Showing posts from 2004
Army in Space and Under the Sea (film #39 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This early-70s episode of “The Big Picture” documents the army’s early experiments with rockets and missiles that were precursors to the space program, and various forms of experimental deep sea diving. It’s pretty standard for the most part, with a definite pro-army spin to everything. Lots of footage of rockets taking off and of deep-sea diving here, if you’re a fan of that.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Check the Neck (film #1 on AV Geeks). [Category: Industrial]Straightforward 60s film for emergency personnel for dealing with persons who have had a laryngectomy, and thus breathe through a hole in the neck. This is important information to know and it’s presented in a straightforward non-sensationalistic manner, so you don’t want to laugh at this film at all. One interesting part of it features a picnic of such people, and they’re all chatting away with each other, using the “esophagal method of speech,” which sounds suspiciously like the same process kids use to burp on command. Still, there but for the grace of God go I––these people actually deserve admiration for coming up with a new way to communicate. All in all, this is an interesting film, but not one to laugh at.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Additional Bit of Dialogue (film #19 in The Lost Lucy Themes section of TVParty). [Category: Early Film & TV]This is a bit of dialogue between Fred and Ethel from an episode of “I Love Lucy” that was cut for syndication. It mainly involves Fred making jokes about Ethel’s appetite. This has mild historical interest, especially for Lucy fans, but mostly is pretty ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Aesop and Son (film #10 in the Daws Butler’s Cereal Commercials section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]The “Aesop and Son” characters from “Rocky and Bullwinkle” pitch Cheerios. Somehow, this involves beavers (not evil ones, fortunately) and what was probably the first usage of the term “power breakfast.” Ordinary, but mildly fun, as Jay Ward characters usually are.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Purely Coincidental (film #23 on AV Geeks. Also, film #10 on The Educational Archives, Volume Four: On the Job DVD (Fantoma, 2002)). [Category: Industrial]This maudlin industrial safety film has a convoluted plot. It features two guys who like to hunt––one who works in a dogfood plant, the other in a food processing plant. Both plants are chockfull of food handling violations, which are announced by scary synthesizer whines on the soundtrack, but which are nevertheless completely unnoticed by anybody. The guy who works in the dogfood plant uses a drill to fix a broken canning line, creating iron shavings which he casually brushes into an empty can. Before he can dispose of the can, he is called away from the line, and another clueless worker puts the can on the line to be filled with dogfood. Meanwhile, the guy who works in the food processing plant gets grease all over his fingers fixing a broken packaging machine, then later handles dough with the same greasy fingers. By an incredi…
Cabin in the Sky (recorded off of Turner Classic Movies). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This 40s all-black cast musical was not made for black audiences, but for white, so there are stereotypes aplenty. Eddie Anderson plays a hapless gambler who gets a reprieve from hell provided he clean up his act in six months. Ethel Waters plays his good-hearted, religious wife Petunia and Lena Horne plays the temptress Georgia Brown who keeps getting him into trouble. Although the stereotypes and general portrayal of African American culture is awful, the cast, as you might expect from the names I just mentioned, often rises above the material. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a movie containing more black talent of that time in one place. Duke Ellington’s band provides the music and there’s even a cameo by Louis Armstrong as a minor devil who plays a smokin’ horn. This is also one of the few all-black cast films that had a sizable budget, and it shows. It’s too bad all this talent had t…
Date with Duke (film #2 on George Pal Puppetoons (Loonic Video)). [Category: Hollywood]Duke Ellington conducts some anthropomorphic perfume bottles in a smoother-than-ice rendition of his "Perfume Suite." Then he accepts the challenge of an evil perfume-bottle-sprite-guy who insists that he doesn't like music and hates to dance, that is, until Duke produces some irresistably toe-tapping music. Only in animation and probably only in ephemeral animation do you see such goings-on presented as if they make perfect sense. Which they do.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
A Case for Beer (film #1 on AV Geeks). [Category: Public Service]This early-70s film is aimed at convenience store employees, discouraging them from selling beer to underage kids and giving tips on how to spot cheaters. This just screams 70s, and if you were a teen during that time, it’ll probably bring back lots of memories. The tips given are extremely basic and the clerks shown are universally dorky, so I bet plenty of clever teens got away with their six-packs back then. It brought back memories for me as a Midwesterner because of all the Midwestern brands shown, such as Falstaff beer and Kitty Clover potato chips, brands that don’t exist today. Mildly campy and a real blast from the past.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Birds of Prey (in the ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #221 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]Dry Encyclopedia Brittanica film about owls, vultures, and hawks. Now I’m a real owl fan, and the owls in this film are as great as owls usually are, but no thanks to the film’s presentation of them. The filmmakers must have been thinking, “Let’s take a really interesting subject, like prey birds, and see how boring we can make it.” God help us if an educational film actually holds students’ interest.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: **. Overall Rating: ** (gets an extra star for the presence of owls).
Are You Ready for Marriage 2004 (film #2 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Scenes from classic Prelinger marriage films are interspersed with a contemporary couple, who act as if they are interacting with the characters from the films, especially the marriage counselor from Are You Ready for Marriage? This is lively and fun, though it could be funnier. On the other hand, it’s far and away the best wedding video I’ve ever seen.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
BBC Election 70 (film #18 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]Very brief, very blurry clip of the opening to an election report from 1970. Not much to see here, folks.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: **. Overall Rating: **.
