Tag Archives: Jack Mercer

Jungle Drums (1943, Dan Gordon)

Sitting through the first third of Jungle Drums, I kept hoping the cartoon would keep the African natives in silhouette. I had zero confidence they wouldn’t do some racist caricature and, at least in silhouette, there would be specifics. The natives do get out of silhouette and they are racist caricatures, but… at least there’s no real activity from the natives? It could be a lot worse. The cartoon could go two streams of racist, it just goes one. Yay?

So the story is these Nazis are pretending to be… witch doctors or something? They hide their identities by wearing white robes. Yes, that kind of white robe. Lois (Joan Alexander) and Clark (Bud Collyer) are in Africa for some reason, each taking an individual ride with a pilot to somewhere. Doesn’t matter. Lois’s plane crashes. She gets captured, tied to a stake, burned alive. Lois takes long enough to burn (she just passes out from the heat) Clark can save her. He’s not worried about his pilot seeing him change into his long johns after parachuting out with no warning.

Then it’s Superman versus Nazis in white robes. Then Hitler’s in it.

The setup of the temple–while the natives are silhouetted–is visually striking. The rest of it is less. Orestes Calpini and H.C. Ellison’s animation is mostly competent, Gordon’s direction just isn’t compelling. He does all right with exposition and lead-up, but has very few ideas once the action starts.

Though maybe it’s because the action is more about bombers and conveys and upset Hitler than Superman?

Jungle Drums is an object lesson in the perils of propaganda media. Though Alexander does almost get a good part. When the Nazis are interrogating her, it seems like it might go somewhere good. Unfortunately, it goes to pot.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Dan Gordon; screenplay by Robert Little and Jay Morton, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Orestes Calpini and H.C. Ellison; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), Julian Noa (German Commander), and Jack Mercer (Lt. Fleming); narrated by Jackson Beck.


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Destruction Inc. (1942, Izzy Sparber)

Destruction Inc. is nearly a success. It’s frustratingly not, particularly because the only thing holding it back is the animation itself. Thomas Moore and Dave Tendlar lack detail on the action, lack detail on the background, and don’t composite the two well. But Sparber’s direction is fantastic. There are some great action sequences in Destruction, they just don’t look good.

The cartoon has Lois (Joan Alexander) going undercover at the munitions plant and discovering a saboteur ring. Bad acting from Julian Noa on the villain doesn’t help things. All of the henchmen are poorly acted as well. And then there’s the pervy news boy, Louis (Jack Mercer), who gets a desperately unfunny bit after ogling Lois.

But still. The sequence where Lois is on the run from the goons, even if she doesn’t have a face in long shots, is great.

Superman shows up after the goons catch her and put her in a torpedo. Saboteurs in munitions plants have all the access.

And even though the Superman saving Lois and fighting goons sequence is, again, beautifully directed, the animation is just the pits. The cel and background compositing just gets worse during as the cartoon goes along, even if overall it’s far from bad… it’s just not good.

Jay Morton’s plotting and pacing are great. His attempts at humor are not. They drag. Sparber doesn’t direct them well either. So Sparber’s got the action down, he’s got some of the expository down, not the humor. And no one’s got the animation detail.

It’s too bad. Destruction Inc. should’ve worked. It nearly gives Alexander a good part too. The animation really sinks it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Izzy Sparber; screenplay by Jay Morton, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Thomas Moore and Dave Tendlar; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), Jack Mercer (Louis), and Julian Noa (Chief Thug); narrated by Jackson Beck.


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Eleventh Hour (1942, Dan Gordon)

While Eleventh Hour posits Superman as some kind of American war hero–he’s in Yokohama doing all sorts of damage, usually to ships–the cartoon actually portrays him as a big doofus who’s more lucky than anything else.

Clark (Bud Collyer) and Lois (Joan Alexander) are under house arrest. In a hotel. In Yokohama. Almost a year after Pearl Harbor. With no explanation. There’s sabotage going on, which is confusing the Japanese soldiers (personified with some exceptionally racist caricatures), and Lois thinks it might be Superman. Of course, the viewer knows it’s Superman because Hour’s already shown him sneaking back into Clark’s hotel room (and replacing the window bars).

Lois and Clark have been talking through their adjoining wall, with Clark apparently always getting back just in time to answer her questions about the latest act of sabotage. But then one night, knowing she’s looking out her window for Superman, Superman flies past. And she knocks on the wall to tell Clark only a guard gets her. So they post signs about how she’ll be executed following Superman’s next act of sabotage. She’s a hostage.

They post the signs everywhere.

Only Superman doesn’t pay any attention to them. Not when he goes out the next night, not when he’s Clark Kent during the day (presumably). Next night, Superman blows up a ship or something and gets trapped under some steel beams because he’s actually really bad at understanding… gravity? So when the Japanese are about to execute Lois, he’s just lifting himself out and reading the sign for the first time.

Even for wartime propaganda, Eleventh Hour is pretty dumb. Willard Bowsky and William Henning’s animation isn’t particularly good either. Ditto Gordon’s direction. Though Gordon does understand iconic shots, he just can’t pace them or make them work in the context of the cartoon.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Dan Gordon; screenplay by Carl Meyer and Bill Turner, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Willard Bowsky and William Henning; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), and Jack Mercer (Japanese soldiers); narrated by Jackson Beck.


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Showdown (1942, Izzy Sparber)

The showdown in Showdown is… not much of a showdown. A hapless–if nimble-fingered–thief dresses up like Superman and commits a bunch of crimes. He doesn’t do it on his own, he does it because his boss commands it. His boss looks a little like Edward G. Robinson. No, there’s no showdown between Superman and Edward G. Robinson.

Unfortunately for the fake Superman, when he goes to hit the opera, Clark (Bud Collyer) and Lois (Joan Alexander) are covering the story. Lois tears the S off fake Superman’s chest–guess on his planet it means s.o.l.–and goes to call the cops while Clark changes into his long-johns and goes after the thief. There’s a little showdown on the roof of the opera house, where Superman basically knocks the guy off the roof before saving him.

Superman flies the impostor to his boss, Lois and the cops follow from below. Somehow they’re able to keep following even though Superman has already landed. Edward G. Robinson has Superman outsmarted though, thanks to a trap door and a pit. So there’s a delay in Superman catching the bad guys.

There are a couple good shots in the cartoon and some great background design, but it’s pretty tepid stuff. The Superman action is boring and poorly lighted. The frequent logic jumps are… well, hard to get worked up about because who cares. Sparber’s direction is better than the animation.

Superman terrorizing the petty thief off the roof is something though.

Not even the Edward G. Robinson boss is amusing.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Izzy Sparber; screenplay by Jay Morton, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Steve Muffati and Graham Place; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), Jack Mercer (Office Boy/Fake Superman), and Julian Noa (The Boss); narrated by Jackson Beck.


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