Tag Archives: Jackson Beck

Secret Agent (1943, Seymour Kneitel)

Secret Agent opens with this really exciting car chase. Clark (Bud Collyer) has just called in and been told to get to work on the right story, only then a car crashes through the drug store he’s in and so he hops on the back of it as it chases another car. Then the cops start chasing the car Clark’s on; he pushes up a thug’s gun hand so he can’t shoot at the cops. The whole thing ends with a female secret agent getting away and Clark apparently unconscious and captured by saboteurs.

The chief saboteur has a monocle and a Hitler mustache. It’s unclear how he manages to get around in the United States without people wondering what he’s up to… oh, and a German accent.

So most of the cartoon has to do with the secret agent (voiced by Joan Alexander in a less than impressive performance–she’s got one monologue and it’s flat) trying to get to the airport. The cops are going to give her an escort, but the saboteur ring ambushes them and mows down a bunch of cops before the agent gets through.

But the shootout ambush was just a red herring, the real ambush is at a swing bridge. The secret agent ends up on the bridge’s mechanics, in danger of being crushed. Luckily, when the bad guys call the Hitler boss guy, he and his guys get ready to go and lock up Clark before leaving. Once he’s safely in a broom closet, Clark finally changes into the long johns and saves the day.

Shame he didn’t do anything to save those shot down coppers. Because he was either unconscious or just didn’t think he could break the ropes and take out the guards? Not very super.

There’s some lame jingoism, which the cartoon could’ve gotten away with as cute if it were any good (that opening with the car chase is decent stuff though) and for some reason a lot of focus on the secret agent’s shapely legs.

Secret Agent is a stinker.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Seymour Kneitel; screenplay by Carl Meyer, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Otto Feuer and Steve Muffati; music by Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Secret Agent), Julian Noa (Perry White), and Jackson Beck (Nazis); narrated by Beck.


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The Mummy Strikes (1943, Izzy Sparber)

If it weren’t for the needlessly racist finish from Lois (Joan Alexander), The Mummy Strikes would probably get a pass. Maybe. The action isn’t particularly impressive, but the Egyptian history lesson is pretty cool. Even if it’s all about young King Tush.

Jay Morton’s script is (mostly) strong–it, Sparber’s direction, and animator Graham Place and Myron Waldman’s backgrounds are the highlights. An Egyptologist is murdered, his assistant is charged. Another professor calls the Daily Planet for Clark (Bud Collyer) to come and hear the truth.

The professor–Jackson Beck–is long-winded and gives Clark the whole history of King Tush, which is remarkably similar to King Tut but with giant guards and some other embellishments. Turns out the dead professor tried to get into the sarcophagus, ignoring the curse. There’s also something about him working to revive the mummified giant guards. Doesn’t matter. There’s just a lot of great Egyptian backgrounds (the museum’s recreating the tomb) and Beck’s exposition delivery is solid. Even with the nonsense.

Lois is also at the museum–she snuck after Clark because he kind of scooped her, or at least was a jerk about it. She’s sadly immaterial. Clark’s the one who sets off the sarcophagus trap, which revives the giant guards. Whose skin inexplicably gets darker the more evil they get? Like the guards of the hieroglyphic backdrops don’t match the revived ones.

The resulting action sequence with Superman fighting the giant guards is unsatisfactory–the detail isn’t great on the animation, it’s the detail on the Egyptian-themed stuff (and the mystery angle at the beginning)–and there’s actually no resolution whatsoever given the revived mummified guards at the end. Just Lois’s joke, which could be done without the racist part yet… they felt the need.

So, ew.

But the first half is good, even if it’s obvious they’re not going to be able to get anywhere with 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 Graham Place and Myron Waldman; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane/Jane Hogan), and Jackson Beck (Dr. Wilson); narrated by 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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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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