Monday, October 31, 2011

Short Film: Face Like A Frog (USA, 1987)

Remember that big budget remake of the Twilight Zone from 1983? The infamous one for which the actor Vic Morrow and two child extras lost their lives to a helicopter while filming the John Landis segment? Among the various segments is one directed by the ever-entertaining Joe Dante, a remake of the 1963 episode It's A Good Life about a mutant kid (Bill Mumy) with the powers of god. (The episode was also the subject of a sequel episode It's Still A Good Life in the 2002 revival of the TV show in 2002.) In the remake, at one point the little brat sends one of his "family", Ethal (Nancy Cartwright), to her demise by popping her into a cartoon hell on TV, where she ends up being eaten by demonic monster rabbit? The episode itself may not have been as good as the original TV version, but damn! That cartoon hell was great! And it was created by Sally (née "Sarah") Cruikshank, the animator behind A Wasted Life's "Short Film of the Month" for October, 2011.
Cruikshank (website), born in New Jersey in June 1949, made her first animated film while studying at Smith College. She went on to study filmmaking under the independent filmmaker Larry Jordan at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her best known short, the ten-minute-long 35 mm animation Quasi at the Quackadero, was released in 1975; in 2009, it was selected for the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Her career as a professional animator includes animation sequences for feature films, the most recent possibly being the opening credits to the highly atypical Gregg Araki movie, the stoner comedy Smiley Face (2007 / trailer). For awhile, from 1989-1999, she also did short animations for Sesame Street. Never the most productive of animators, she seems to have moved into the realm of inactivity — even her blog seldom gets an update.
Her short presented here, Face Like A Frog, is a perfect film for the season — as is pointed out on her own website, the 5-minute-long film is an "expressionist Halloween cartoon", though it plays as if it owes more to good drugs and Surrealism than Expressionism. Possibly originally made for MTV's sorely missed program Liquid Television, it is in part set to one of the early songs of The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, "Don't Go in the Basement". 
Face Like A Frog: a wild and fun ride and a perfect film for Halloween!

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