Reviews of film ephemera, including such things as educational films, industrial films, military and propaganda films, tv commercials, movie trailers, shorts, experimental films, and movies made for non-mainstream audiences.
A 50s housewife solves all problems with Saran Wrap plastic film. Of course, all her problems are the kinds we all want to have, such as freezer burn, last-minute party favors, and an unexpected trip to visit her sister, who has just given birth. I have a special affection for 50s home economics films like these––they inhabit an unreal, spotless world where all problems are quickly and easily solved by using the correct products. My favorite moment in this one is when the friendly neighbor lady solves the party favor problem by showing the little girl how to make "flowers" from hard candies wrapped in Saran Wrap––when the husband asks if he can help, she sends him into the kitchen to boil water, as if a home birth were imminent. Lots of fun and quite mstable.
College student John Smith holes up in the library while a riot is going on, armed with a baseball bat. While there, he encounters the ghost of an ancestor of his who was killed in the Revolutionary War. They are soon joined by one of the history professors, and the three of them "discuss" the recent student protests. Both the professor and the ghost are dead set against the students, equating any sort of dissent with the worst kind of violence and looting. The student responds by occasionally giving extremely lame justifications for the students' behaviors, justifications that totally play into the hands of the professor and the ghost. In the end, though, the student turns out to be one of "them"––i.e. the hippies––and is just about ready to turn the professor over to his cronies, when the ghost knocks him out with the stock of his rifle. However, this only will only delay the ultimate confrontation, as the rioters are already chopping through the locked door with axes. It ends with the lurid title “Will you let this be...THE END??" This strident right-wing film tries to address student violence using a Sid Davis approach, which ends up being laughably unsuccessful. The filmmakers show absolutely no understanding of the students point of view. Indeed, the students are portrayed as Bad Guys whose only point is wanton, pointless destruction, which misses the point that students were also supposed to be the films' audience––when was the last time you were swayed by an argument that portrays you as evil? Student dissent is equated with "filth," i.e. "dirty" books and movies, sexual promiscuity, illegal drug use, and communism, which therefore makes it Evil in the eyes of the filmmakers, leading innevitably to wanton violence and destruction. This black-and-white thinking is laughably simplistic and ignorant of the real factors playing into the violence on college campuses at the time. The film, if it had any impact on its intended audience other than laughter, probably just made it more angry and rebellious. After the professor's self-righteous harrangue, the students in the audience were probably rooting for the rioters by the end of the film.
Believe It or Not (recoreded off of Turner Classic Movies). [Category: Hollywood]
This filmed version of the Ripley's comic strip plays a lot like the strip itself. Ripley himself narrates and shows us a number of unusual things, some of rather dubious authenticity (like the two 121-year-old Missourians––ages are notoriously hard to verify), some that seem more like jokes than serious oddities (the $25-a-month apartment on Wall Street), and some that are obviously real and quite interesting (the giant steaming teapot sign in Boston, the tightrope-walking dog). The beginning is rather upsetting as Ripley makes light of 8-year-old girls in other cultures who become mothers, and the audience titters along. Yeah, buddy, you try being enslaved in a harem and giving birth with a child's body, and you'll find out just how funny it is.
This film is a midcentury portrait of Belo Horizonte, Brazil's "planned city with a plan" (wonder if there's any planning involved?). It's not so much about the planning of the city as it is a promotional travelogue about how great the city is, with a heavy focus on the minerals produced in the area. Of course, all of the great things about the city are supposed to be a result of its planning, which controls everything, right down to the schools, churches, recreational facilities, social service agencies, and prisons. By the time they get to the prisons, the "planning" starts to seem a little Orwellian, especially as they end the film with the citizens marching in precise military order, while the narrator rhapsodizes about a "well-ordered Brazil". Fortunately, you just know it's not so neat and tidy in real life.
Bank Robbery (film #11 in the Indie section of Movieflix (www. movieflix.com)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]
A bank robber, running from the police, deposits his money bag in the hands of a random passerby. The passerby turns out to be a sci-fi geek and you can guess what he does with the money. This one at least made me smile a little bit.
