Aluminum on the March (film #325 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This lush 50s film, sponsored by Reynolds Aluminum, may be the quintessential industrial film. It tells us everything we'd ever and never want to know about aluminum, its production, and its uses. Aluminum bars, ingots, and products of various types march in stop-motion animation at various points in the film, led by a little Reynolds Aluminum guy made from aluminum bars. Lots of very well-shot scenes of aluminum production and manufacturing are shown, which should satisfy factory-tour fans. And the scenes of all the different types of aluminum products are a 50s populuxe-lover's dream, with 50s cars, appliances, household products, an extended scene of a 50s housewife in a bright red dress and a chiffon apron in a 50s kitchen using aluminum foil in many different ways, and another long scene of a whole bunch of 50s brand-name grocery products that used foil in their packaging. This is all shot in glaring 50s color and with a bombastic, triumphant soundtrack. I especially love the stop-motion animation, the Reynolds Aluminum guy, and all the 50s grocery products. This is an essential film for industrial film collectors.

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

Glen or Glenda? (acquired through trading) [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This exploitation "documentary" about transvestitism, made by the legendary Edward D. Wood, Jr., is one of the weirdest films ever. Producer George Weiss was just trying to cash in on the Christine Jorgensen brouhaha, but Wood, being a transvestite himself, made an impassioned plea for understanding, marred or enhanced, depending upon your point of view, by Wood's trademark loony dialogue. And in this case, the dialogue is only the beginning of the strangeness. There's Bela Lugosi as a bizarre "puppetmaster" character ("Pull the strings!" he shouts). There's Wood himself playing the title character in and out of drag. There's the bizarre use of stock footage (in this movie, "buffalo shot" means a herd of stampeding buffalo). There's Delores Fuller's Great Moment in Bad Acting as she passionately emotes after her fiancee Glen tells her about his little hobby. And all of that is topped by an absolutely incredible dream sequence––again, experimental filmmakers can only aspire to make something this weird. It all adds up to one heckuva movie. And despite all the laughs, you gotta admire Wood for the guts it took him to make such a personal film with such a nonconformist message, and during the 50s, no less. Highly recommended.

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

A Date with Your Family Outtakes (reference item on A Date with Your Family, film #4 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 3: The Behavior Offensive CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #603 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Silent outtakes from that classic of suburban horror, A Date with Your Family. Watch how hard those actors had to practice in order to follow the "few simple rules" of harmonious family dining. Watch how hard it was for the actress who played "sister" to keep from cracking up.

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

AMC Jeep Commercial (film #340 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Commercial]

White water rafting! Hot air balloons! Cowboys! This is actually the opening credits for a 70s tv show called "The American Adventure," sponsored by Jeep. At least there's a little Jeep footage at the end.

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

Beware (film #1 in the Black Culture section of Movieflix ( [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This 40s all-black cast film starring Louis Jordan is really just a Louis Jordan delivery system. Jordan gets waylaid at his old alma mater, Ware College, where he foils a plot by evil Benjamin Ware III to bilk the college out of its endowment and trick a pretty former classmate of Jordan's into marrying him. Jordan does all of this in about 5 minutes, because the rest of the 55-minute film is music. Literally. Fortunately, Jordan can really swing, so the songs are great fun, especially "Beware, Brother, Beware!", which is one of my favorites. A thoroughly charming bit of swingin' fun.

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

Always on Call (film #327 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

A policeman visits a sick old lady and tries to get her to accept help from the Community Chest. This gives him a chance to give a spiel that's really designed to get all the audience members to give to the Community Chest. Still, this is a charming film with a message that's not too heavy-handed, focusing on all the good the charity does. This was filmed in St. Louis and it gives you a nice historical snapshot of that city's social services during the 40s.

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

Audio Test #4 (film #7 in the Indie section of Movieflix ( [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

A guy who makes videos tries to seduce a woman by asking her to do an audio check with him. He is unsuccessful until he makes the claim that fat women are better lovers. There's some talent evident here but it probably won't come into fruition until the guy's hormone levels go down.

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

Black Power: The Protest at the 1968 Mexico City Games (track #28 on Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgettable Moments DVD (Garner Creative Concepts, 2002)). [Category: News]

This "unforgettable moment" of athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos giving the Black Power salute when receiving their medals at the 1968 Olympic games has been greatly enhanced by interview footage from Smith, who tells us why he did what he did, the fallout of it, and what he thinks about it now. All I can say is that Smith is one courageous person. One of the best tracks on the Stay Tuned DVD.

