Columbia Revolt (film #350 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This arresting film is a true "outsider film". It was made by students at Columbia University, documenting the violent 1968 demonstrations there from the student radicals' point of view. The film is all grainy black-and-white cinema verite style, with soundtracks consisting mostly of various students spontaneously telling their stories about what they experienced during the protests and what it was all about. Mainly, it was about three things: 1. opposition to the college's close relationship with the Defense Department, resulting in extensive research into war and killing technologies, especially those that were being used in the Vietnam war; 2. opposition to the building of a new gymnasium, which was being planned to occupy a site in the mostly black Morningside Heights neighborhood, taking over a public park and displacing many black families from their homes; and 3. giving students a greater voice in the decisions of the college administration. We see students forcibly taking over and occupying the library; battling with "jocks" (right wing students who opposed them); developing a communal society during the occupation which culminates in a hippie wedding; holding endless meetings and voting and revoting on the demands they are making; being viciously beaten by police officers as they are forced out of the building (these scenes are graphic and quite upsetting); performing bizarre political guerilla theater events on campus; picketing and striking; holding their own "liberation classes"; and protesting commencement by walking out and holding an alternative ceremony of their own. Unfortunately, the film ends unresolved––you don't really find out how successful or unsuccessful they were in bringing about change (this, of course, reveals my ignorance of those events). Still, the film is a visually arresting document of 60s radicalism, political struggle, and the issues that divided the American people, sometimes violently, during that time. And it's a great example of grass-roots filmmaking as well. One of the most historically interesting films in the Prelinger Archive collection.

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

The Autobiography of a Jeep (film #4 in the WWII section of Movieflix (www.movieflix.com). Also, film #178 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This film about every GIs favorite piece of equipment is a lot of fun. For one thing, it's narrated by the Jeep itself. For another, it contains lots of wonderful footage of 40s car designs, jeeps being manufactured, jeeps being exposed to all kinds of abuse and coming through fine, and various celebrities riding around in jeeps. A wonderful piece of World War II nostalgia.

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

Broken Appointment (film #254 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

In this rather touching film, a young public health nurse learns to care about her paitients' concerns and feelings after going through a struggle with a young expectant mother who keeps breaking her clinic appointments. The film makes the valid point that science can only do so much and to really help people, you have to be willing to listen to them and learn about their lives and the greater context of their illnesses. It's a message with even more relevance today, considering how high-tech and soulless much of medicine has become. The film also portrays in a realistic fashion the psychological growth process persons in the human service field go through, including the mistakes they make along the way. A film in the true spirit of "public service".

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

Century 21 Calling (film #2 on Assignment Venezula and Other Shorts (Best Brains, 2001). Also, MST3K Episode #906: Space Children. Also, film #280 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

An extremely white teenage couple frolics at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, stopping by the Bell System display to find out about the phones of the future. This is a lot sillier than most Bell System films, mainly due to the frolicking teenage couple, who you could easily imagine doing a 5th Avenue commercial. Mildly campy fun with o.k. msting.

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

Ads & Clips (extra on Drive-In Discs, Vol. 3 DVD (Elite Entertainment, 2003)). [Category: Commerical]

This set of ads & clips gets 5 extra points for having a lot more of them than on the previous Drive-In Discs DVDs, but it gets docked 5 points for having some repeats. Still, this is a pretty good collection of drive-in ephemera, most of it in excellent condition and all menu-driven. They even throw in a spook show promo!


Highlights:


  • Yum! Yum! Hear how creepily this can be said in a snack bar
    promo advertising hot dogs.
  • Huston's Hallucinations is Sexsational and features the Girl Without a Middle and the Weird and Unusual Burning of a She-Devil!
  • Creature from the Haunted Sea features "a guy, a gal, and a boatload of loot!" "Killers hunt Cubans! Monster likes them both!"
  • Gimmick Alert: Blood Creature features a bell that rings during the scary parts to warn the fearful to close their eyes!

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

Animation Class: Lesson 2 Frames per Second (film #10 in the Comedy section of Brickfilms. Also, film #8 in the Drama section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Crikey! The Lego version of Crocodile Hunter narrates this film on how to do stop-motion animation, for no discernable reason 'cept it's fun. This lesson focuses on the pros and cons of various framerates. Like Lesson 1, this is highly amusing and educational as well. Watch for silly things going on in the background. I hope they make more in this series and that they are all as good as these first two.

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

The First Great Debate: Kennedy vs. Nixon (track #14 on Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgettable Moments DVD (Garner Creative Concepts, 2002)). [Category: News]

This segment of Stay Tuned documents the televised Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960, an important moment both in the history of American politics and in the history of television. I wish they had included a little more actual footage of the debates and a little less commentary. Still, the commentary, by Walter Cronkite and debate producer Dan Hewitt, gives an intelligent explanation of the importance of the debates. Fortunately, there's the Prelinger Archives to provide more actual footage.

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

The Brave Tin Soldier (film #25 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 1 (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Hollywood]

This takes quite a few liberties with the original fairy tale, but who cares? Toys coming to life make great cartoon fodder and the toys in this cartoon are really delightful. A discarded one-legged tin soldier vies with a creepy old king doll for the affections of a pretty ballerina doll. She definitely prefers the soldier, so the king sets up a rigged trial (presided over by a Groucho Marx jack-in-the-box, the cartoon's weirdest moment), and then orders his execution by firing squad. The ending is romantic, fun, and surprising––the ballerina throws herself on her lover and they are both shot into the fireplace, where they are consumed by the fire together (sniff! sniff!). But their souls end up in Toy Heaven (isn't that a great concept?), where the soldier is reunited with his missing leg. Don't miss this one.

