Attack! The Battle for New Britain (film #2 on Side A of Disc #9 of War Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This WWII film documents the invasion of New Britain, an island off the coast of New Guinea. It’s told from the soldier’s point of view, covering training, preparations for attack, landing on the beaches, and the gritty reality of combat. This soldier’s-eye-view of things makes the film a lot more interesting than it might be. Nothing about this difficult battle was prettied up for the cameras, and we get to see such harsh realities as Gis slogging all equipment through the muddy, insect-ridden jungle, hacking away undergrowth with every step; a field of Japanese corpses; doctors doing surgery in field hospitals under the most primitive of conditions (and one of the hospitals gets bombed by the Japanese); and soldiers burying their dead comrades in the jungle. It doesn’t even end with victory, which is unusual for this kind of film. The one unfortunate aspect of the film is the way the New Guinea natives were portrayed, despite the fact that they were on our side and helped the military a great deal with preparations for the attack. For this, they get called such respectful names as “Fuzzy Wuzzies” and “Blogs”. Other than that, this is an interesting, realistic look at what the soldiers of WWII had to go through.

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

Chevrolet Leader News, Vol. 1, No. 1 (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #295 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

Newsreel stories are used to sell Chevrolets. That’s right, every story in this newsreel, from a giant dam-building project to ladies’ hairstyles is somehow lamely tied to Chevrolets. There are a lot of these to come, folks, though, so let’s get going. This one features the aforementioned dam project, ice-boat racing, a new kind of gas gauge, the latest hairstyles for upper class ladies, and a little girl stuffing a dog into a glove compartment, in what is probably the silliest and strangest “story.” These are all breezily and bombastically narrated, so the thing really moves. Mildly amusing.

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

Andy Taylor (Griffith), His Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) (film #2 in the Mayberry RIP section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]

The highlight of this clip is a patently ridiculous commercial for Sanka coffee featuring Andy trying to convince Opie that it’s just the thing to feed his parakeet. When Opie insists that parakeets don’t drink coffee, Andy smiles wryly and says, “The sponsor don’t know that!” This is part of a larger clip that includes the last couple of minutes of "The Andy Griffith Show," the closing credits, and a brief promo for “Angel” as well. A great slice of tv-watching life during the early 60s.

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

The Bored Cuckoo (film #532 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This is a sign-language interpreted version of one of those classic old Warner Bros. toons that feature characters from books coming alive at night and engaging in various antics. These toons were usually an excuse to make lots of topical gags, and they are essentially plotless. Nevertheless, the interpreter pops in about every three seconds and tries to explain what is going on, even though most of the gags are visual. Some of the explanations are inexplicable, such as announcing a caricature of Greta Garbo with huge feet doing a soft shoe on the cover of So Big as, “Oh! Here is a very bad dancer!” While others are merely incredibly obvious, such as announcing and slowly finger-spelling the name of Rip Van Winkle, when in the cartoon, the large legend “RIP VAN WINKLE” appears above his head. OK, I suppose the intended audience of deaf children will probably not get the topical references (hearing children don’t, either), and maybe a lot of them can’t read. But was it really necessary to explain the Thin Man gag? Of course, the idea of even attempting to sign-language interpret this particular cartoon is strange, and its even stranger in execution, making this an interesting piece of ephemera all the same.

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

Bargain Day, 14th Street, New York (film #4 on The Life of a City). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Huge crowds mill around a dime store. Wonder what toy their children just had to have for Christmas? Teddy bears, perhaps? A 1905 Biograph film.

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

Vintage Intermission Cartoon (track #3 on Weird Cartoons (Special Edition) (Rhino, 1987)). [Category: Commercial]

A classic animated intermission concession stand promo featuring the Bon-Bon chefs. A cute extra on Rhino's Weird Cartoons collection.

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

Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs (film #4 on WWII Cartoons, Vol. 1 (The Authentic History Center)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This Warner Brothers toon is filled with outrageous African-American stereotypes, hot jazz, and wartime references. Almost as outrageous as the stereotypes are wildly exaggerated rubbery moves of the characters. If you can get past the stereotypes (which are pretty awful), this is a fun toon. But I’m not necessarily sure that you should get past the stereotypes. It is, though, a great piece of history, revealing both good and bad sides of WWII-era popular culture.

