Bravest of the Brave (recorded off of Turner Classic Movies). [Category: Hollywood]

This is a curious one. It's a historical short about the life and mysterious death of Marshall Ney, one of Napoleon's key strategists. The thing is, it seems to be composed of film footage from a feature-length movie, shortened and supplied with narration instead of a soundtrack. The production values seem too expensive for a short, and the scenes have the feel of being much longer than what is actually shown. So what's the deal here? Was this film ever released? If so, why did MGM find it necessary to produce a shortened version with narration? Other than the mystery surrounding it, it's rather dull.

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

Ant City (film #387 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

This science film about ant life is narrated by a guy who, though obviously knowledgeable about ants, sounds like he's winging it. He also makes a lot of lame-o comparisons between ant life and human life, perhaps the worst being his announcement of the queen's "wedding trip" with her preferred male, while "Here Comes the Bride" plays on the soundtrack. And, oh, that reminds me, the soundtrack is bizarre and bombastic, too. All of this adds up to a mildly bizarre viewing experience.

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

American Falls from Above, American Side (film #9 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This is most likely the first home movie of folks marveling at Niagara Falls. Look at all that water! An 1896 Edison film.

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

The Black Connection (film #24 in the Trailers section of Movieflix ( [Category: Commercial]

Trailer for a 70s blaxploitation gangster film, sort of a cross between Shaft and The Godfather. As you would expect, there's lots of sex, violence, and huge afros.

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

Cancer (film #270 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This Encyclopedia Brittanica film is for adults, covering the warning signs of cancer, how cancer is treated, and dispelling some old wives' tales about it, such as that it only effects old people or that it is hereditary. The main character is a middle-aged man who develops stomach cancer, but is successfully treated by his kindly old family doctor. The doctor has a scary-looking instrument called a gastroscope with which he says he can see into the man's stomach, but thankfully they don't show him actually using it. Actually, this film was probably more optimistic about cancer treatment than was realistic back in the 50s when it was made, though not necessarily today. Much of the information in it is still relevant today, which you can't say about most 50s health movies. Be sure to watch out for your moles and report any strange lumps or changes in normal bowel habits to your doctor!

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

Balked at the Altar (film #1 on The Origins of Cinema, Vol. 4: The Arrival of D. W. Griffith (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

An old man's comic attempts to marry off his homely daughter are shown. Finally, he gets one poor sap to the altar with the help of a shotgun, but the reluctant groom escapes through the paper stained-glass window, necessitating the inevitable chase scene. Comic relief is provided by a "negro" with a pillow in his shirt. A rather silly film.

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

Deafula (Video Screams). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This highly unusual film was made by and for deaf people. All the dialogue is in sign language and the soundtrack consists of stark readings of translations of the signed dialogue (for the benefit of hearing people in the audience––sort of like closed-captioning in reverse), occasional moments of stark, eerie music, and maybe 2 or 3 sound effects total. The plot is an expressionistic horror tale of a preacher's son whose mother was bitten by Count Dracula during her pregnancy with him, cursing him with a dual personality––one a pious preacher's son studying for the ministry himself, and one a blood-sucking vampire who commits a string of murders. What's really weird about the movie, though, is that it takes place in a silent world where everybody communicates in sign, where everybody uses TDDs for telephones, where such things as motorcycles and women's screams make no sound, and where a man with no hands is mute. The film was obviously very cheaply made and shot in black-and-white, which was rare in 1975, the year it was made. It's obvious that the people involved really put a lot of care into the project, yet it's also obvious that they were amateurs at filmmaking. All of these elements make for one strange film indeed. It is genuinely creepy and surreal, but it's hard to tell if that's because of the story, the amateurishness of the production, or just simply how strange such a film looks to a hearing audience. I will say that despite its length and the cross-cultural barriers involved, the film did hold my interest throughout and was even pretty scary at certain points. It really is a curiosity, though––were other deaf films made? Was there a whole industry involved to serve this population? Or was this the only film to experiment with this concept? I would really like to know the story behind this one.