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

The Arm Behind the Army (film #392 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

The "arm behind the army" is Industry! Working to make the world safe for democracy! This is the quintessential WWII industrial incentive film. Stirring narration and rousing music tell the story of how workers in Allied nations are playing a vital role in winning the war, which will free the enslaved workers of Axis nations. The pro-worker line is a tad bit hypocritical when you consider how "pro-worker" American business was before the war. Still, even that was a lot better than the way the Axis was treating its workers, which was little better than, and sometimes not better than slave labor. An interesting bit of probably effective wartime propaganda.

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

All in One (film #317 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This Jam Handy production for Chevrolet has one of the flimsier premises. It starts out as a salute to dogs and how they serve human beings in various ways. Then it segues to a story about a kid with a dog cart and how he and his buddies adapt the cart for better speed and performance––the finished cart looks incredibly silly. All this is supposed to have something to do with how great Chevrolets are but the connection is really stretching it. It must have been a slow idea day at Jam Handy when they came up with this one.

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

Mt. Rushmore Newsreel (extra on Mt. Rushmore-Crazy Horse & the Black Hills DVD (Holiday, 2001)). [Category: News]

This is actually not a single newsreel, but a collection of newsreel clips documenting the carving of Mt. Rushmore, starting in the 20s and ending in the 50s. The clips are unedited, except for the addition of a dorky MOR soundtrack to the silent clips. The clips form an interesting document of newsreel coverage of the monument's creation. But what happened to the soundtrack of the 50s clip of President Eisenhower dedicating the memorial? Film quality is not too good, but still watchable. Despite its flaws, I think this was worth including on the Mt. Rushmore-Crazy Horse DVD.

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

The Atomic Cafe (The Archives Project, 1982). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This classic montage of Cold War ephemera was one of the first things to whet my interest in the subject. There's no narration here––just clips from Cold War ephemera from the late 40s and early 50s strung together to create a fascinating portrait of the era. As far as I know, there are only two other films that are similar montages: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (about the Depression) and Swastika (about Nazi Germany) (though if anybody knows of any others, be sure to let me know!). The soundtrack contains lots of popular songs with Cold War and atomic themes, such as "Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb" or "Atomic Cocktail". There's tons of jaw-dropping moments here, such as the residents of St. George, Utah, who were accidentally hit with radioactive winds after a bomb test, being told to close their windows for an hour; the assertion that the native residents of Bikini Atoll welcomed having their island destroyed by an a-bomb test because it provided them with a break in their dull, drab routine; or the assertion that Japan may have to be hit with 4 or 5 atomic bombs before they will believe that the U.S. has such a weapon. There's so much stupidity here (we're told that the "simple" Bikini natives "know as little about the atom bomb as we do") that I'm amazed we didn't blow up the world back then. A must.

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

American Look.

This lavish, Technicolor, widescreen film, sponsored by General Motors, purports to be a salute to "stylists" (read industrial and graphic designers), but it actually had an ulterior motive––to justify GM's annual model changes. It doesn't get any more "modern" than this––using the word to mean both design influenced by Modernism in art and what was the "latest thing" in the 1950s. Images of one brightly colored, modernistic gadget or home furnishing after another are shown, while the narrator tells us how modern Americans (meaning attractive, upper middle class white Americans) are concerned more than ever before with the look of things. The people, though, definitely take a back seat to the "stuff" in this film. And all the stuff is shown as existing primarily for looks––even the items with practical functions are not shown being actually used. A few items are demonstrated, but only like they would be in a store, i.e. an electric mixer is shown spinning in an empty glass bowl. The film concludes with a "behind the scenes look at the design process", as we see designers working on the 1959 Chevrolet behind locked doors. We get to see that it was essentially designed by a committee and that the "best elements" from every designer's work were combined to make a composite that was supposed to be greater than the sum of its parts. This car was the one with the back end that was one big set of tailfins––it's hard to believe now that this was considered "great design" in its time, though it was (at least in this film). The incredible populuxe attitude that infuses this film, and all the examples of modern design, make this a real 1950s time capsule.

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

Beginning Responsibility: Taking Care of Things

Beginning Responsibility: Taking Care of Things . Grade-schooler Andy is a slacker in the taking-care-of-things department, so he suffers t...