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

Animals in Modern Life (film #381 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

Dry ERPI film about the various uses of animals by human beings. There is a great variety here of animals and animal products shown, but they are presented in a seemingly random order, without rhyme or reason. Kids probably did a lot of fidgeting during this sort of film.

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

Atomic Energy Can Be a Blessing (film #3 on The Educational Archives, Vol. 6: Religion (Fantoma, 2003)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This film, made by the same folks as Atomic Energy as a Force for Good, is much more didactic than the other film. Fred MacMurray apppears, but only to introduce Father James Kelly, a Catholic priest who seems to be bucking for canonization as Patron Saint of Atomic Energy. Father Kelly earnestly lectures us on how atomic energy is God-given and therefore good, despite all the nasty rumours you may have heard about bombs and stuff. A bunch of government film footage of atomic experiements is shown, while the beneficial uses of atomic energy are rattled off, mostly involving cancer cures and agricultural uses. For some reason, Father Kelly reminds us of atomic energy's teensy downside by showing us the a-bomb test scene from Atomic Energy as a Force for Good. Then he lectures us some more in a confusing fashion about how "one person can make a difference"––I bet this guy was a real snooze-inducer in the pulpit. He tells us about his "organization," the Christophers, which has no membership, meetings, or dues, but it does have a newsletter that we all can subscribe to for free. Despite the clips from Atomic Energy as a Force for Good, I'm surprised that this overly-earnest, clunky film was made by the same people. Perhaps Father Kelly was desperate to get in front of the cameras, and the film was made chiefly to satisfy that. It does have a lot of camp value, though, as well as historical value in the declassified government footage that is included.

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

Around the Corner (film #152 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

Jam Handy really did his job well here––he made a thoroughly understandable and even somewhat entertaining film about rear-axle differentials in cars. Unless you're really into auto mechanics, this should be as dull as dishwater, but it isn't. It's even somewhat understandable to non-mechanically-inclined persons such as myself. The amazing trick motorcycle riding scenes at the beginning and the bizarre couple that barrel rolls the rear wheels of a car help give it entertainment value. This film does what an industrial film ideally should do––take a potentially dull and dense industrial topic and make it interesting and understandable.

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

An Awful Moment (film #6 on The Origins of Cinema, Vol. 4: The Arrival of D. W. Griffith (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This one is kind of confusing. A woman who is upset at the outcome of a trial harasses the wife and young daughter of one of the participants of the trial (I'm assuming he's a participant––it's not really clear in the film). She ties the wife up and sets up an elaborate booby trap involving a gun and a door, but is easily caught at the end. D. W. Griffith's story-telling ability certainly wasn't showing in this one. A 1908 D. W. Griffith film.

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

Coffee House Rendezvous (film #343 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

It's the 60s, man, and coffee houses are all the rage. Cool. Except it's the late 60s and the coffee houses have been fully accepted by the Establishment as wholesome alternatives for youth to blowing their minds and blowing up the student union. So organizations like churches and school districts and the YMCA and even parents encourage kids to form coffee houses in any spare basements or vacant storefronts that they can find. This, of course, spells the end of the coffee house as a bastion of cooldom. Still, this is a fun, innocent film, full of enthusiastic geeky teenagers drinking percolated coffee from styrofoam cups and grooving to various homegrown forms of folk, rock & roll, or jazz music which varies in quality from not bad to someone-needs-to-teach-them-how-to-tune-their-guitars. It's full of the bright, hopeful we-can-change-the-world attitude that typified the 60s and would be rudely crushed by the 70s. Of course, I'm a closet folkie myself, so I can't help but enjoy this film very much. It reminds me of all the cool stuff I saw the teens doing when I was a kid during the 60s that I was too young to participate in, and which would all be over by the time I reached my teens in the 70s. Watch another film if you want to know about places like Haight-Ashbury, but this is what the 60s was really like down home in places like Racine, Wisconsin. Sponsored by the Coffee Information Service, which had to wait until the rise of Starbucks to really get going.

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

Classic Toy Commercials (Moon River, 1993). [Category: Commercial]

Baby boomers should enjoy this collection of toy commercials from the 50's and 60's. The fun comes not so much from the commercials themselves (which are pretty conventional for the most part), but from the stabs of nostalgia you get from seeing all those old toys again. These were made in the days when there were few restrictions on toy advertising, so you know the actual toys were not nearly as fun as they looked, but it's still fun to fantasize anyway.


Highlights:


  • The Trik-Trak Racing Set commercial encourages kids to race their cars "all over the house"! My dad would have yelled something other than "terrific!", though.
  • Ren & Stimpy "Log" fans should make sure to check out the Slinky jingle.
  • The Deluxe Man in Space Set is sold only at Food Markets!
  • "Is he a dream (sigh!) or a dud (groan)?" No further comment necessary.
  • Who's that kid with the mustache in the Beany Copter commercial?
  • They got Louis Armstrong himself to sing the Suzy Cute Doll jingle. But why??

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