Bethune, Donald Brittain, provided by the National Film Board of CanadaBethune. This film tells the story of Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who managed to beat the tuberculosis he came down with as a medical student, and go on to invent many new surgical tools and techniques. He had a passion for bringing medicine to where it was most needed, and that led him to go to Spain and create field hospitals for the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. There he created the first mobile blood bank. Eventually he grew disillusioned with the progress of the war, so he moved on to China, where he aided partisan forces led by Mao Zedong, who were then fighting the Japanese imperialist forces. He single-handedly created field hospitals out of the caves where the wounded were left to die. No matter how bad things got, he still operated on and treated the wounded with whatever was available. He eventually died of blood poisoning after cutting himself during a surgery that he had to do w…

Airborne Magnetometer

Airborne Magnetometer. Turns out the bird really is the word. The “bird” refers to an airborne magnetometer, so nicknamed by the U.S. Geological Survey, which made this 1952 film. This device is towed by a plane and measures magnetic anomalies in the earth’s surface, which may indicate mineral deposits. And we all know what mineral deposits mean, don’t we? Mining of all kinds of valuable minerals, that’s what. The film is rather dry, since narration is the only thing on the soundtrack, but it does have lots of great visuals of various forms of clunky 50s technology, which I happen to be fond of. And it also lends itself well to msting, especially when you consider that one of the assigned crew is known as “The Observer”. This would also be a good film to mine for a video project.Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.

Assignment - Shoot the Moon

Assignment: Shoot the Moon. What if you had to take a close-up picture of a caramel apple being held by a woman on a spinning carnival ride, while you were moving around on another ride? This is the metaphor shown in this 1967 NASA film for photographing the moon close-up, in order to plan for a landing site for a manned mission. This is less bombastic than most other NASA films, and it’s chock-full of information about the unmanned lunar probes that were sent before Apollo 11 to photograph the moon. It’s mostly pretty straightforward, with some interesting imagery, and lots of historical interest, as it was made just before Apollo 11, so you get an idea of what scientists were thinking on the eve of that historic mission.Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.

Anatomy of a Triumph

Anatomy of a Triumph. It’s MAN again, discovering flight and conquering the skies! Will he never stop in his quest for manliness? This early 70s government film starts off bombastically, then settles down to document the history of flight from Kitty Hawk to Apollo 11. We get to see the usual wacky early films of failed attempts at flight at the beginning, which I always find amusing. Then it’s on to working airplanes, Lindbergh, World Wars I and II, and the first rockets, which were invented by Nazis. But who cares about that? This is about MAN’s conquest of space, by golly! The Russians have launched Sputnik, so now the race is on! We get to see more embarrassing footage of the U.S.’s first failed attempts at space flight, and then the final success of the Apollo II mission. Richard Nixon ends the film with congratulatory messages, the film being blissfully ignorant of his embarrassments to come.Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating…

Agriculture in Virginia

Agriculture in Virginia. Rural teenager Bud Wilson (Why does that name sound familiar to me? This name must have appeared in other educational films.) is planning on following in his farmer father’s footsteps, so he takes Ag 101 class in high school, but that’s not enough for his father, who has the county extension agent take him all over the state and explain how the state government supports agriculture in great detail. This is a pretty dry film, but there are some fun images of 50s farm products, as well as some coverage of home economics, complete with attractively-dressed 50s farm wives and colorful 50s grocery products. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Accident Prevention Through Equipment Guarding

Accident Prevention Through Equipment Guarding. Guards, in this case, are not human, but refer to guard rails and metal cages used to prevent machines from killing or maiming their operators. This 1982 industrial safety film for miners teaches us the importance of guards and generally how to keep yourself safe around machines that could easily remover a finger or a limb or two if operated carelessly. It's mostly pretty dry, but it’s punctuated by staged accidents that are announced by dramatic music on the soundtrack. Oh no! There goes another one! Fortunately, the blood is kept to a minimum.Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
The Benefactor. This 1917 film may be one of the first biopics ever. The life of Thomas Edison is told in a lively and fun fashion for a 1917 silent film. We find out that he was an incredible prankster, extremely creative, and very hard-working. It all comes off like Edison sitting down with us and telling us stories of his youth, with the expected embellishments. General Electric added an ending where we see the real Edison accepting a Congressional Medal of Honor. Also of interest are scenes of 1917 cities being lit up by electric lights, which have an erie art deco feel to them, even though they predate art deco by some time. Lots of historical interest here.Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.