As Others See Us.

This 50s manners film for high-schoolers gives us lots of garishly-colored scenes of 50s high school life, such as jostling through the halls, eating lunch (check out the selections and prices on the menu board!), and, yes, the prom. If you went to high school during the 50s, this should trigger flashbacks and nightmares; for all others, it's a real hoot.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Alphonse (in the Historical Section of Open Video Project). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Two silly guys go into a bar and start making like the Goofy Gophers. “After you!” “No, after you!” “No, I wouldn’t think of it!” Etc., etc. Then Yosemite Sam comes in and makes them dance with his gun. Tarnation! I want the one silly guy’s checkered pants for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices, as well as my wardrobe. A 1903 Biograph film.

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

Bruce Lee the Invincible (film #26 in the Trailers section of Movieflix (www.movieflix.com)). [Category: Commercial]

Bruce Lee beats the crap out of some bullies who torment his girl. The guy should sell a body-building course with ads in comic books. Seriously, the fighting is pretty clever in this trailer.

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

Agricultural Cycles in Apa Tani Villages (in the Educational section of Open Video Project). [Category: Public Service]

Silent footage from the 1940s of Asians tending crops in muddy fields which perhaps are rice paddies. This pretty much has historical interest only, but it does give a snapshot into a culture that is far from our own.

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

Abusive A-Bomb (film #114 in Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This movie stinks. OK, it’s not that bad. After all, it’s just a few minutes of what Legoland would be like after nuclear holocaust, and that can’t be pretty.

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

Baron Munchausen's Dream (film #1 on Melies III: The Search for Munchausen (A-1 Video)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Baron Munchausen eats and drinks way too much and pays for it by having a weird, disturbing Meliesian dream. It took the director of Merry Frolics of Satan to do the "dream of a rarebit fiend" theme right. The film takes a bit of time to build up a head of steam, but once it does, look out, Baron! Dancing girls lead to demons lead to a trio of dandies poking him with pitchforks leads to a really scary dragon leads to a really disturbing and evil scene of a sick and twisted Man in the Moon and his tongue! By this time, you're ready to swear off of rich food forever! A classic Melies romp through the subconscious, though I'd hate to see what Freud would say about it.

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

Apollo, Segment 1002 (in the Documentary section of Open Video Project). [Category: News]

Clip from a documentary about Apollo 11, made before the mission. The three astronauts are profiled, and we get to hear interview clips and watch them training. It’s kind of interesting to see a pre-mission point of view here, before anybody knew if the mission would be successful.

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

The Excitable Red-Head (film #13 on Blood of Floor Sweepings (LSVideo)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

The silliest chiropractic appointment I’ve ever seen. The “nurse” wears a uniform usually associated with French maids in the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog, the patient has a bunch of bizarre reflexes that cause the doctor injury, and it ends with the nurse and the patient giving each other rather unorthodox “adjustments”. More ridiculous than naughty, which is probably deadly for these sorts of films.

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

Drive-In Movie Double Feature #63 (Sinister Cinema).

This one is a tad bit disappointing. It mostly contains the duller promos. And it gets docked 5 points for ending with an incredibly dull black-and-white 3 minute counter, complete with easy-listening soundtrack.


Highlights:


  • A Coca-Cola promo ends with a really cute parade of animated snacks marching in a circle.
  • Nutrition Alert! What's "nutritious"? According to the "Refreshment Quiz", the answer is "candy bars"!
  • Watch the kids from the Ubiquitous Family fight over a hot dog with really disgusting toppings!

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

Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat (film #3 on Cartoon Scandals (Goodtimes, 1987)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

If you're looking for African-American racial stereotypes, look no further––this toon has 'em all. It also has a great jazz soundtrack and lots of energy. A sexy Lena-Horne-type jazz singer brings rhythm to Lazy Town, showing a mammy how to really get those clothes clean. Both quite appalling and quite fun.

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

Groucho and the Marx Brothers (Goodtimes, 1988).

This collection of Marx Brothers ephemera is mildly interesting, more so if you're a Marx Brothers fan. It consists mostly of trailers from their movies, most of which are quite amusing. There's also a short clip from a newsreel featurette about a mini car race between Groucho, Harpo, and Jackie Coogan, a clip from a filmed wartime radio broadcast to the Marines featuring Groucho, and the complete, uncut 1949 tv pilot of Groucho's game show "You Bet Your Life" (reviewed seperately under "Early Film & TV").


Highlights:


  • In the trailer for The Big Store, the Marx Brothers announce their retirement from motion pictures and state that The Big Store is their "first farewell picture". Fortunately, they are persuaded not to retire by a stock footage crowd of screaming fans.
  • At the Circus features a "Colossal Congress of Stuff and Things!"
  • The trailer for Monkey Business is priceless. It features all four Marx Brothers auditioning for a producer, speaking entirely in rhyme (Harpo has a rhyming business card), and each doing a bad impression of Maurice Chevalier. And that's before things become totally chaotic!

