Two from Tintin

Tin Tin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece (1961) - 7/10

Director: Jean-Jacque Vierne
Year: 1961
Rating: 7.0
Country: France

This 1961 Tintin film from France was apparently the first version of Tintin in the movies. There was another one made in 1964 with the same actor playing Tintin called "Tintin and the Blue Oranges" that I would love to see as this one was quite charming and enjoyable. The two films were interestingly original screenplays and were not based on any of the Tintin books - but after the films were released they were made into books but not by Herge. In this one besides Tintin some of his other familiar friends appear - Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus and Thomson and Thompson. The film is quite well done with all the actors doing a solid job of imitating the much beloved characters. It also takes the viewer on some great sightseeing of Istanbul and Greece. Tintin has long been one of my fonder childhood memories.

Back when I was about 13 years old, Zufir the Pakistani kid who lived behind us in Ankara, Turkey introduced me into the world of Tintin. He had earlier tried introducing me into the world of cricket but that didn’t go so well as I stubbornly insisted on using a baseball bat. American pride I guess. But I took to Tintin immediately and over the next few months I borrowed all of his Tintin comic books or comic albums as they are often referred to and read them all to great delight. Each one is an adventure in which the intrepid almost boy reporter Tintin gets involved in an exploit in various parts of the world fighting crime, foul shenanigans or fascists. In these adventures Tintin is always accompanied by his faithful dog Snowy and usually his boisterous foul mouthed alcoholic older friend Captain Haddock (beginning with the ninth book The Crab with the Golden Claws). Along the way, we occasionally run into some recurring characters such as the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson (based on the author’s father and his twin brother), the absentminded Professor Calculus, the breaking glass opera singer Bianca Castafiore and the villain Rastapopoulos. The author of these books was the Belgian Georges Remi but better known by his pen name Herge.

There are 24 Tintin books of which the first was written in the late 1920’s and the last one in the mid-70’s. The books were a world-wide phenomenon translated into loads of languages, made into a few films, stamps made of, serious books written that psychoanalyzed the character of Tintin and his relationship with Captain Haddock (whether they were gay is often a subject of study), an animated TV series, dissertations handed in on aspects of Tintin, fictional novels written in which Tintin loses his seeming virginity and various comic books created that set Tintin in places that Herge never got to (and sexual situations as well).

Tintin was never quite as popular in the states as he was in Europe – perhaps he felt too foreign to parents or we just prefer our comics to be about super heroes. Of course comparing them to the monthly comic books of our youth does not feel correct because these are complete adventures (though they were at times serialized as comic strips in a newspaper) in a book and the drawing and framing of Herge is truly that of an artist. His boxes are filled with wonderful detail and color and culture. He was from what I have read way ahead of his time as an animator with his clean lines and coloring (beginning with The Shooting Star in 1942). Herge also spent large amounts of time researching the plots and the cultures that Tintin went to in his adventures.

So for a child who loved Superman and Spiderman, these were a step up to something much more mature and into a real and yet foreign world. I think many of us hold on to one thing from our childhood and drag it reluctantly into our adult lives and for me that has been Tintin. I will still pick up one of the books from time to time to admire the drawing and to meet up again with what as a child were in some way old friends. But like so many things that were created long ago there is a dark side to Tintin that has largely been whitewashed over. In these politically correct times in which we no longer can admire Woodrow Wilson or Thomas Jefferson and in reality pretty much anyone who lived pre-1950 or any film made pre-any time, Tintin has come in for some deserved criticism as well. I suppose it is up to the reader or film watcher to determine how much to allow political correctness to determine what you read or watch. But people are products of their environment and era and Herge was certainly a product of his.

Herge initially wrote his strip for a staunch Catholic right wing newspaper that verged on fascism and endorsed colonialism and they directed him in his first two books – Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo. In the first Herge was told to show the Soviet Union in a very bad light which he does and in the second Herge paints a patronizing image of the natives that shows how beneficial colonialism is. Seeing Tintin carried by a group of locals all looking like Sambo is pretty awful. Later he very much apologized for this and the book that you would get now has been re-done to take some of that out. Herge would not allow the Soviet book to be republished until the 1970’s and it was never colorized or re-done and its lack of artistry is very evident as Herge grew as an artist constantly. After this Herge took more control of his material but they are often still filled with stereotypes of that period. But the main charge against Herge is that when the Nazi’s occupied Belgium he just went along with it and continued to work on Tintin at a newspaper that was clearly collaborating with the Nazis (many reporters left). In two previous books – The Blue Lotus and King Ottokar’s Sceptre – Herge had very much come out against the Japanese occupation of China and in Ottokar the fascist like dictator is clearly based on Mussolini and Hitler - so it was clear where his politics lay. This is all controversial – but not everyone was a freedom fighter and he still had to eat but it stuck with him after the war.

But putting all this aside, the Tintin series are wonderful often amusing adventures that should be introduced to all children all over the world. My top three recommendations would be The Blue Lotus, The Shooting Star and Tintin in Tibet – far flung adventures that are about friendship and loyalty above all else.

Tin Tin and the Blue Oranges 

Director: Philippe Condroyer
Year: 1964
Rating: 5.0
Country: France

Not as good as the 1961 Tintin and the Golden Fleece but for Tintin fans still fairly enjoyable. Slower paced, less interesting scenically (most of it takes place in Spain) and with too much slapstick this film bogs down and gets too plain goofy at times. But we still have Tintin, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, Thomson and Thompson and in this one the addition of Senora Castafiore to annoy Haddock. The two actors who play Thomson and Thompson are in particularly good in their synchronized slapstick. The Belgian actor who plays Tintin also portrayed him in the first film and shows in both films some truly gymnastic talent. After this film, he retired and became a teacher.