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Showing posts from August 29, 2004
Danger Is Your Companion (film #4 on Oops! (A/V Geeks)). [Category: Public Service]This 40s film, made by the Red Cross, urges everybody to go out and get first aid training. It’s hyperbolic style makes it fairly campy and quite mstable. Campiest is a scene of a totally clueless guy who stumbles on a car accident and totally doesn’t know what to do––his facial expressions are priceless. It’s also interesting from a historical perspective as a document of first aid practices during the 40s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
An’ D (film #7 in the Action section of Brickfilms. Also, film #2 in the Fantasy section of Brickfilms. Also, film #7 in the Sci-Fi section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]A Lego game of Dungeons & Dragons goes horribly wrong when a parallel universe pops up. This brickfilm has one of the better plots I’ve seen, and some of the sets and special effects are quite nice. The animation is rather primitive, but considering the fact that these films are amateur efforts, I’m pretty forgiving about that. Overall, this is well-directed and fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Nation at Your Fingertips (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #3 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 6: The Uncharted Landscape CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #965 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This early 1950s film introduced the country to the concept of direct long-distance dialing, by showing how residents of Englewood, New Jersey, the city where the first experimental direct dial program was installed, were able to call across the country without an operator. Like many Bell System films, it's very conscious of the telephone's history and how it changed with the times––we get to see a Victorian couple shouting into an old wall-mounted phone, scurrying young male operators (the first ones were male), and an early female operator wearing a bizarre huge early headset. What's really interesting about this film, though, is the glimpse into the past we get from seeing a currently commonplace technology when it was first being introduced. Bell…
Apollo 12 (film #10 in the Apollo 11 section of WPA Film Library). [Category: News]Boring tv footage of the Apollo 12 astronauts talking about training for their moon mission, though it gets mildly ironic when they start talking about a permanent space station on the moon.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Carrier Deck Crash Hazards (extra on Pearl Harbor: Before and After DVD (Triton, 2001)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This WWII GI safety film shows us the danger to personnel onboard aircraft carriers when planes crash and how they can be avoided. Lots of spectacular footage of plane crashes is shown, offsetting the dry narration. This really hits home the dangers of fighting a war, even from the relatively safe distance of an aircraft carrier at sea. A great little piece of WWII history.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Caught Mapping (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #277 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This Jam Handy film breezily describes to us the field of cartography, showing us how roadmaps are researched and printed. I personally find this to be pretty interesting, though others might not. The film also has historical value in that it gives us a good idea of how maps were made and the conditions of roads during the 40s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Crusades (film #2 on Blood of Floor Sweepings (LSVideo)). [Category: Hollywood]This is a clip from filmed coverage of the Hollywood premiere of the 30s movie The Crusades. Stars of the film and celebrities attending the premiere are interviewed as huge crowds push in on them. Capture some of the excitement that a Hollywood premiere used to generate.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
A Ballroom Tragedy (film #1 in the Dramatic Sketches section of American Variety Stage). [Category: Early Film & TV]A couple at a ball sneak into a back room to make out, 1905-style, when a jealous rival of the woman’s sneaks up behind her and stabs her. I guess that is pretty tragic. A 1905 Biograph film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Addams Family (film #38 in the 1964 section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]Extended promo for “The Addams Family,” featuring such antics as Morticia clipping the blossoms off roses, Gomez crashing his toy trains, and Uncle Fester playing with knives. Fun for all the family!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Naked Flower: A Fable of Love (extra on The Psycho Lover/Heat of Madness DVD (Something Weird, 2003)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This is basically a short, sexed-up version of a slasher flick. A gardener is put away in a mental asylum for almost raping a little girl. Years later, he attacks the same person, now grown up, on the day after her wedding. The ending is maddeningly inconclusive. There are no explicit scenes of rape, though there are some leading-up-to scenes, as well as extended make-out scenes with the woman and her husband. Still, I can’t recommend this, as it seems to pander to the rapists in the audience.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: BOMB.