Check and Let Me Know (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #290 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]The president of the Snodgrass Company meets a salesman from an industrial film company on a business trip and gets all hopped up about making an industrial film. So he puts the wheels into motion by telling his vice president about it and asking him to do some research on the cost. This order gets passed around from employee to employee, changing in the process like a game of Telephone, until it metamorphoses into an order for 5000 toasters and the “fact” that a great industrial film can be made for only $5000. The salesman must bear the brunt of this, because the guy from Snodgrass who calls him insists that the $5000 was his (the salesman’s) bid. This is sort of like a 50s version of Dilbert, which makes it amusing, though it’s hard to figure out who this was made for. The film company that made it obviously has a poor opinion of its customers, but no …
The Centaurs excerpts (film #5 on Animation Legend Winsor McCay DVD (Lumivision, 1997). Also, film #6 on Origins of American Animation). [Category: Early Film & TV]A very attractive centaur (half-human, half-horse) couple romances each other. Eventually, the male centaur takes his lady love home to meet Mom and Dad, and they show off their new foal. These excerpts are very brief, but beautifully animated and quite touching nonetheless. I'd rather see this than the centaur scene in Fantasia any day. A 1918 Winsor McCay animated film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Answering the Child’s Why (film #1 on AV Geeks). [Category: Educational]This is a charming little film about answering little kids’ questions. Parents are encouraged to answer every question their little darlings ask in a patient and accurate fashion, lest they grow up to be like awkward shy Molly, who never asks any questions. Not shown are the kids who say “Why?” over and over again just to annoy their parents, or the really embarrassing questions they sometimes come up with. Of course, this doesn’t take place in the real world, but in the ideal world of educational films, where teachers have time to patiently go over tests individually with their students, uncles are never inappropriate with little girls, and only really, really old and sick people die. It goes without saying that parenting is a lot easier in that world. Why? I don’t give a darn! He’s our shortstop!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Band Drill (film #25 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]Hey, kids! Look at the marching band! OK, I know it’s boring, but the whole parade can’t be Bart Simpson floats, can it? At least it’s only 22 seconds. An 1894 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
The Amazing Transparent Man (film #4 on SabuCat Movie Trailers). [Category: Commercial]Fairly campy trailer for a silly 60s science fiction movie about a criminal that gets turned invisible by a scientist under the thumb of an evil guy who wants to control the world. Lots of invisible fight scenes are shown (Hey, bank guard! Watch out for that––do’h!!), which are the most fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Boy Meets Dog (film #1 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]Somebody had the bright idea to revive a bunch of old Castle Films cartoons from the 40s and make them accessible for the deaf. So we have a cute, slightly scary cartoon about a boy and a dog and a mean father and the elf justice system, interrupted every few minutes by a perky sign language interpreter, who tries to explain things deaf children might not get. This cartoon is pretty weird to begin with, containing a truly frightening dad and a scary “Youth Machine” that turns him into a baby, but the sign language interpreter makes it even a weirder experience to watch––some of her facial expressions are priceless. This could be the cartoon on a film program featuring Deafula––now all we need are some sign language snack bar promos.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Anatomy of an Accident.Another weeper of a driver’s ed film. A guy who was killed in an auto accident comes back as a ghost and watches his wife sell his favorite chair to a couple of old biddies for 35 bucks. Then he tells us all about the accident. Apparently, after taking an extensive defensive driving course given by his employer, the Bell System, and preaching to his family endlessly about safe driving, he gets himself killed when he breaks one of his own rules, which frankly doesn’t speak too well for the driving course. Of course, he does live in a town where the driver’s are all universally terrible and you can count on seeing an accident every few miles. And you gotta wonder when the guy does an elaborate check on all his car’s lights before driving, but doesn’t have his family fasten their seat belts. The film ends with much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the guy’s wife when their little boy dies in the hospital. It’s a good thing she’s clueless about the fact that the old…
Teenage UFO Rock 'n' Roll Monster Show (Something Weird). [Category: Commercial]Teens! Sex! Hippies! Monsters! Rock 'n' Roll! It's all here on this fun tape of trailers from movies for and about teenagers. Lots of J.D. flicks, teen monster movies, and rock & roll movies are represented here and most of 'em are very campy. And if that's not enough, there's lots of extras, including some drive-in ephemera, a few spook show promos, and two uncut shorts: Twist Craze and A Preview to Teenage Crusade (reviewed separately). Johnny Legend even threw in a few weird video goodies at the end, a la Cartoons Celing Commercials. Loads of fun.
Some great claims from the trailers: "Parents! Do you actually know what your children do for thrills and kicks?" "Alcoholic frustrated wives spending their days in bars!" "Hold on to your sanity if you can! And be grateful this did not happen to you!" "Teasing becomes torture! An…
American Scene Magazine (film #6 in the Gleason’s Greatest Bomb section of TVParty). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Opening from a 50s version of Jackie Gleason’s variety show. This is before my time, but it brought back memories of Gleason’s 60s show, as well as the way variety shows used to have such a special event air about them. The June Taylor Dancers do an impressive dance routine, complete with a kaleidoscopic aerial camera sequence (Busby Berkeley, eat your heart out!), then Gleason himself comes out and does some high-kicking in the chorus line (and about has a heart attack in the process). This is one of the longer and better clips on the TVParty site, and it’s something you probably can see nowhere else.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
BBC Breakfast News: Local Elections Special (film #3 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]Opening credits for a special morning report on the 1987 British elections. Scenes of candidates are shown in slow motion and there’s some nice animation of the globe. For the most part, this is pretty ordinary, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
After Mein Kampf? (film #1 on Side B of Disc #9 of War Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Well, what a coincidence. This turns out to be the British propaganda film that forms the first half of Adolf Hitler. My comments about it in the review of that film still stand, of course, and it’s nice to see the original film in its entirety. It contains a number of dramatic reenactments that were cut out of the other film, including a real tearjerker scene of a cold-hearted Hitler Youth kid being confronted by his mother for turning in his father for some sort of violation of Nazism. The film has a bit of American footage tacked on at the end, which is jarring. It must have been the version for American distribution. Again, this is a great piece of propaganda.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **** (mainly for its breezy narration; the atrocities, of course, are not funny). Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
Best Food in Town (film # 1801 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This is the last part of a 50s film for restaurant workers about safe food-handling practices. There are plenty of opportunities to go “ewwww!!!” here, not least of which is some of the food. Mostly, though, this is pretty ordinary, though it does have lots of footage of 50s dinerware.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Civil Defense Commercials (film #6 on Atomic Scare Films, Vol. 1 (Something Weird, 1996)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]These are really 5 promos for the National Guard. Two of them feature a singing cowboy who I probably should be able to identify, since he seemed to have his own tv show, but can't. Two of them are animated in the 50s "cute" style, which is highly unusual for armed services promos. A nice, historically interesting extra on the Atomic Scare Films tape.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
And Then There Were Four.Jimmy Stewart narrates this real weeper of a driver’s ed film from the 40s. We are introduced to five “ordinary people,” one of which will die in a car accident before the day is over. At one point, Stewart apologizes for the next scene, but there is no gore in it, just footage of a burning car. It wouldn’t be until the 60s that driver’s ed films would bring up your lunch. Instead, this uses soap opera tactics, dragging out the suspense of finding out which character ends up dead, showing all their family members worrying and twisting their hands. Is it the jerky rich white guy who dies? The teen hot-rodder? The poor-but-lovable ethnic gardener? No, it’s the one that jerks the most tears. Stewart’s presence makes this more interesting than it might be, but it’s not nearly as much fun as Tomorrow’s Drivers.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Promotion By-Pass (film #22 on AV Geeks. Also, film #1 on The Educational Archives, Volume Four: On the Job (Fantoma, 2002)). [Category: Industrial]This is another “What would you do?" film for supervisors. Robbins, an office manager, gets a call from another office to "send over his best man" to take over management of that office. Robbins has two men to choose from: Bob, a nice younger fellow who's a real "people person," and Harry, an older guy who's a company veteran with an excellent work record, but whose people skills frankly suck. One guess who gets the promotion before you can say "age discrimination." Robbins tries to soften the blow to ol' Harry by giving him a long explanation justifying his decision, full of compliments and "you're our best man, but..." excuses. Harry seems to take it well at first, but when asked for his honest comments, gives Robbins two words: "I quit." Robbins doesn't know wha…
