blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Mechanical Monsters (1941, Dave Fleischer)

The Mechanical Monsters has a lot of promise. Or at least it seems like it’s going to have a lot of promise. A mad scientist has built around thirty giant flying robots he sends out to rob Metropolis. The cartoon opens with one of them returning with its loot. No one can stop him.

Back in the city, Lois and Clark are both covering a new jewelry exhibit. Clark (Bud Collyer) isn’t happy to see Lois there. The defining aspect of Collyer’s Clark Kent performance is how much he loathes Lois Lane when she’s doing her job, which makes the cartoon’s epilogue all the stranger.

So the giant robot attacks. Turns out it’s bulletproof too because the Metropolis police shoot tommy guns at it and the bullets ricochet everywhere. Presumably not into the fleeing civilians.

When Clark and Lois go to call the story in, Lois gives Clark the slip to get back to the giant robot, hitching a ride in the loot compartment. Then it’s Superman time.

The aforementioned promise starts building once Superman’s in play. Even after he somehow gets knocked out of the sky by the robot (it’s unclear if Superman’s jumping or flying, I suppose–whatever’s most convenient for the story) and gets into a fight with electrical lines, Monsters always seems like there’s about to be a great sequence.

When Superman finally gets to the mad scientist’s fortress to duke it out with the two dozen plus giant robots, it’s got to be a great sequence. Then it’s not. It’s rushed because it’s not even like Lois is in danger from the robots. She’s in danger from the mad scientist dropping her into molten lava. Good thing Superman’s cape is molten lava-resistant.

The epilogue has Clark complimenting Lois on her page one scoop; of course, she says she only got the story because of Superman. Fade out on knowing smile from Clark. Kind of gross.

There’s some nice stuff in the cartoon–effective close-up on the mad scientist, for example–but the story’s all over the place and the characters are weak. Joan Alexander, as Lois, gets about two and a half lines. Though at least this time director Fleischer cuts away from the villain assaulting her.

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