Radio Tube Revolution

An advertising short for Philips.

Old tubes all have long white beards, “make bad music and want to be pensioned,” also demand to be replaced with New Philips Miniwatts.

A typical foray in the company of Fischinger and Fischerkoesen. Pal’s intensely pleasing rounded style has its start in a finely-drawn “watercolor” technique.


Rhythm in the Ranks

The practice, Bob Baker says, involved drawing the whole thing out as frames photographed to “check the animation”, then preparing the figures to match. The point is readily seen in Technicolor on a large screen, the immediate and imposing reality of these small painted wood blocks on a lighted set.

The toy soldier hauling a cannon neglects his duty to skate with a beauty on the frozen pond (she turns him into a snowman by skidding a shower of ice-shavings onto him and thrusting a pipe into his mouth, later she thaws him out).

He’s cashiered, but Gen. Nutt sends a collect telegram declaring war, his screwball army consists of elongated balls with screw heads.

The same “disappearing” camouflage paint used on the barracks (and by a sniffing dog who drinks it, vanishes into the landscape and causes a tree to disappear) is cannonaded by the soldier onto the attacking troops and tanks, which leave only tracks.

A firing squad invests him with a dress uniform and the girl.


Tulips Shall Grow

The screwball army from Rhythm in the Ranks goose-steps with a goose showing how into Holland.

The ruined church and desolate landscape yield a prayer that devastates the invaders, all is as before in this Paramount “Madcap Models” Technicolor Puppetoon.


Jasper And The Haunted House

Scarecrow and Black Crow detour Jasper to the haunted house to spook him out of his mammy’s gooseberry pie for Deacon Jones. Not all the ha’nts have been drafted, however, and all three are propelled from the piano where they’re hiding by some forceful boogie-woogie through the air and into a billboard advertising that same gooseberry pie.


John Henry And The Inky-Poo

The Puppetoon is amusing enough (Rex Ingram tells the tale), and with an especially handsome landscape at the end, as well as newborn John Henry tall as a tree saluting the woman who bore him (she explains, “I’se your mama!”), but Pal’s position is in the high shot of an open grave surrounded by mourners shielded with black umbrellas from the dark, rainy night, dozens of umbrellas.


Tubby the Tuba

Tripp & Kleinsinger’s famous piece is served up with an incredible array of talent named Victor Jory. Tubby at a Hollywood Bowl rehearsal is tired of oompahing, a bullfrog who must have inspired Chuck Jones lends him a lyrical tune to beat the band, the orchestra is disconcerted and then reconciled to the charm of the singing notes in the tuba’s high register.


tom thumb

The credits are discerned by the camera with the help of a magnifying glass.

The animator’s art is generally very small (El Greco was a miniaturist, officially), amid laborious organization in the studios.

The artist never gives his heart away (Browning), nevertheless an approximation can be found in the title character’s tiny world of animated puppets, between Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man and Mills & Ashton’s Tales of Beatrix Potter, after Disney’s Pinocchio and before his Babes in Toyland.

The complicated dance sequences thus contain a hot jazz number with an animated partner drawn by the diminutive hero with a full-size paintbrush (cp. the soldier’s saber at the end of Rhythm in the Ranks, so long it has a set of wheels).


The Time Machine

Pal’s apparatus, you feel certain, is quite capable of achieving this, and his careful attention to all the details of the journey per se is exactly what was required. Truly, the thing’s a poem. This is where H.G. Wells gave birth to Jorge Luis Borges, and no mistake.

The long future sequence had its greatest effect on Planet of the Apes, and certainly influenced Nathan Juran’s jaw-dropping masterpiece, First Men in the Moon.


Atlantis, the Lost Continent

This is a conflation of The Last Days of Pompeii and the heat ray Superman contended with. The burden is of Babylon, the cast includes John Dall, Edward Platt, Frank de Kova, Jay Novello, Berry Kroeger and William Smith.

Island of Lost Souls plays a huge part, the necessity of representing men turned into beasts takes a visual response from the alternate method of Kenton’s film, ahead of O Lucky Man!.

The augury at the Ordeal of Fire and Water is foreboding, all signs point to the end of Atlantis, bees desert, a winch-tower worked by slaves collapses, it isn’t long in coming.

Pal opens characteristically with a man snoring at sea, the Atlantean princess leads her Greek through the Pillars of Hercules to the lost continent, where her father the king is usurped by a cabinet of militarists.

The speed, beauty and concentration of the prologue and Mediterranean (“hidden sea” to Atlantis) sequence were more or less noted by Variety’s reviewer, who found the rest a bore eked out by Roman spectacle footage, the intent of which escaped notice (along with the dubbing of Edgar Stehli and Wolfe Barzell).


7 Faces of Dr. Lao

Pal’s supreme masterpiece. All books are books, all films are films, no matter how they’re mysteried in blurbs and reviews. “No tricks,” but Pal has one arrow in his quiver very like a trick, the sensation that his film is worth more than the cinema.

This of course serves his drama, and is a unique expression of his function as director amid so many departments, Beaumont’s screenplay, the performances, “et cet’ra, et cet’ra, and, of course, et cet’ra.”