George & Lill (film #17 in the Public Info. Films section of TVArk). [Category: Public Service]George and Lill are two extremely silly burglars of the type one might find in a cartoon or a shopping cart film. They fail to leave the lights on in their house when they go out a’burgling, and thus end up getting burgled themselves. Lill’s tutu is quite a sight to behold. Silly fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Amos and Andy (film #3 in the What Happened to What’s Happening? section of TVParty). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This is a clip from the notorious 50s African-American sitcom. In it, Andy walks out on his own wedding after hearing some dirt about Nightingale from the Kingfish. This would be funnier, I think, if one knew the background of the story. As it is, it’s not particularly funny, though it’s not as excruciatingly racist as some other things I’ve seen. And the laugh track is annoying.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Apollo 11: For All Mankind (in the Documentary section of Open Video Project). [Category: News]This NASA documentary about the Apollo 11 mission appears to have been made fairly soon after the moon landing. It’s pretty standard for the most part, with lots of film footage of the mission, a bit of the tv footage, and lots of classical music and pompous narration about Man’s Destiny. Still, this was an important and interesting space mission, so a documentary like this is appropriate. The audio and video quality of this downloadable version stinks, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Better Reading (film #6 on Teenage Turmoil, Vol. 6 (Something Weird, 2001)). [Category: Educational]Poor Harold. He spends all his time studying, yet still makes poor grades. The school gives him a bunch of reading tests and they find out he is a slow reader. They put him on a Better Reading Program, which he participates in with the kind of enthusiasm only found in these kinds of educational films. Soon he is reading articles about Abraham Lincoln to the family and casually using the phrase, "I read about it somewhere." Of course, 15 years later he would be reading Marx, Sarte and Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, but that's all part of the wonderful world reading opens up to people, so who can complain?
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Cabiria (recorded off of Turner Classic Movies). [Category: Early Film & TV]Way back in 1914, when D. W. Griffith was still making two-reelers, the Italians were already making sword and sandal epics like this one. Cabiria is a little Roman girl who ends up in the hands of the Carthaginians after a volcanic eruption. A Roman soldier, Fulvius, and his slave, Maciste (yes, that Maciste in his first film) get involved in trying to rescue her. She is not so much a character as a macguffin in this movie, which is filled with the usual political intrigue, royal romance, and battle scenes. Maciste even bends the bars back to escape from a prison cell, making the sword and sandal experience complete. Still, all this is extremely impressive for 1914––in fact, it’s hard to remember that this movie was made so early. Some of the sets, special effects, and montage scenes are breathtaking. Kino Video did an excellent job of restoring the film, translating its subtitles, and providing a musical…
Mr. B Natural (MST3K Episode #319: War of the Colossal Beast). [Category: Commercial]Probably the best short they've ever done, both in terms of the film itself and their msting of it. The film, designed to sell Conn band instruments to schoolchildren and their parents, features the very female Betty Lustre playing a male sprite character a la Peter Pan, who is supposedly the spirit of music. "Mr." B Natural visits a shy, troubled junior high school boy named Buzz, and convinces him to join the school band, mostly by appearing in his bedroom and prancing her feminine pulchritude around shamelessly. More than any other weird commercial film, this one makes you want to shake the producers silly and say "My God!! What were you thinking??" Isn't puberty hard enough without having to deal with an apparition of questionable gender appearing in your bedroom and prancing and gadding about in a skimpy costume? Were people ever this clueless about the sexual implicat…
Carrier or Killer (film #4 on disc 2 of Hell’s Highway DVD (Kino Video, 2003)). [Category: Industrial]Goofus and Gallant get jobs driving big rigs in this excerpt from a truck driving safety film. Goofus is ill-mannered, uses greasy kid stuff on his hair, smokes cigarettes, and doesn’t take care of his truck. Whereas Gallant wears a crisp uniform, keeps a squeaky clean truck, and spends the long boring hours on the road thinking about the last Safety Banquet, which looks like it was even longer and more boring than long-distance driving. This film is so juvenile, it’s quite campy, so it’s too bad this is only an excerpt.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
A Challenge to Democracy (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #509 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This stark film explains and attempts to justify the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. It’s a tall order, and the filmmakers seemed to have known it, for despite their newspeak terminology of “relocation” and “evacuation,” they end up not really trying very hard to make this seem any better than what it really was––the forced imprisonment of a group of American citizens based on race. Most of the reassurances the film tries to give that this is not what it appears to be are contradicted at later points in the film. It’s not imprisonment or even internment, the film says, but then it shows us the barbed wire fences and guards around the perimeter. The fact that these people are being “relocated” should not imply that they are disloyal, but then they turn around and say that their presence on the west coast was a “milit…
The Ball Game (film #12 on America at Work, America at Leisure). [Category: Early Film & TV]This looks like a camera was set up on one of the bases of a baseball diamond (which one is hard to tell) and we get to see a bit of a game in progress. This is so short it doesn’t have much interest, but it’s probably the first filmed footage of a baseball game, so that gives it some historical value. An 1898 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.