Admiral Dewey Leading Land Parade No. 2 (film #4 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This gives you some idea of what a military parade was like in 1899. Mostly it involved lots of horse-drawn carraiges, marching bands, and marching soldiers. Lots and lots of them. An 1899 Edison film.

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

Betty Crocker II (film #4 in the Commercials section of Movieflix ( [Category: Commercial]

This commercial is for the Betty Crocker Honey Spice Cake. It's historically interesting in that it emphasizes that "fresh eggs give the cake a fresh taste." Actually, cake mixes were formulated to add eggs because housewives felt too guilty to serve "just add water" cakes to their family––adding eggs made them feel like they were really cooking. An interesting piece of 50s housewife history.

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

Brunette (film #257 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

A pretty brunette strips for our pleasure in this short silent vintage stag film. She wears several layers of sexy undies, the better to tease you with, my dear. Mildly erotic, with the innocence of yesterday.

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

Birth of a City (film #222 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This really should be called Birth of a Suburb. The planning and building of Broomfield Heights, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, is shown. You know what you're in for when you find out that the "city" is planned around a giant shopping mall. Now I don't live anywhere near Denver, but I just bet Broomfield Heights is just another neighborhood in its urban sprawl by now. After all, it is a "suburban dream of yesterday." Still, this movie is fun to mst, as it has bombastic, newsreel-style narration.

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

We Interrupt This Program (MPI Home Video, 1990). [Category: News]

This tape presents ABC news footage from three major stories: the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the 1984 highjacking of an American airliner in Beirut by Lebonese terrorists, and the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. No explanation is given as to why these three stories in particular were chosen––perhaps they're the ones that have the most footage saved from them, or maybe it was a rights issue. Unfortunately, despite the title of the tape, we don't actually get to see "we-interrupt-this-program" footage, but we do get to see unedited news broadcasts from when the stories were breaking, including occasional slips of the tongue by newscasters and clumsy shifts from one news feed to another. Some of the footage is quite emotional, such as King's musical director being interviewed minutes after the shooting and obviously still in shock from it; a very frightened pilot of the highjacked plane shouting over the radio "We must have that fuel right now! Immediately!" after the highjackers threatened to start killing the passengers; the flight engineer of the highjacked plane sending a message to his family, including his father, followed by Peter Jennings telling us that the man's father had just died from a heart attack after hearing about the highjacking; a flight attendant from the highjacked plane describing the brutal murder of a Navy diver by the highjackers; a reporter standing on the very edge of a collapsed section of the Bay Bridge after the earthquake; and confused, panicking people running through the streets of the harder-hit San Francisco neighborhoods. I'd like to see more collections of such footage––it really defines the concept of historical interest.

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

Bathroom Boardroom (film #9 in the Indie section of Movieflix ( [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

In this updated version of Ellis in Freedomland, a junior executive, after enduring the Performance Review from Hell, encounters another kind of nightmare when the fixtures in the men's room begin talking to him. Actually, I thought this would be another lame Movieflix Indie "cool", "ironic" comedy, until DISPENSOR began talking, which made me laugh out loud. I found the prissy British urirnal mildly amusing as well. It all ends as some sort of warped demonstration of Positive Leadership(tm), making it more of a present-day version of Ellis than you might think. Long live DISPENSOR!

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

Berlin Wall (film #4 in the Landmarks Around the World section of WPA Film Library). [Category: News]

A short clip of raw tv news footage of the erection of the Berlin Wall. A short but necessary bit of Cold War history.

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

Armistice in Korea (film #12 in the Korean War section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

A Soviet representative announces the possibility of peace talks, then we see newsreel footage of the final days of the Korean War and President Truman talking about military successes and peace talks. A short, well-preserved document of the end of the Korean War.

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

The American Road.

This 70s film shows us the early history of the automobile and how it changed America's way of life. Since it was sponsored by Ford, it focuses a lot on the Model T and it has an optomistic bias (cars have obviously improved things and there's no downside, is there?). The movie ends with optimistic, populuxe proclamations that the future will be better than ever, which is curious in a 70s film. Still, this is quite well-made and it has a real human feel to it. You really get a sense of what it must have been like to live in the pre-auto world and also what it was like to whether the changes that cars brought on the scene. The film contains lots of great archival footage of old cars and also lots of historical footage of Henry Ford, his family, and his cronies (is that Edison in the background?). Like many of the better industrial films, it hooks into your emotions at times, especially the feeling of freedom that car ownership provides. An interesting document of automotive and cultural history.

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

Atomic Tests in 3-D (extra on Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie DVD (Goldhil Home Media, 1999)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Did you know that they filmed some of the 50s atomic bomb tests in 3-D? The makers of Trinity and Beyond made this speical little mini-documentary showcasing this footage. The narration makes it sound like a travelogue for the Nevada Test Site (and indeed, you can take tours of it today). The footage, though, is the real attraction of this film. How much more 50s can you get than watching atomic explosions in 3-D? They of course include a pair of 3-D glasses with the DVD. This footage is a great find and it's one of my all-time favorite DVD extras.

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

The Battery (film #4 on Campy Classroom Classics, Vol. 4 (Something Weird, 2000)). [Category: Industrial]

This may be the stupidest sales training film ever made. It's as if Union 76 gathered together a bunch of drunk salesmen at a convention, divided them into small groups, and asked each group to make up a skit about a particular historical period and loosely connect it to the sale of Union 76 car batteries. Of course, the salesmen threw in lots of objectification of the female body––gotta please those crowds, after all. So let's hand out some awards to these drunk salesmen, shall we? The Silliest Skit award goes to the caveman sequence, hands down. The Most Appalling Sexism award goes to the Ancient Rome sequence, in which we're supposed to assume female slaves are car batteries, and all that that implies. The Weirdest Imagery award goes to the scene of Merlin's assistants working in the Union 76 R & D lab. And the Least Informative Sequence award goes to the film as a whole––it makes you constantly scratch your head and say, "And what does this have to do with car batteries?" Appalling, but, of course, great ephemera.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *** (this gets docked for its overall lack of historical relevance). Overall Rating: ****.

Bongo Boards (film #1154 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]

A short newsreel featurette from the mid 60s showing girls on the beach exercising with "bongo boards"––short boards balanced on cylinders on which the girls rock back and forth. Oh those kids and their fads! What will they think up next––pet rocks?

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

America's Presidents (film #351 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

This film quickly (sometimes very quickly) summarizes the careers of America's presidents from Washington to Eisenhower. For most of them, this is done in voice-over, over a picture of the president in question, but from McKinley onward, film clips of the presidents are shown. It's kind of fun, actually, to trip down the line, especially if you're a person who likes lists. Mostly, though, it's just what you'd expect.

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

At the Altar (film #11 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume 4: The Arrival of D. W. Griffith (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

A suitably melodramatic tale in which a pretty Italian-American woman almost has her wedding ruined by a dastardly cad of an old boyfriend who, rather than see the love of his life wed another, boobytraps the altar with a hidden gun, then kills himself by drinking poison. Fortunately, a servant discovers his body and suicide note (in which he tells all) and sends a cop down to the church to warn everybody. But will he make it in time? Will a stray chicken thwart him? Loads of fun with plenty of good old-fashioned scenery-chewing, especially the villian's death scene. A 1909 D. W. Griffith film.

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 ...