Doctor Who: Shada (Fox Video, 1992). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

"Shada" is the Great Lost "Dr. Who" Episode––due to a strike at the BBC, it was never finished. This was a shame, because it supposedly had an excellent script by Douglas Adams. This tape rectifies that situation. "Shada" has been reconstructed here, using the footage that was shot, and filling in the holes with narration. And the narration is done by none other than Tom Baker himself. Baker, although noticeably older than in his "Dr. Who" days, does an excellent job with the narration––it really looks like he's having fun. And the episode is no disappointment. An evil alien named Skagra gets ahold of an ancient Timelord book which was in the possession of Cambridge Professor Chronotis, who is really a very old Timelord himself. Skagra has the ability to steal peoples' minds through the use of a robotic sphere, and he wants to use the book to gain access to Shada, the Timelords' prison planet. There he plans to hook up with the infamous Timelord criminal Salievin, who has the power to invade peoples' minds, and use their combined technology to steal all minds in the universe and combine them into one infinite, all-powerful Universal Mind. Professor Chronotis is a wonderful absentminded professor character, and the story has lots of great twists and turns and surprises. Baker's narration is strong enough that the episode doesn't suffer from having missing segments. "Dr. Who" fans won't want to miss this. One of the best examples I've seen of piecing together a "lost episode" of a tv series.

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

Admiral Dewey Leading Land Parade (film #3 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This film documents a military parade led by Admiral Dewey. The uniforms are amazing. An 1899 Edison film.

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

NASA, Volume Two Film Reel (extra on NASA DVD (Madacy Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: News]

This is a clip of President John Kennedy giving his "we choose to go to the moon" speech, interspersed visually with clips from the 60s space missions. It's not exactly a "film reel" but it is a mildly interesting bit of news footage.

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

Betty Crocker (film #3 in the Commercials section of Movieflix (www.movieflix.com)). [Category: Commercial]

Betty Crocker offers a money-back gurantee on her cake mixes and gives us several serving tips for honey spice cake. A mildly fun bit of housewifey ephemera from the 50s.

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

The Bronze Buckaroo (film #5 in the Black Culture section of Movieflix (www.movieflix.com)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This all-black cast western from the 30s is incredibly cheaply made. It has a standard western plot involving Cowboy Bob saving his old pal Joe Jackson from a gang of outlaws who are trying to steal his land, and a comic-relief subplot involving ventriloquism and a "talking" mule. The comic relief characters are a bit hard to watch, as they are as stereotyped as black comic relief characters in other movies of the time. Still, at least in this one the hero and the heroine get to be black, too (though their the lightest-skinned of the bunch).

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

Better Housing News Flashes (film #208 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

A couple of short, government-sponsored newsreel clips showing how the New Deal is creating more housing and more jobs in building new houses. Construction workers are put back to work building new houses as part of a government-sponsored program, and a middle-class couple inspects a model home, now made affordable by National Housing Administration mortgages. The first scene is pretty standard, and the second is mildly cute. A fun little piece of 30s history.

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

Barbie's Audition (film #5 in the Film and Video Section of Illegal Art). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

In this highly disturbing film, a young woman's movie audition turns to casting couch turns to rape, the young woman being played by a Barbie doll and the rapist being played by a full-grown man. The guy holds the Barbie doll very close to the camera throughout the film, which reduces her dollishness somewhat and he makes her respond to what is happening by moving her in various gestures. The effect is real enough to be highly disturbing, and this says something about violence against women, the way such violence is glorified on film, and how the cultural standards of beauty that are idealized in the Barbie doll make women more vulnerable. The film treads a fine line between social commentary and offensiveness. To my mind, it never actually goes over the line, but it gets awfully damn close. Close enough so that it might go over the line for others, so be warned and think carefully before viewing it.

