Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid (film #19 on Disc #4 of Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1 (Warner Bros., 2004)). [Category: Hollywood]Bosko was the first Warner Bros. cartoon character and this is his first cartoon, so this is a historical landmark. A live-action cartoonist draws Bosko, who comes to life on the page and attempts to entertain the audience with piano-playing, lame jokes, and tooney antics. Unfortunately, he’s a black stereotype, though he’s drawn pretty abstractly. Beyond that, his tooney antics are fun to watch, though his jokes are pretty bad and his singing is excruciating. No wonder the cartoonist decides to put him back into the inkwell.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Aggressive Impulse (film #8 on Angry Night DVD (A/V Geeks). [Category: Educational]Here we see an ant in a life-or-death struggle with a wolf! Seriously, this is the type of film the Pythons were spoofing in that sketch. Aggressive animal behaviors are compared with human aggression in this 70s film, the point being that aggression can be controlled. This is actually quite a mild film, considering its subject matter. There’s a 70s “niceness” to it. There’s nothing blatantly unrealistic about it, but its overall tone has an idealistic feel to it. It feels sort of like the filmmakers thought that violence could be eliminated by having everybody watch this film. How quickly that kind of idealism would die! A mild, feel-good 70s kind of film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet #4 (film #4 on Side B of Disc #1 of TV Favorites DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). [Category: Early Film & TV]In this episode of the low-key sitcom, Ozzie decides to stay in bed all day, just because he wants to do whatever he wants to for once. Of course, he lives to regret this decision, as lots of interesting things happen that he would have to get out of bed to participate in, and people start to treat him like he’s sick. The best part is when a guy from his lodge, representing the “Cheer Up Committee,” depresses him to no end with talk of illnesses and death. As usual for this series, this is mildly amusing.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Across 110th Street (film #5 in the Trailers section of Movieflix). [Category: Commercial]Fairly standard trailer for a very violent 70s gangster movie that seems to be heavily influenced by The Godfather. Anthony Quinn stars as a cop who won’t play by the rules, making the clichés as thick as the violence. No surprises here, really.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
Au Pair Girls (film #15 in the Trailers section of Movieflix). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]Trailer for an early-70s British softcore film, in which sexy miniskirted au pair girls take care of all their male employers’ needs, to bouncy, annoying theme music. This is about as leering as it gets without crossing the line into parody, making it pretty campy.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Chance to Lose (film #275 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]This campy driving safety film from the 30s is breezily narrated like a newsreel featurette and features drivers who end up in humorous pratfalls as a result of their unsafe driving habits instead of tragedy, though the narrator gives plenty of stern warnings about such. The highlight is a young couple who end up crashing into a pigpen because of the young man’s tendency to associate manhood with speeding. Obviously, this humorous tack didn’t work, for driver safety films were to get more and more horrific as time went by, culminating in the gore films of the 60s. Although this was made by the National Safety Council, the ending exhortations about how cars are built entirely safe (so the fault of accidents must lay entirely on the driver) makes me wonder if the auto industry might have gotten their fingers into this.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Those Crazy Ol' Commercials (Goodtimes, 1986). [Category: Commercial]Despite its lame title and $2.99 bin packaging, this is a pretty good collection of interesting commercials. There are quite a few fun moments here and a couple of real jaw-droppers (listed below). It gets docked 5 points for including one commercial with inaudible audio (the Tony Randall Libby's Fruit Juices one––don't panic when you get to it, it's the only one affected).
- The ad for "Old Happiness" liquor is a parody, not a real commercial. But it's so well done and amusing, I'm not going to dock the tape any points for including it. It looks like it's from "The Twilight Zone" series––I wonder if any of the videos from that series bother to include it. If not, it's a great obscurity.
- "Put Royal Triton in Cynthia's little tummy," coos Marilyn Monroe, camping it up even more than Edie Adams.
- There's a really great example of early TV in the form of a commercial for the 1950 Ford Victoria. It's the slowest-paced commercial I've ever seen. Life must have been really slow paced back in the 50's for a commercial to be that slow.
- The real jaw-dropper is a public service announcement about highway safety featuring James Dean. Jimmy urges us not to drive too fast on the highways: "Take it easy on the highways, folks. The life you save may be mine." Unfortunately, it was not to be.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Adventures of the Road Runner (film #16 on Disc #2 of Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 2 DVD (Warner Brothers, 2004)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This is the pilot for the Road Runner tv show, made by Chuck Jones by stringing together footage from various cartoons and making linking bits featuring Wile E. Coyote analyzing his failures, and two young viewers of the show making comments about it. This was later split apart and made into several different cartoons. It’s better seen all of a piece––you can see how cleverly it was put together. The scenes of Wile E., in particular, are a lot stronger than I remember them from the hacked-up cartoons. Of course, the scenes from the original cartoons are great, especially the classic catapult gags. A great relic from the vaults for Warner Bros. fans.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Assignment: Shoot the Moon (film #1 in the Science section of Movieflix). [Category: News]This NASA film documents the many unmanned spacecraft built to photograph the lunar surface to determine if a manned lunar landing was possible. The film is well-made and full of pre-Apollo 11 photographs of the moon, as well as the first photographs of the earth from space. This provides an interesting historic backdrop to the Apollo missions, as well as some striking images.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Cleanliness Brings Health (film #25 on disc 1 of Walt Disney on the Front Lines DVD (Disney, 2004)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Disney made this educational film for South American audiences as part of the governments “good neighbor” policy during World War II. It appears to be aimed at poor rural folk, encouraging them to engage in proper hygiene practices to prevent the spread of disease. This is competently made, but one wonders who actually saw it, considering it was made in English rather than Spanish. It’s basically a Goofus-and-Gallant film, featuring the Clean Family, who relieve themselves in a latrine, wash before eating, and keep flies off their food with mosquito netting (and thus don’t get sick); and the Careless Family, who relive themselves in their cornfield, never wash, and let their farm animals wander all over the place, even into the house. They also look vaguely like “lazy Mexican” stereotype, which is unfortunate. The message is valid, though after seeing Forgotten Village, I wonder whether it really resulted in much change in traditional practices among rural peoples.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Better Reading . Teenager Harold Wilson has a problem—he can’t read for (expletive deleted). So he has to spend all his free time studying ...
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...