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Showing posts from April 11, 2004
Brazil Gets the News (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #243 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Ho-hum, another boring film about Brazil…wait a minute. This film is full of gentle surprises, mostly from the narrator, who narrates in a breezy, sly style, throwing in little jokes when you least suspect them, and generally not taking the proceedings too seriously. The film is about newspaper production in Sao Paulo (‘the Detroit of Brazil,” the opening title card tells us, “or is Detroit really the Sao Paulo of the United States?”) and it is actually one of the clearest and best-made factory tours I’ve ever seen. This really gives you a good idea of what newspaper publishing was like back in the 40s, and it probably was pretty much the same in the U.S., since the film tells us that several times. The propaganda point was that free countries have a free press, unlike some Axis countries we could name. And also probably to build up good wil…
Gypsies for a Day (film #8 on Blood of Floor Sweepings (LSVideo)). [Category:Industrial]This 1930s silent film documents a big cross-country motorcycle race held in Keene, NH, and sponsored by Goodyear. Keene must have been the 30s version of Sturgis. The weirdest moment in the film is nighttime footage of a bizarre line dance done around the campfire by the participants in the race. It's also somewhat weird to experience motorcycles, normally such noisy machines, in total silence. Otherwise, this film is pretty ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Chinook's Children (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #538 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]This silent featurette shows the training of the puppies of Chinook, Admiral Richard Byrd's lead sled dog. As you would expect, the puppies are incredibly cute and will probably steal your heart. I was happy to hear they were trained without whips or chokes. The rest of the film is fairly dull, especially the race footage at the end. Dog fans will probably like this, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
BBC1 Schools #2 (film #4 in the Schools section of TVArk). [Category: Educational]Very brief clip of another educational television counter, this one featuring a clock, and a clipped British announcer. This one probably wasn’t very interesting to watch.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Before Hollywood, There Was Fort Lee, New Jersey (Image Entertainment, 2003). [Category: Early Film & TV]Fort Lee, New Jersey was basically the Hollywood before there was Hollywood. Edison started making movies there in his Black Maria and it's where most of the big names in silent films, including studios, directors, and stars, got their start. This documentary tells us all about the major Fort Lee studios and their films in a somewhat dry way, though it does include a few complete short films from the period, presented with a bit of helpful, nonintrusive narration. The story of Fort Lee is an important, yet usually forgotten, piece of film history, so I'll give this DVD extra points for dredging it up.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Extra (film #7 on Ephemeral Films CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #7 on Lifestyles USA, Vol. 1 (Something Weird, 2000). Also, in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #490 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Commercial]Here's something new I learned from Rick Prelinger's excellent Ephemeral Films CD-ROM: the 60-second spot was not born on television, or even radio. Movie theaters ran "Minute Movies", such as Extra, as another way to increase profits. It was assumed that audiences had little tolerance for viewing advertising, so a 60-second limit was placed on these films. This ad for Esso service stations starts out pretty standard, but gets weird at the end when the gas jockeys suddenly break into a jingle and the Esso sign mutates into a grinning face.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.