Amateur Skating Champs (film #1147 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: News]

Roller skating champs, that is. This brief newsreel clip shows the highlights of a roller skating contest, complete with beauty queen, child star, and romantic couples on wheels. Gives a brief glimpse of the roller skating craze of the 50s.

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

All Together (film #12 on The Educational Archives, Volume Four: On the Job DVD (Fantoma, 2002)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Soul bruthah Lou Rawls narrates this early 70s naval recruitment film, so you know it's cool. Targeted at young black men and women, Rawls makes the Navy sound like free education, a good-paying job with perks aplenty and equal treatment with whites (women are promised equal pay and treatment with men), world travel to beaches full of babes and hunks, and civilian employers lining up to hire you when you're discharged. Not mentioned is the Navy's not-too-distant history of assigning African-Americans to the kitchen, or the three-letter word beginning with "w". I guess those topics aren't cool enough. The afro hairstyles in this film are a sight to behold, and you feel sorry for what the Navy is bound to do with them.

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

Adventure in Home Decor (film #2 on Lifestyles USA, Vol. 2 (Something Weird, 2000)). [Category: Industrial]

A cheery 50s housewife has an acid trip (you can tell by the colored lights) and ends up in Formicaland, where a grey-suited "interior decorator" encourages her to cover all of her home's interior surfaces in laminated plastic. This film is incredibly campy. Highlights include the bathrooms, all of which are missing the bathroom's most important accessory, an unbelievable "futuristic" bathroom done in red and white stripes (I want one in my house, except I want a toilet in mine), the opening bit where we see the housewife trying on a series of ugly hats, and the children's room, where the kids are allowed to draw on the walls, since they're made of Formica. I don't think it's possible to be more 50s, more populuxe, or more campy than this film.

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

About Fallout (1955) (film #16 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

The effects of nuclear fallout and how you can protect yourself from it are explained in a rather dry fashion. This was made when they still thought a nuclear war was survivable, despite the scary map with red streaks that eventually fill the whole continent. A mildly fun segment features a housewife washing and preparing food in a fallout shelter. Where she manages to find fresh tomatoes during a nuclear holocaust is not explained. The rest of the film is pretty dull.

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

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (film #23 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 1 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Hollywood]

Uh, I think they took a few liberties with the traditional story here. I began to think that just about the time the Sultan accidentally swallows Aladdin's lamp and you get to see an x-ray view of it in his stomach. And what's the deal with the plumber guy who looks like Barney Google, and what's that bizarre contraption he's wielding a blowtorch on?

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

Act Your Age (film #20 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

High school student Jim gets frustrated doing a math problem and expresses his feelings by carving his initials into his desk. The teacher sends him to the principal's office and the principal, after confiscating Jim's prized mechanical pencil, starts spouting off about teens in general and their "infantile reactions" to things. After even the school janitor complains about teens "acting like babies," Jim decides to take action on the problem by making a "How Old Am I?" chart and having his parents and friends rate him on his maturity in various areas. This earns his pencil back and totally solves the problem of immature behavior at his school. This is probably the quintessential Coronet film. It epitomizes Coronet's tendency to reduce complex psychological problems into simple, easy-to-follow rules that would make everything just ducky if kids would just follow them to the letter. Jim's solution to the complex problem of immature and out-of-proportion emotional reactions is so simplistic it's laughable, yet the film is so earnest and innocent, you almost get convinced, until you return to the real world anyway. Particularly innocent is the principal's final question in the film: "Wouldn't you like to rate yourself on a chart like this?" What answer do you think most teens would give?

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

According to Plan: The Story of Modern Sidewalls for the Homes of America (film #18 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This 50s film tells prospective homeowners how happy they will be if they put asbestos cement siding on their homes. It tells you way more than you want to know about this fairly dull building material. Mildly campy moments include the opening scene featuring a 50s couple putting together a model home in an oh-so-happy way, and the colors available, which are as follows: moss green (i.e. grey), brown, grey, and ivory (i.e. brown). There are lots of scenes of 50s suburbia when it was still new, including scenes of Levittown being built, which gives the film some historical interest. But just how interesting can you make shingles anyway? This film desperately needs a supernatural visitor or two to liven things up.

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

Airy Fairy Lillian Tries on Her New Corsets (film #35 on The Movies Begin, Volume One: The Great Train Robbery and Other Primary Works (Kino Video, 1994). Also, film #35 on The Art of Cinema Begins (Video Yesteryear, 1997)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Airy Fairy Lillian must weigh at least 300 airy fairy pounds. "Stupid ol' corset!" she probably yells as she flings the garment to the floor after a failed attempt to get into it. She must call upon her male corset attendant to help her out. I assume all of this must have been big yux to turn-of-the-century audiences. The really scary part, though, is Lillian's airy fairy see-through skirt. This one gets 5 extra points for having one of the best titles of all these early films. A 1905 Biograph Mutoscope film. The version on The Movies Begin is in much better shape than the one on The Art of Cinema Begins.

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

Breakfast Pals (film #8 on Ephemeral Films CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #143 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Commercial]

Did you know that Snap, Crackle and Pop used to have adversaries named Soggy, Mushy and Toughy? They battle to the death in this short 1930s cartoon advertising Kellogg's Rice Krispies. It's interesting how much the Snap, Crackle and Pop characters have evolved visually since the 30s––they look all alike but their hats here.

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 ...