An American Girl (film #363 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

This film, made by the same folks responsible for All the Way Home, show us the underside of the "nice, simpler time" of the 50s, this time from a teen's perspective. Teenaged girl Norma gets a pretty silver charm bracelet for her birthday from her little sister, who bought it in a second-hand store. When Norma returns to the store with her friends to get the storekeeper to decipher some foreign characters on one of the charms, she finds out it is a Jewish bracelet. When the storekeeper shows her a star of David charm that goes with it, Norma has it put on the bracelet, despite the protests of her friends, who think it is "weird." Norma does it because she thinks it's pretty, but she finds that wearing a bracelet with Jewish symbols on it is "not done" in her neighborhood and it leads to ostracism by most of the kids at school, including her best friends. One of her friend's mothers actually accuses Norma of hiding a Jewish identity and insists that she should make friends with "her own kind." Fortunately, Norma's parents are unusually intelligent and thoughtful in this matter. They realize that they cannot shield their daughter from the ugliness that is showing in their "nice" neighborhood after the bracelet scratched its surface, and they allow Norma to make her own decision about what to do about it, according to her own conscience. Norma chooses to confront the PTA with her experiences by reading her diary aloud to them. This film is a good counterpoint to the social guidance films made during this period, most of which stress "fitting in." What those other films failed to show was that some people were not even given a chance to "fit in" and that conforming to the group is not always a good thing. The fact that the filmmakers didn't actually make Norma Jewish just shows how pervasive the problem of racism was, and how it was covered up with innuendo and hints, in order to maintain the facade of "niceness." Again, this is a film that is necessary viewing in order to get a more complete version of what the 50s were like, and the price that was paid for its "niceness."

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

As Seen Through a Telescope (film #26 on The Movies Begin, Volume Two: The European Pioneers (Kino Video, 1994)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Somebody discovered that you could simulate the experience of looking through a telescope, sort of, by filming through a black mask with a round hole in it. Of course, one of the first uses of this device is in a film about a voyeur. He spies on a woman getting fitted for new shoes, and through the "telescope" device we get to see––gasp!––several inches of her ankle! Of course, she's still wearing her industrial-strength black stockings––I told you I wouldn't be reviewing porno, after all. What we really get to see "through the telescope" is a view of what a previous era considered racy. A 1900 George Albert Smith film.

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

Classic Sci-Fi Trailers, Vol. 6 (Sinister Cinema). [Category: Commercial]

Good grief, more trailers from science fiction movies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This tape seems to focus mostly on science fiction horror. Again, lots of fun. Gets 5 points for throwing in some drive-in ephemera here and there.


  • Tobor the Great is a great hokey robot. "Gramps, don't you do it!"
  • Gimmick Alert! Conquest of Space was billed as being a true story––before it happens! The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock was filmed in Wonderama and Matterscope!
  • Both Queen of Outer Space and Dark Star were advertised as serious science fiction!
  • "Your eyes will glaze! Your ears will pop!" claims the trailer for Journey to the Seventh Planet. Sounds like a typical airline flight.
  • The trailer for Queen of Blood promises to "turn the Milky Way into a Galaxy of Gore!" That's sure to bring in the alien tourist trade!
  • Journey to the Center of Time was brought to us by American General Pictures. I guess they didn't want to get too specific.
  • She Demons features "a power-mad genus (sic)!" Now that would make biology class interesting.
  • Msties, take note: contains the trailer for Beginning of the End.

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

The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (film #2 on Cartoons for Big Kids (Turner Home Entertainment, 1989)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This is one of the all-time great Warner Brothers cartoons. Daffy Duck plays detective Duck Twacy, an outrageous parody of Dick Tracy, who tracks down a case of stolen piggy banks. This is one of the most visually amazing of any of the Warner Brothers toons––somebody must have had a whole lot of fun drawing a bunch of faux Dick Tracy villains. And on top of that, the toon is very funny. Hint: use the pause button at various points during the scene where all the villains fall over, one after the other––the animators slipped in some fun surprises. Another item for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices: the streetcar cards marked "To the Villain's Secret Hideout". Highly recommended.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. 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 ...