The Alphabet Conspiracy (Rhino, 1991). [Category: Educational]

This Bell Science film introduces the viewer to the science of linguistics, a topic not widely known to the general public, in the partly-animated, slightly silly, slightly trippy Bell Science way. Judy, a schoolgirl with too much English homework to do, falls asleep at her desk and dreams that Hans Conreid as the Mad Hatter tries to involve her in a conspiracy to destroy the alphabet. Before he can get too far, though, friendly old Dr. Frank Baxter, a.k.a. Bunson Honeyd...I mean Dr. Linguistics, comes along and takes Judy under his wing, telling her just about everything she needs to know about language and then some, with the help of animated segments and film clips. Much of the material is quite interesting and even the dry stuff is presented in an interesting way. Conreid is a lot of fun and I only wish his speech patterns had been analyzed by Dr. Linguistics. Like most Bell Science films, this is a lot of fun. As well as being incredibly populuxe and containing the benign presence of Dr. Frank, the film has incredibly huge, clunky-looking "state-of-the-art" computer technology and one of the most fake beatniks in film history (though he's overshadowed when Dr. Frank himself starts talking in beat lingo). The film is both campy and genuinely engaging, which is a great combination for film ephemera. Every educational collection needs at least a few Bell Science films.

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

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