Amos ‘n’ Andy Was a Chance to See Real Middle Class Blacks (film #5 in the Amos ‘n’ Andy section of TVParty). [Category: Early Film & TV]Clip from the Amos ‘n’ Andy tv show where we see Andy and the Kingfish being unable to understand the musical terminology of Madame Queen’s voice teacher. Although the two main characters are portrayed as incredibly ignorant, according to stereotype, the erudite voice teacher is also black, which is unusual for the time. This doesn’t totally make up for the stereotypes, but it is something to take notice of.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Dancing on the Moon (film #8 on Cartoon Crazys: Sci-Fi (WinStar Home Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Hollywood]This Dave Fleischer cartoon is beautifully animated and has an interesting premise: animal honeymoon couples are taken on a rocketship to the moon so they can dance and spoon. Unfortunately, a cat couple is late and the tomcat just barely makes it through the door, while his tabby bride gets left behind. He has a lonely, miserable time on the moon playing solitaire and making cat's cradles while the other couples neck (the giraffes taking this concept to new, uh, heights). The real attraction of this cartoon is its pseudo-3D animation, combining flat characters with modeled backgrounds. The scenes in outer space are particularly stunning. This deserves to be thrown in as the cartoon at any film festival with the subject of voyages to the moon.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Billie the Buffalo Baby (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #219 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]This confusing film has some campy moments. It starts with scenes of Billie, a newborn buffalo calf. The narrator tries hard to get the kids in the audience to bond with Billie, his mother Polly, and his best friend April (I don’t know about you, but “April” just seems like the wrong name for a buffalo). Then it suddenly switches gears and tries to scare the kids by telling them how dangerous buffaloes are, showing a horse with a bloody injury from being gored by a buffalo, and sternly stating, “Buffalos are not tame and should not be kept as pets!” with the intent, I guess, of discouraging the kiddies from bringing into the house any stray buffalos that follow them home from school. Then it switches gears again, and we get to see an Indian explaining in sign language the role of the buffalo in Indian culture (you know, that generic, non-tribal Indian …
Caught in a Cabaret (film #1 on The Chaplin Collection DVD (Madacy Entertainment, 2002) ("Charlot, Garcon de Theatre"). Also, film #3 on Charlie Chaplin Festival (Diamond Entertainment, 1991). Also, film #29 in the Silent section of Movieflix.) [Category: Early Film & TV]The Little Tramp is a waiter in a cheap tavern, lorded over by a loud dictatorial boss. On his few brief breaks from work, Charlie passes himself off as the Greek Ambassador in order to court a pretty heiress. Unfortunately, the heiress discovers the truth when she and her rich friends go slumming and happen to stumble upon Charlie's workplace. This is not one of Chaplin's better efforts. There's lots of slapstick, but not a lot of laughs. And this kind of plot we've seen many times before. I do want a copy of his "Greek Ambassador" calling card for the Film Ephemera Museum, though. A 1914 Keystone film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. O…
Alexander’s Ragtime Band (film #3 on Sabucat Movie Trailers). [Category: Commercial]Trailer for a bouncy 40s musical of the type they don’t make anymore. This is pretty ordinary, but it has some nostalgia value.
Ratings: Camp/ Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Progress Island (MST3K Episode #621: The Beast of Yucca Flats (short #2)). [Category: Commercial]This is probably the worst short they've ever done, both in terms of the film itself and their msting of it. The film is a promotional travelogue for Puerto Rico made in the early 70s. They're trying really hard here to get more tourism and industrial development in their country while at the same time showing how completely modern and successful it already is. These two goals constantly undercut each other, creating a slightly bizarre tension. But mostly the film is rather dull, like most travelogues. The msting seems to be mostly on the level of the " not present!" joke over and over.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: *. Msting: **. Overall Rating: **.
Sex Psycho Trailers (extra on The Psycho Lover/Heat of Madness DVD (Something Weird, 2003)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]A collection of trailers from 70s exploitation movies about psycho madmen who like to rape and kill women. Being one myself (a woman, not a psycho madman, you dingbat), this is not my cup of tea. I will say that the last trailer, for Scream Bloody Murder, is mildly campy, featuring as it does the term “Gore-nography” and a gimmick blindfold that was given out free to audience members. Also, seeing Haley Mills here is a tragic testament to the fate of child stars in this culture.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Christmas Island (film #1 in the 0800064 JTF-8 Presents Operation Dominic section of DOE Nevada). [Category: Military & Propaganda]The narrator tells us a little bit about the history of Christmas Island, then says that nothing else in its history has given it as much notability as being blown up by an atomic bomb. Appalling and mercifully short.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Plan for Pleasant Living (film #3 on The 1950s Time Capsule (Video Resources, 1994)). [Category:Industrial]Why, hello! So nice of you to drop by the Good Housekeeping Model Home! A smiling perfect 50s housewife gives us a tour of a perfect 50s suburban home for a perfect 50s family, complete with twin beds in the master bedroom, sparkling new kitchen appliances, garishly colored wallpaper and upholstery, and telephones in every room, including the bathroom, the little boys' bedroom, and the patio (you don't suppose the Bell System had a hand in making this film, do you?). Campy elements include the hostess' super-bright white teeth; the first person perspective of the film, complete with complimentary comments you're supposed to be thinking ("Why how lovely!", "That's certainly practical!", etc.); and a deliveryman who's confused by the disembodied voice of the hostess coming through an intercom system (and the strong implication that the gr…
Accidents Don’t Just Happen (film #33 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]After operating unsuccessfully on an accident victim, a sleep-deprived doctor relaxes in the tiny, ill-equipped doctor’s lounge and settles down to read a government pamphlet on accident prevention. The pamphlet does a good job of putting him to sleep, but he ends up having a weird animated dream about accident prevention, in which he helps a limited-animation family become “accident free” by having the wife lose weight (this is considered to be a major cause of this family’s accidents, for some reason––she ends up with a 50s hourglass figure and blonde hair, to boot) and getting the husband a pair of glasses. The dream ends by insisting that more money be spent on research into accidents, so that they can be “conquered” like polio was, and insisting that the doctor get seat belts in his car. Before it can get to the dangers of sleep-deprivation, though, the doctor is awakened for another round of s…
Big Man on Campus (film #215 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]High school student Jerry Warner sits in front of the principal's office, his life flashing before his eyes. Mostly it's a life filled with such horrible crimes as throwing milk cartons, riding a bicycle with no hands, and spray-painting a teacher's lab coat. Jerry narrates his life story, and either puberty is still several years in the future for him, or they got a 4th-grader to dub in his voice. Jerry gets suspended for his pranks and this causes him to turn over a new leaf in the direction of conformity to adult expectations. He'd better, or I'm sure Sid Davis has gruesome consequences in mind for him.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Carmaux: Drawing Out the Coke (film #19 on The Movies Begin, Volume One: The Great Train Robbery and Other Primary Works (Kino Video, 1994). Also, film #19 on The Art of Cinema Begins (Video Yesteryear, 1997)). [Category: Early Film & TV]Coke, a coal-mining product, is drawn out of a stone oven in a long block and cooled with water. Where else but in film ephemera can you witness turn-of-the-century coal-mining practices? An 1896 Lumiere film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Next Week Promos (Hollywood's Attic, 1996). [Category: Commercial]Next week on Living Better Cinematically: A tape full of closing segments from 50s and 60s tv shows telling us all about next week's show. Some of them will include commercials. Some will give away most of the plot of the show. Many of them will be from cartoons. And you'll have fun playing "Spot the Star in an Early Performance". You'll see all this and more on "Next Week Promos", next time on Living Better Cinematically. This segment of Living Better Cinematically was brought to you by Glib Soap, the Slime Scraper.
