The Sunday Intertitle: Velvet

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Not quite an intertitle, arguably, more of a super. But a striking one, as it occurs forty minutes into SEQUOIA, an unusual 1934 MGM super-production which until this point hasn’t required any text on-screen, apart from the standard credit sequence at the start.

In SEQUOIA, perky Jean Parker adopts a lost deer calf and an orphaned puma cub on the same day, busy little abductress that she is. She then attempts to raise them as friends, proving her fathers’ crackpot theories that the whole animal kingdom would be chums were it not for the necessity of eating one another. Upon attaining menacehood, the two animals (especially the puma) arereleased back into the wild, but their friendship continues.

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This is all an excuse for some wonderful kitsch nature photography, slathered in soft-focus and Mendelssohn. Unusually, the animal stuff takes up most of the film, sidelining Parker and her C-list romantic interest. This exposes the film to the weakness of all those INCREDIBLE JOURNEY type things — we like looking at animals doing cute things, and we like dramatic stories, but faking up a dramatic story with trained animals makes us worry about the wellbeing of the furry actors and somehow loses the fascination of a good nature documentary without acquiring the excitement of a proper drama. It seems to disprove Hitchcock’s idea that pure montage is enough. We will watch animals, their actions cleverly staged and edited so they seem to act, but we’re not involved. If you animate the animals, even partially, so that they ACTUALLY act, you have BABE, or better, BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, and we can really get into it.

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Still, SEQUOIA looks sensational.

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