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Showing posts from January 12, 2003
The Aleutians––Isles of Enchantment (Oh Brother!) (film #24 on The Complete Uncensored Private SNAFU DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]. The stark privations of the Aleutian Islands (you know, those little islands off the coast of Alaska) are poked fun at in this cartoon, which has a "magazine" format similar to The Weakly Reporter. Private SNAFU spends all his time changing his clothes every few seconds to adapt to changing weather conditions. But that's nothing that we haven't had to put up with in Nebraska. This, the last of the SNAFUs, which was never released, is unfortunately pretty ordinary. It does have some historical interest, though, in the sense that the gags were probably a lot funnier to the GIs they were intended for, who had to put up with conditions only slightly less outrageous than those portrayed in the cartoon.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
How to Download Films from the Prelinger Archive on a Mac and Save Them on VCDs

This is my quirky method for downloading and making VCDs of Prelinger Archive films. It addresses the annoying problem Mac users have with losing the soundtrack of a movie when you import it to DV Stream. I offer it for educational purposes. It might not work for you, but it may give you some helpful bits and pieces of information that will help you to come up with your own method. This method requires that you have QuickTime Pro (download it from Apple's website), UltraRecorder (shareware), iMovie, a digital camcorder that is Firewire compatible, and a VCD recorder.

Silent Movies Less Than 10 Minutes Long

Download the movie and save it in QuickTime as a "self-contained file."
In QuickTime Pro, export the movie to DV Stream.
Import the movie into iMovie. Drag and drop the resulting clip into the movie timeline.
Hook up your camcorder with the Firewire cable and export the movie to the camcorder…
About Bananas (film #14 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial] This 1920s silent film about how great bananas are already has a lot of the standard conventions of industrial films. The first part of it shows in detail how bananas are grown and harvested in various Caribbean countries. Then it switches into housewife mode, as it tries to convince us how nutritious and delicious bananas are. It even features animated sprites to represent the various vitamins and minerals in bananas. The "mineral" sprites are grossly obese––I'd like to see them get away with those today. Not bad for a silent film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
The Air Race (track #15 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 1 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Hollywood] In which Our Hero, Willie Whopper, tells us how he won the Big Air Race against the Big Villain, despite flying a pedal plane with a motor taken from an old lawnmower. Like most of the cartoons in this series, this has some great weird moments, such as a locomotive plane, a percolator plane, Willie Whopper's plane crashing into a live-action smokestack, and his plane going through an awning on a fireworks stand, changing the legend from "FIREWORKS" to "IWERKS." And you haven't lived until you've seen St. Peter give somebody the finger (OK, it's not exactly the finger, but it sure looks like it). Lots of fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
The ABC of Sex Ed for Trainables (film #12 on The Educational Archive, Volume One: Sex and Drugs DVD (Fantoma 2001)). [Category: Educational] This 70s film would have been impossible only a few years earlier. It's about the touchy subject of sex education for mentally retarded adolescents (called "trainables" throughout the film). It starts with a really creepy scene of a sexual predator luring a mentally retarded girl into his car. The rest of the film isn't quite that bad, but it will make you squirm at several points. Memorable scenes include a training session for special-ed teachers in which they are asked to list all the slang terms they can think of for "penis" and then say them out loud, over and over; a menstruating teacher showing a retarded girl one of her own soiled sanitary napkins and saying very stiltedly "This is what happens to me. It's normal. It's part of being a woman," (this scene is repeated three times in order to st…
An Arcadian Elopement (film #8 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume 2: Films of American Mutoscope and Biograph (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). [Category: Early Film & TV] A couple elopes and dashes off on a rather silly honeymoon. The husband has a real talent for getting into brawls and several scenes attempt to mine the comic possiblities of this character flaw. The film really takes off, though, when a title card reads "In Lover's Lane, Frightened at a Maniac". The maniac provides the public service of starting the inevitable chase scene. The film ends with a really lame pun that only a retarded farmer could enjoy. On second thought, honey, let's not elope. It is a silly thing to do. A 1907 American Mutoscope/Biograph film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Ads & Clips (extra on Drive-In Discs, Vol. 1 (Elite Entertainment, 2000)). [Category: Commercial] This is the first collection of drive-in snack bar promos on DVD I've seen. Since it's an extra, it's not a very big collection, but they do choose some classics, such as Let's Go Out to the Lobby and the Chilly Dilly ad. And all the promos are letterboxed, menu-driven, and have stunning film quality. Let's hope more snack bar promos end up on DVD in the future.
Highlights:
The counter they include is easily my favorite. It features an endless array
of dancing snacks, with a thoroughly evil scene of a hot dog bun making
the hot dog do tricks. No commentary is necessary on that one.
The National Anthem includes captions so we can all sing along!

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Introduction: Why Film Ephemera?

O.K., this is going to be short, because I'm a film ephemera buff and you probably are too or you wouldn't be reading this. And if you're a buff, you don't need to ask why. Despite that, though, there are some real reasons why stuff like old tv commercials, eductional and industrial films, wartime propaganda, and the ever-popular drive-in snack bar promos are interesting, listed below:

1.They're campy. At least as campy as any of the famous feature-length Bad Films we've heard so much about, if not more. Actually, very often more, since ephemera makers didn't have to make any concessions to "Hollywood"-style movie-making, or even conventional concepts of "entertainment". I have more to say about in the section "A Few Words About the Appreciation of Badfilm" below.

2. They're weird. Most are at least a little bit weird, some are really weird, and a few open up new frontiers in weirdness. And …