Next week's episode of "The New Casper Cartoon Show" features very limited animation.
The makers of Philip Morris ask us, "Do you inhale?"
Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" promos are the best ones on the tape, and he just uses narration!
O.K., I've found it––the dorkiest commercial ever made! Check out the 5th Avenue Candy…
Are We There Yet? (film #22 in the Comedy section of Brickfilms. Also, film #5 in the Music Video section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]The Lego family goes on vacation, and before they get too far, the kids ask the inevitable question. Unfortunately, they fail to take into account that Dad is an amateur Zen master, at least until Mom gets into it. This is an amusing Brickfilm with an unusual concept. It’s also very well made, with beautiful sets that make you want to shout, “Hey kids! Look at the scenery!” And with Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” on the soundtrack, how can you go wrong?
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: *****.
BBC Breakfast News: Gulf War Special (film #2 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]Opening credits for a special news report from the BBC on the Gulf War of the 90s. This already seems like it was a lot classier, and a lot less biased, than the news coverage here, and it wasn’t even their country or their war. A nice little bit of recent history.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Adolf Hitler (Side B of Disc #3 of WWII: The Ultimate Collection (Brentwood Home Video, 2004)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This 1948 documentary about Hitler starts with quite a bit of footage from a British propaganda film about the Nazi dictator, so it’s almost like two films in one. Actually, the British footage is a great deal of fun. It has two narrators and it skips through Hitler’s life at a breakneck pace, reminding you of the documentary parodies the Pythons loved to do. It then continues in a more straightforward fashion, documenting Hitler’s life and exploits, with particular emphasis on his relationship with Eva Braun. This is an excellent example of a propaganda film, even though it was made when the war was already over. Every effort is made to make you see Hitler as the ultimate in evil, not that he made it all that difficult. The British section features a number of propaganda illustrations of Nazi leaders, including a set of playing cards that have outrageou…
Agriculture USA (film #51 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]Industry! Building a better––no, wait! Agriculture! Building a better tomorrow! This USDA film tries desperately to make agriculture seem as exciting as the industrial World of Tomorrow. Technology is touted as The Answer to better farming, right down to sharing pastures with missile silos, educating people in India about The Atom on the Farm, and spraying everything in sight. It’s as bombastic as most industrial films and that makes it very mstable. It also has some wonderful factory footage of various forms of food processing. It kind of drags after awhile, though, and you just want to say, “I get it already!! Farming is good!!”
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Chow Hound (film #17 on The Complete Uncensored Private SNAFU DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]A patriotic bull leaves his newlywed cow behind and joins the Army to provide food for Private Snafu. The processed meat of the bull is sent over hill and dale, with great difficulty, until it finally reaches Snafu's unit's camp. There Snafu vastly overloads his plate, eats until full, and then throws a huge amount of leftovers away. The ghost of the bull is so enraged by this that he butts Snafu halfway around the world! This is one of the shorter Snafus and it makes its point simply and well.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
American Pioneer (film #122 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]This is a fairly straightforward social studies film about American pioneers making their first forays into the west, crossing the Appalachian mountains into what would later be Kentucky. The reenactments shown on screen seem pretty authentic for the most part, and the acting is good, though you don’t get to hear anyone speak since the film is narrated. The attitude of the film towards Indians, though, will make you wince––they are constantly portrayed at ruthless killers. Mostly, though, this is pretty ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Out of This World (MST3K Episode #618: High School Big Shot. Also, film #1078 on Prelinger Archive). [Catgory: Industrial]This film would have us believe that both heaven and hell are extremely interested in the fortunes of bread truck drivers. A driver with a poor sales record recently repented and changed his evil ways, so the Devil of Bread Sales makes a bet with the Angel of Bread Sales that he will go back to his old habits if a pretty woman makes fun of him. So the angel poses as a magazine writer and goes with the bread man on his route, where she is taunted by the devil in various guises (cab driver, cop, etc.). She makes a token effort to make light of the bread man's sales efforts, only to have him come back with the full-blown Gospel of Bread, to her delight and to the devil's chagrin. The whole concept of this film is really weird, and thus it is really fun to watch. Or, if you don't believe me, then heed the words of the Giant Mutant Tom Servo: "MOVIE BAD…
Amos ‘n’ Andy #2 (film #4 in the Amos ‘n’ Andy section of TVParty). [Category: Early Film & TV]Closing credits of the controversial 50s tv show, featuring the theme music made famous by the radio show. This has a real feel of a radio show transposed to tv, making it a good example of early television programming.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The African Queen (film #2 on SabuCat Movie Trailers). [Category: Commercial]I never dreamed a mere physical experience could be so stimulating! Sorry, I just gave away the best line in this trailer for the classic John Huston film. It’s a good record of the film, beautifully preserved. And it ends with a fun bit of theater ephemera announcing Humphrey Bogart’s Oscar.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Daddy (film #1303 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]This soundie features the original material girl, Lazy Daisy Mae, singing to her sugar daddy about how expensive her tastes are. Actually, she seems way too nice for this song, as does the nerdy combo that accompanies her.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
Sex Madness (film #131 on Feature Films). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This is more of a soap opera than an exploitation film. Small-town girl Millie wins a beauty contest and gets to go to New York City, leaving her fiancĂ© Wendell behind at home. After the contest is over, she has stars in her eyes and tries to Make It Big. Unfortunately, she quickly lands on the street with no job, no money, and no prospects, so she falls for the pitch of a “theatrical agent,” lands on the casting couch, and ends up with syphilis. Now she can’t go home and marry Wendell, so she must drown her sorrows in her job as a chorus girl in a burlesque show. Fortunately, a kindly doctor puts her in the hospital and gives her effective treatments for the disease. Eventually, she is well enough to go home, but under strict orders to continue the treatments with a doctor at home and not marry Wendell until she is completely cured. She follows doctor’s orders, going to a neighboring town for the treatments an…
The Big Deal (film #4 on Christian Youth Scare Films, Vol. 5 (Something Weird, 2000)). [Category: Educational]10-year-old wheeler-dealer Pete swindles his best friend out of his birthday watch and then talks him into getting the goods on another kid who is going to cheat in a contest they are all going to enter. Pete's mentor is his Uncle Fred, a deli owner who engages in shady shenanigans like putting rabbit meat in his "chicken salad." But then Pete has a heart-to-heart talk with his dad, who sets him straight about this whole honesty business. This 30-second conversation that vaguely mentions the Bible causes Pete to have a complete change of heart. He gives back his buddy's watch and abandons his bright idea for "fighting fire with fire" in the contest. Wow, I didn't know parenting was so easy. This is actually an appealing little film. The child actors are unschooled and amateurish, but that makes them seem more real. And the complex moral issues r…
Captain Midnight (film #10 on Atomic TV (Video Resources, 1994)). [Category: Early Film & TV]This episode of the early 50s kiddie adventure show has Captain Midnight trying to save a kidnapped scientist from a bunker that's about to be hit by an atomic bomb. They don't make it out of there in time, but fortunately for them, the scientist's cold-generating machine creates "absolute zero, which counteracts the absolute heat of the bomb", so that it only generates enough force to blow the door off its hinges, allowing them to escape to safety. Yeah, right. Msties will want to watch for Sid "Monkey Boy" Melton as the Captain's dorky assistant. Comes complete with Ovaltine commercial.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Going Places (film #603 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]This 50s film, amazingly enough, promotes better public transportation rather than better roads, more parking, and cars, cars, and more cars. It’s a valid message––too bad nobody listened to it. This is a great film to contrast with The Dynamic American City, or Freedom of the American Road. It’s also a good film to see lots of big ugly 50s cars, as well as buses, trolleys, and streetcars.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Monsters on the March (Video Images, 1987). [Category: Commercial]Short collection of 14 trailers from classic horror and 50's science fiction movies. The few interesting trailers (The Return of the Fly, The Thing, etc.) also appear in other better collections. Fairly dull as a whole, though it does get 5 extra points for listing the trailers in order on the package.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: **. Overall Rating: *.
