Today’s spooky/silly cartoon features one of the most popular (and still recognisable) animated characters of the silent film era – Felix the Cat. First introduced to the big screen in the immediate aftermath of World War One, and possibly based on an earlier animated version of Charlie Chaplin, this cheeky and slightly surreal black and white cat was an immediate success with critics and the cinema-going public alike.
In this 1923 short, Felix encounters a ghost who is up to no good. Following the spook, he sees it scare an unsuspecting householder and the man’s livestock. The householder calls out the reserves to rescue his property from the ghost, but that doesn’t work – so Felix offers to try to lure the ghost away with a bottle of rum! Once the phantom is off the property, Felix pulls a gun on it and, in a reveal worthy of Scooby Doo, we discover it is really a human rival of the householder who is trying to scare him into selling his home…
This is the first in a slightly belated series of spooky (and slightly silly) seasonal posts. All Hallows Eve may have come and gone, but the clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in. The end of the year is not far away, which makes this the perfect time to be telling tales of ghostly apparitions around the fire – indeed, Christmas ghost stories are a genre unto themselves.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air…
Or perhaps not, if you’re me!
But because I’m a soppy old romantic (no, really, I am), I thought I’d share this very educational newsreel clip with you. Going by the clothing and design shown, this piece of film was probably made sometime in the 1960s – and it compares Victorian and Edwardian Valentine’s cards with the mass-produced romantic greetings of the mid 20th century, showing how the latter are made (with the high-tech, ultramodern help of a computer, no less).
The centrality of this ‘masculine’, modern industrial technology, and the mention of “this year’s sweetheart” being “next year’s wife” makes me wonder if this report was, at least in part, designed as a half-hearted (and somewhat stereotypical) little reminder of the date for the male population of the UK at the time!
Whether you’re on a date tonight, having a cosy night in with a significant other, or on your own (especially if you’re on your own), I hope you have a lovely evening – and always remember to tell the people you love that you love them, whatever the day…
This wonderful early example of stop-motion animation was made in Russia just before the First World War. A charming and quirky film, this is the work of the relatively unknown animation pioneer Wladyslaw Starewicz (1882-1965). Starting work in animation at least ten years before Walt Disney (who, as we know, grabbed all the headlines) and almost by accident, Starewicz produced films in Lithuania, Russia and France over a long career that lasted until his death in the mid-1960s.
His interest in insects ran alongside his interest in film, eventually resulting in works like The Insects’ Christmas. In 1910, he became Director of the Museum of Natural History in Kaunas (Lithuania), where he studied various bugs and beetles by filming their activities. This obviously inspired him, and these creepy-crawlies became insect puppets after their short lives were over, transforming into his stars in imaginative works like this.
As with many things in life, I came across this somewhat bizarre little newsreel clip while I was looking for something else entirely (I was actually searching YouTube for videos of football being played in extreme weather – you can find my playlist of that here). When I saw this frankly odd snippet of film, I couldn’t resist posting it here for your enjoyment too!
Since we are in the midst of the Rugby Union Autumn Internationals and the Rugby League World Cup (England have reached the final!), it seemed like the perfect time to share this quirky look at what has to be one of the most unpleasantly cold and uncomfortably violent crossover sports imaginable (and I’ve played actual rugby. In the actual mud).
Filmed at the Streatham Ice Rink in south London (I honestly can’t see this type of game being played on the beautiful green reaches of the Twickenham pitch!), and, according to the narrator “a mixture of rugby and American footer”, this 8-a-side match between the Senators and the Royals doesn’t actually seem to have much in the way of tactics going on – unless you count falling over in a heap and shoving the opposition off the ice at 25mph as tactical play!
The world is a thoroughly horrible place at the moment. Every day it seems to get worse and worse. I don’t know about you, but I’m spending a lot of time looking at pictures of cute animals in an attempt to bleach my brain of the terrible things that appear on the news daily. It works – for a while, anyway. So here’s a newsreel snippet of some very trendy 1950s doggos in their designer outfits for you. I hope it makes you smile!
Are we feeling spooky? If not, here’s a creepy treat for you this Halloween night. This funky little cartoon is an early Disney animation, and the first of their long-running Silly Symphonies series (reputed to have inspired Warners to call their equivalent Loony Tunes). The plot (what there is of one) is simple but effective: four skeletons cheerfully dance round a graveyard in the dead of night, only stopping their leaping, skipping and jumping when dawn begins to break.
Christmas is a time for ghost stories. The long, dark, cold nights at this time of year lend themselves well to spooky tales, and today’s film clip is no exception. We’ve looked at the most famous Christmas ghost story of all on several previous occasions, but this is a very different kind of folktale to that of Scrooge and his phantom visitors.
The gothic tale of The Mistletoe Bough dates back to at least the 18th century and was traditionally told at Christmas time. It tells the story of a young couple, recently married, who decide to play a game of hide and seek during their wedding celebrations. During the fun and games, the bride mysteriously disappears. Years later, the husband encounters her ghost, and finds out exactly what happened to her on their wedding night…
The short version of the film above is a recent restoration by the BFI, and features a score by Pete Wiggs of St Etienne. Orginally directed in 1904 by Percy Stow, it is fascinating to see a film made more than a hundred years ago so clearly, and it shows how creative these early film-makers were – particularly with the ghostly special effects – while using very basic technology.
For more seasonal posts on Another Kind Of Mind, see here.
Another quirky vintage Christmas treat from the BFI National Archive. This little film was shown in British cinemas over the festive season of 1946. Watch out for the striking sequence where the toys under the Christmas tree come alive…
Merry Christmas to all of you, and I hope you’ve had a wonderful day – wherever you’ve been and whoever you’ve been with.
For more seasonal posts on Another Kind Of Mind, see here.