Carmaux: Drawing Out the Coke (film #19 on The Movies Begin, Volume One: The Great Train Robbery and Other Primary Works (Kino Video, 1994). Also, film #19 on The Art of Cinema Begins (Video Yesteryear, 1997)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Coke, a coal-mining product, is drawn out of a stone oven in a long block and cooled with water. Where else but in film ephemera can you witness turn-of-the-century coal-mining practices? An 1896 Lumiere film.

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

Next Week Promos (Hollywood's Attic, 1996). [Category: Commercial]

Next week on Living Better Cinematically: A tape full of closing segments from 50s and 60s tv shows telling us all about next week's show. Some of them will include commercials. Some will give away most of the plot of the show. Many of them will be from cartoons. And you'll have fun playing "Spot the Star in an Early Performance". You'll see all this and more on "Next Week Promos", next time on Living Better Cinematically. This segment of Living Better Cinematically was brought to you by Glib Soap, the Slime Scraper.

  • Next week's episode of "The New Casper Cartoon Show" features very limited animation.
  • The makers of Philip Morris ask us, "Do you inhale?"
  • Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" promos are the best ones on the tape, and he just uses narration!
  • O.K., I've found it––the dorkiest commercial ever made! Check out the 5th Avenue Candy Bar commercial featuring the dancing teenagers at the very end of the tape. Worth the wait, wasn't it?

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *** (gets an extra star for the 5th Avenue commercial). Weirdness: *** Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.

Are We There Yet? (film #22 in the Comedy section of Brickfilms. Also, film #5 in the Music Video section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

The Lego family goes on vacation, and before they get too far, the kids ask the inevitable question. Unfortunately, they fail to take into account that Dad is an amateur Zen master, at least until Mom gets into it. This is an amusing Brickfilm with an unusual concept. It’s also very well made, with beautiful sets that make you want to shout, “Hey kids! Look at the scenery!” And with Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” on the soundtrack, how can you go wrong?

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

BBC Breakfast News: Gulf War Special (film #2 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]

Opening credits for a special news report from the BBC on the Gulf War of the 90s. This already seems like it was a lot classier, and a lot less biased, than the news coverage here, and it wasn’t even their country or their war. A nice little bit of recent history.

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

Adolf Hitler (Side B of Disc #3 of WWII: The Ultimate Collection (Brentwood Home Video, 2004)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This 1948 documentary about Hitler starts with quite a bit of footage from a British propaganda film about the Nazi dictator, so it’s almost like two films in one. Actually, the British footage is a great deal of fun. It has two narrators and it skips through Hitler’s life at a breakneck pace, reminding you of the documentary parodies the Pythons loved to do. It then continues in a more straightforward fashion, documenting Hitler’s life and exploits, with particular emphasis on his relationship with Eva Braun. This is an excellent example of a propaganda film, even though it was made when the war was already over. Every effort is made to make you see Hitler as the ultimate in evil, not that he made it all that difficult. The British section features a number of propaganda illustrations of Nazi leaders, including a set of playing cards that have outrageous characters of Nazis as the face cards––I bet they would go for a lot on eBay. All in all, this is a fascinating piece of propaganda with great historical value.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **** (mainly for the British section, the atrocities, of course, rate an N/A). Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.

Agriculture USA (film #51 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

Industry! Building a better––no, wait! Agriculture! Building a better tomorrow! This USDA film tries desperately to make agriculture seem as exciting as the industrial World of Tomorrow. Technology is touted as The Answer to better farming, right down to sharing pastures with missile silos, educating people in India about The Atom on the Farm, and spraying everything in sight. It’s as bombastic as most industrial films and that makes it very mstable. It also has some wonderful factory footage of various forms of food processing. It kind of drags after awhile, though, and you just want to say, “I get it already!! Farming is good!!”

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

The Chow Hound (film #17 on The Complete Uncensored Private SNAFU DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

A patriotic bull leaves his newlywed cow behind and joins the Army to provide food for Private Snafu. The processed meat of the bull is sent over hill and dale, with great difficulty, until it finally reaches Snafu's unit's camp. There Snafu vastly overloads his plate, eats until full, and then throws a huge amount of leftovers away. The ghost of the bull is so enraged by this that he butts Snafu halfway around the world! This is one of the shorter Snafus and it makes its point simply and well.

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

American Pioneer (film #122 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

This is a fairly straightforward social studies film about American pioneers making their first forays into the west, crossing the Appalachian mountains into what would later be Kentucky. The reenactments shown on screen seem pretty authentic for the most part, and the acting is good, though you don’t get to hear anyone speak since the film is narrated. The attitude of the film towards Indians, though, will make you wince––they are constantly portrayed at ruthless killers. Mostly, though, this is pretty ordinary.

