Activity Group Therapy (film #21 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

This film, made for mental health professionals in the 40s, provides a fascinating glimpse into the child psychotherapy practices of the time. A group of psychologically-troubled grade-school age boys is treated with "activity group therapy," which mainly involves letting them loose in a playroom and allowing them to do whatever they want. The film was made with hidden cameras, so what we are seeing are real therapy sessions, not reenactments. The therapist intervenes as little as possible, even when the boys commit such acts as swinging saws at each other, breaking into and ransacking cupboards containing materials for other groups, and starting a fire on a hot plate, and the narrator keeps reiterating that this is how he is supposed to be handling these situations. These scenes make you wonder about the judgement, if not the sanity, of the treatment team. Still, by the end of the film, the group has settled down and you do begin to notice significant improvement in the behavior of individual boys, especially the ones that were initially withdrawn and anxious. Of course, the narrator tells us that the group is carefully "balanced" in terms of individual personalities, and that the therapist keeps a watchful eye on things and is prepared to intervene if things get seriously dangerous. And it's obvious that these boys, though psychologically troubled, are not seriously violent delinquents. Still, it is doubtful that such a permissive form of therapy would fly in today's mental health system. And though I can see and acknowledge its effectiveness in this case, I still am not totally convinced that it's a good idea. Another interesting and dated aspect of the film is the repeated concerns that some boys are "effeminate." Effeminancy seems to be defined in this film as being quiet, bookish, and concerned with personal appearance. I will acknowledge that this free-for-all form of therapy seems to be effective in diminishing those qualities in the boys. Overall, this film is a fascinating document of one aspect of mental health treatment in the 1940s. It's films like this that epitomize the concept of "historical interest"––where else but ephemera can you observe such unusual glimpses of the past as this?

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

All Monsters Attack! (All Day Entertainment DVD, 2002). [Category: Commercial]

If you like monsters, then this is your DVD. It's an excellent 2-hour compillation of monster movie trailers, most from the 50s and 60s. Most of the trailers are in excellent condition, and you can either watch 'em all at once, or pick and choose using a menu. The DVD also contains several Hollywood shorts (reviewed elsewhere) as extras. The DVD format is great for this kind of collection––I hope we see more of these in the future.


Highlights:


  • Some favorite ad lines: "Look at these scenes––RIGHT OUT of the picture!", "Stop All Traffic! Clear All Roads! Sound All Alarms!", "A Mere Girl Commands a Hideous Monster!", "Your Mind Won't Believe What Your Eyes Tell You!", "It's Alive! It's Loose!", "Dynamic Violence! Savage Action!","This Could Be Your Terror!", "Deity or Devil?", "So Gigantic in Scope It Dwarfs Every Marvel the Screen Has Shown Before!", "Massive Armies vs. Mad Monsters!", "Voodoo Witchcraft Mated to Atomic Energy!", "Fear Will Pierce Your Flesh!", "Shattering Action! Monstrous Thrills!"
  • Gimmick Alert! Godzilla vs. the Thing is in Eye-Jolting Color and Terrorscope! The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock is in Wonderama and Matterscope! The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad is in Dynamation in one trailer and Dynarama in another! The Three Worlds of Gulliver is in Super Dynamation!
  • Ignatz and Rumsford Alert! Look for our reptillian friends in the trailers for Robot Monster and The Cyclops.
  • Msties, take note! Contains the trailers for Konga, Robot Monster, It Conquered the World, Attack of the Giant Leeches, The Giant Gila Monster, The Killer Shrews, Beginning of the End, Earth vs. the Spider, The Amazing Colossal Man, War of the Colossal Beast, and Village of the Giants.

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

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (film #2 on Alice in Wonderland/Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp DVD-R (Grapevine Video)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

The familiar tale is told with children in all the major parts. It's silent and competently done, so it's not nearly as creepy as The Buckskin Kid, and thus not nearly as interesting. Still, it is a little bit weird. A 1917 Fox film.

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

Cartoons Celing Commercials, Vol. 1 (Ed Finn, 1991). [Category: Commercial]

This collection features commercials using animation, particularly commercials which have well-known cartoon characters as pitchmen. Most are from the 50's and 60's, with a few from the early 70's. This collection should bring back lots of Saturday morning memories, as there are lots of kid-oriented commercials. Generally, the commercials which have their own original characters are more interesting than the ones featuring cartoon stars––for some reason, pitching tends to bring out the blandness in established characters (especially true of the Warner Bros. characters). Still, collectors of Disney and Warner Bros. stuff will probably want this series. Gets 10 extra points for including a complete, descriptive list of the commercials on the package, including characters, years, and lengths. Gets another 10 extra points for including a bunch of weird, miscellaneous stuff at the end of the tape. Gets another 5 extra points for having the feel of a tape put together by some guy who loves cartoons and commercials, rather than some big, profit-making company.


