About Faces (film #15 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This film, made by the Public Heath Service, laments the sad state of the nation's teeth and exhorts all audience members to see their dentists immediately. It was made on the eve of World War II, probably as a response to the large amounts of 4-Fs that were being given due to bad teeth. It's in the Public Service, rather than the Military and Propaganda category, because it was made before Pearl Harbor and it's geared to the general public. This film is a lot of fun and very mstable. Priceless moments include the narrator ordering everybody in the audience to run his or her tongue over his or her teeth (and we get to see a movie audience actually doing this), and a poor toothless sap getting spurned by a pretty woman ("He doesn't even make it to first base," laments the narrator). Lots more fun than going to the dentist.

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

Aladdin and the Magic Lamp (film #7 on George Pal Puppetoons (Loonic Video)). [Category: Hollywood]

The Aladdin story is told quite tersely in this short cartoon. Wooden puppets give it a bizarre, thrift-store-like quality.

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

The ABCs of Babysitting (film #5 on Campy Classroom Classics, Vol. 2 (Something Weird, 2000)). [Category: Educational]

Sid Davis sternly gives out a long list of safety rules for babysitters. This isn't as lurid as the usual Sid Davis film, but the rules are so long and detailed that a subtle element of fear and danger is injected underneath everything. You get the feeling that Davis actually disapproves of babysitting, but is afraid to say so outright, so instead he makes so many rules that he hopes kids will be discouraged from it and decide to pick some other way to make money, like, say drug dealing or corn detassling.

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

Ali Lights the Centennial Torch (track #35 on Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgettable Moments DVD (Garner Creative Concepts, 2002)). [Category: News]

This clip of a shaking, Parkinsonian Muhammad Ali lighting the torch for the 1996 Olympic Games, though short, is actually quite touching. Interview footage with the tv producer responsible for the suprise event sets up the clip well. This is truly a television "moment" which needs little comment, making it one of the better tracks on the Stay Tuned DVD.

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

Aeroplane Flight and Wreck (film #33 on The Movies Begin, Volume One: The Great Train Robbery and Other Primary Works (Kino Video, 1994). Also, film #33 on The Art of Cinema Begins (Video Yesteryear, 1997) (titled "Airplane Flight and Wreck")). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Can you guess the plot of this one? Hint: This inventor is not one of the Wright Brothers. The airplane is a huge complicated contraption that doesn't even seem to be balanced on the ground. It gets about three inches off the ground before the title wreck happens on the far right of the screen, almost off of it. There's a surprising amount of damage to the plane considering the very short distance it fell. Ah, the folly of man! When will he ever learn that if God had meant us to fly, he would have given us wings? A 1910 Biograph Mutoscope film. The version on The Movies Begin has better film quality and a better soundtrack than on The Art of Cinema Begins.

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

A Is for Atom (film #13 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This one should have been called Our Friend, the Atom. Think of a movie with that title and you'll come pretty close to this 50s animated film about atomic energy. It does a pretty good job of explaining the basics of nuclear physics (or an oversimplification of the basics), but its visual metaphors are simultaneously bizarre and very representative of 50s culture. Example: Stable elements live respectable lives in 50s houses, while radioactive elements spend all night partying, hopping from bar to bar, until their energy burns out and they become one of the stable masses. Atomic energy is always presented with gee-whiz awe, as the latest scientific marvel of the 20th century, and even though atomic weapons and atomic explosions are portrayed, it's not even hinted at for a moment that there could possibly be any downside to this wonderful discovery ("miraculous" is a word that is used frequently). The visuals tell the story, however. Atomic Energy as a construct is portrayed as a ghostlike giant man who looks sort of like a robot version of Mr. Clean, only huge. And there's lots of them, looming over factories, farms, hospitals, power plants, and other places atomic energy is used. The cumulative effect is that of an atomic Big Brother watching over us all. This is a powerful metaphor for the frightening presence of nuclear weapons and their mass destructive power, but it's completely unconsious, which makes it far more disturbing to my mind. This makes the film a classic of the atomic scare film genre.

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

The Best of Classic Commercials (Moon River, 1993). [Category: Commercial]

This is one of my favorite collections of TV commercials. There's 31 commercials here, most from the 50's, a few from the 60's, all in glorious black-and-white. Almost all of them are fun to watch, and there's a few that are really great. The film and video quality is quite good.


  • Mike Wallace pitches Fluffo Shortening and interviews the Indiana State Baking Champion. You keep expecting him to uncover Bake-Offgate. He hasn't yet, but I'll keep you posted on this.
  • "I want my Maypo!"
  • BUCKY BEAVER WARNING!! My husband thinks Bucky Beaver is the Antichrist. You be the judge after viewing "Bucky Beaver: Space Guard".
  • A very white ad for Vel Dish Soap. Ever wonder what brought about the second wave of feminism? "Does that mean I never have to help with the dishes?" Dream on, buddy.
  • The last commercial on this tape features a very white newlywed couple. See how long it takes you to guess what the product is.

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

All This and Rabbit Stew (film #6 on Cartoon Scandals (Goodtimes, 1987)). [Category: Sleaze and Outsider]

Bugs is chased by a black version of Elmer Fudd, with a lot of the same gags. You can see why they don't show this one on tv––the hunter is a fat-lipped Steppin Fetchit clone. Bugs finally defeats him by getting him into a dice game and winning his gun and all his clothes off of him. Pretty appalling, but also pretty funny, as most Bugs chase toons are. Watch for the "racy" ending––Bugs pulls off the hunter's fig leaf at the blackout!

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

Better Reading

Better Reading . Teenager Harold Wilson has a problem—he can’t read for (expletive deleted). So he has to spend all his free time studying ...