Chosin Reservoir (film #6 in the Korean War section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Military & Propaganda]British newsreel clip of soldiers trapped in the Chosin Reservoir area under severe winter weather conditions during the Korean War. An interesting document of a little-known event in the history of that conflict.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Opportunity USA (film #7 on Lifestyles USA, Vol. 2 (Something Weird, 2000)). [Category: Industrial]This film starts by telling us that everything good in this country is the result of capital investments. Apparently, they're not aware that everything good in this country is actually a result of the railroads. Then they turn the film over to an investment banker and it gets boring, boring, boring, as he attempts to explain such things as stocks, bonds, and underwriting to the masses. Yawn! At least Mainline USA has trains!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Cupid Always Gets His Man (track #7 on Cartoon Crazys: Sci-Fi (WinStar Home Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Hollywood]The Cupids (there seems to be a whole nation of them) wage all-out war on W. C. Fields, trying to make him fall in love with his homely neighbor, and vice-versa. It's not easy, but since the Cupids are portrayed as mini-Mounties, they finally get their man. The ending is unbelievable, culminating with the stork blessing W. C. Fields and his bride with quintuplets (now that's a scary thought)! Not quite as bizarre as it sounds, but still pretty bizarre.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Bicycle Today, Automobile Tomorrow (film #211 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]This Sid Davis film manages to take all the fun out of bike riding by giving out rules, rules, and more rules. Especially tedious are all the rules of bike maintenance shown, none of which I ever followed as a kid, except for stopping by the gas station to fill my tires at the air pump, which was fun. There aren't even any bad examples or gruesome accidents, so Sid Davis must have been sleeping through this one. It might bring back some bike-riding memories if you were a kid during the 60s, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
California State Fair Highlights (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #1158 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]This 1913 film shows us scenes of the California State Fair. Mostly it involves parades and races along a very muddy track. The highlight of the film is a 90 mph crash of two trains. It's fairly spectacular footage, but the point of all of it is not given. Still, I guess it tells you how folks in 1913 amused themselves. The print of this is in very nice condition. A 1913 Vistamount film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Monsters Crash the Pajama Party Extras (on Monsters Crash the Pajama Party (Sinister Cinema)). [Category: Commerical]Since Monsters Crash the Pajama Party is such a short film, Sinister Cinema threw some extra goodies on the tape. Before the film are three trailers from exploitation movies which may have been shown in the same theaters as Monsters. After the film is the trailer for Monsters and three live spook show promos, which are always great. These extras are a lot of fun and round out the tape well.
Great Moment in Bad Acting: Watch Timothy Farrell (always a sign of high quality cinema!) deliver the line, "You'll never get away with this!" in the trailer for Gun Girls.
Gimmick Alert! The trailer for Monsters informs us that it was filmed in "Fantastic HorrorVision"! This refers to the gimmick scene in the film where the mad scientist sends his assistants out into the audience to get a new victim for his experiments. During showings of the movie,…
Chime Bells (film #1330 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Just how do you say goodbye to your sweetie in the navy before he goes off to fight World War II? Answer: Why, with yodeling, of course! This film is what it is––no comment I could make would be sufficient or desired. Though I don’t know what she sees in that sailor––he can’t yodel worth a darn. And what’s with the ominous music behind the card that says “The End”?
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
Once Upon a Honeymoon (MST3K Episode #701: Night of the Blood Beast. Also in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #4 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 1: The Rainbow Is Yours CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film # 1049 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Inudstrial]Songwriter Jeff hasn't been able to take his wife Mary on a honeymoon in over a year because of his workaholic boss, but now he finally has the chance. They're all packed and just getting ready to leave when, of course, the boss calls and tells Jeff that Sonya, the prima-donna backer of the musical Jeff just scored, wants a new tune to "The Wishing Song" right away. It looks like the honeymoon is over, but the day is saved by Jeff and Mary's incredibly swishy guardian angel, Wilbur, who arrives on the scene dressed in a powder blue monk's robe and Elton John-style white glasses, sprinkling glitter everywhere. But the film is not really even about honeymoons or wishing or angels or songwriting––i…
The Cuckoo Murder Case (film #11 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 2 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999). Also, film #1 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot, Volume 3: Things That Go Bump in the Night (Kino Video, 1993)). [Category: Hollywood]In an old haunted house, a cuckoo in a cuckoo clock is mysteriously murdered, and it's up to detective Flip the Frog to solve the case. OK, I admit it, I love it when inanimate objects come to life in these cartoons, and in this one they do it in a big way, making it a favorite of mine. That's all, really, but that's enough.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
Better Use of Leisure Time (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #209 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]In this campy Coronet film, Ken spends all his leisure time in his room moping about his friends all being busy, until he develops a hobby––visual and auditory hallucinations! The voice in his head tells him he's wasting his time, though, and his visual hallucinations all involve his parents 50 or 100 years ago working their butts off and expecting Ken to do so as well. Ken finally decides to trade his psychosis in for a more conventional hobby like photography (though photography of what he doesn't tell us). This film's ludicrous set-up makes it loads of fun and a good subject for msting. It also can be part of the wholesome hobby of film ephemera collecting.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Calamitous Elopement (film #4 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume 4: The Arrival of D. W. Griffith (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). [Category: Early Film & TV]A couple's elopement provides a golden opportunity for a dorky guy to steal stuff from them. He even comes along on their honeymoon by hiding in a steamer trunk and at the first opportunity steals everything that isn't nailed down. Elopements were a trendy topic in early films and they usually come out pretty silly. This film is no exception. A 1908 D. W. Griffith film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
The Andy Griffith Show (film #1 in the Mayberry RIP section of TVParty). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]An earlier version of the “Andy Griffith Show” theme, in black-and-white, and featuring a Sanka coffee promo at the end. The presence of the ad make this more of a blast from the past than the other version of the theme.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Autogyro (film #5 in the 100 Years in the Air section of WPA Film Library). [Category: News]Silent newsreel footage from the 20s of an autogyro, which is sort of a cross between a helicopter and an airplane––it has the big rotors on the top, but it has to take off and land like an airplane. We get to see it take off and land a few times, as well as some of the parties responsible for it. This has a bit of historical interest in that it was an unusual contraption, but that’s all.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Century of Progress Exposition: Wings of a Century (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #281 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]Silent footage of the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. This would have been better if it had had sound, but it does give you an idea of what it was like to attend a world’s fair back in their heyday. My favorite is the Sinclair display with the creaky mechanical dinosaurs.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Monster Mania (Goodtimes, 1991). [Category: Commercial]One of the better collections of trailers from science fiction, horror and fantasy films. There's quite a wide selection here, including lots of 50's sci-fi, some classic horror, and several selections from both Ray Harryhausen and Val Lewton. This is a well-put-together, fun tape which gets 10 extra points for throwing in some drive-in ephemera as well.
