Birds of Prey (in the ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #221 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]Dry Encyclopedia Brittanica film about owls, vultures, and hawks. Now I’m a real owl fan, and the owls in this film are as great as owls usually are, but no thanks to the film’s presentation of them. The filmmakers must have been thinking, “Let’s take a really interesting subject, like prey birds, and see how boring we can make it.” God help us if an educational film actually holds students’ interest.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: **. Overall Rating: ** (gets an extra star for the presence of owls).
Are You Ready for Marriage 2004 (film #2 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Scenes from classic Prelinger marriage films are interspersed with a contemporary couple, who act as if they are interacting with the characters from the films, especially the marriage counselor from Are You Ready for Marriage? This is lively and fun, though it could be funnier. On the other hand, it’s far and away the best wedding video I’ve ever seen.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
BBC Election 70 (film #18 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]Very brief, very blurry clip of the opening to an election report from 1970. Not much to see here, folks.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: **. Overall Rating: **.
Check and Let Me Know (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #290 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]The president of the Snodgrass Company meets a salesman from an industrial film company on a business trip and gets all hopped up about making an industrial film. So he puts the wheels into motion by telling his vice president about it and asking him to do some research on the cost. This order gets passed around from employee to employee, changing in the process like a game of Telephone, until it metamorphoses into an order for 5000 toasters and the “fact” that a great industrial film can be made for only $5000. The salesman must bear the brunt of this, because the guy from Snodgrass who calls him insists that the $5000 was his (the salesman’s) bid. This is sort of like a 50s version of Dilbert, which makes it amusing, though it’s hard to figure out who this was made for. The film company that made it obviously has a poor opinion of its customers, but no advice is given for how to handle such a screwed-up situation. This makes it a great weird piece of ephemera, giving us a glimpse into what it was probably really like in the corporate offices of that time. Of course, Calvin, the company that made it, revealed in Calvin Workshop that its films were made by chimps, so maybe they could make a film for under $5000. So what’s the salesman’s problem? On the other hand, the employees of the Snodgrass Company make the chimps look pretty smart.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Centaurs excerpts (film #5 on Animation Legend Winsor McCay DVD (Lumivision, 1997). Also, film #6 on Origins of American Animation). [Category: Early Film & TV]A very attractive centaur (half-human, half-horse) couple romances each other. Eventually, the male centaur takes his lady love home to meet Mom and Dad, and they show off their new foal. These excerpts are very brief, but beautifully animated and quite touching nonetheless. I'd rather see this than the centaur scene in Fantasia any day. A 1918 Winsor McCay animated film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Answering the Child’s Why (film #1 on AV Geeks). [Category: Educational]This is a charming little film about answering little kids’ questions. Parents are encouraged to answer every question their little darlings ask in a patient and accurate fashion, lest they grow up to be like awkward shy Molly, who never asks any questions. Not shown are the kids who say “Why?” over and over again just to annoy their parents, or the really embarrassing questions they sometimes come up with. Of course, this doesn’t take place in the real world, but in the ideal world of educational films, where teachers have time to patiently go over tests individually with their students, uncles are never inappropriate with little girls, and only really, really old and sick people die. It goes without saying that parenting is a lot easier in that world. Why? I don’t give a darn! He’s our shortstop!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Band Drill (film #25 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]Hey, kids! Look at the marching band! OK, I know it’s boring, but the whole parade can’t be Bart Simpson floats, can it? At least it’s only 22 seconds. An 1894 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
The Amazing Transparent Man (film #4 on SabuCat Movie Trailers). [Category: Commercial]Fairly campy trailer for a silly 60s science fiction movie about a criminal that gets turned invisible by a scientist under the thumb of an evil guy who wants to control the world. Lots of invisible fight scenes are shown (Hey, bank guard! Watch out for that––do’h!!), which are the most fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Boy Meets Dog (film #1 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]Somebody had the bright idea to revive a bunch of old Castle Films cartoons from the 40s and make them accessible for the deaf. So we have a cute, slightly scary cartoon about a boy and a dog and a mean father and the elf justice system, interrupted every few minutes by a perky sign language interpreter, who tries to explain things deaf children might not get. This cartoon is pretty weird to begin with, containing a truly frightening dad and a scary “Youth Machine” that turns him into a baby, but the sign language interpreter makes it even a weirder experience to watch––some of her facial expressions are priceless. This could be the cartoon on a film program featuring Deafula––now all we need are some sign language snack bar promos.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Teenage UFO Rock 'n' Roll Monster Show (Something Weird). [Category: Commercial]Teens! Sex! Hippies! Monsters! Rock 'n' Roll! It's all here on this fun tape of trailers from movies for and about teenagers. Lots of J.D. flicks, teen monster movies, and rock & roll movies are represented here and most of 'em are very campy. And if that's not enough, there's lots of extras, including some drive-in ephemera, a few spook show promos, and two uncut shorts: Twist Craze and A Preview to Teenage Crusade (reviewed separately). Johnny Legend even threw in a few weird video goodies at the end, a la Cartoons Celing Commercials. Loads of fun.