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

Out of This World (MST3K Episode #618: High School Big Shot. Also, film #1078 on Prelinger Archive). [Catgory: Industrial]

This film would have us believe that both heaven and hell are extremely interested in the fortunes of bread truck drivers. A driver with a poor sales record recently repented and changed his evil ways, so the Devil of Bread Sales makes a bet with the Angel of Bread Sales that he will go back to his old habits if a pretty woman makes fun of him. So the angel poses as a magazine writer and goes with the bread man on his route, where she is taunted by the devil in various guises (cab driver, cop, etc.). She makes a token effort to make light of the bread man's sales efforts, only to have him come back with the full-blown Gospel of Bread, to her delight and to the devil's chagrin. The whole concept of this film is really weird, and thus it is really fun to watch. Or, if you don't believe me, then heed the words of the Giant Mutant Tom Servo: "MOVIE BAD!!" Don't forget to watch the special bonus host segment on specialty breads!

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

Amos ‘n’ Andy #2 (film #4 in the Amos ‘n’ Andy section of TVParty). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Closing credits of the controversial 50s tv show, featuring the theme music made famous by the radio show. This has a real feel of a radio show transposed to tv, making it a good example of early television programming.

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

The African Queen (film #2 on SabuCat Movie Trailers). [Category: Commercial]

I never dreamed a mere physical experience could be so stimulating! Sorry, I just gave away the best line in this trailer for the classic John Huston film. It’s a good record of the film, beautifully preserved. And it ends with a fun bit of theater ephemera announcing Humphrey Bogart’s Oscar.

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

Daddy (film #1303 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]

This soundie features the original material girl, Lazy Daisy Mae, singing to her sugar daddy about how expensive her tastes are. Actually, she seems way too nice for this song, as does the nerdy combo that accompanies her.

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

Sex Madness (film #131 on Feature Films). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This is more of a soap opera than an exploitation film. Small-town girl Millie wins a beauty contest and gets to go to New York City, leaving her fiancĂ© Wendell behind at home. After the contest is over, she has stars in her eyes and tries to Make It Big. Unfortunately, she quickly lands on the street with no job, no money, and no prospects, so she falls for the pitch of a “theatrical agent,” lands on the casting couch, and ends up with syphilis. Now she can’t go home and marry Wendell, so she must drown her sorrows in her job as a chorus girl in a burlesque show. Fortunately, a kindly doctor puts her in the hospital and gives her effective treatments for the disease. Eventually, she is well enough to go home, but under strict orders to continue the treatments with a doctor at home and not marry Wendell until she is completely cured. She follows doctor’s orders, going to a neighboring town for the treatments and keeping her condition a secret from her family and Wendell. But when Wendell pressures her to get married, she falls for the pitch of a quack doctor who promises to cure her in 30 days. She marries Wendell, and they have a baby, but soon the baby gets desperately ill, and Wendell discovers he doesn’t see too good anymore. What’s a poor girl to do? There is plenty of tear-jerking and scenery-chewing in this film, as well as uniformly bad acting, bottom-of-the-barrel production values, lots of preaching about the evils of “social diseases,” a silly “ironic” subplot involving the son of the local anti-sex crusader coming down with syphilis (d’oh!!), and a couple of creepy moments where lesbianism and child molestation are hinted at in leering ways. Mostly, though, this is a real weeper, lacking the energy of Reefer Madness or the goofiness of Assassin of Youth, but making up for it in preachiness.

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

The Big Deal (film #4 on Christian Youth Scare Films, Vol. 5 (Something Weird, 2000)). [Category: Educational]

10-year-old wheeler-dealer Pete swindles his best friend out of his birthday watch and then talks him into getting the goods on another kid who is going to cheat in a contest they are all going to enter. Pete's mentor is his Uncle Fred, a deli owner who engages in shady shenanigans like putting rabbit meat in his "chicken salad." But then Pete has a heart-to-heart talk with his dad, who sets him straight about this whole honesty business. This 30-second conversation that vaguely mentions the Bible causes Pete to have a complete change of heart. He gives back his buddy's watch and abandons his bright idea for "fighting fire with fire" in the contest. Wow, I didn't know parenting was so easy. This is actually an appealing little film. The child actors are unschooled and amateurish, but that makes them seem more real. And the complex moral issues raised are more than I would expect from this kind of film. Of course, the super-easy resolution takes all that realism and throws it out the window, but that's ephemera for you.

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

Better Breakfasts USA

Better Breakfasts, USA. An early-60s school class takes a field trip to a TV station. But instead of learning about television production,...