The Return of the Fly will really "BUG" you!!
Gimmick Alert! A great piece of movie theater ephemera announces that free 2 for 1 passes will be given out to anyone who watches the advertised horror show in its entirety and leaves the theater unassisted. And the show is in "Hypnoscope"! "We dare you to live through this!"
Blast from the Cold War: "Do you know what a radioactive isotope is?" "No, but if it can be loaded, I can fire it!" (from the trailer of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms).
Ray Harryhausen fans will w…
Amos ‘n’ Andy #1 (film #1 in the Amos ‘n’ Andy section of TVParty). [Category: Early Film & TV]Short clip from the earliest version of the “Amos ‘n’ Andy” television show, featuring the Kingfish faking illness. This actually reminds me of some of the black sitcoms of the 70s, which perhaps says something about either them or “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” I can’t quite tell which.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Afternoons (film #26 in the 1967 section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]Cute animated promo for the afternoon line-up on NBC in 1967, featuring a housewife who says, “I think I’m in love with my tv!” It also features the 60s NBC peacock theme, which brought a bunch of childhood tv-watching memories back to me.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Sanders of the River (film #26 in the Black Culture section of Movieflix). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This British film is essentially a celebration of imperialism. Sanders is a British civil servant in Nigeria who keeps peace among warring tribes by ruling with an iron fist. Paul Robeson plays a chief who gains power by sucking up to Sanders at every turn, while spending his spare time singing songs that owe more to American popular music than to African tribal music. Granted, Sanders is portrayed as a just leader who stops slave trading and war mongering, but the film seems to imply that this is because he is white and British. The natives are referred to many times as “black children” of the British overlords and they are portrayed as thoroughly unable to govern themselves. The politics of the film makes you want to throw up, but it does have many authentic scenes of African tribal dances and rituals, which gives it some historical interest. It’s incredibly slow-moving, thoug…
Chicken Little (film #28 on Disc 1 of Walt Disney on the Front Lines (Disney, 2004)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This wartime Disney toon tells the story of how Foxy Loxy used gossip and misinformation to fool all the poultry in the chicken yard into coming over for dinner (as the main course, of course). This has one of the darkest endings I’ve ever seen in a Disney toon, and that explains why they inserted an introduction to it by Leonard Maltin explaining how it was meant to be a wartime propaganda piece. This is an excellent example of such wartime propaganda incorporating itself into the mass media, giving this toon a great deal of historical value.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Danger Is Your Companion (film #4 on Oops! (A/V Geeks)). [Category: Public Service]This 40s film, made by the Red Cross, urges everybody to go out and get first aid training. It’s hyperbolic style makes it fairly campy and quite mstable. Campiest is a scene of a totally clueless guy who stumbles on a car accident and totally doesn’t know what to do––his facial expressions are priceless. It’s also interesting from a historical perspective as a document of first aid practices during the 40s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
An’ D (film #7 in the Action section of Brickfilms. Also, film #2 in the Fantasy section of Brickfilms. Also, film #7 in the Sci-Fi section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]A Lego game of Dungeons & Dragons goes horribly wrong when a parallel universe pops up. This brickfilm has one of the better plots I’ve seen, and some of the sets and special effects are quite nice. The animation is rather primitive, but considering the fact that these films are amateur efforts, I’m pretty forgiving about that. Overall, this is well-directed and fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Nation at Your Fingertips (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #3 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 6: The Uncharted Landscape CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #965 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This early 1950s film introduced the country to the concept of direct long-distance dialing, by showing how residents of Englewood, New Jersey, the city where the first experimental direct dial program was installed, were able to call across the country without an operator. Like many Bell System films, it's very conscious of the telephone's history and how it changed with the times––we get to see a Victorian couple shouting into an old wall-mounted phone, scurrying young male operators (the first ones were male), and an early female operator wearing a bizarre huge early headset. What's really interesting about this film, though, is the glimpse into the past we get from seeing a currently commonplace technology when it was first being introduced. Bell…
Apollo 12 (film #10 in the Apollo 11 section of WPA Film Library). [Category: News]Boring tv footage of the Apollo 12 astronauts talking about training for their moon mission, though it gets mildly ironic when they start talking about a permanent space station on the moon.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Carrier Deck Crash Hazards (extra on Pearl Harbor: Before and After DVD (Triton, 2001)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This WWII GI safety film shows us the danger to personnel onboard aircraft carriers when planes crash and how they can be avoided. Lots of spectacular footage of plane crashes is shown, offsetting the dry narration. This really hits home the dangers of fighting a war, even from the relatively safe distance of an aircraft carrier at sea. A great little piece of WWII history.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Caught Mapping (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #277 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This Jam Handy film breezily describes to us the field of cartography, showing us how roadmaps are researched and printed. I personally find this to be pretty interesting, though others might not. The film also has historical value in that it gives us a good idea of how maps were made and the conditions of roads during the 40s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Crusades (film #2 on Blood of Floor Sweepings (LSVideo)). [Category: Hollywood]This is a clip from filmed coverage of the Hollywood premiere of the 30s movie The Crusades. Stars of the film and celebrities attending the premiere are interviewed as huge crowds push in on them. Capture some of the excitement that a Hollywood premiere used to generate.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
A Ballroom Tragedy (film #1 in the Dramatic Sketches section of American Variety Stage). [Category: Early Film & TV]A couple at a ball sneak into a back room to make out, 1905-style, when a jealous rival of the woman’s sneaks up behind her and stabs her. I guess that is pretty tragic. A 1905 Biograph film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Addams Family (film #38 in the 1964 section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]Extended promo for “The Addams Family,” featuring such antics as Morticia clipping the blossoms off roses, Gomez crashing his toy trains, and Uncle Fester playing with knives. Fun for all the family!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Naked Flower: A Fable of Love (extra on The Psycho Lover/Heat of Madness DVD (Something Weird, 2003)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This is basically a short, sexed-up version of a slasher flick. A gardener is put away in a mental asylum for almost raping a little girl. Years later, he attacks the same person, now grown up, on the day after her wedding. The ending is maddeningly inconclusive. There are no explicit scenes of rape, though there are some leading-up-to scenes, as well as extended make-out scenes with the woman and her husband. Still, I can’t recommend this, as it seems to pander to the rapists in the audience.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: BOMB.
