Posts

Showing posts from August 1, 2004
The Adventures of Crispy Cheeser: Where the Sharks Are! (film #1 in the Action section of Brickfilms. Also, film #11 in the Comedy section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This is the first Brickfilm I’ve encountered that has a laughtrack, and that tells you something significant about it. This is basically a screwball comedy about a pair of Lego guys who get chased down the sidewalk by a shark. It’s actually goofy fun, with the laughtrack making it even goofier. This is another Brickfilm that makes use of facial expressions, and again, they add a lot to it.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Apollo, Segment 6014 (in the Documentary section of Open Video Project). [Category: News]This clip from a NASA film documents the Mercury space program, and it’s actually fairly interesting, especially the part about training the astronauts for space flight––it features a lot of bizarre and tortuous-looking devices and experiments.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Buster (film #1 in the 0800010 Operation Ranger & Operation Buster/Jangle section of DOE Nevada). [Category: Military & Propaganda]A guy sets off an atomic bomb, while dramatic music plays in the background. Do we really need dramatic music for something that is so awe-inspiring on its own?
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Buy Your Own Cherries (film #20 on The Movies Begin, Volume Two: The European Pioneers (Kino Video, 1994)). [Category: Early Film & TV]A working-class shmoe gets no respect from anybody––not his family, not barmaids, nobody––until he joins the International Order of Good Templars (or something like that). This suddenly makes him richer and a nicer guy to boot. Elicits a "huh?" The painted backdrops are a hoot, though. A 1904 Robert W. Paul film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
California Color Film: Golden Gate International Exposition (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #1802 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This film starts out like a travelogue about San Francisco and goes on and on until you wonder if they’re going to say anything about the World’s Fair. Finally, about halfway through, they get to the Golden Gate Bridge, and then to the fair, which was designed to celebrate the bridge’s opening. Lots of parade footage is shown, and then we get to see the models for the exhibition buildings for a bit before the film abruptly ends. I wouldn’t say this was the best vehicle to promote a World’s Fair. Maybe that explains why it was eclipsed by the one in New York.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Bear Shooters (film #6 on Side A of Disc 1 of Comedy Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). [Category: Hollywood]The Our Gang kids go camping and manage to nab a guy in a gorilla suit. Really. As usual for Our Gang shorts, this has a lot of cute moments, a few disgusting moments, and a plot that lumbers along in an unlikely way. Mildly weird and mildly amusing.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Auto Boat Race on the Hudson (film #9 on America at Work, America at Leisure. Also, in the Historical section of Open Video Project). [Category: Early Film & TV]Blurry footage of some rather slow racing boats. I guess this has some historical value, but little else. A 1904 Biograph film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Beechnut Gum (film #4 in the Saturday Morning Commercials section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]This is the classic “Yipes! Stripes!” commercial, featuring puppet-animated striped animals singing about Beechnut Fruit Stripe Gum. By gum, they’re cute!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
Hey Folks! It's Intermission Time, Vol. 5 (Something Weird). [Category: Commercial]Snack bar promos, local ads, timers, and cheesy time-fillers are the order of the day on this volume of this excellent series. The many easy-listening, pleasant-images time-fillers on this tape can be hard to sit through if you're not a die-hard ephemera fan, but I am, so I still give this tape high ratings. Besides, the snack bar promos are a lot of fun.
Highlights:
The peppy blonde from the jazzy Dr. Pepper promos reappears here. This time, she sings "Dr. Pepper Is the Friendly Pepper-Upper."
Nutrition Alert!: Candy bars are "wholesome". Mission Orange Drink is "naturally good".
Additions to the I-Don't-Buy-It-for-a-Minute List: a chef who comes out to your car at the drive-in who appears in one snack bar promo; the Winchester Bank's claim that they give you "a better, happier life"; and the concept of "towing satisfaction" in the ad for …
Reefer Madness (film #120 on Feature Films. Also, film #2 on disc #1 of Schlock Hysteria, section #10 of Total Movie & Entertainment free DVD set). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This is the quintessential pseudo-documentary exploitation film, and it deserves it. A dope-pushing ring gets some nice teenagers hooked on marijuana, resulting in murder, suicide and permanent madness. This is actually somewhat more competently done than most of the films of its type, with a plot that actually moves and actors who can actually act a little bit, though scenery is chewed aplenty. It’s the supposed “educational” component of the film that is most laughable––it’s obvious the filmmakers knew nothing about marijuana, other than it was a bad, scary, evil substance that corrupts youth. Everybody, including the teenagers, smokes tobacco cigarettes in the film as a matter of course, so all the drug pushers have to do to get a nice high school girl like Mary to try one is to offer her a cigarette…
Pop Culture Classics from the 50s & 60s (Video Resources, 1993). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This fun tape mines a hodgepodge of TV weirdness from the 50s and early 60s. Highlights include the Three Stooges as network vice-presidents, Dave Garroway trying to explain the concept behind "The Today Show", Froggie the Gremlin (who may have been the first mster) foiling at every turn the attempts of an extremely sappy kid show performer to tell a fairy tale, Poochie, the puppet dog on "Rootie Kazootie" singing like Mario Lanza, and McHale's Navy rocking out to "Papa Oom Mow Mow." A fun collection of weird moments, which is a lot of what collecting film ephemera is all about.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Forty Years of Human Service (film #555 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]This 30s film tells us about the work of the National Jewish Hospital in Denver, a charitable hospital for tuberculosis patients who can’t pay for medical treatment. This was back in the days when tuberculosis was a dread, debilitating disease that required years of treatment with dicey chances of success. This is basically your standard-issue “look at all the good works we’re doing––give us money” film, but it does have some extra historical value in showing us the tuberculosis treatments of the day, all to an incredibly schmaltzy organ soundtrack.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
All in a Day’s Work (film #6 in the Sci-Fi section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]A janitor on a space station repeatedly and cleverly evades the attempts of an unfriendly invading alien to take over. This is a really great brickfilm. The story is funny and very cleverly told despite the technical limitations of amateur brick animation. I love the way the animator gives the janitor different facial expressions––this is something that is not usually seen in brickfilms and it really adds to the humor and the interest in the story. One of the best brickfilms I’ve seen so far.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: *****.
