Fire Routine (film #10 in the Public Info. Films section of TVArk). [Category: Public Service]

This British PSA encourages viewers to go through a fire prevention routine every night before going to bed. This involves unplugging the tv, turning off all lights and electrical devices, and putting a metal guard in front of the fireplace, all while singing and dancing as if in a Broadway musical. I didn’t know that fire prevention depended upon my singing and dancing abilities––I guess I better go out and get some lessons!

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

The Costume Designer (recorded off of Turner Classic Movies). [Category: Hollywood]

This 30s film straightforwardly shows how costumes were designed for the movies during the old studio system. The designer is the only woman in the creative team, of course, but she looks like she could hold her own in any fight. Lots of different kinds of costumes are shown, making this a real treat for clothes-horses, but their claims of "historical accuracy" are a little farfetched. This is a great slice of 30s pop culture.

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

The Airport Music Video (film #3 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This is that dull EB film, The Airport, done up Art-of-Noise style, with looped clips from both the video and the soundtrack put to a propulsive beat. I enjoyed this a great deal. I think it’s a vast improvement over the original film, which was dull as dishwater. I particularly like the looping of the nerdy pilot talking into his radio––he really looks like he’s grooving to the beat now!

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

Apollo, Segment 6010 (in the Documentary section of Open Video Project). [Category: News]

This clip talks so glowingly about a NASA contractor called Langley that it could have been from an industrial film, but I don’t think so. It does have some interesting footage of different kinds of experimental aircraft, including a horribly impractical single-user craft that has helicopter rotors underneath where the pilot is standing. One of the more interesting of the Apollo clips.

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

Baker (film #3 in the 0800000 Nuclear Film Declassification Project section of DOE Nevada). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Very short clip of the Baker underwater nuclear test, in all its blurry glory, with the explosion almost off of the top of the screen. Not nearly as dramatic as most other examples of nuclear test footage.

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

Buckaroo Theodore Brown Parts a Cow from the Herd (film #16 on Buckaroos in Paradise). [Category: Industrial]

One of the cowboys leads a particular cow out of the herd, while the rancher narrates, explaining the process. If you want to know what real cowboys do, this is a piece of it. A great slice of Western life.

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

Behind the Scenes at the Supermarket (film #4 on The 1950s Time Capsule (Video Resources, 1994)). [Category: Educational]

Johnny's dad is a grocer and treats Johnny to a behind-the-scenes tour of the supermarket before it opens. It's pretty much what you'd expect, with some neat shots of 50s grocery products and sign painting. And unlike most films of the period, the store's employees seem to be of several different races. The opening theme music is great––it just screams "bouncy 50s educational film music".

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

Annie Oakley – Annie’s Desert Adventure (film #16 in the Classic TV section of Movieflix). [Category: Early Film & TV]

In this episode, Annie and a reformed ex-convict capture a pair of gold rustlers. This is fairly well-written and generates some suspense. I’m starting to have my doubts about her kid sidekick Tag, though. He seems to like violence way too much.

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

BBC1 – Robots, Pt. 1 (film #1 in the Cult section of TVArk). [Category: Commrecial]

Very short “Just starting on BBC-1…” lead-in to an episode of "Dr. Who", “The Robots of Death.” These things always remind me of Monty Python’s send-ups of them, but other than that, this is too brief to have much value for anyone.

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

Peeping Tom’s Paradise (film #1147 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

A pretty 50s woman starts stripping, removing her skirt and her pouffy 50s petticoat first. She then starts pulling her sweater off, but just before we would get to see her nipples, she decides to turn her back to the camera. Then, before turning around, she puts on a handy bustier. At the end, she suddenly discovers she is being observed and gets embarrassed. This vintage stag film has far less skin than even others of its time, but it makes up for it in tease. The woman has a great 50s hourglass figure and she actually projects some innocence, which is rare in a stag film. This has one of the cheapest-looking title cards ever, though. It looks like it was put together with plastic letters, and some of the letters are askew.

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

Emergency Exit Promo (film #479 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

Short movie theater announcement advising audience members to check out the nearest exits and, in case of emergency, to walk calmly to them, rather than trampling their fellow patrons. With all the movie theater ephemera I’ve collected, I don’t have this one, so that gives it historical value. And the style of it is mildly campy.