George & Lill (film #17 in the Public Info. Films section of TVArk). [Category: Public Service]George and Lill are two extremely silly burglars of the type one might find in a cartoon or a shopping cart film. They fail to leave the lights on in their house when they go out a’burgling, and thus end up getting burgled themselves. Lill’s tutu is quite a sight to behold. Silly fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Amos and Andy (film #3 in the What Happened to What’s Happening? section of TVParty). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This is a clip from the notorious 50s African-American sitcom. In it, Andy walks out on his own wedding after hearing some dirt about Nightingale from the Kingfish. This would be funnier, I think, if one knew the background of the story. As it is, it’s not particularly funny, though it’s not as excruciatingly racist as some other things I’ve seen. And the laugh track is annoying.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Apollo 11: For All Mankind (in the Documentary section of Open Video Project). [Category: News]This NASA documentary about the Apollo 11 mission appears to have been made fairly soon after the moon landing. It’s pretty standard for the most part, with lots of film footage of the mission, a bit of the tv footage, and lots of classical music and pompous narration about Man’s Destiny. Still, this was an important and interesting space mission, so a documentary like this is appropriate. The audio and video quality of this downloadable version stinks, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Better Reading (film #6 on Teenage Turmoil, Vol. 6 (Something Weird, 2001)). [Category: Educational]Poor Harold. He spends all his time studying, yet still makes poor grades. The school gives him a bunch of reading tests and they find out he is a slow reader. They put him on a Better Reading Program, which he participates in with the kind of enthusiasm only found in these kinds of educational films. Soon he is reading articles about Abraham Lincoln to the family and casually using the phrase, "I read about it somewhere." Of course, 15 years later he would be reading Marx, Sarte and Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, but that's all part of the wonderful world reading opens up to people, so who can complain?
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Cabiria (recorded off of Turner Classic Movies). [Category: Early Film & TV]Way back in 1914, when D. W. Griffith was still making two-reelers, the Italians were already making sword and sandal epics like this one. Cabiria is a little Roman girl who ends up in the hands of the Carthaginians after a volcanic eruption. A Roman soldier, Fulvius, and his slave, Maciste (yes, that Maciste in his first film) get involved in trying to rescue her. She is not so much a character as a macguffin in this movie, which is filled with the usual political intrigue, royal romance, and battle scenes. Maciste even bends the bars back to escape from a prison cell, making the sword and sandal experience complete. Still, all this is extremely impressive for 1914––in fact, it’s hard to remember that this movie was made so early. Some of the sets, special effects, and montage scenes are breathtaking. Kino Video did an excellent job of restoring the film, translating its subtitles, and providing a musical…
Mr. B Natural (MST3K Episode #319: War of the Colossal Beast). [Category: Commercial]Probably the best short they've ever done, both in terms of the film itself and their msting of it. The film, designed to sell Conn band instruments to schoolchildren and their parents, features the very female Betty Lustre playing a male sprite character a la Peter Pan, who is supposedly the spirit of music. "Mr." B Natural visits a shy, troubled junior high school boy named Buzz, and convinces him to join the school band, mostly by appearing in his bedroom and prancing her feminine pulchritude around shamelessly. More than any other weird commercial film, this one makes you want to shake the producers silly and say "My God!! What were you thinking??" Isn't puberty hard enough without having to deal with an apparition of questionable gender appearing in your bedroom and prancing and gadding about in a skimpy costume? Were people ever this clueless about the sexual implicat…
Carrier or Killer (film #4 on disc 2 of Hell’s Highway DVD (Kino Video, 2003)). [Category: Industrial]Goofus and Gallant get jobs driving big rigs in this excerpt from a truck driving safety film. Goofus is ill-mannered, uses greasy kid stuff on his hair, smokes cigarettes, and doesn’t take care of his truck. Whereas Gallant wears a crisp uniform, keeps a squeaky clean truck, and spends the long boring hours on the road thinking about the last Safety Banquet, which looks like it was even longer and more boring than long-distance driving. This film is so juvenile, it’s quite campy, so it’s too bad this is only an excerpt.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
A Challenge to Democracy (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #509 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This stark film explains and attempts to justify the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. It’s a tall order, and the filmmakers seemed to have known it, for despite their newspeak terminology of “relocation” and “evacuation,” they end up not really trying very hard to make this seem any better than what it really was––the forced imprisonment of a group of American citizens based on race. Most of the reassurances the film tries to give that this is not what it appears to be are contradicted at later points in the film. It’s not imprisonment or even internment, the film says, but then it shows us the barbed wire fences and guards around the perimeter. The fact that these people are being “relocated” should not imply that they are disloyal, but then they turn around and say that their presence on the west coast was a “milit…
The Ball Game (film #12 on America at Work, America at Leisure). [Category: Early Film & TV]This looks like a camera was set up on one of the bases of a baseball diamond (which one is hard to tell) and we get to see a bit of a game in progress. This is so short it doesn’t have much interest, but it’s probably the first filmed footage of a baseball game, so that gives it some historical value. An 1898 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
The Bing Crosby Show (film #22 in the Lost Fall Previews of the 60s section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]Bing Crosby rather boringly tells us all about his new tv series. He doesn’t show us any scenes from it or anything––he just sits in front of the camera and tells us about it. The series was not very long-lived or memorable, and maybe this explains why.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Captain Bondage vs. Women’s Lib (extra on The Psycho Lover/Heat of Madness DVD (Something Weird, 2003)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]Captain Bondage, who is essentially a guy in a thoroughly ridiculous black-masked superhero costume, kidnaps a woman wearing a pair of hideous-looking polyester pants and takes her to his lair, which is a suburban home filled with women tied up in various positions. All are fully clothed, though some wear skimpy outfits and high heels. In the end, Captain Bondage turns out to be his own worst enemy, because although he has created an elaborate harness get-up that allows one of his bound slaves to bring him a beer on a little platform that extends from her waist, he failed to design his mask with a mouth opening, so he can’t drink it (d’oh!). The film is silent and in garish 70s color, but is so incompetently done it looks like home movie footage. The endless scenes of tied-up women are mildly disturbing and the whole production reeks of sleaziness, …