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

China Central TV (film #7 on Television Archive). [Category: News]

This is a 30-minute clip of Chinese tv on September 11, 2001. It starts with news coverage of the events of the day, which is basically a recap of images better covered elsewhere. But the rest of it is just regular Chinese tv. So if you want to know what tv is like in China, here's your clip. It includes commercials, an investigative report about education, a painting demonstration by what must be the Bob Ross of China, and a profile of an elderly couple, the woman of which may be American because she speaks English with an American accent at times. All of this is, of course, in Chinese, with no subtitles (no English subtitles anyway––many of the segments have Chinese subtitles, which may be a translation of the various Chinese dialects). Still, this is more interesting than you might think, especially the commercials, some of which are almost as annoying as American commercials.

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

American Fashion and Department Stores: The Pro-Mass Production View (film #117 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

A marketing class goes on a field trip to a Montgomery Ward store and learns how the Monkey Ward system of catalog merchandising is so darn great, and how the American system of buying and selling goods is so much better than systems of doing business in those other countries. Several of the students are from those other countries, giving handy-dandy descriptions of how business is done at home that the professor can use as negative examples. None of them mind, though––they're all eager to learn the American way of doing things. One interesting thing about this movie is that it contains film footage of a Russian fashion show and of the GUM Department Store in Moscow that looks authentic, which was probably none too easy to get during the time that it was made. This adds to the historical value of the film. Mostly, though, this is the usual 50s big business propaganda film.

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

Atomic Energy as a Force for Good (film #410 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Rancher John Vernon is approached by a representative of the Atomic Energy Commission who wants to buy options on his land for building a nuclear power plant. Vernon is against having anything to do with "the bomb" and he gets the town to pass a resolution petitioning their congressman to stop the plant from being built. So the pro-nuke congressman comes to town, bringing along with him an atomic scientist, who shows them all a film about the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. One of those uses involves using radiation to identify the location of brain tumors, and this really gets to Vernon, because his little granddaughter has one and doctors have given her a death sentence. Suddenly, he flip-flops his stance and is all for the nuclear plant being built. This film is very earnest and tries very hard to be fair about this issue, making Vernon and the other townspeople thoughtful and intelligent instead of ignorant knee-jerkers in their opposition to the plant, but its pro-nuke stance is obvious and that in the end makes the resolution overly simplistic. Just because there are some benefits of atomic research does not really resolve the issues the townspeople originally brought up. Perhaps if the film had made it more clear what specifically the proposed plant was supposed to do it would have helped. As it is, it promotes black-and-white thinking about nuclear energy––if it's not 100% evil, if you can find even the tiniest benefit from it, then you must be 100% for it. Sorry, but I think it's a lot more complex than that. And it's disturbing to me to see the town be so easily reassured about atomic energy. The film's very earnestness and intelligence make it a much more subtle and effective piece of propaganda than the campier films on this site, and that makes it more disturbing.

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

Admiral Dewey Landing at Gibralter (film #2 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]

A landing boat arrives at a pier and a couple of guys get off. I'm not even sure which one is Admiral Dewey. I guess there's some historical interest here, but not much else. An 1899 Edison film.

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

Assignment Venezuela (film #1 on Assignment Venezula and Other Shorts (Best Brains, 2001). Also, film #162 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

Aha! One of my Ephemera Holy Grails has been released! This lost mst3k short was originally intended for a Voyager mst3k CD-ROM, a project that was ultimately abandoned. The rough-cut of the short, complete with time code, was shown at the Coventio-Con Expo-Fest-a-Rama II: Electric Bugaloo, where I saw it. I despaired in Issue #0 of LBC that it would ever see the light of day on video, but it turned out that Best Brains heard my plea and responded. The film on this tape is the same rough-cut that was shown at the Con. It's much longer than most mst3k shorts, since they didn't have to deal with the time restrictions of a tv episode. Made by the Creole Oil Company (every mention of the name causes the bots to start frantically scatting in gumbo-speak), it features an incredibly dorky American engineer who gets transferred to the company oil fields in Venezuela and writes detailed letters about the country to his wife and kids back home. Of course, he only gets to see the most "modern", Americanized parts of the country. His wife's clothing and make-up are a scream––did women ever really look like that? The msting is great, especially during the scene when the guy has a night out at the bar which he fails to tell his wife about in the letter. This was worth waiting for.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Msting: ****. 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 ...