A-Bomb Blast Effects (film #281 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This is a silent fragment of a color military film of an early atom bomb test. Even without the soundtrack, it's pretty interesting, as it is filled with fascinating images and it gives a real feel of what such tests were like to the soldiers who had to endure them. Some arresting images include several signs promoting secrecy (such as “If You Wouldn't Tell Stalin, Don't Tell Anyone Else"––I want these for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices), GIs prematurely emerging from their foxholes only to be surprised by the bomb's aftershocks, comparison footage of war materials and dummy soldiers before and after the blast, and the final uninterrupted footage of the blast itself, which makes the camera shake and almost burns out the film with the intenisty of its light. Again, it's too bad the soundtrack is missing, but this is a great historical document anyway and it would make wonderful footage for documentary filmmakers.

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

Clutch Cargo: The Friendly Headhunters (film #34 on Chicago Television (Hollywood's Attic, 1996)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Animation was never more limited than this ultra-cheap kiddie cartoon. Yet it was also very surreal, as this series had a unique gimmick: character's mouths were animated by pasting on live action footage of the voice actor's mouths actually saying the lines. The effect is a lot weirder than this description can do justice to. That and the fact that the animation was only about a half a step away from still pictures made this cartoon real nightmare fodder––persons I've known who saw it as a kid never, ever forgot it. If you didn't see it as a kid, the Chicago Television tape gives you a chance to see it now. Happy nightmares!

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

In the Mountains of the Moon (film #3 on NASA DVD (Madacy Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: News]

This film documents the Apollo 15 lunar mission, in which the lunar module landed in a mountainous area of the moon and many important geological samples and data were gathered. Unfortunately, this is one of the duller missions to watch. Still, there are a number of interesting small moments, such as the astronauts bantering with Mission Control and each other, an astronaut putting the first interplanetary postmark on a letter, and the astronauts honoring those previous astronauts and cosmonauts who died during their missions by placing a plaque on the moon with their names, along with a small astronaut figure (I can't help but wonder how anthropologists thousands of years from now will interpret such a shrine).

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

Airport America (https://archive.org/details/AirportA1954#).

This 50s film tries to sell the idea that all small towns need airports. It predicts a future where darn near everybody in every town flies all over the place. Except in remote areas where there is little ground transportation, such as Alaska, it was not to be. But they sure tried hard to make it so in this film, which gives it some mild camp value, as well as some historical value. There are some mstable moments, too, such as the overly literal beginning, where the narrator importantly intones, “Cars. Buses. Churches," over a scene of cars, buses and churches; or the section on planes spraying insectisides all over the countryside, where the narrator says, “This has indirect effects on us all," which is true, but not in the way he thinks. And the soundtrack music is some of the most bombastic I've heard in awhile. It all adds up to a moderately entertaining film, not great but not bad either.

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

Aqua Frolics (film #388 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]

Both sea animals and humans frolic in the water in this lively newsreel featurette. Some of the more interesting segments include an underwater Thanksgiving dinner, madcap speedboat races, and a rather pathetic game of underwater basketball. Mildly entertaining, as these featurettes usually are.

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

The Atom Strikes (film #4 on Atomic Scare Films, Vol. 1 (Something Weird, 1996)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This is an official army film documenting the destruction of the two atomic bomb strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's very dry, in the style of the Combat Bulletins and Weekly Digests, but the subject matter is awe-inspiring. The destruction of property is on a scale never seen before or since (and let's hope it stays that way). No human injury footage is shown, but they do include an eyewitness account of the blast from a German Jesuit priest who was four miles away from ground zero. An important historical document.

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

All's Fair at the Fair (film #6 on Cartoon Crazys: Sci-Fi (WinStar Home Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Industrial]

A couple of local yokels go to the 1939 New York World's Fair and sample some modern technology. Mostly this consists of wildly creative coin-operated robot-driven devices. My favorite is the house-builder, which uses the principle of the cocktail shaker. The cartoon ends with the couple buying a unfold-it-yourself new car out of a vending machine––wouldn't that be great? This cartoon was made by Dave Fleischer and it has some of his trademark art deco styling found in the Superman cartoons.

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

Back of the Mike

The production of a live radio western is shown here, and we get to see how they do all the sound effects and stuff. We get to see such things as one guy doing both voices in a conversation, an adult do a very convincing impersonation of a child's voice, guys playing cowboys impersonating the sound of conversing while riding by playing "horsie" while reading their lines, and all the weird stuff used to make sound effects. It's all quite interesting, especially from a historical perspective.

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

Alcoholism (film #4 on Boozers & Losers, Vol. 1 (Something Weird, 2000)). [Category: Educational]

This film documents the case history of Ed, a gray-flannel-suited alcoholic who hits bottom after going on a bender and missing his son's birthday. He tries to make up for it by taking out his last 5-dollar bill and buying that catcher's mitt his son always wanted (though a few seconds ago he told us he was "flat broke") only to come home to an empty house and a "Dear Ed" letter. Fortunately, he goes into treatment, his shrink gets his wife and his boss involved, Ed stops drinking and goes to group therapy where he learns he is not alone in his problems, and everything ends up hunky dory. This probably represents the state of the art of alcoholism treatment in 1951, making it an interesting historical document. Not that it's not pretty campy as well. A segment with lots of skips in it caused my husband to quip "Oh, I've got it! He drinks to fill in the empty spaces between the missing frames!"

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

Arab Cortege, Geneva (film #21 on The Movies Begin, Volume One: The Great Train Robbery and Other Primary Works (Kino Video, 1994). Also, film #21 on The Art of Cinema Begins (Video Yesteryear, 1997)).

A bunch of Arabs parade past "Des Fees" office in Geneva. That's it really, but like a lot of these really early films, it does generate some interest for being a slice of life in the Gay 90s. An 1896 Lumiere film. The version on The Movies Begin has better film quality than the one on The Art of Cinema Begins.

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 ...