Tag Archives: Jackson Beck

Electric Earthquake (1942, Dave Fleischer)

Outside the racist–though not exceptionally racist all things considered–characterization of the villain, a Native American engineer who’s going to level Manhattan because it was stolen from his people, Electric Earthquake is pretty much great. Well, it’s outstanding. For what it does, it’s outstanding.

So there’s the opening, where only Clark Kent (Bud Collyer) thinks the Native American guy has a point–while Julian Noa’s Perry White is a piece of crap, apparently–but neither think the guy is actually going to do anything. Only Lois (Joan Alexander) thinks to trail him back to the docks, where he catches her and takes her down to his undersea laboratory.

The cartoon has already introduced the laboratory, complete with the wires going to the various parts of the ocean floor so the engineer can shock an earthquake. And he does. Manhattan falls apart. Cracks in the streets, skyscrapers crumbling, the Daily Planet having a big chunk fall away. And no nonsense regarding Superman–he’s in action right away (well, after the disaster starts).

And he saves the day. With some complications and some troubles.

There are a couple things not animated well, but otherwise it’s all phenomenal work. Good direction from Fleischer. Some of the animation doesn’t quite match, but it’s still good. The rocky parts are in the explosions. They’re lacking in detail and size.

And, story-wise, it’s not like the engineer turns out to be some great villain or even an interesting one. He doesn’t beat up Lois, which is nice, though he does leave her to drown in his getaway. He’s almost sympathetic.

The Superman action, including his various troubles with electric wiring, collapsing buildings, and just having enough breath, is great. The ending is fun too.

The fun might be the best thing about Earthquake. Even though it’s obviously full of catastrophic danger, Fleischer and his animators enjoy the heck out of Superman’s response to it.

Though Lois gets a particularly bad part. She’s present for almost everything and gets no reaction other than silent fear.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Dave Fleischer; screenplay by Seymour Kneitel and Izzy Sparber, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Steve Muffati and Arnold Gillespie; 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), Julian Noa (Perry White), and Jackson Beck (Lenape scientist); narrated by Beck.


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The Mechanical Monsters (1941, Dave Fleischer)

The Mechanical Monsters has a lot of promise. Or at least it seems like it’s going to have a lot of promise. A mad scientist has built around thirty giant flying robots he sends out to rob Metropolis. The cartoon opens with one of them returning with its loot. No one can stop him.

Back in the city, Lois and Clark are both covering a new jewelry exhibit. Clark (Bud Collyer) isn’t happy to see Lois there. The defining aspect of Collyer’s Clark Kent performance is how much he loathes Lois Lane when she’s doing her job, which makes the cartoon’s epilogue all the stranger.

So the giant robot attacks. Turns out it’s bulletproof too because the Metropolis police shoot tommy guns at it and the bullets ricochet everywhere. Presumably not into the fleeing civilians.

When Clark and Lois go to call the story in, Lois gives Clark the slip to get back to the giant robot, hitching a ride in the loot compartment. Then it’s Superman time.

The aforementioned promise starts building once Superman’s in play. Even after he somehow gets knocked out of the sky by the robot (it’s unclear if Superman’s jumping or flying, I suppose–whatever’s most convenient for the story) and gets into a fight with electrical lines, Monsters always seems like there’s about to be a great sequence.

When Superman finally gets to the mad scientist’s fortress to duke it out with the two dozen plus giant robots, it’s got to be a great sequence. Then it’s not. It’s rushed because it’s not even like Lois is in danger from the robots. She’s in danger from the mad scientist dropping her into molten lava. Good thing Superman’s cape is molten lava-resistant.

The epilogue has Clark complimenting Lois on her page one scoop; of course, she says she only got the story because of Superman. Fade out on knowing smile from Clark. Kind of gross.

There’s some nice stuff in the cartoon–effective close-up on the mad scientist, for example–but the story’s all over the place and the characters are weak. Joan Alexander, as Lois, gets about two and a half lines. Though at least this time director Fleischer cuts away from the villain assaulting her.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

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

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


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The Underground World (1943, Seymour Kneitel)

The Underground World is absolutely gorgeous. The animation has its issues, but how the animators light their characters and how director Kneitel composes the frames… just breathtaking.

The story concerns Lois and Clark on an expedition to an underground cavern. Once they arrive, there’s trouble for Lois and they discover the totally absurd secret of the cavern. But the absurdity doesn’t matter because the cartoon is so gorgeous. In fact, once Superman shows up in this silly situation, it just keeps getting more and more amazing. Kneitel outdoes himself every shot.

Joan Alexander probably has the most to do as Lois; she’s really good in World. Bud Collyer’s Clark is a little too nonplussed, but that describes Jay Morton’s characterization of Clark in general.

As the scientist leading the expedition, Jackson Beck is weak. He shouldn’t be so noticeably bad, but it comes through.

Ignore him though, World’s magnificent.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Seymour Kneitel; screenplay by Jay Morton, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Reuben Grossman and Nick Tafuri; music by Sammy Timberg; produced by Dan Gordon, Kneitel and Izzy Sparber; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent / Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), Jackson Beck (Henderson) and Julian Noa (Perry White).


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