- Some great claims from the trailers: "Parents! Do you actually know what your children do for thrills and kicks?" "Alcoholic frustrated wives spending their days in bars!" "Hold on to your sanity if you can! And be grateful this did not happen to you!" "Teasing becomes torture! And torture terror!" "Youth! Emotionally mixed-up! Pent-up! Ready to explode into sex and violence!" "He's got hot rodders va-hoomin'! And hep cats suz-zoomin'!" "The Endsville from Sendsville!" "Every feverish moment in the emotional life of the immature!" "For Ivy Leaguers, Junior Leaguers, Little Leaguers, and Union Leaguers!" "See what happens when a pair of singin' swingin' teenagers turn Squaresville into Hipsville!" "If you're under 30, you'll want to see it! If you're over 30, you better see it!" and perhaps the least, but more likely the most idealistic claim of all: "Nobody will fall asleep during this picture!"
- Some great lines from the trailers: "She wasn't bad looking for a girl. Personally, I prefer a hopped-up roadster!" "You'll wind up in the gutter before you're old enough to vote!" "O.K., so you tell 'em we're gonna quit school for the twist!"
- Some well-known rock & rollers who appear in the films: Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, Chuck Berry, the Moonglows, the Flamingos, the Johnny Burnette Trio, Clyde McPhatter, The Isley Brothers, the Clovers, Cliff Richards, Joey Dee & the Starliters, Chubby Checker, Del Shannon, Gary U.S. Bonds, Gene Vincent, the Beach Boys, Gerry and the Pacemakers, James Brown, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Jan and Dean, the Supremes, the Rolling Stones, Joan Baez, Ray Charles, the Byrds, the Lovin' Spoonful, Donovan, Ike & Tina Turner, Bo Diddley, the Ronnettes, Neil Sedaka, the Seeds, the Strawberry Alarm Clock.
- Some lesser-known rock & rollers who appear in the films: Jimmy Camello, the Three Chuckles, Sereno & the Bowties, the Temperance Seven, the Rockin' Ramrods, Millie, the Bachelors, the Applejacks, Johnny B. Great, the Offbeats, the New Society Band, the Grit.
- Gimmick Alert: Teenage Caveman is in Superama! Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory is in Nerve-O-Rama! It is recommended that teenagers and their parents see The Explosive Generation together! You must relieve the theater from all responsibility for death by fright before seeing The Horror of Party Beach! The T.A.M.I. Show is in Electro-Vision! And don't forget the free Fabian pix!
- Msties, take note: Contains the trailers for I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Teenage Caveman, The Horror of Party Beach, and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies. Dr. Macabre's Frightmare of Movie Monsters features the Teenage Werewolf and the Colossal Beast alive! In person!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
American Scene Magazine (film #6 in the Gleason’s Greatest Bomb section of TVParty). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Opening from a 50s version of Jackie Gleason’s variety show. This is before my time, but it brought back memories of Gleason’s 60s show, as well as the way variety shows used to have such a special event air about them. The June Taylor Dancers do an impressive dance routine, complete with a kaleidoscopic aerial camera sequence (Busby Berkeley, eat your heart out!), then Gleason himself comes out and does some high-kicking in the chorus line (and about has a heart attack in the process). This is one of the longer and better clips on the TVParty site, and it’s something you probably can see nowhere else.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
BBC Breakfast News: Local Elections Special (film #3 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]Opening credits for a special morning report on the 1987 British elections. Scenes of candidates are shown in slow motion and there’s some nice animation of the globe. For the most part, this is pretty ordinary, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
After Mein Kampf? (film #1 on Side B of Disc #9 of War Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Well, what a coincidence. This turns out to be the British propaganda film that forms the first half of Adolf Hitler. My comments about it in the review of that film still stand, of course, and it’s nice to see the original film in its entirety. It contains a number of dramatic reenactments that were cut out of the other film, including a real tearjerker scene of a cold-hearted Hitler Youth kid being confronted by his mother for turning in his father for some sort of violation of Nazism. The film has a bit of American footage tacked on at the end, which is jarring. It must have been the version for American distribution. Again, this is a great piece of propaganda.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **** (mainly for its breezy narration; the atrocities, of course, are not funny). Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
Best Food in Town (film # 1801 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This is the last part of a 50s film for restaurant workers about safe food-handling practices. There are plenty of opportunities to go “ewwww!!!” here, not least of which is some of the food. Mostly, though, this is pretty ordinary, though it does have lots of footage of 50s dinerware.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Better Breakfasts, USA. An early-60s school class takes a field trip to a TV station. But instead of learning about television production,...
Autumn on the Farm . Farm kids Joan and Jerry have fun exploring the farm during the autumn in this 1940s EB film. They pick apples, grapes...
Beginning at Plymouth Colony. From the title, this 50s film sounds like it will be a dry historical film about the settlers at Plymouth Co...
Beginning Responsibility: Taking Care of Things . Grade-schooler Andy is a slacker in the taking-care-of-things department, so he suffers t...