The Ultimate Max Fleischer Cartoon Collection
Voices by Bud Collyer, Joan Alexander, Jack Mercer
Paramount / Fleischer Studios
1941 to 1943
VCI Entertainment 2006
This looks like a job for Superman is something you will hear seventeen times in Superman The Ultimate Max Fleischer Cartoon Collection. The DVD contains all 17 cartoons made by Fleischer Studios (home of Popeye and Betty Boop) between 1941 and 1943. VCI Entertainment pulled out a lot of stops for this Man Of Steel release: the print quality and sound are almost always perfect and the animated artwork for the menu shows somebody cared. By the way, you will hear the” faster than a speeding train” bit only 12 times before it switches over to “faster than the speed of lightning.”
Max Fleischer was not famous for high-quality animation but the Fleischer Studios, working for Paramount, really did a great job for the Superman cartoons. Each runs about 11 minutes, including credits and the “faster than a speeding train” bit, and there is a lot of attention paid to detail, camera angles, shadows, the works. Every animated short feature in Superman: The Ultimate Max Fleischer Cartoon Collection is great fun and features the heavily dramatic music common to many productions of the time. Story-wise, a Man Of Steel features Lois Lane getting into trouble trying to break a story which leads, of course to Clark Kent saying “This is a job for Superman.”
Superman fans will be a bit surprised while watching The Mad Scientist, the first cartoon in The Ultimate Max Fleischer Cartoon Collection. The story is that Clark Kent was raised in an orphanage and not by the Kents. A good dose of willing suspension of disbelief is needed while watching these Superman cartoons. How else can you swallow the idea that the evil madman spent more money on his secret lair and equipment than he could possibly hope making if his nefarious plan succeeds? Also, reporter Clark Kent seems to always miss the story he has been assigned to.
There are some really cool cartoons here. A personal favorite is The Arctic Giant where a T-Rex found frozen in Russia is accidentally thawed while in Metropolis. Anyone who has seen a Gojira / Godzilla movie will certainly see where Ishiro Honda got some of his ideas. You get the usual building smashing, car crushing, electric wire snapping carnage of the big lizard. This episode more than makes up for a couple of lesser shorts like Billion Dollar Limited or The Bulleteers.
Another Hollywood cliché must also have its source in Superman cartoons: Clark Kent always tells Lois Lane, “Now, you stay here while I get some help.” And, of course Lane gets into more trouble. Guess it’s part of what attracts the caped one to the lady. It certainly cannot be her wardrobe as Ms. Lane seems to own only one or two suits.
One of the cool things about the Superman cartoons in The Ultimate Max Fleischer Cartoon Collection if the studio rarely recycled a scene or a shot either within an episode or in another episode. The exception to the rule is The Magnetic Telescope.
Although a vast majority of the cartoons here are in near mint condition, this cannot really be said about The Volcano where the sound is muffled, and Terror On The Midway (or King Kong Goes To The Circus) of which according to knowledgeable fans a perfect print has yet to be found.
This, however, is made up for with the Japoteurs episode which shows Fleischer Studios’ flair for animation, The segue sequences are highly imaginative and some of the scenes qualify as eye candy. A more pc audience will be uncomfortable with the cliché buck-toothed Japanese baddy but you can’t change history. This is the same thing in The Eleventh Hour where for some unexplained reason Clark Kent and Lois Lane are in Tokyo and Superman goes around sabotaging Japanese military installations every night at eleven. Story wise, The Eleventh Hour is really the least interesting of the seventeen cartoons in The Ultimate Max Fleischer Cartoon Collection.
For a while, any cartoon villain was based on actor Edward G. Robinson and this is the case in Showdown though the voice is not an imitation of Robinson. In this episode Superman has to clear his name after a robber uses his costume to commit crimes. Fans will learn Superman may be allergic to kryptonite but Clark Kent is allergic to the opera.
A highly imaginative story is The Mummy Strikes, which is, of course, about a Mummy’s revenge. What makes this one interesting is the curse of the mummy itself and how it and its minions are brought back to life. Of course, someone could not resist having a character say, “My mummy told me.” Jungle Drums mixes Nazi baddies, an African tribe still into idol worship, and the story of Joan of Arc when Lois Lane is almost burned at the stake. You really have to suspend disbelief here if you want to believe Superman arrives in time to save the roasting Lane.
The Underground World is a welcome respite from the five previous World War Two themed cartoons. Again, Lois Lane is going to fry but this time in some underground cave and by some bird-shaped underground bad guys. A lot is unexplained here but the Man of Steel arrives in time to save everybody. The last cartoon in Superman The Ultimate Max Fleischer Collection is Secret Agent. Here Clark Kent rescues a cute blonde secret agent and foils the plans of some French accented German saboteurs and not a single Lois Lane in the picture.
Superman The Ultimate Max Fleischer Cartoon Collection is a lot of fun and the price is certainly right.
Extras include Behind the Cape which consist of a synopsis of each story and sometimes a spot the mistakes list. Also included is the cartoon Snafuperman, a Warner Brothers spoof, a phone interview with Lois Lane’s voice, Joan Alexander, and bios of various people involved with the Superman cartoons.
Superman (The Mad Scientist)
The Mechanical Monsters
Billion Dollar Limited
The Arctic Giant
The Magnetic Telescope
Terror On The Midway
The Mummy Strikes
The Underground World
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