Thursday, March 24, 2016

Twice Upon a Time

Tomorrow morning and afternoon, TCM is spending a lot of time with movies that combine animation with live action. Perhaps the most interesting is Twice Upon a Time, which comes on at 9:15 AM.

A little bit of background to help explain the plot. The earth that we know is referred to as Din, with people being the Rushers of Din because we're always in a hurry. But we're not the point of the plot. In fact, a lot of the Earth/Din scenes are reminiscent of La Jetée in that it's almost still imagery and not, technically, live action. But we're the battleground for what drives the plot. At night, we earthlings dream. We have pleasant dreams which are brought to us courtesy of the fine folks from Frivoli, while we also have nightmares supplied by Synonamess Botch, the leader of the Murkworks. Botch, the bad guy in the piece, wants to prevent humans from having pleasant dreams.

So far, Botch has been trying to capture the little creatures that literally bring the dreams from Frivoli, and also the man, Greensleeves, who sends those creatures out. But he's got a much more diabolical plan. There's apparently one clock, known as the Cosmic Clock, that has a mainspring. If Botch could get control of that mainspring, he could stop time, and thereby fill the humans' heads with nightmares in perpetuity!

Back to Frivoli, however. Mumford is a humanoid of the thoroughly incompetent sort. He and his companion, Ralph the all-purpose animal who can change shape, are toiling away in a less desirable part of Frivoli that's needed to make the place run. But their incompetent work eventually gets them out of Frivoli and into the Murkworks, which is where they meet Botch. Botch tells them that he needs the spring from the Cosmic Clock, but of course doesn't tell them why. They, idiots that they are, go get it. And then they have to get it back when they learn what Botch really plans to do with it. Along the way, they meet Greensleeves' niece, Flora Fauna, who helps them. She, in turn, is helped by Rod Rescueman, a would be superhero who seems as much interested in Flora as in doing superhero things.

That, more or less, is the gist of the movie. But in fact, Twice Upon a Time is the sort of movie that is difficult to explain in print and really needs to be watched to get; the visual presentation makes things much easier to follow. It's also quite a fun and intriguing movie. The characters are in many ways archetypes. Mumford and Ralph come from a long line of incompetent characters; Botch is your standard-issue cartoon villian (not that this is a bad thing). Rescueman is a parody of the superhero, while Flora Fauna is the damsel in distress. Having said all that, however, the movie isn't derivative at all; in fact it's highly inventive. There's one scene where Mumford and Ralph accidentally release a nightmare in a place where time is stopped that's particularly visually impressive.

Twice Upon a Time is different from anything I'd ever seen, and that, combined with the fact that it's actually quite a good movie, makes it well worth watching. The movie has also received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive collection.

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