The Black Hand (film #5 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume Three: The Films of American Mutoscope and Biograph Mature (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

An evil conspiracy called the Black Hand kidnaps a butcher's little girl and holds her for ransom. Fortunately, the ruffians are brought to justice, thanks to the efficient efforts of New York's Finest and the pluck of the little girl herself. A fun melodrama full of great stuff for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices, such as the signs in the butcher shop ("LAMB 12¢ POUND", "HAM 8¢") and the priceless ransom note. A 1906 Biograph film.

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

Godzilla Movie Trailer Collection (Toho, 1996). [Category: Commercial]

When I ordered this tape from Mickey's Toys and Collectibles, I thought it would be a standard collection of trailers from Godzilla movies. Well, that's what it turned out to be––a collection of trailers from all the Godzilla movies––all the Japanese trailers from the Japanese versions, that is. In Japanese. With no English subtitles. Despite that, or even because of it, it's a pretty interesting collection of trailers. Godzilla fans in particular will enjoy seeing non-dubbed, original clips from these movies for a change. Godzilla is pretty serious business in Japan (or at least it's not as much of a joke as it is here), and this tape allows you to finally see why––the original acting is much better than the English dubbing we're all used to. This comes through even if you can't understand Japanese at all. And some of the trailers have fun visual moments, such as Minya's cartoon balloons in the trailer for Son of Godzilla (I would love to get a translation of those), and the cool plastic model kits you can get for Godzilla vs. Queen Mothra. Another interesting thing you find out is that Western classical music was often used in the soundtracks to Godzilla movies, and sometimes odd choices, such as Offenbach's traditional can-can music (the real title of that piece escapes me). Even if you can't understand a word of Japanese, I recommend giving this tape a try, especially if you're a Godzilla fan. MSTIES, TAKE NOTE: Contains the trailers for Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster and Godzilla vs. Megalon (the Japanese versions, of course). SPECIAL TIP: My husband, consummate Godzilla fan that he is, could identify all the movies on this tape, despite the language difference. If you're not quite that Godzilla-intensive, though, there is an easy way to identify the movies. They're in straight chronological order. So if you just get a chronological list of the Godzilla movies, that will tell you the order of the trailers on this tape. One such list is the table of contents for the book Godzilla: King of the Movie Monsters by Robert Marrero.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **** (probably less if you understand Japanese). Historical Interest: *** (add one if you're a Godzilla fan). Overall Rating: ****.

The Mighty Hercules (film #36 on Chicago Television (Hollywood's Attic, 1996). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This is mostly just a cheap, poorly-acted limited-animation kid's cartoon version of a sword-and-sandal movie, though it does have its moments. Hercules' faun sidekick is thoroughly evil and the terrible voice acting provides great msting fodder. Did any kid really enjoy this?

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

Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips (film #1 on WWII Cartoons, Vol. 1 VCD (The Authentic History Center). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Bugs Bunny gets shipwrecked on a Pacific island and does battle with a whole slew of outrageously stereotyped Japanese soldiers. He pulls a bunch of standard Bugs gags, including switcheroos, dressing in drag, and hiding grenades in ice cream bars. Funny moments include a soldier who makes a self-referential comment after recognizing Bugs in disguise, and Bugs’ encounter with a sumo wrestler. The stereotypes are pretty outrageous, but this is a funny Bugs toon anyway.

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

Inside Cackle Corners (film #5 on An American Retrospective Through Animation (Moviecraft, 1994)). [Category: Industrial]

Feuding barnyard businessmen Pop Webfoot (a duck) and Mr. Redcomb (a chicken) compete to win the favors of Mrs. Consumer (another chicken) by making fancier and more ridiculous kitchen gadgets. Of course, this competition results in a sort of barnyard utopia, 50s-populuxe-style. This film is a bit more appealing than the others on this tape, both because of the barnyard setting and the fun "Kitchen of Tomorrow" ending.

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

Better Reading

Better Reading . Teenager Harold Wilson has a problem—he can’t read for (expletive deleted). So he has to spend all his free time studying ...