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

Aftermath of a Pie-Eating Contest (film #3 in the Chucko the Birthday Clown section of TVParty). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This scene from a local LA kid show is very representative of the genre. Chucko helps kids with whipped cream all over their faces to recover from a pie-eating contest. The kids’ responses, and Chucko’s as well, are very spontaneous, making this an excellent example of live tv. Most of these kinds of local shows were never preserved at all, not even by their stations, so this clip is quite rare and historically important. It’s great to see TVParty so carefully preserve these local shows, so we can all have a taste of a bygone form of television.

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

Apollo, Segment 6009 (in the Documentary section of Open Video Project). [Category: News]

In this clip from a NASA film, President Kennedy gives the Collyer Award to the first seven astronauts. This has historical value, but it’s pretty dry.

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

Broken Blossoms (film #11 in the Silent section of Movieflix). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This is one of D. W. Griffith's best melodramas. It's the tragic tale of a Chinese shopkeeper who takes in a teenaged girl, played by Lillian Gish, who is the victim of frequent beatings by her brutal boxer father. The shopkeeper gives the girl the first kindnesses she has ever experienced, but it can go on only so long before her father finds out, resulting in a tragic ending. Gish is particularly good as the pathetic Lucy, giving a performance that never quite goes over the top, though other performances do occasionally. Though the tale periodically gets a bit maudlin, the relationship between Lucy and the shopkeeper provides an emotional center for the film that makes it genuinely touching. A 1919 D. W. Griffith film.

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

B-61 (film #1 in the 0800072 Developing and Producing the B-61 section of DOE Nevada). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Brief overview of the B-61 bomb. This has some cheesy illustrated title cards, but little else to recommend it.

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

Always Tomorrow (film #8 on Feature Films. Also, film #75 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

Coca-Cola bottler Jim Westlake reacts to World War II by going on a long, extended reminiscence, where he tells us all about the troubles he had to deal with in the past, which he solved with good ol’ American pluck, know-how, and faith in Coca-Cola, amen! This is a campy and interesting portrait of the corporate culture of Coca-Cola in the 40s, as well as the more general attitudes of big business at the time. Campiest is probably Jim’s second banana Larry, who whines like Droopy about trifles like war, depressions, sugar shortages, and how they are going to pay their bills. Jim himself is obviously too important to dirty his hands with that stuff––he’s too busy thinking about The Future and how it involves selling more and more Coca-Cola so that the business can grow and grow and grow without end. Absolutely no downside is shown for this unending growth. The film goes on and on about this, grinding its messages of future-thinking and faith in the all-powerful-and-good sugary brown beverage into the ground until you want to scream. Some may find this tedious, but for my money this makes the film a must-see as the ultimate example of corporate religion spouted in an industrial film. Settle down, grab an ice-cold Coke, and watch the show, folks. Soon, at least according to the Onion, it’ll be mandatory!

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


Hey Folks! It's Intermission Time, Vol. 3 (Something Weird). [Category: Commercial]

My husband got me this one for my birthday because he knows how much I love the spook show promos on Volume 1, and this volume focuses on them, though not exclusively. It's "dedicated to the Southern King of Come-Ons, Donn Davison", who appears in several different guises throughout the tape, mostly as a disembodied head narrating horror movie trailers in an incredibly campy style. The big highlight of the tape, though, is a genuine "sex education" lecture from an "expert" (Davison again), made to introduce a "genuine birth of a baby" sequence from a roadshow exploitation pic, which must be heard to be believed. That and the spook show promos are worth the price of this tape, but you also get a great assortment of the usual snack bar promos, local ads, promos, and public service announcements, including a smattering of World War II propaganda stuff (which I have a special affection for). Another easy five stars.


