Man of Action (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #886 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This animated film features an “average fellow” who meets the Devil (or his envoy, anyway), who has a plan to turn his nice neighborhood into a slum. The devilish character tells the homeowner all about the recent transformation of Paradise Gardens, a housing development that the homeowner’s grandfather used to live in, from a suburb to a slum, and how the homeowner’s neighborhood is right on schedule in his slum transformation book. The homeowner bucks the devil’s urban planner by stealing his book and going to the city council to try to get them to take steps to prevent the creation of further slums. Predictably, the council thinks the guy is a crackpot and throws him out, while the landlords buck for no change at all. However, when the homeowner uses the stolen book to accurately predict the fall of an old decrepit factory chimney, he gets public support, and the whole town ends up working together to drive the devil’s envoy out of town by fixing up their neighborhoods. This is a fun film to watch because the animation is well done, the visuals, especially of slums, are dark and striking, and the story is lively. It predictably oversimplifies the problems of urban renewal, but at least it emphasizes the importance of collective action being essential for any real change to happen, which is a change from many films of its period, which tend to blame individuals. The film has historical value in documenting the attitudes promoted by the early urban renewal movement. And, like I always say, you can’t go wrong with supernatural visitors.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

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