Japoteurs (1942, Seymour Kneitel)

Outside the racism, there’s not much to distinguish Japoteurs. There’s a lot of potential for the finale, when Superman (Bud Collyer) has to stop a crashing airplane–the world’s biggest bomber, which Japanese saboteurs have stolen and intend to take to Tokyo–but it’s not an impressive sequence. It’s somewhat thorough, but not impressive.

The plane itself is kind of impressive. It’s big enough to house fighter jets and is taller than buildings. But the cartoon doesn’t do anything with it–save one of the shots of it on the ground at the end and that shot is too little too late. It’s also competent, just not exciting.

Lois (Joan Alexander) and Clark are on board getting a press tour at the beginning of the cartoon; when they’re supposed to leave, Lois stays. Good for everyone she did because after the saboteurs take over, she’s the one who calls it in, which eventually leads to Superman getting involved.

The animation is okay in spots. Not so much with the Superman versus saboteur fisticuffs, but director Kneitel does have a couple decent shots and the animation works in them. Overall, it’s rather mediocre. The villains are all racist caricatures; well, both. There are three saboteurs but two look identical. That bit isn’t the cartoon’s racism coming through, it’s the animators’ laziness. All the guys on the ground look the same, pretty much like Clark Kent (without the glasses). Or if they look a little different, they look the same as the guy who’s two Clark Kent clones away.

Given the cultural ick value of the cartoon, it’s almost unfortunate it’s so darn blah. If it were godawful, it’d be something. If it were technically outstanding, it’d be something. Instead, it’s low middling. Bill Turner and Carl Meyer’s story has got its time constraints, sure, but they still manage to disappoint.

The whole thing disappoints or fails to impress.

Plus ick.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Seymour Kneitel; screenplay by Bill Turner and Carl Meyer, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Nick Tafuri and Myron Waldman; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman/Saboteur), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), and Jack Mercer (Press Tour Guide); narrated by Jackson Beck.


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