This is up-to-the-minute BBC footage of September 11, starting with footage of the burning north tower after the first plane hit it. While the newscasters are struggling to find something to say (since they still knew very little about the cause of it), we clearly see the second plane smash into the south tower, causing a spectacular explosion. As usual with this sort of thing, it takes a few minutes for the newscasters to realize what has happened. "Obviously, there's chaos there now," one of them says in a dry, clipped British accent. Afterwards, they are able to interview by telephone several eyewitnesses to the second crash. This is gripping and essential footage of the drama of 9/11 unfolding before our eyes.
Eddie is upset because he wasn't elected treasurer of his hobby club––instead he was put on the clean-up committee. His kindly dad helps him to see that he needs to work on being more trustworthy. This is a typically earnest and innocent Coronet film. It's not all that campy per se, but it could be good fodder for msting. Eddie is somewhat less polished than the typical Coronet child actor and his club is one of those generic young peoples' clubs that exists only in films like this. Other than that, it's pretty ordinary Coronet fare.
Another lush Jam Handy "American" film sponsored by Chevrolet, this one singing the praises of engineers and their work. Lots of scenes of buildings, constructions, highways, factories, and miscellaneous products of science and technology are shown while the narrator gives a never-ending stream of bombastic praise for technological progress and how wonderful it all is. No downside to this progress is even hinted at for a second, not even for such things as nuclear submarines, bulldozers plowing up the landscape, or endless freeways. As usual for the "American" films, the visuals are striking and lush, the color is eye-popping, the future portrayed is a rosy World of Tommorow (complete with picturephones), and it's strongly hinted that automaking is a vital part of it all. This is more focused on industrial and architectural wonders than on consumer products, like the other "American" films, making it slightly less campy. Still, like all the films in this series, it gives a wonderful view of 50s populuxe idealism at its most bombastic. The Prelinger Archive is to be commended on both the beautiful film quality of the print they have (it looks like it was made yesterday) and the high-quality digitizing of the MPEG-2 that I downloaded and put onto VCD––it's almost entirely free of pixelization.
A fat, bizarrely-dressed muse springs out of an artist's grandfather clock and proceeds to mess with his model and his mind. Woah! Gotta go easy on those hallucinogenic drugs before painting, fella. A 1901 Edison film.
Bring 'Em Back Nude (extra on The Beast That Killed Women/The Monster of Camp Sunshine DVD (Something Weird, 2001)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]
A woman gets to borrow her sister's apartment while the sister and her husband are away on a jungle expedition. So, naturally, the woman immediately strips in front of the handy camera left running in the living room. Then she puts on a sheer robe and stretches out on the floor and reads her sister's diary, which tells the story of the sister's jungle expedition. Said expedition involves an African guide who inexplicably dresses like the New Year's Baby; a mysterious tribe led by two "white goddesses" who are actually naked white women; a gorilla who kidnaps the sister, takes her to the "goddesses" and strips her naked; the kidnapping of the goddesses, plus several naked native women for good measure, by the sister's husband; and lots of confusing and surreal stock footage of African natives. It all ends with the original woman being interrupted in her reading by the leering husband of her sister. This was originally a peep show––you can tell by the fact that every few minutes you see a title card demanding that you fork over another dime to see more. Even taking that into account, there's something charmingly wacky about this cheapo film, making it more watchable than these sorts of things usually are.
This film documents the 1961 polio vaccine campaign in Columbus, Georgia. It's pretty dry and dull for the most part, going into a great deal of detail about such things as the preliminary surveys and the plans for where the mobile units would be set up. It does have historical value, though, for that very detail. One memorable scene shows Bozo the Clown getting vaccintaed on his tv show, which I like to see because it's a rare glimpse into local television, a fascinating subject that has been very poorly documented for the most part.
Yet more trailers from science fiction movies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Most of the camp value on this tape comes from silly scenes from the movies themselves, rather than anything special about the trailers. Still pretty fun.
Like science fiction westerns? This tape has trailers from two of 'em: Teenage Monster and The Valley of Gwangi.
In the trailer for Teenagers from Outer Space, they couldn't even afford to show any clips from the movie! It uses stills only! This is the first time I've ever seen such a thing.
