A Bare Retreat (film #10 on Blood of Floor Sweepings (LSVideo)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This 16mm "art film" features two women stranded on a lonely highway who start following signs leading to a nudist colony. The signs direct you to take off your clothes. One women follows directions while the other holds back. Eventually, after the nude woman shows us lots of skin, they find a sign saying that the nudist colony is closed––d'oh!! Really, though, is the plot important in a movie like this? Cleverer than the final joke is the way the camera carefully avoids showing us the nude woman's crotch (though we get plenty of views of her breasts and backside).

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

The Meanest Man in the World (film #11 on TV Turkeys (Rhino, 1987)). [Category: Public Service]

Guilt is used to solicit donations to the United Fund, a precursor to the United Way. A man decides he just can't afford to contribute to the United Fund this year. He then abruptly falls asleep and has a nightmare in which he watches himself committing acts of cruelty such as kicking the crutches out from under a handicapped child, knocking away the glass of milk a little girl in a daycare center is drinking, cutting off the IV of a disaster victim, or hanging a sign on an orphanage that says, "From now on, all kids without parents must stiff for themselves. This place is closed!" (another item for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices). The message is, of course, that not contributing to the United Fund is just as cruel as the above acts. One of the most blatant guilt trips I've ever seen, which actually undercuts its effectiveness. I think the United Way agencies do great work and well deserve our contributions, but when I see something like this, it brings out the W. C. Fields in me (he once said, "When I think of all my money, I think of all the little orphans who could use some change, then, on the other hand, I say Fuck 'em!").

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

American Frontier.

This film documents the coming of oil drilling to North Dakota and it's effects on the people living there. Farmer Nils Halverson (Warning! This film is full of Norwegian Lutherans!) tells the story of petroleum representatives coming to his wheat farm and offering to buy the mineral rights of his land. The coming of oil is shown to bring hope to hard-bitten farmers like Nils, giving them a steadier, more dependable income to supplement what they make from farming. Of course, this film was sponsored by the Petroleum Institute, so you know this picture is skewed in the rosy direction. Still, there's something very real and touching about this film. It's made more in the style of the classic documentaries of the 30s than in the style of industrial films, thus its inclusion in this category. The people in the film, and their concerns, are very real and convincing. The film gives us a slice-of-life view of rural North Dakota in the 50s, which gives it historical value. All in all, it's not too bad a deal, though. It could be worse.

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

BBC Video World, Volume 1, Issue 20, December 1989 (BBC, 1989). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This tape was given to me as a cast-off, but apparently you can subscribe to this sampler of BBC programming. I consider this ephemera because of its "sampler" nature, especially since it contains excerpts from sporting events and episodes of serial programs. It's not really all that interesting now, but it will be in 10 or 20 years or so. Here's what it contains: the first episode of "You Rang, M'Lord?", a kind of sitcom version of "Upstairs, Downstairs" featuring some rather disturbing (but supposedly comic) scenes of sexual harassment; the last episode of "Around the World in 80 Days", a documentary in which Michael Palin retraces Phileas Phogg's journey, but not in a funny way, unfortunately, although we do get to see the U.S. through British eyes; an episode of "Blackadder Goes Forth", a mildly amusing sitcom in which Rowan Atkinson plays an incredibly sarcastic World War I army officer; a cutesie-pie cartoon called "Barney's Christmas Surprise", which fortunately does not feature the purple dinosaur, but unfortunately almost stoops to his level; and very polite excerpts from British showjumping and soccer coverage (why non-Brits would be interested in this is open to question). There's also a hostess who probably got an honorable mention in the Princess Di Lookalike Contest, and, since this is the Christmas issue, some scenes of London Christmas lights, which are very much like the scenes of Christmas lights your local newscast runs on Christmas Eve. I plan to let this sit on the shelf and gather dust until about 2030, when I'll have it dubbed onto HDTV video disc and find it as interesting as America Before TV, that great set of audiocassettes of a radio broadcast day from the 1930s.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ** (despite the presence of Michael Palin and the fact that two of the shows are supposed to be comedies). Weirdness: *** (but that's probably only because I'm American). Historical Interest: Now: *. In 2030: ****. Overall Rating: ** (but we'll see if that changes with time).

All in the Family: Sammy's Visit (track #5 on Stay Tuned: Television's Most Unforgettable Moments DVD (Garner Creative Concepts, 2002)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

The end of Sammy Davis, Jr.'s visit to the Bunker household is certainly an unforgettable moment. I won't give it away––it will probably make you laugh out loud if you haven't seen it before. Norman Lear and Sally Struthers provide some mildly interesting background to this clip. Again, the whole episode would have been better, but this moment does deserve some sort of enshrinement.