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

Beef Rings the Bell (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #195 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This is a film about meat. About big honkin’ slabs of red meat. Beef, in particular. The first half is all about cattle raising, selling, and feeding. It has footage of the Omaha stockyards in their heydey, when they used to be the biggest in the world. Being from Omaha, this had some nostalgic value for me, as those stockyards no longer exist. The footage of a cattle auction is also mildly interesting. But it’s not until the second half of the movie that it really gets going. Then it becomes the most meat-intensive film you ever saw, featuring extensive, detailed footage of meat cutting, long refrigerated cases of shrink-wrapped packages of “rich, red meat,” billboards with giant steaks on them, and backyard barbecue footage straight out of the Big Boy Barbecue Guide (I also collect old recipe booklets), including tacky barbecue aprons and huge steaks served charred on the outside and bloody red on the inside. Which makes it a great deal of fun in my book, though it’s definitely not for vegetarians.

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

Battle of Russia (film #7 in the WWII section of Movieflix (www.movieflix.com). Also, tape #5 of the series WWII Special Edition (Madacy Entertainment, 1997)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This fifth and longest film of the "Why We Fight" series (it was made in two parts), documents the Russian resistance and victories against the Nazi invasion of their country. Russia was a powerful ally and had some of the earliest victories against the Nazis, so their story needed to be told. But unlike most of the other nations fighting the Nazis, the Soviet Union was definitely not a democracy, and most Americans already feared and hated Russian communism, so the filmmakers had a bit of a difficult sell. They did it by focusing on the military victories and the determination of the Russian people, and carefully sidestepping any political issues. Communism is not mentioned once, nor is the German-Russian Non-Aggression Pact (which Germany ended up breaking). And unlike the other films, little mention is made of the "free" world of "democracies" fighting off the "slave" world of Fascism. Nevertheless, this is probably the nicest, most positive American film made about Russia during its communist period that I've ever seen. How quickly that would change! The most interesting segment is the one about the siege of Leningrad, and again, the courage and determination of the people is impressive. Film buffs will want to watch for scenes from Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky in the opening scenes documenting Russian history.

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

R.I.P., Retromedia. Sniff! Sniff! And I just started reviewing that site...

Albany, NY Fire Department (in the Historical section of Open Video Project). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Before there were such things as fire trucks, kids, there used to be fire wagons. Yup, horse-drawn wagons that would rush to the fire! Some of them even had big steam-driven water-pumps on ‘em. They used to run down the street, one after the other, while everybody in town would watch ‘em. What, you don’t believe me? I swear it’s true! Just watch this film and see! Sheesh, the kids these days! A 1901 Edison film.

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

Bruce Lee in New Guinea (film #25 in the Trailers section of Movieflix (www.movieflix.com)). [Category: Commercial]

This Chinese trailer for a Bruce Lee movie consists entirely of martial arts fighting action, with lots of “HAs!” on the soundtrack. I guess they cut out all the boring parts.

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

The City (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #326 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This classic New Deal public service film of the 30s contrasts city slums with “planned communities” such as Green Belt, Maryland. It does this in a very arty fashion, with skillfully edited montages of urban problems backed with a glaring, yet compelling, soundtrack by Aaron Copeland. Ultimately, it doesn’t really make its point very well, because it ignores the economic, social, and political problems that result in urban slums, attributing them entirely to planning failures. But it is a fascinating, historically valuable montage of life in the 30s, covering urban life, automation, roadside woes, and even fast food. My favorite scene is a bizarre montage of automated diner equipment and people eating at a frenetic pace. This is the sort of film that is ripe for mining for footage for a video project.

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

Ellis in Freedomland (Hollywood's Attic).

When I saw the description of this one in the Movies Unlimited catalog, I knew I just had to have it, and when I got it I was not disappointed. This industrial film made by Westinghouse delivers a triple whammy of weirdness. The first part of the film tells the story of Ellis, a discouraged Westinghouse appliance salesman, and how he falls asleep in the department store he works for one evening and wakes up to find all the appliances talking to him––and not just talking, complaining about how he's been trying to sell them. The second part outlines the Westinghouse Freedom Fair––one of the most blatant examples of corporate coopting of women's desire for emancipation. And then it turns into another Design for Dreaming, as a harried housewife is whisked away from her messy kitchen by a Westinghouse salesman and taken to "Westinghouse Wives' Heaven", where women dress in frilly pinafores and dance ecstatically around appliances. This film has something for everybody: supernatural visitors (talking appliances, mannequins who come to life, a dancing appliance salesman who takes housewives to heaven), weird sexual innuendo (MALE-VOICED REFRIGERATOR: "Ellis, I love you!" FEMALE MANNEQUIN: "I better leave you two alone.", a swishy Daniel Boone mannequin that embarrasses two other male mannequins, a randy Indian chief mannequin who chases a female bathing beauty mannequin until she hides from him in a refrigerator), racial stereotypes (the black doorman mannequin loves watermelon, the Indian chief mannequin says, "Ug! Ug!"), weird credits ("Jerry Colonna as the Voice of Waste-Away"), bad acting, and more jaw-dropping moments than you can shake a stick at. Jerry Colonna's singing garbage disposal is probably being used right now as a torture device in some third-world dictatorship (though he is convincing as a garbage disposal who fancies himself a singer). I could go on and on about this one––let's just say that you need it in your collection!

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 ...