The Middleton Family at the 1939 New York World's Fair (Moviecraft, 1994). [Category: Industrial]This film was made by Westinghouse to promote its exhibits at the 1939 New York World's Fair. It features an "average" middle-class family who come all the way from Indiana to go to the fair, an obnoxious teenaged son who says "Gee whiz!" and plays practical jokes all the time, and a love triangle involving the daughter, a godless Commie art teacher, and a clean-cut Westinghouse engineer who talks up the company and modern technology in general every time you turn around. The scenes with the art teacher will make you cringe––he is a slimy, cranky, spoilsport who can't argue his way out of a barrel, yet tries to anyway. He also buys the daughter a cheap, costume jewelry ring from a magic shop and tells her it's a priceless heirloom that's been in the family for generations. All this is supposed to be associated with communism, lack of enthusiasm for m…
Crazy Town (track #2 on Weird Cartoons (Rhino, 1987)). [Category: Hollywood]Betty Boop and Bimbo have nothing better to do, so they go to Crazy Town, where everything is strange. I love cartoons like this that try to present weird alternate worlds––the 60's could only aspire to be this hallucinogenic. Amazingly, this is not the strangest of the Betty Boop cartoons––it's actually tame compared to something like Minnie the Moocher. But it's still pretty strange and quite fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Gabriel Over the White House (recorded off of American Movie Classics). [Category: Public Service]This feature film qualifies as ephemera because William Randolph Hearst was responsible for it, making it to further his political philosophies. It was made during the height of the Depression and it stars Walter Huston as President Judson Hammond. The America portrayed here is very bleak and on the verge of total societal breakdown, reminding us of how desperate times were during the Depression. President Hammond starts out as a career politician who is more interested in old-boy cronyism than in the serious problems facing the country. That is, until he gets into a car accident and gets a bump on the head. That bump on the head totally changes his personality, and suddenly he becomes a strong leader who pushes through radical reforms in the government, even to the point of getting Congress to retire, proclaiming martial law, and making himself dictator. Although what he accomplishes is …
Amiga Dpaint Anims (film #215 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]These are some animated clips a guy made back in the early 90s on his Amiga computer in Dpaint. For animations made while just playing around on a system that is now obsolete, these are pretty fun to watch. I particularly like the starship captain with his silly creature sidekick.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Apollo 11 Facts VJSC-1425L (in the Documentary section of Open Video Project). [Category: News]Now this is the sort of historical footage I like to stumble across. This is a good long unedited portion of the NASA television footage of the Apollo 11 mission. This is the stuff the guys in Houston were watching, and it contains all of the back-and-forth talking between the astronauts and Mission Control. Now I’ll be honest and admit that this is not one of the more entertaining pieces of ephemera out there––the video is barely visible, there are lots of times when the astronauts are outside of camera range, lots of the stuff they do is very technical and not very interesting, and it goes on and on and on. But I remember watching this stuff as a kid, and even at age 9 it held me riveted to the screen because of what a big deal it was. It was such a big deal that I felt I was a part of history just watching the first human beings set foot on the moon. This brought back those memories. If y…
Benefits of Looking Ahead. Nick, the dorky teenager from What to Do on a Date, is just as clueless about career planning as he is about dating. After his "friend" warns Nick that he will probably turn out to be a bum the way he's going (and we see a great scene of an unshaven Nick gnawing on some stale bread in a cheap hotel room), Nick turns to the rickety table he's building in shop class, which falls apart when he tries to pound a nail into it. Nick finally figures out that he needs to make a plan for his table, and then it occurs to him that maybe he should make a plan for his life as well. This guy has to be the dorkiest, most clueless hero of any of these films. He never seems to know anything about anything. I wouldn't be surprised if later on he was in films called What to Do on Your Honeymoon, Benefits of Asking for a Raise, How to Talk to Your Teenagers, or What to Do After Retirement.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interes…
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Audio Commentary) (Image Entertainment, 1997 (DVD)). [Category: Early Film & TV]This alternate soundtrack on the DVD version features a commentary by Mike Budd, who mainly argues that the contrast between the film's realistic storyline and editing on the one hand, and it's expressionistic sets, makeup and acting on the other is what makes the film so weird. It's a pretty interesting argument, and Budd enhances it with a lot of contextual information about the time and circumstances in which the film was made. Unfortunately, the commentary doesn't jibe very well with the film itself, which is a lot more compelling. After awhile, I wanted the film to just stand alone without explanations. Still, there's enough interesting content in the commentary to be worth at least one viewing.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Careers in Emergency Medicine (film #3 on Oops! (A/V Geeks)). [Category: Industrial]The first half of this film is quite interesting, as it shows a rescue squad saving the life of a little boy who falls into a swimming pool and almost drowns. The entire rescue, from the accident itself to the boys’ arrival and treatment in the emergency room, is shown straightforwardly, without narration. Then a narrator comes on and tediously goes over the various jobs involved in emergency medicine, while the same footage of the rescue is played again. This knocks a few points off the interest meter. Still, the film is a great snapshot of the state of emergency medicine during the 70s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Babies Rolling Eggs (film #11 on America at Work, America at Leisure. Also in the Historical section of Open Video Project). [Category: Early Film & TV]Some toddlers roll eggs down a hill, while a bunch of rough-looking older kids aggressively jostle to grab them. Eventually, this game turns into a melee among the kids, most of whom look like school bullies. This was probably some sort of Easter event. I’m glad this particular tradition didn’t make it into the present. A 1902 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Also from MTM – The Texas Wheelers (film #5 in the Class of 1974 section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]Jack Elam (you remember him––he played dangerously unbalanced loonies in countless 40s and 50s films) stars as a wayward father of a Texas family come home to mooch off of, uh, I mean take care of, his kids. In this promo, we see Gary Busey and Mark Hammil preparing to bury a duck. Any wonder why this series was not a success?
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Rolling Stones (film #6 in The British Invasion section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]60s newsreel clips of the Rolling Stones playing a prank where they pretend to be hitchhiking (something that would never be done today, due to safety concerns about stalkers), preparing for a big concert, reading fan mail, being interviewed by the press, and appearing in Australia. Unfortunately, this is all narrated and we never get to hear the stones speak or play music. This has some mild historical value, more so for Stones fans.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Fundo in Chile (film #578 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]In Chile, a wealthy landowner leaves to large fundos (farms/ranches) to his sons when he dies. One son, Juan, pretty much ignores the fundo and parties away his wealth in the city. The other son, Roberto, institutes all kinds of reforms on his fundo, such as making use of modern technology, irrigating the fields, improving the workers’ living conditions, and providing all sorts of social services for them. This is basically another Goofus and Gallant film, though it does provide a snapshot into the ways of life 1940s pre-revolutionary Chile.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.