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

The Beatles: Celebration (LasarLight DVD, 1999). [Category: News]

Beatlemaniac Geoffrey Giuliano narrates this documentary portrait of the Fab Four, and very annoyingly, I might add. Though sincerely enthusiastic about his idols, Giuliano can't resist the temptation to be arty and pretentious in his comments. Still, he did gather some interesting obscure footage of the Beatles and that gives the film some value. Most of the footage is interviews of the individual band members both before and after the breakup. There's also tv news footage of such events as the Amsterdam bed-in and Lennon's murder. These clips make the DVD at least somewhat worthwhile. I just wish after awhile that Giuliano would shut up and let the footage speak for itself.

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

America Remembers (CNN DVD, 2002). [Category: News]

This DVD documents the 9/11 terrorist attacks in a complete and moving way. Included is CNN's first newsbreak about the attacks, video footage of the first plane hitting the Trade Center (somebody in the vicinity just happened to be shooting video and pointed the camera at the towers when the plane hit), the sickening live footage of the second plane hitting the Trade Center, and the almost unbelivable scenes of the towers collapsing. Also included are footage of CNN's coverage of the Pentagon strike, the crash in Pennsylvania, the rescue mission, the President's convuluted journey back to the White House, the evacuation of the Capitol, the heartbreaking search of the victims' families for their missing loved ones, the fruitless search for Osama Bin Laden, the fall of the Taliban and the anthrax scare. This is not easy stuff to watch, especially since the tragedy is recent enough to be a raw wound for most of us. Hardest to watch for me was footage of people jumping out of the towers (and the reaction to witnesses on the ground to this), the second plane ripping through the corner of the south tower, the towers collapsing, and the hordes of New Yorkers looking for lost family members. Some of the narration and editing are a bit sensational and flag-waving, but this is mostly in the less relevant side stuff––the images of the main tragedy speak for themselves. News footage of a major event like this is what defines the News category. The historical interest of this can only increase over time. Interestingly enough, the section on the anthrax scare contains a clip from an old army movie (looks 50s or 60s) about biological weapons. It's odd to see old "classic" ephemera superimposed on up-to-the-minute ephemera.

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

American Cities' Atomic Fallout Strategy (film #3 on Atomic Scare Films, Vol. 1 (Something Weird, 1996)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

If nuclear war comes, how will we protect ourselves from fallout spreading over the entire countryside, contaminating everything it comes in contact with? This film tries to answer that question. Mainly, it seems to involve ticking teletypes, big maps, and lots and lots of yellow radiation detectors with Civil Defense logos on them (I want one for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices). This film is pretty dry, but it does have quite a bit of historical value, as it documents in detail Civil Defense strategies on local, state, and national levels.

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

About Fallout (1963) (film #17 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This is the expanded version of the 1955 About Fallout, though to be honest, it looks like both films were made at about the same time. They contain identical scenes to each other and the clothing and hairstyles in both films are obviously from the early 60s. Anyway, this film contains more information than the previous version and it's a little bit less dry as well. It still paints an overly rosy view of a post-apocalyptic future, though. Yes, I know it was meant for those who live far away from any nuclear targets, but still it treats fallout as a completely isolated danger, ignoring the massive economic and social problems that are likely to ensue if all major cities get nuked. One eerie moment in the film is when the narrator talks about what we will need in a post-apocalyptic future, and we see a lone figure drive up on a motorcycle––that's just too remeniscent of Mad Max to go by without comment in my household! Overall, though, the film is still pretty dull.

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

Achievement USA (film #19 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

Woohoo!! General Motors just made its 50 MILLIONTH CAR!! I mean, isn't that EXCITING??? GM sure thinks so. It makes a golden Chevrolet, trucks in a lot of bigwigs on a golden train for a really big shew, and hosts a parade for the citizens of Flint, Michigan, and everybody else as well, since they made a film of it. The speech by the old corporate guy is boring, but the parade is loads of fun, featuring tacky floats by the dozens, some hideously-mutated human sparkplugs, and a brief sighting of the thoroughly evil Sludgy (Bucky Beaver Warning!!). My husband asked, "I wonder how the Trojan company celebrated their 50 millionth condom?", but that is a thoroughly tasteless comment, and the reader can be assured that I would never stoop to the likes of that in my reviews.

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

Ali Baba (film #20 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 1 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Hollywood]

In which Willie Whopper and his dad defeat the Forty Thieves of Ali Baba. This one isn't nearly weird enough, though it does contain what must have been the precursor to the "one-little-two-little-three-little-Indians" gag.

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 ...