Highlights:


  • More great come-ons from spook show promos: "The Management of This Theatre Cannot Be Held Responsible for Persons Who Faint or Go Berserk During The House of Exorcism!" "Can It Be True That Any Volunteer Will Be Decapitated with a Meat Cleaver?" "See the Beatles Mystically Transformed!" "See Lady Godiva Riding in Mid-Air on a White Horse! (For Those Who Embarrass Easily, Blindfolds Will Be Furnished with Peeking Holes!)" "You'll See Blood-Curdling, Sadistic Surgery!" "The Head of Any Volunteer Will Be Cut Off by a Butcher Knife and Thrown Into the Audience!" "Many Drinks Will Be Produced from Pure Water...Just Name It and Drink It!" "13...14...15 Knives Will Be Driven Through the Head of Any Unsuspecting Person!" "Alive! He's Buried Alive! You Must See to Believe! Look Into the Grave!" "Free! 'My Sin' Perfume to All Girls Who Look Into the Grave and Do Not Faint! (Ambulance on Call for Those Who Do!)" "Tune In! Turn On! Drop Dead!" "We Guarantee Your Goose Pimples Will Get Goose Pimples!" "Don't Take This Lightly! How Are You Fixed for Blood?" "In Case You Pass Out Before Seeing a Complete Performance of This Double Stage-and-Screen Science-Mystery Horror Show, That's Tough!"
  • BUCKY BEAVER ALERT!! They may be pitching for the American Cancer Society, but my husband swears Harry Hambone and his pet anteater, Schnozz, are relatives of Bucky. Be warned.
  • Back in the days before the MPAA rating system, all movies were in good taste and suitable for children. Even snack bar promos with a Roman orgy theme. Really. "Wouldn't a hamburger taste great right now?"
  • This tape contains the best print I've seen so far of my favorite snack bar promo, "Let's All Go to the Lobby".
  • Check out this exchange from "A Visit from Santa" (I swear I'm not making this up): SANTA: And what do you want for Christmas, little girl? LITTLE GIRL: I want to get married! SANTA: You will, you will! Talk about spook shows!
  • Bizarre dancing flappers, who look naked from the waist up, but couldn't have been, provide a frame for local ads, including a body shop that actually uses the phrase "You wreck 'em, we fix 'em!"
  • Great stuff you can learn from the "sex education" lecture: "Most men, through sexual ignorance, build in their wives a hatred and revulsion for the sexual act," "Birth control usually involves the use of buttons, pills, douches, or even harsh acids!" and "The men who know about male menopause live longer, happier, healthier lives, and they outlive the women––the way it was meant to be." But you'll have to buy the books Knowledge for Men and Knowledge for Women if you want to get the scoop on "masturbation––how it can be cured and how it can be detected" or "the eight different erotic zones of passion that were placed on every woman's body for her husband's use."

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


Ask Dad (film #11 on Feature Films). [Category: Hollywood]

Edward Everett Horton stars in this rather turgid early 30s comedy short. He plays a businessman whose college-boy son develops a crush on his secretary. Mild comedy tries to ensue, but fails because the script is lame and the timing is clunky. Horton is great as usual, especially when he dictates letters, but he is wasted in this. He needs a situation that is far more wacky and dialogue that is far more sharp to really shine. Still, he tries his best here, and Horton fans may enjoy this little obscurity from early in his career.

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

Mystery Night Montage (film #8 on Felix the Cat, Vol. 1 (Video Resources, 1994)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Video Resources included this short collage of all different kinds of stuff as a teaser for their other products. There's bloopers, newsreel clips, movie clips, cartoon clips, tv show clips, etc., making this a sort of 5-Minute Ephemera Collection. A nice little extra for the Felix tape.

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

Castro Defeats U.S.-Backed Dictator Fulgencio Batista (film #2 in the Cuban History section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Newsreel clip documenting Castro’s takeover of Cuba in a surprisingly objective manner. I’m also surprised at the peaceful evacuation of American tourists. This is a straightforward, important bit of history.

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

Annie Oakley – Annie and the First Phone (film #15 in the Classic TV section of Movieflix). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This early-50s western series has an incredibly campy opening––how many series do you know that have the chutzpah to shoot their viewers? This is pretty much "The Adventures of Kit Carson" all over again, except the hero is a cowgirl and her sidekick is an annoying kid instead of a womanizing Mexican. In this episode, she foils a land-grabber’s plans to rile up the local Indians so that they will attack the local settlers and persuade them to move, so he can buy up their land. Early telephones and a silly Frenchman work their way into the plot, making it mildly amusing, but mostly this is standard Western fare.

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

Another White Tornado Spot (film #5 in the Video Vault section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]

Some clueless firemen fall for the ol’ white tornado gag. I’d forgotten how campy these Ajax commercials are.

