Category Archives: 1923

Alice’s Wonderland (1923, Walt Disney)

Depending on the process director Disney used to marry live action with animation, Alice’s Wonderland is either mediocre or just plain bad. If it’s the latter, Disney has no concept of perspective or, you know, shadows.

The first three minutes are awesome. A little kid (Virginia Davis, in an awful performance–it’s probably Disney’s fault) visits an animation studio and is amazed at how the cartoon characters come alive on the animators’ panels. Disney’s conception of the studio is something technology still hasn’t produced (and probably never will). It’s spellbinding.

Then it becomes about Davis and gets bad. All the little cartoon animals love her and applaud her lame, poorly directed dance. The technical wonders of the first few minutes become lame and cheap tricks, a couple of shocking incompetence.

The animation’s mostly lame with occasional exceptions. Unfortunately, a couple great gags can’t make up for all of Alice‘s failings.

1/3Not Recommended


Written, directed and produced by Walt Disney; directors of photography, Rudolf Ising and Ub Iwerks; animated by Hugh Harman, Ising, Iwerks and Carman Maxwell; released by Margaret J. Winkler.



Film is Rhythm (1923, Hans Richter)

Film is Rhythm isn’t immediately impressive. Director Richter moves some white rectangles across the black screen. Then, gradually (but at a quick pace–Film is only three minutes), he starts doing more movements with these rectangles and squares.

By the time he was zooming them in and out, I realized it was either exceptional animation or a lot of work. Many of the objects have texture, which raises the question of how he made them zoom. Well, how he made so many objects in the same shot zoom in and out. Did he somehow superimpose or is Film just really good animation?

At the end of the film, Richter seems to realize he’s got the viewer and just keeps amping it up with inverses and so on. Film then becomes about the process and Richter loses any sense of “rhythm” he had going for him.

It’s magnificent if too detached.

3/3Highly Recommended


Directed by Hans Richter.


The Return to Reason (1923, Man Ray)

The Return to Reason doesn’t so much study movement as exhibit experiments in movement. Whether they’re photographic tricks or recognizable objects–or unrecognizable ones until you watch carefully–director Ray isn’t putting them together to solve a puzzle.

Unless, of course, the titular Reason is the nude woman at the end and then Ray would just be painfully witty.

Still, Reason only runs about two minutes and Ray can’t top the ferris wheel shot thirty seconds into it. Only the lights of the ferris wheel are in focus and they loop endlessly through the darkness. It’s an exceptionally stunning sequence and, watching it, I wondered if or how he could top it for the finish.

The nude woman doesn’t do it. I really hope he wasn’t trying to top it with her.

Reason provides a decent viewing, has those fantastic lights, but it’s not deep. Ray keeps it intentionally shallow.

1/3Not Recommended


Edited, produced and directed by Man Ray.


No Noise (1923, Robert F. McGowan)

In some ways, No Noise has it all. Kids getting high off laughing gas, then enjoying a little electrocution, there’s some cross-dressing… it seems like there’s even more. The threat of Farina being operated on by the Our Gang kids. Actually, Farina’s practically in drag too. I guess boys and girls closes weren’t particularly distinct in the twenties. When Mickey Daniels shows up wearing Mary Kornman’s dress, the other boys don’t even bat an eye.

The short is weak at the start and finish, but relatively strong in the middle. McGowan composes some good shots during the gang’s initial trip to the hospital (to visit Mickey and eat ice cream). It all falls apart at the end with these endless “haunted hospital” gags. The sets look terrible in that sequence.

And the weak open is all Daniels’s fault. An annoying twerp isn’t a good protagonist.

Noise is benignly dreadful.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Robert F. McGowan; screenplay by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; produced by Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Andy Samuel (Andy), Ernest Morrison (Sunshine Sammy), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Jack Davis (Jack), Joe Cobb (Joe), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Mary Kornman (Mary) and Beth Darlington (Mickey’s nurse).