In the Suburbs (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #4 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 6: The Uncharted Landscape CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #742 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

We're talking 50s, folks. 50s big white families with big cars who live in little boxes made of ticky-tacky that all look just the same. 50s "young adults" who go to the mall and spend lots of money. Redbook magazine, the makers of this film, claimed to have its fingers on the pulse of this big-spending bunch from the ‘burbs. The film was obviously made to sell this demographic group to advertisers, and seeing such a film illuminates how much the 50s suburban nuclear family mythos was a marketing creation. These "young adults" are portrayed as consumers only, not as actual people. Although the film pays lip service to 50s social and political issues in the form of brief newsreel clips, it's just to show how "serious" these young adults are, and how Redbook addresses this "seriousness" by running articles like "The Sexual Responsibility of Women". But don't worry, advertisers, they're not too serious––they're back at the mall in the next scene. What's really scary is how these rigid marketing concepts became ideals to aspire to during the 50s, and how they've become items of nostalgia today. A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the 50s suburban reality tunnel.

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

Circus on Ice (MST3K Episode #421: Monster-a-Go-Go). [Category: Hollywood]

CIRCUS?? ON ICE??!!!! Yes, this newsreel featurette of the Toronto Ice Carnival is just as bad as it sounds. It would be mind-numbingly dull if it weren't so cheesy. Maybe some people like to watch ice carnivals live (though I'm willing to bet it's about as many as like to eat fruitcake), but a cheesy film of an ice carnival rates below zero on the audience appeal meter. And they couldn't have picked a worse theme than the circus (but I won't go off on that topic as I still have Here Comes the Circus to review). As Joel says, "Even my mom would be bored with this!" The msting is some of their best ever, though: "They are agents of Satan...", "And now a clown will deliver the eulogy...", "She can do that because she feels fresh!", etc.

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

BBC1 Schools #4 (film #7 in the Schools section of TVArk). [Category: Educational]

This counter is like the one in #3, only the letters in the center remain stationary, and the ponderous classical music soundtrack has been replaced by a generic disco soundtrack. Can you tell this was from 1978?

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

The Big Swallow (film #36 on The Movies Begin, Volume Two: The European Pioneers (Kino Video, 1994)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

The whole camera, cameraman included, goes down the hatch in what is indeed a very big swallow. A rather silly 1901 James A. Williamson film.

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

Frigidaire Finale (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #5 on Our Secret Century, Volume One: The Rainbow Is Yours CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #566 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Commercial]

This short film, designed to introduce the 1956 Frigidaire product line, is all style over substance. It's style over everything, in fact––there's no narration, no product information of any kind, just music and a glamorously-dressed couple dancing around appliances. Did people really get this excited about stoves and refrigerators?


Highlights:


  • The big highlight of the display is a black refrigerator! The reproductions of print ads provided as reference on the CD-ROM shows that this model really was sold. But to whom? In all my born days, I've never known anybody who had a black refrigerator.
  • There's a really weird Freudian moment when the male dancer tries to get close to the female dancer, only to end up with a bin full of ice cubes. The producers had to know what they were doing here––the reference to "frigidity" is just too obvious. But what is this doing in a sales film probably targeted at women?
  • This product line was called "The Sheer Look" for no possible reason I could discern. Even the female dancer's dress wasn't sheer, much less the appliances.

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

Kid-a-Vision (Digital Mirage). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

If you spent as much time in front of the tv as I did when you were a kid, all it would take would be this tape and Classic Toy Commercials to relive your childhood. Openings from most of the kidvid shows you remember from the 50s, 60s, and 70s are here, and some you don't remember as well ("Salty"? "Korg: 70,000 B.C."? "Dodo, the Kid from Outer Space"?). I particularly enjoy the cheesier 50s shows, such as "Johnny Jupiter" and "Andy's Gang", and the weird, psychedelia-influenced 60s shows, such as "The Banana Splits". Digital Mirage gets 5 extra points for providing an accurate list of the clips on the back of the box.


Highlights:


  • See a young Alan Hale star in "Casey Jones". See an old Jay North star in "Maya".
  • Kix cereal is "83% energy food!" In case you don't know, "energy food" is a food industry euphemism for "sugar". You do the math.
  • Personally, I'd rather not know that "The Mighty Hercules" has "iron in his thighs".
  • Aren't you embarrassed to admit that you know all the words to the "H.R. Pufnstuff" theme?

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

Brezhnev (film #246 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This Russian documentary on the life of Soviet premiere Leonid Brezhnev is narrated entirely in Spanish. Why is hard to say, unless perhaps it was meant for Cuban audiences. There is a brief moment where Brezhnev talks to Castro, but it’s not any longer than the brief moment he talks to Gerald Ford, and the film was obviously not made for American audiences. At any rate, if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s pretty confusing, though certain things are pretty obvious, such as that Brezhnev was a “man of the people,” that he liked to mingle with crowds, that lots of old babushka ladies liked him, that he met with lots of foreign dignitaries, and that there was a pretty big war in the Soviet Union back in the 40s. Other than that, you’re on your own. There is lots of historically interesting footage of Soviet life from the turn of the century to the 70s; it would be a lot more interesting if you could understand the narration, but there you are.

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 ...