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Director: Mark Baker
Release Date: May 1993
Rating: ★★★★★

The Village © Mark BakerAfter ‘The Hill Farm‘ (1989) Mark Baker returns with another strong parable on the human condition. If ‘The Hill Farm’ explored man’s relation to nature, ‘The Village’ is concerned with man’s internal relationships.

The village of the title is a circular isolated village with all houses facing the same square. The neighbors seem godly souls, but they are all hypocrites spying on each other. Everything has to be done in secret: a cleaning lady secretly steals apples, the vicar secretly sips wine, and a stingy, bearded guy secretly plays with his money.

In this narrow-minded and stifling community a married woman falls in love with a bachelor with glasses, but they have to flee into the surrounding woods to escape the eternal gaze of their neighbors. Meanwhile the woman’s husband kills the miser, and steals his money, but it’s the bespectacled lover who gets the blame.

The village gladly builds a gallows out of the unjustly accused’s very own trees, but the lover manages to escape, accidentally killing the vile husband in the process. In the morning the omnipresent ants, which form a rather morbid running gag during the whole film, have eaten the corpse dry, and the villagers think it’s the body of the escaped convict. They break down the gallows in deep disappointment, while the two lovers flee from the village into the world.

‘The Village’ is told without words, only using unintelligible dialogue. Baker’s simple and quasi-naive style is used to a great effect, and adds to the story’s timeless value. Moreover, Baker’s timing is excellent, mixing the painful with comedy, especially when using the ants, injecting some black humor into the disturbing tale.

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

‘The Village’ is available on the The Animation Show of Shows DVD Box Set 7

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: December 9, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★

The Golf Champion © Hanna-BarberaThis episode starts with a golf tournament, but turns out to be a story about a feud between Barney and Fred.

Part of the story is told as a flashback: Barney is chosen president of ‘The Loyal Order of Dinosaurs’ (first introduced in ‘Hot Lips Hannigan‘) and promises to collect overdue contributions. Because Fred is one of the late payers, this leads to a heavy and childish feud between the to neighbors, reminiscent of the one in ‘The Swimming Pool‘.

Barney even buys a vicious watchdog, with a laugh that sounds like that of Muttley from Hanna-Barbera’s future series ‘Wacky Races’ (1968). The low point is reached when Fred throws a party with people he doesn’t even like, only to provoke Barney (who turns out not to be home). In the end it’s up to the wives to settle the argument.

‘The Golf Champion’ is one of the duller Flintstones episodes. It contains some repetitive gags of Barney stealing his own stuff back from Fred’s yard. The sound of effect of Barney tiptoeing in these scenes, however, is a delight, as is the surprisingly inspired background music, which e.g. features a military version of the Flintstones theme music. Nevertheless, the opening scenes are arguably the best, with Fred having to deal with no less than two large dinosaurs occupying the golf course.

There are two stone age gags: a bird as a can opener, which informs us that he likes the food at the Rubble’s house better, and a record player, featuring a monkey and a bird.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Golf Champion’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 11
To the previous Flintstones episode: Hollyrock, Here I Come
To the next Flintstones episode: The Sweepstakes Ticket

‘The Golf Champion’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: October 14, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★

The Swimming Pool © Hanna-Barbera‘The Swimming Pool’ was the very first Flintstones episode made, and it shows: Barney, Fred and Wilma all look different from later episodes, and Barney sounds quite different, too. Nevertheless, the episode introduces the visual style of the series: pleasant color schemes with olive skies, thick character lines, and limited animation.

This first episode of the Flintstones also establishes the Flintstones formula: although set in the stone age, it clearly portraits modern suburban neighbors, with telephones, television sets and such. Already in this episode Fred and Barney are portrayed as quarreling, but loving neighbors and friends, and there’s also a short shot of Fred working at the excavation.

In this episode Barney digs a swimming pool in his own backyard, and Fred talks him into sharing a pool with him, spanning both backyards. Nevertheless, it’s still Barney doing all the digging. Unfortunately the shared pool tests Fred’s neighborly attitude, and he even ends up in jail.

The humor in this episode is a little bit slow, with more room for slapstick than later episodes.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Swimming Pool’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 3
To the previous Flintstones episode: Hot Lips Hannigan
To the next Flintstones episode: No Help Wanted

‘The Swimming Pool’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Director: Émile Cohl
Release Date: 1909
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Les locataires d'à-côté © Émile CohlLes locataires d’à-côté’ is a short comic film about an old couple who decide to drill a hole in the wall to spy on their younger neighbors.

However, the hole is immediately discovered by the young victims, and the young man wonders how he can punish the nosy neighbors. How he does it remains utterly unclear, but as soon as one of the neighbors takes a peak to the hole, the young neighbors’ room disappears, and makes place for some animation, mostly stop-motion, but also some pen animation, in which Cohl shows some pretty grotesque images.

The best part is when he applies his famous technique of metamorphosis to paper-cut forms. This is essentially replacement animation in a form never tried before, and rarely after. In a sense, this piece of animation anticipates George Pal’s groundbreaking replacement animation of the 1930s. Moreover, throughout his film, Cohl employs the split-screen technique, an absolute novelty. These facts alone make ‘Les locataires d’à-côté’ a great example of the astonishing creativity Émile Cohl showed in his films of 1908-1911.

In the end the couple fetch the house-keeper, but all he sees is the ordinary room, and he leaves the neighbors, stating they are crazy. Indeed, they seem to become crazy, in the end, and it’s the young couple who has the last laugh.

Watch ‘Les locataires d’à-côté’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Les locataires d’à-côté’ is available on the DVDs ‘Émile Cohl – L’agitateur aux mille images’

Director: Ub Iwerks
Release Date:
 May 2, 1931
Stars: Flip the Frog, Honey
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Ragtime Romeo © Ub Iwerks‘Ragtime Romeo’ initially seems to revisit a theme that Ub Iwerks had explored before with Walt Disney in the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit film ‘Rival Romeos‘ and the Mickey Mouse short ‘The Barn Dance‘ (both 1928), when we watch both Flip and a Pete-like character ride their anthropomorphized cars to Honey’s house.

But when Flip starts to serenade Honey, events take a different turn. Flip serenades her on a guitar, while yodeling and whistling, and on a piano, waking up all the neighbors. Surprisingly, they all respond enthusiastically, urging Flip to play more, except for one, who desperately tries to block out the noise. In the end she calls the police, which arrests the still performing Flip and Honey.

This short contains a piquant scene, in which Flip’s portrait watches Honey undressing. Later, the real Flip watches her naked silhouette through the window curtains. Iwerks’s studio would add more of these risque moments in future shorts, like ‘What a Life‘,  ‘The Office Boy‘ and most notably ‘Room Runners‘ (all from 1932).

Watch ‘Ragtime Romeo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 10
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Laughing Gas
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: The New Car

‘Ragtime Romeo’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

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