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THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN
Blu-ray / DVD. Eureka.

The Adventures of Mark TwainWill Vinton is probably best known for his California Raisins animations, but this charming, if slight film shows he was capable of more interesting projects too. A feature length claymation movie based around the stories of Mark Twain, it’s a film that seems oddly out of time (it was made in 1986 but has no sense of 1980s cynicism or Speilbergian crass commercialism about it) and while it’s hard to see this playing in cinemas, it has a sweetness that makes it well worth while.

The film sees Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher stow away on Twain’s impressively steampunk airship, as he sets off on a trip to meet Halley’s Comet – and his destiny. Along the way, they are told – or discover – various of Twain’s stories – The Diary of Adam and Eve, The Famous Jumping Frog of Caliverous Country, Captain Sormfield’s Visit to Heaven and others. Animated with humour and as much irreverence as the original stories, this are entertaining little tales, small in scale but with a definite charm. A section based on The Mysterious Stranger takes the film into a darker place, with ‘Satan’ creating and destroying life at a whim, complete with creepy visuals that might well freak out most susceptible nippers.

The film admirably avoids sentiment until the end, and even then keeps it in check, as Twain arrives at the Comet – which had last visted Earth the year he was born, and now returns the year he died – and meets his fate.

The claymation animation here is less slick than the likes of Wallace and Gromit, and everything here is clay – the characters, the sets and the special effects. The result is a quaint little universe that seems almost as out of time as the characters themselves. This film must have seemed an oddity in the 1980s; today, it’s inconceivable that it could be made. And that’s a pity.

This new release comes complete with commentary tracks an interviews, a documentary on claymation that is a bit too much of a Vinton puff-piece, behind the scenes footage and more. A nice package for a nice film.

DAVID FLINT

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BUY IT NOW (USA)

 

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