So, yeah, this is appalling.

Howard S. Moss only made five films, per the IMDb, from 1916 to 1930, but that can’t be right. He must have done more, or else had some other way of making a living… maybe he did commercials? Can you imagine these foul, racist homunculi compelling you to buy washing powder? I bet they could be very persuasive, crawling under your sheets at night to whisper jingles in your ear as you slept.

The animation here strikes me as OK, the character design grotesque, apart from the poor (and nameless) black kid who keeps getting mown down by jalopies — he actually has some appeal, though there’s racism in his design as well as his role in the story. This is the work of a man who hates kids on some deep, sub-basement level. Probably animation wasn’t the best career choice, Howard.

The scenery’s good. The warped buildings, funhouse mirrorworld architecture, connect by occult means to the Fleischer Bros cheese dreams of the same era, and the whole thing does feel authentically NOCTURNAL.

It doesn’t make sense to me at all as a music video for “Hearts and Flowers” though I guess Warner Brothers, in their usual synergetic way, were hoping to sell sheet music off it. It also doesn’t make narrative sense to me. It’s just a bunch of stuff, ending with some thinning puppet destroying the moon with a shotgun. Why? Is there some suggestion that the moon fiddled with his underage daughter? That doesn’t seem appropriate to this genre, whatever it’s supposed to be. Still, given all that’s preceded it, I was surprised he didn’t just up and shoot the black kid.

9 Responses to “Moonshot”

  1. Grant Skene Says:

    A quintessentially American tail. Utter disregard for decaying infrastructure (bridges, automobile industry). Black lives don’t matter. Misogyny galore. But everything can be solved by a gun.

  2. Grant Skene Says:

    I guess that should be “tale” not “tail” but I was still creeped out by that mole creature that came from the depths of the post hole.

  3. The mole creature’s horrible, yes, and it’s not even clear what it’s meant to represent except more racism (it seems like some kind of Mandarin stereotype).

  4. Grant Skene Says:

    Ah! So the hole went all the way to China. Racist but logical, and cliché.

  5. Deep post hole = a hole that goes all the way to China = Mandarin stereotype. So, yeah. And a LONG way to go for a joke, if it can be called a joke. But YIKES! So very unpleasant, in so many particulars. Thanks for posting this, only because I was unfamiliar with any of the culprits involved (and I know a bit about stop-motion). Not sure how much blame ‘animator’ Charles Bennes deserves, but I will ask around. Auteur Moss’ name is attached to THIS item as well, wherein stuffed toys (dolls and a rabbit and some dwarves) lurch about charmlessly for what looks like a long long time. Not recommended.

  6. My impression was that “Hearts and Flowers” was already a joke in silent days, a music cue for melodrama parodies. Suspect Warner bought the silent cartoon and tacked on an existing recording. The harmonica player being mocked by a sax player was clearly meant to be a musical gag, and the bird in the clock tower required a sound effect at least.

    As for the parting shot, the girl produces a hunk of cheese — a piece of the moon — and her father finds a beer bottle that evidently came down with her. Yes, he has reason to assume fiddling. We clearly saw the moon only pawed her as she passed, but I chalk that up to careless story work. The rivals for her attention are forgotten well before the end, and what about the girl’s mother, last scene unconscious or dead in the window?

  7. Yeah, the deep post hole was very strange in the first place…

    The music overlay does blur everything so I confess several of the details passed me by completely. Looking again, the beer bottle seems to be already on the ground beside pops before the girl descends to join him, so I’m not sure why he waves it at her. Maybe to demonstrate his lack of interest in cheese? If it were a jug of moonshine that might “work” better.

  8. I loved this! I hated it! More! Too much!

  9. Some of the soundtrack is missing. Pity, as I’m sure it would have explained everything:

    Rotoscoping made creepy:

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