Highlights:


  • The Flintstones pitching Winston cigarettes––this is not the "funniest commercial ever made", like the tape asserts, but it's still fairly jaw-dropping.
  • Superman, Tennessee Tuxedo, and a naked kid in a flying bathtub sing the Soaky Bubble Bath jingle. No comment.
  • The C7 Bears and a couple of fairly obnoxious kids try to sell us C7 Lettuce. This is obviously targeted at kids, but is that really the right market segment for lettuce?
  • "Hold it, ma'am!! It tastes better with Fritos! Get Fritos!" Get a fly swatter!
  • Bill Baird's singing rabbits are so ugly they're cute. I want one.
  • Woody Woodpecker demonstrates proper supermarket behavior to children.
  • Do you remember Wallace the Waffle Whiffer, the repetitive thief of Professor Goody's Aunt Jemima Waffles? I bet not. But once you hear his annoying "Waffle, Waffle, Waffle", it will all come rushing back to you.
  • BUCKY BEAVER WARNING!! (See The Best of Classic Commercials for info on Bucky Beaver.) This tape has 3-count 'em-3 Bucky Beavers: Bucky Beaver: White Knight, Bucky Beaver: Engineer, and Bucky Beaver: Circus Star, making it an essential addition to our household. "Brush-a, brush-a, brush-a..."
  • Kool-Aid-a-Go-Go! Just what do Bugs Bunny, Kool-Aid, little kids, and go- go dancing have in common? Ah, the sixties...

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

Atomic Blonde in Action (extra on Atomic War Bride/This Is Not a Test DVD (Something Weird, 2002). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

Portays how the combination of nuclear radiation and platinum blond hair causes clothing to be removed. OK, I admit it looks more like she takes off her own clothes. But I can't just say this is a stripper film––that wouldn't be very "atomic," would it? At least I didn't make any lame-ass comparisons between her breasts and nuclear warheads.

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

Gang Boy (film #5 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 5: Teenage Transgression CD-ROM (Voyager)). [Category: Public Service]

This 50s film is surprisingly sympathetic in its portrayal of a Chicano gang leader and the events leading up to the formation of the gang. The gang leader, Danny, narrates his story of him and his friends growing up in poverty and neglect, gradually turning into a gang in order to strike back at a harsh world. They have constant run-ins with a white gang and eventually things threaten to erupt in a major gang war. Police and social workers try to organize a truce, and Danny, after much soul-searching, agrees to go along, hoping to ultimately make things better for the younger children in the neighborhood. The film ends happily, with both sides agreeing to a truce, and ultimately forming clubs which do community service work. Like Age 13, you don't totally buy this film's happy ending, but it's not quite as pat as the other film's. The film is also an interesting historical record of west-coast 50s gang life.

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

The Adventures of Junior Raindrop (film #28 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This animated Forest Service film blows the lid off of the problem of juvenile delinquency among raindrops. Junior Raindrop forms a raindrop gang that wreaks havoc on the landscape, and all because of improper watershed management. This film's metaphor is so ridiculous and its animation so childlishly primitive that it's a real hoot to watch and very mstable. Wait'll you see Junior wearing a gangster's outfit and wielding a blackjack––you'll never look at rain the same again.

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

Alice Underground (film #3 in the Film Festival section of Movieflix (www.movieflix.com)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

The story of Alice in Wonderland is updated and given a Manhattan setting. Alice is a beautiful young woman from a wealthy family who's had a very sheltered upbringing. One night she goes out to party in Manhattan, drinks a "funny" drink, and runs into a bunch of bizarre characters out of Lewis Carroll. Frankly, you don't need to drink any funny drinks to run into such characters in Manhattan. This is an interesting concept, but the filmmakers are trying so hard to be clever and obscure that it comes off as rather boring in exectution. Give me the original Alice any day.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ** (Note to filmmakers: See The Buckskin Kid to find out what real weirdness is.) Historical Interest: ** (should increase with time). Overall Rating: $$.

BBC Film Night (extra on Monty Python and the Holy Grail DVD (Columbia Tri-Star, 2001)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This is a location report made for BBC television during the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As you would expect, the Pythons are not serious for one minute and the interviewers really get into the spirit of things. How much you learn about the process of making Holy Grail is questionable, but there are laughs aplenty, especially when Terry Gilliam giggles like a schoolboy over his inexperience as a director, then turns around and says "Ingmar Bergman will be jealous." A fun bit of history from the vaults of Python.

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

Argentina

Argentina. Standard geography film about the South American country of Argentina. There’s some historical interest here as you get to see ...