Classic Car Commercials (Moon River, 1993). [Category: Commercial]

21 car commercials from the 50's and 60's, featuring some of the most memorable cars of that era, including T-Birds, Volkswagen bugs, big ugly Buicks, and the Edsel! Car buffs should enjoy this. Non-car buffs will find it somewhat less interesting, though it does have its moments. Film quality varies somewhat, though it's mostly quite good.


  • "Gonna take me a press, gonna take me some steel, gonna take my two hands and BUILD an automobile!!!" It doesn't get any more bombastic than this Dodge commercial.
  • Turned off by bombast? Then maybe you'd like the cute little Renault Dauphine, a real 50's anomaly. Unfortunately, it would be ten more years until cute little cars would be cool, and by that time the Germans had gotten the jump on the French. Too bad––it had such a cute horn!
  • Conspiracy buffs take note! We all thought Pat Boone and Dinah Shore were so clean-cut, but they were subliminally poisoning our minds with images of big ugly 50's cars! The poor Dauphine didn't have a chance against televised mind control!
  • Fortunately, the control was broken by the Edsel. Even Bing Crosby couldn't force our minds to accept that this car was "beautiful" and "classic". "It acts the way it looks..." (This looks to be the inaugural Edsel commercial.)

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

Be Human (film #9 on Cartoon Scandals (Goodtimes, 1987)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

They had to include a Betty Boop cartoon on Cartoon Scandals––she's one of the most well-known cases of a cartoon being censored. Her skimpy clothing and sexual innuendo were considered scandalous during the 1930s, and after the Production Code went into effect, she was toned down considerably. Unfortunately, they picked one of the toned down cartoons. Still, it's not too bad a cartoon as it features Grampy, the king of cartoon gadgetry. Betty's mean farmer neighbor abuses his animals, refusing to stop even after she sings the title song endorsing kindness. So she calls up Grampy and he shows the jerk a thing or two. He hooks the farmer up to a whipping treadmill which powers all kinds of bizarre machines which benefit the animals. This would be a good one to show with Catching Trouble and the Creation excerpt.

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

More Dangerous Than Dynamite (film #4 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 4: Menace and Jeopardy CD-ROM (Voyager)). [Category: Public Service]

This 1930s safety film, sponsored by the California State Fire Marshall, focuses on an unsafe practice that is rare today, but common back in the 30s: home dry cleaning using gasoline or other flammable liquids. We see a young housewife get badly burned in an explosion that happened while she was cleaning clothes with gasoline. We're also shown all the safety features a licensed dry cleaner has installed to prevent fire. It's more than a little obvious that safety was not the complete reason behind this film. Although home dry cleaning is genuinely dangerous, the dry cleaning industry seems to have more than a few fingers in this pie. Watch for the poorly-animated flames in the scene where the housewife gets burned. This film has another great item for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices. Like Master Hands, it has its credits cast in bronze––there's even a "The End" plaque. But the plaque I really want is the one that identifies the business we see as a "Reputable Dry Cleaner".

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

Bloopermania (Goodtimes, 1987). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Truth to tell, most blooper reels are pretty dull. At first it's kind of fun to watch stars flub their lines and then curse, but it gets old fast. This tape is typical of the genre, but it does have some interesting moments. The highlight for me is an incredibly weird self-parody done by used car salesman extraordinaire Ralph Williams, the inspiration for the Firesign Theatre's Ralph Spoilsport. Other fun moments include a cow "ad-libbing" on the Red Skelton Show, Don Adams and Don Rickles repeatedly cracking each other up, and Ronald Reagan struggling with zippers (on a woman's dress and his own fly).

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

Angry Boy.

This is one of the best and most intelligent films about "children's problems" that I've seen. 10-year-old Tommy steals money out of his teacher's purse. The principal, rather than punishing him, believes he is psychologically troubled, so he encourages his mother to take him to a local child guidance clinic for psychotherapy. There he works with a compassionate psychotherapist, while his mother receives counseling from a social worker. It is revealed that Tommy's family is troubled––his mom is a control freak who orders her husband and son around, his dad is overworked and under the thumb of his mom, and if that wasn't bad enough, his maternal grandmother lives in the home and bosses his mom around and gives snide remarks to all (gee I wonder where Mom got her control freak tendencies?). Tommy is a quiet kid who internalizes everything, and he has built up a rage about his family situation that expresses itself in misbehavior at school. Fortunately, mom is highly motivated to improve things in the family, and between her therapeutic progress and Tommy's, things gradually get better. I particularly like the scenes of psychotherapy sessions between Tommy and his therapist. Although staged, they seem quite realistic, and you can understand why Tommy grows to like his therapist eventually. The family scenes also have an air of reality about them. Like Activity Group Therapy, this film gives us a glimpse of 50s mental health practices, though this is a lot easier to buy into than the other film.

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

The Apartment (film #3 in the Indie Section of Movieflix ( [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This is basically a flashy film version of the old "People Can Lick Too" urban legend, featuring an apartment that is way way too big to be a young woman's "first apartment in the big city" and a really stupid "gotcha" at the beginning featuring a mirror. If you're as familiar with urban legends as I am, you'll see the end of this one coming a mile away.

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

Challenger - Disaster and Investigation (film #5 on NASA DVD (Madacy Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: News]

This is the official NASA film that discloses the findings of its investigation of the causes of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. It begins with a sequence showing us the astronauts suiting up and entering the crew quarters of the shuttle just prior to launch. The narration is obviously the narration that took place at the time, telling us about the astronauts and their previous histories, career highlights, and personal qualitites. The mood is the typical elation of a space mission, and it's eerie to watch the happy crew members crawl into a round hatchway in which they would face death only minutes later. Then we see footage of the launch and explosion. The only soundtrack during this sequence is a single highly unemotional narrator, probably from Misson Control, describing the launch. The explosion happens suddenly, without warning, and is spectacular, yet the narrator seems not to notice at first––for a few seconds he continues to spout straightforward launch data. Then for several seconds after that, there is dead silence, as we watch the fireball turn into a huge cloud and pieces of debris begin to fall. Finally, the narrator admits that "obviously there has been a major malfunction"––this has to be the Official Understatement of the Century. The rest of the film decribes in very technical terms the analysis of the films of the explosion, the search and retrieval of portions of the shuttle, and the final judgement of what caused the accident (in case you haven't heard, it was faulty O-rings). This is not quite as interesting as the opening sequence, but it is still an important piece of history, as is the entire film. This film is worth the entire cost of the NASA DVD.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. 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 ...