is set in more or less modern times, in a rural era, but here all similarities stop. ‘The Secret of NIMH’ is darker, and more mature than Disney’s film. It’s more akin to the earlier ‘The Rescuers‘ (it’s about mice and a rescue mission), to Disney’s next movie ‘The Black Cauldron‘ (grim atmosphere, swords and sorcery), and even to the non-Disney film ‘Watership Down’ (rodents grouped in all too familiar societies, a goofy bird helping the heroes). The rich and detailed backgrounds look all the way back to ‘Pinocchio’ (1940) and ‘Bambi‘ (1942). Despite all its ambitions, the film therefore lacks a forward-looking vision. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful film, and both the voice cast and the Disney-school animation are top notch throughout.

The story is based on the children’s novel ‘Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH’ by Robert C. O’Brien, and tells about the mouse Mrs. Brisby (a mother, a very rare type of hero in animation films), who tries to protect her sick son from the coming of the field-destroying tractor. In her quest she gets help from the goofy crow Jeremy and by a society of highly intelligent rats, living in a bush nearby.

The whole atmosphere is dark, and grim; the cat, the spider and the owl all look way scarier than anything in any Disney film since ‘Fantasia’ (1940), and there are no less than three deaths in the end. The rats also bring in some misplaced and hard-to-believe fantasy elements, including a magic mirror, an amulet with gravity-defying powers, and an epic sword-fight.

In spite of the great voice acting, the only characters really to come off are Mrs. Brisby (great acting by Elizabeth Hartman), Aunt Shrew (Hermione Baddely), and Jeremy the crow (voiced by comic actor Dom DeLuise). The rats come into the story rather late and one gets the feeling that Bluth wanted to tell too much in too little time, leaving the viewer puzzled after the film is over.

With all its flaws, ‘The Secret of NIMH’ remains Bluth’s most satisfying film, together with one of his last films, ‘Anastasia’ (1997). After ‘The Secret of NIMH’ Bluth teamed up with Steven Spielberg to make the more successful ‘An American Tail’ (1986) and ‘Land before Time’ (1988), but after those more commercial and less original films his productions became more uneven and forgettable, never fulfilling the promise he appeared to have made with his firstborn.

Watch the trailer for ‘The Secret of NIMH’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Michel Ocelot
Release date: 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

La Légende du pauvre bossu © Michel OcelotThree years after ‘Les trois inventeurs‘, Michel Ocelot returns with another disturbing film contemplating mankind’s narrow-mindedness and cruelty.

Using beautiful designs inspired by medieval woodcuts, little animation and no dialogue, Ocelot tells about a young hunchback who tries to win the heart of a beautiful princess, but who’s maltreated by the nobility and ridiculed by the crowds. When he’s stabbed in the back, he becomes an angel carrying the princess off into heaven.

Despite the paucity of animation, the film is beautiful and moving, if not as impressive as ‘Les trois inventeurs’.

Watch ‘La légende du pauvre Bossu’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘La légende du pauvre Bossu’ is available on the DVD ‘Les trésors cachés de Michel Ocelot’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Oh What A Knight © Paul Driessen‘Oh What a Knight’ is a short and funny gag film in which a knight rescues a princess from a dragon, a cyclope, a snake and a villain, only to watch her fall in love with his empty shiny armor.

Driessen’s unique animation style is most present in this cartoon. For example, the knight has an odd way of falling to pieces and reassembling himself. ‘Oh What a Knight’ is one of Driessen’s funniest films. In fact it would not be surpassed until his ‘3 Misses’ from 1998.

Watch ‘Oh What a Knight’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Oh What a Knight’ is avaiable on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Georges Schwizgebel
Release Date: 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein © Georges Schwizgebel‘Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein’ starts with very abstract images, which resolve into Frankenstein’s laboratory as depicted in the film from 1931.

After 1’40 we become the monster itself, walking through endless chambers and corridors and staircases in an almost computer animation-like long sequence of perspective animation. The rooms, initially filled with abstract shapes, become more and more complex. They contain more and more windows and human forms, and finally moving human forms, ending with multiple copies of the monster’s bride. In the end we watch the monster itself, in his depiction by Boris Karloff. he smiles at his bride, but she only screams…

This film, which is set to very nervous electronic music, is a very impressive study of perspective: we really feel we are walking. The film has a repetitive and dreamlike quality, which is enhanced by its surreal settings, reminiscent of paintings by Giorgio de Chirico.

Watch ‘Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein’ is available on the DVD ‘Les Peintures animées de Georges Schwizgebel’

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