Apollo, Segment 6013 (in the Documentary section of Open Video Project). [Category: News]This clip from a NASA film documents the early satellites, such as Echo and Telstar, then goes on to early manned high-speed flights that were the precursor to manned space flights. This is pretty ordinary, but it has some historical interest.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Booster Event (film #2 in the 0800009 Operation Greenhouse section of DOE Nevada). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This atomic blast, done on the top of a tower, was called “Booster Shot.” And I thought my booster shot was bad!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Butchering Hogs (film #6 on Buckaroos in Paradise). [Category: Industrial]Actually, this just covers one step of the butchering process, that of dipping the dead hogs in boiling water to remove their hair. Rancher Les Brown tells us that the timing of boiling the carcass has to be just right, but doesn’t get any more specific than saying they’re kept in for “a little while.” No gruesome stuff here, apart from a guy at the end who reaches into a slit-open carcass to pull the guts out, but it ends before the guts actually come out. Just FYI, in case you’re repulsed or attracted by that sort of thing.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Balloonatic (film #6 on Side A of Disc 2 of Comedy Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). [Category: Hollywood]After striking out in finding a date at an amusement park, Buster Keaton accidentally ends up on a hot air balloon, which takes him to a remote area where he has various mishaps involving a shallow river, a three-part snap-together canoe, and a pretty female fisherman. This is quite amusing, as Buster has a talent for making any bad situation worse. A fun silent comedy short.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Celebrities Sell War Bonds (film #2 in the Patriotism in America section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Military & Propaganda]You can play Spot the Star on this newsreel clip about celebrities doing their bits for the war effort during World War II. There’s also an extended section on various celebrities enlisting in the armed services. This mainly has historical and nostalgia value.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Aunt Sallie’s Wonderful Bustle (film #23 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]All I can say about this is this must have been where bungee jumping first got started. A 1901 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
BBC2 Continuity #1 (film #106 in the Cult section of TVArk). [Category: Commercial]Trailer for “Whose Doctor Who,” a retrospective documentary about the series. This is actually pretty interesting, containing clips from several Doctors, and giving you a feel for British television as well.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Psychedelic Party Footage (extra on Teenage Turmoil, Vol. 6 (Something Weird, 2001)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]Why bother to take an acid trip when you can groove out to this psychedelic party footage from some movie or other that Something Weird put on the end of the Teenage Turmoil, Vol. 6 tape? Some of it is creative and fun, some of it is unpleasant, but most of it is just plain silly. Like a real acid trip, perhaps.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
For the Living (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #550 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]This 40s film promotes the building of public housing projects to replace slums in New York City. Housing projects are presented as The Answer to poverty, transforming the lives of slumdwellers from misery and danger to the bright, shiny, clean lives the middle class were living in the suburbs, with the father going to work in a crisp suit, the son going to school in a new sweater, and Mom wheeling the baby down a tree-lined sidewalk to the laundry room, where “the washing is easy.” This is laughable from today’s standpoint, where the words “the projects” conjure up as many images of poverty and crime as “the slums” used to. But the film does portray the problems of the poor sympathetically, and, at least at first, the housing projects were probably an improvement over the places these people used to live in. So I wouldn’t laugh too hard––poverty just turned…
All American Girl (film #210 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This is a music video about a woman struggling with an eating disorder, according to the comments provided on the film’s page on Open Source Movies. While the folk-style song plays, we see a slide show of images of female beauty in Western art and advertising. The song is excellent, and while the film as a whole creates a haunting mood of a woman who hides feelings of sadness and emptiness behind a mask of beauty, the eating disorder part doesn’t really come through for me (though the emotional dynamic just described is common in eating disorders). Still, this is not a bad effort, and it shows the filmmaker has some potential.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Apollo, Segment 6012 (in the Documentary section of Open Video Project). [Category: News]More soundtrack woes. The soundtrack keeps speeding up and slowing down, speeding up and slowing down. Eventually things settle down about halfway through the clip. The clip is actually a bit more interesting than usual, documenting the early successes and failures of the space program, so it’s actually a pity you can’t rely on the soundtrack.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Master Hands (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #1 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 2: Capitalist Realism CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #898 on Prelinger Archive. Also, film #2 on Ephemeral Films CD-ROM (Voyager) (excerpt)). [Category: Industrial]This film, made by Chevrolet in the mid 1930's, purports to be a salute to the workers in the Chevrolet plants, but it really seems to be a salute to heavy industry in general. The process of making a car is shown from start to finish, to the tune of a majestic soundtrack based on Wagner. Prelinger calls this sort of film "capitalist realism", a play on "socialist realism" which was mandatory in the Soviet Union at the time. It's a very apt label here, as this could have just as easily been made in the Soviet Union. It's an amazing work of modern art that the Futurists would have been proud of. The machines are the art, which is a modernist ideal. Some scenes don't look so much like manuf…