When I was a kid, I had the privilege to see the trailer for the movie Bug! in theaters. It was one of the most memorable trailers I ever saw––it just goes on and on, practically giving away the plot of the whole movie. Thanks, Sinister Cinema, for letting me relive a moment of my youth.
Msties, take note: contains the trailers for Radar Men from the Moon, The Amazing Colossal Man, and Teenagers from Outer Space.
Sinister Cinema must record over old tapes sometimes. My copy of this tape has the ending of an incredibly lame, cheap, creaky 1940s Buster Keaton rocket-to-the-moon comedy on the end of it.
The Bachelorette Party (film #8 in the Indie Section of Movieflix (www.movieflix.com)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]
OK, call me dense, but I don't get this one. It has something to do with a vomiting bride at her bachelorette party, a bitchy friend trying to get revenge on her for marrying her ex-fiance, and a Spanish cleaning woman. The story is told in bits and pieces, but they don't quite fit together coherently, at least not for me. And there's too much footage of vomiting.
Newsreel story documenting a big air race from Oakland, California to Hawaii in 1927. This was in the early days of flight and a poignant note is added when the title cards tell us that a number of the competitors they show us didn't make it back alive. That, and the fact that one of the planes doesn't even make it off the ground, emphasizes how much of an adventure flying still was at that time. A historically interesting document from the early days of aviation.
The classic fairytale is used as a flimsy excuse for leering at a blonde in a bikini frolicking about a swimming pool. The narrator sounds like a retiree from the Dead End Kids. Very similar to Beachcombing Belle. About the only thing interesting about these grindhouse shorts is their cheapness and how tame they seem today.
This is Encyclopedia Brittanica Films' answer to Duck and Cover. As you would expect, its somewhat more staid than the other film, but it has its moments. The opening graphic is quite cool and disturbing, with an atomic symbol superimposed on the iris of a human eye. The rest of the film, though, is a lot more prosaic, though it does have an incredibly sarcastic-sounding little sister character, and a scene where a boy doesn't know where to go when the siren goes off, and rather than go to one of his friend's houses as he is encouraged to do, he takes refuge in the home of a total stranger (with the blessing of the narrator––this just begs to be msted). As usual, the atomic threat is laughably minimized.
This short, lightweight featurette skims over the story of the development of the automobile in America. Lots of antique car footage is shown, and we get to see lots of mildly amusing moments of early 20th-century folk struggling with the problems of early cars, but almost no historical information is given––the makes and models of the cars shown are not even mentioned! Strictly for lightweights.
This documentary history of dinosaurs in the movies is quite fun, with a number of things to interest ephemera collectors. Not only are there lots of scenes from feature-length dinosaur movies, but there's also lots of trailers, clips from shorts (especially early silents), and outtakes and clips from movies that were never completed (such as Willis O'Brien's Creation). You can tell that the hosts, Donald F. Glut and Christy Block, are real dinosaur buffs. There's also interviews with luminaries such as Forrest J. Ackerman and Ray Harryhausen. If you love dinosaurs, you'll love this tape, and even if you're not particularly a dinosaur fan, you'll find enough miscellaneous obscurities here to hold your interest. Simitar added three extra early dinosaur shorts to the end of the tape: Gertie the Dinosaur, The Dinosaur and the Missing Link (see reviews of both of these posted seperately), and clips from Creation, an unfinished dinosaur feature that Willis O'Brien worked on (also see review posted seperately).
NASA, the 25th Year (film #6 on NASA DVD (Madacy Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: News]
This 1983 film documents the history of NASA up to that point. Although the narration and soundtrack is only average, visually the film is a treasure trove for ephemera fans, containing interesting clips-aplenty from NASA's vaults. Highlights include brief clips of the first satellite tv broadcasts; tons of footage of bizarre astronaut training manuevers and experiments; lots of space footage from the most well-known of NASA's missions; a large assortment of space photographs, including those of the outer planets of our solar system taken by the Pioneer and Voyager space probes; and footage of lots and lots of odd-looking experimental aircraft. Historically fascinating and fun to watch as well.