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

Palmour Street (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #1128 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This 50s public service film shows us the stresses and strains of a typical family, and how the ways the parents handle things affect the children. But with a difference––this family is African-American and lives in rural Georgia. The family portrayed is basically a healthy one, though the parents have some flaws. This is pretty amazing, given how much stress they are under from living in a world of poverty and oppression. In fact, this film stands in stark contrast to the other films being made during this time. Instead of being a happy housewife in a clean suburban home filled with modern conveniences, like, say, in Young Man’s Fancy, the mother in this film does her laundry with a tub and washboard after she gets home from working all day–– something that is not a choice for her, but a necessity, as the family desperately needs the money. In fact, she really wants to be able to stay home with her kids, because her only childcare option for the preschoolers is to leave them with cranky Aunt Esther, who showers affection on the baby while treating the other kids like dirt. Still, she considers herself lucky, because she has a “good man” who works hard, brings home his pay, and showers the children with affection. And you can tell that in her world, that is pretty damn fortunate. The oldest child in the family, a little girl of about 8 or 9, sensibly runs away from a creepy stranger who shouts, “Hey little girl, come here!” but she doesn’t live in the squeaky clean world of The Cautious Twins, or even in the Sid Davis universe, but in a run-down neighborhood that probably has guys like that on every corner, making that interaction seem disturbingly real. The film ends on a somewhat tragic note when the father is seriously injured in an industrial accident. The mother spends a tense night at the hospital, and is finally told by a nurse that her husband will pull through, but you know he was just inches away from death. Still, you know his injury will be very hard on the family, and the film ends like a Centron discussion film, by asking the viewer “What would you do?” if you were in this woman’s place. But there are no easy, obvious answers to that question––it’s all too easy to imagine the family being destroyed by such a stressor. Granted, they do seem to be pretty tough, resilient people, but just how much can any family take before starting to fall apart at the seams? The film is well-made and portrays the family realistically and sympathetically. It promotes the sensible proposition that children won’t be significantly damaged by the occasional family argument or harsh words, as long as they are the exception and not the rule. And although the film takes seriously the responsibilities of parents to bring their children up right, there is an implicit acknowledgement that social factors can make this difficult and can even place limits on the power parents have to give their children a good environment. Racism is not explicitly dealt with in the film––the only scene of what seems to me to be explicit racism is when the white nurse talks to the mother in a simplistic tone one might use with somebody with mental retardation––but the incredible contrast this film makes to the films about white people speaks louder than words about the effects of racism. This is an important film to watch to contrast with the other films on the archive––it gives you the other side of the 50s.

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


FDA Public Service Announcement (extra on The Educational Archives, Volume Four: On the Job DVD (Fantoma, 2002), at the end of the film Barbers and Beauticians). [Category: Public Service]

We are shown several quack medical devices of the type that can be found at the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices and warned to stay away from quack doctors in this PSA. Short, but fun.

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

Looking Ahead Through Rohm & Haas Plexiglas excerpt (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #1 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 1: The Rainbow Is Yours CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #872 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

Wouldn't our homes be lots better if everything in them was made of Plexiglas? That seems to be the message of this 1950s film. Even a multilayered Plexiglas mural of a modernistic cityscape is shown as vastly superior to a boring old window. The house shown has a great "Home of Tomorrow" feel to it. And everything is in garish 1950s color.

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

Cosmetic Surgery (film #11 in the Makeovers, Diets & Fitness section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Hollywood]

Brief newsreel clip about nosejobs. A woman with a nose Streisand would be proud of gets the hump removed, which is a slight improvement. I trust the technology has improved since the time of this clip.

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

The Adventures of Murray (film #123 in the Comedy section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Murray is a perky little human skull that hops around and scares all the Lego guys, but he’s just trying to reunite with his body. This seems like the quintessential Brickfilm somehow––it’s just so Brickfilmy. I think it’s the kooky music, though the way the sets are built also has something to do with it. To my mind, this is how things really are in Legoland.

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

Advance of Health Insurance 1945-1960 (film #176 on Open Source Movies). [Category: News]

More newsreel footage documenting the rise of Medicare and Medicaid. This is much shorter and less interesting than the previous film, focusing mostly on footage of politicians.

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 ...