The Bulleteers (1942, Dave Fleischer)

Three genius mechanical engineers come up with a flying, rocket-powered bullet car, with a penetrating nose, and try to extort millions from Metropolis. When their extortion fails, they attack. After some trouble, Superman stops them. The Bulleteers is nothing if not concise.

The cartoon starts introducing the bullet car, then its owners. They’re in a mountain hideout, of course, but it doesn’t turn out to be important. The emphasis of the cartoon, for the first half, is on the city. Lots and lots of people in Bulleteers–since they’re in a mountain the Bulleteers are able to use a very loud speaker to threaten the city, everyone comes outside to listen. So it’s a lot of beautiful design work, then nice, deliberate animation of the crowds. Until the nighttime attack, Bulleteers’s Metropolis feels vibrant and full.

The attack is a bunch of disaster sequences, as the bullet car easily knocks through police defenses and starts shooting through buildings, sending debris everywhere. Luckily, Lois Lane (Joan Alexander) has ditched Clark Kent (Bud Collyer) and he’s able to put on the longjohns to try to save the day. There’s some good tension in whether or not he’ll be able to do it.

The finale with the Bulleteers is a tad perfunctory, but the cartoon’s already done its stuff–the first part of their attack is on a power plant, which leads to some great disaster inserts. And some of the Superman action is excellent. All of the animation is excellent, regardless of content.

Bulleteers’s exquisite visuals and simple narrative add up to a nice eight minutes.

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