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

The Apartment (film #11 in the Comedy section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Two Lego guys move into a cardboard apartment complex and encounter some strange tennants. Actually, one guy encounters the tennants and palms them off on the other guy, who spends most of his time playing vintage sports video games. This is a rather amateurish brickfilm, but it's also pretty weird, so that redeems it somewhat. It leaves you with a big "huh?", but it's cute (like most brickfilms).

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

Four Days in November (track #15 on Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgettable Moments DVD (Garner Creative Concepts, 2002)). [Category: News]

This segment of Stay Tuned documents the Kennedy assassination. Of course, they only show excerpts of the extensive coverage, but the excerpts they show are some of the most memorable, including Walter Cronkite almost losing it after announcing Kennedy's death, Jackie and the Kennedys' two young children approaching the coffin, and the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, probably the first instance of television news coincidentally broadcasting a major unexpected news event as it happened. An essential segment of Stay Tuned.

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

Commercial Mania: Special Edition (Rhino, 1987). [Catgory: Commercial]

Another fun collection of commercials from the 50s, 60s and 70s. A pretty good assortment––there are a lot of fun moments. Rhino gets docked 10 points, though, for the whole "Special Edition" concept––a "Special Edition" is actually a shorter, edited-down version of the original tape.


  • Cure childhood depression with castor oil ("Fletcher's Castoria", but we ain't fooled)! Watch the little girl give a really dirty look to the bottle.
  • An extremely 60's commercial for Ban Deodorant, featuring The Repulsives (describes their music as well as their B.O.!).
  • This tape gets 5 extra points from me personally for the inclusion of the "Live Better Electrically" spot. It's this kind of populuxe nonsense that I love to find in film ephemera––for some reason I find it incredibly endearing.
  • Since this tape is from Rhino, it of course has the "Belly Bongo" commercial. They tried so hard to create a new Hula-Hoop-type fad and failed so miserably––and somebody at Rhino is fascinated by that, for it pops up all over their products. It does bring back memories of after-school reruns of "Gilligan's Island", though.
  • Yipes! Stripes! It's the puppet-animated Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe Gum animals! By gum, they're cute!

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

A Lady with Fans (film #4 on Exploitation Mini-Classics, Vol. 1 (Sinister Cinema)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

Another fan dancing short. This one is a bit more erotic as it looks more like the dancer might really be naked under the fans. Other than that, it's pretty standard.

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

As We Like It (film #160 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This film is about beer. About how beer has helped to build America and Western civilization in general. About how beer is brewed to exacting standards of sanitation and quality. About how beer has great ability to give the drinker a bu––uh, sorry, food value. About how heavy taxes are levied on beer, enriching the coffers of pork-barrel poli––uh, sorry, building highways and schools to benefit us all. And about how your friendly neighborhood tavern is a clean, well-run establishment where patrons can get blott––sorry, enjoy sparkling malt beverages. And how your friendly tavern operator supports charitable activities and always obeys the law. And how your friendly neighborhood bouncer––uh sorry, there isn't anything in the film about bouncers. And about how all the friendly tavern operators need to watch their steps because there are elements in society who would like to blame sparkling malt beverages for all of society's problems and bring about another Prohibition, which would deprive us of the right to get drun––sorry, engage in gracious living. So let's all raise a toast to the brewing industry, without which we wouldn't be able to enjoy all the benefits of sparkling malt beverages, such as alcoholism, drunk driving, belching, and frequent urina––uh, sorry for this whole review, folks. I meant to say, "Hey Hosers! This film is about beer! Beauty, eh?"

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

The Funny Company: Sailing Ships (film #30 on Chicago Television (Hollywood's Attic, 1996)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This is something of an oddity among limited animation cartoons: a lame, limited animation opening leads into a short, live-action documentary for kids on some topic assumed to be of interest to them. The topic of this episode is sailing ships. Both the cartoon part and the documentary part are very lame and tedious, though, so I doubt this was very appealing to kids, despite the earnest "you're a member of our club" attitude of the thing.

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 ...