Tag Archives: Jack Mercer

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


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.



Terror on the Midway (1942, Dave Fleischer)

Terror on the Midway has some mediocre animation, some bad animation, and some excellent design and direction. It’s also got a gratuitous Superman butt shot, which angles to show his curves in the red tights. It’s a weird shot. Especially since it keeps angling.

The cartoon starts with Clark (Bud Collyer) mocking Lois (Joan Alexander) for being stuck covering the circus. He then ditches her to go back to the paper, which isn’t revealed for a while because Midway’s busy with this adorable circus monkey releasing Gigantic the Gorilla, who causes the resulting Terror.

Now, there are circus attendants who try to tame the gorilla; they fail. They also all look exactly the same, basically like Clark without his glasses. When the cops show up, they too look exactly the same. As the circus attendants. The only variety in the character design is in these three little kids who are in danger. Lois saves one of them, which sets the gorilla on her trail.

After the gorilla has wrecked enough havoc to cause all the circus-goers to flee and loose some of the animals. And maybe kill three of the elephants. Midway could care less about animal cruelty. Some of the later sequences kind of revel in it.

Clark comes back to the circus right after he gets to the paper and somehow hears all the people running away. He still takes a cab because he’s not too worried. When he gets there, he tries to help an attendant hold down a loose elephant but can’t. Because, apparently, he doesn’t have any super-strength when he’s in his civvies.

Eventually he changes into the long-johns, beats up some terrified animals, and saves Lois. It takes him a while to save Lois, however, because he can’t quite best the gorilla. The gorilla’s apparently more powerful than two locomotives.

The animation gets shoddier as the cartoon goes on–though still with some great direction–with a particularly unsatisfactory finale. For a while it seems like the inventiveness (Lois the hero) and the design (the circus is visually stunning) might carry Midway, but no.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Dave Fleischer; screenplay by Jay Morton and Dan Gordon, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Orestes Calpini and James Davis; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; produced by Max Fleischer; released by Paramount Pictures.

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


Superman (1941, Dave Fleischer)

Superman (or The Mad Scientist) opens with Jackson Beck narrating the origin of Superman. It’s a couple minutes, sets up Krypton going boom and mild mannered reporter Clark Kent. Then it’s on to the action, which starts with a mad scientist sending a threatening letter to the Daily Planet.

Perry White (Julian Noa) tries to send Lois (Joan Alexander) and Clark (Bud Collyer) on assignment to investigate. The mad scientist is going to attack at twelve midnight. Lois tells the boys she wants to do it alone and skips out, getting in a plane and flying off. Clark makes some vaguely sexist remark to Perry and cut to the mad scientist.

The mad scientist has a pet bird (vulture? blackbird? doesn’t matter). They cutely walk around his hidden laboratory as the mad scientist prepares his death ray. Lois shows up just before midnight, ready… to interview him? Instead he assaults her and ties her up. He zaps a bridge, at midnight, just like his note said, apparently surprising Clark, who’s sitting at his desk. He then changes outfits and saves the day as Superman. Though not the bridge. And there’s no real prevention of the plan.

The cartoon’s designs are fantastic throughout–Lois in her flight gear–the architecture of the buildings, but the animation takes a while to impress. The mad scientist, for instance, is particularly disappointing. He’s got a jerky walk and Jack Mercer plays him as flat evil. The bird saves their scenes, even though the bird makes absolutely no sense.

It’s like they realized the mad scientist didn’t have enough personality.

Some of the Superman saving the day stuff is fantastic, though the cartoon’s understanding of structure engineering (a skyscraper flops like gelatin) is suspect. Unfortunately, Superman’s showdown with the mad scientist is rather wanting. And the rescue of Lois is dramatically inert. Just like the resolution.

Superman looks great, moves mostly all right, and the Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg music is right on… but it’s lacking. And the silhouetted violence of the mad scientist attacking Lois is pretty intense given it’s a cartoon with a cute pet (evil) bird.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Dave Fleischer; screenplay by Seymour Kneitel and Izzy Sparber, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Frank Endres and Steve Muffati; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; produced by Max Fleischer; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), Jack Mercer (The Mad Scientist), and Julian Noa (Perry White); narrated by Jackson Beck.