Tag Archives: Max Fleischer

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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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

CREDITS

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.


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The Arctic Giant (1942, Dave Fleischer)

Even if it weren’t for catching all the future films The Arctic Giant influenced, the cartoon would still be a lot of fun.

It opens with the discovery of a frozen dinosaur in the the Arctic. Scientists bring it back to Metropolis–King Kong style, but in a freezer–where it goes on display. Lois does a story, things go wrong, Superman to the rescue.

That aspect–the animated action adventure–is great. Joan Alexander has a lot of fun as Lois here. Bill Turner and Tedd Pierce’s script gets her just the right amount of condescending and grateful.

But this Arctic Giant isn’t some twenty-foot dinosaur… it’s Godzilla (in 1942). Lots of the same visual motifs too. It’s incredible. And then there’s the disaster scenes later duplicated in Superman: The Movie. It’s really cool.

It’s also poorly animated. The level of detail is terrible.

But Giant still rocks.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Dave Fleischer; screenplay by Bill Turner and Tedd Pierce, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Willard Bowsky and Reuben Grossman; 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 Jackson Beck (Perry White).


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Volcano (1942, Dave Fleischer)

Now here’s an awesome outing for Clark and Lois. They’re on assignment to cover a volcano erupting (hence the title); the cartoon opens with a science report on said volcano. It’s a neat sequence, quickly done and well-animated. Fleischer gets a lot of information conveyed immediately, which is good since the second half is all action.

Lois gets a whole lot to do in Volcano, between stealing Clark’s press pass to get the scoop herself–Bill Turner and Carl Meyer’s script makes her rather tenacious, a behavior where Joan Alexander excels in her performance. Clark doesn’t have much and, as Superman, I don’t even think Bud Collyer gets any lines (just as Clark). But it’s not important, because the volcano eruption is fantastic.

The script has just enough information before Fleischer and the animators deliver Volcano’s thrills. Lois’s determinedness–and Superman’s vulnerability–are standouts, along with the design.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Dave Fleischer; screenplay by Bill Turner and Carl Meyer, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Willard Bowsky and Otto Feuer; 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 Julian Noa (Perry White).


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