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

Empty Life (film #479 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This 50s film claims to be about boredom, but it’s actually about the depression, angst, and neuroticism that lay just under the surface of many middle class families. Hugh Marriott is bored with life, but actually he’s angry and depressed because his wife disapproves of him doing the kind of work he loves, and he’s too much of a wimp to go against her wishes. He’s the main case study here, but other “bored” people in his neighborhood are mentioned as well, including a neighbor woman who’s an alcoholic, a local grocer who’s a sex addict, and a teen hot rodder who’s headed down the road towards being a grim traffic statistic. The film is bizarre and jaw-dropping in some moments, and quite realistic and sensitive in others, especially the portrayal of how Hugh’s “boredom” affects his son, leading to problems for the boy. The narration is relentless and deadpan, and the soundtrack music is wailing, angst-ridden jazz, giving the film a dark, heavy feel that resembles the leaden pain of depression. This combination of good and bad qualities results in a film that is hard to evaluate one way or the other, being both campy and weird, and realistic and sensitive by turns. At any rate, it’s far from boring. Hope they eventually post its sequel: Boredom II: The Search for Zest (and if you think I’m making that up, watch the movie).

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

The Selling Wizard (MST3K Episode #603: The Dead Talk Back). [Category: Industrial]

Cheesecake is used to sell display freezers to grocers. A bizarrely-dressed but silent woman (Crow once calls her "the pizza domanitrix") points out the outstanding features of Anheuser-Busch display freezers gameshow hostess-style, while a male narrator delivers the sales pitch. Like most advertising of this type, this film is extremely sexist and objectifying. Both the woman and the freezer are referred to as "The Selling Wizard" and every effort is made to get the assumed male audiences to see them as interchangeable. Appalling, and dull to boot. The msting makes it bearable, though, especially Tom Servo's falling head over heels for the pitch: "O.K., I wanna buy it now!! Just name your price, I'll take it, I'll take it!!"

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

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet #3 (film #3 on Side B of Disc #1 of TV Favorites DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This episode is a supremely silly tale involving a bunch of really ugly ashtrays a neighbor lady made (said neighbor played by Mary Jane Croft, who later went on to be Lucy’s best friend) and a shotgun, and what fun is had when one meets the other. This is a lot weirder and thus more enjoyable than the usual “Ozzie and Harriet” fare, and thus is recommended. I would venture to say that its “shotgun approach” to the criticism of really bad art has some merit.

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

BBC News #2 (film #21 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]

Lemon curry?

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *** (mainly due to Python influence). Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Atom in the Hospital (film #131 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This early 60s film shows various forms of medical research and treatment using nuclear radiation. It’s pretty straightforward for the most part, with some rather striking images of patients being hooked up to various kinds of huge machines. It does provide us with a look at the state of the art of nuclear medicine in the early 60s.

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

Chevrolet Advertising Rings the Bell (film #294 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

No, really, it does! Disembodied hands spring out of Chevrolet print ads and ring doorbells! It’s true, I swear! This film with a missing soundtrack blows the lid off of this whole conspiracy! And who’s responsible, you may wonder? Why it’s Chevrolet Man, a robot-like apparition built of wire and bits of advertising ephemera! He places an evil curse upon all ads for the 1951 Chevrolet, and suddenly billboards start walking around! Print ads show up on people’s doorsteps and demand to be taken in and made members of the family! People become mesmerized by their tv sets! And here’s the really scary part of it: the 1951 Chevrolet was not actually released until December of 2000! Take heed everyone! Lock up your children!! They’re here already!! YOU’RE NEXT!!! [Ed. Note: Sorry about that outburst. The author has been taken away for reeducation and treatment. You may now return to your regularly-scheduled Chevrolet advertising.]

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

The Angry Movie (film #2 on Angry Night DVD (A/V Geeks)). [Category: Educational]

This late-70s Coronet film is a weird pseudo-psychedelic animated romp through the mind of an angry child, including such disturbing content as death wishes against parents and moments of depersonalization. In the end, the kid suddenly gets over it when the kid who originally made him angry gives him a telephone call. No discussion of this disturbing journey through the dark recesses of a child’s mind is given. My, we’ve come a long way from such Coronet fare as Control Your Emotions or Act Your Age. This thing leaves you wondering what the justification was for actually showing it to children. Granted, it portrays thoughts that commonly occur to angry children, but without any sort of context or discussion, it’s more frightening than illuminating. A weird little film that provides you with more than you probably want to know about the mind of a child.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **** (though really you don’t know whether to laugh or cry). Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Axel and His Dog (film #3 in the Twin Cities’ Local Kid Shows section of TVParty). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Clip from an early local kid show in the Twin Cities area, featuring goony Norwegian Axel, his perpetually offscreen dog, and his magic spyglass made of two paper towel tubes. Here, he’s obviously winging it. This sort of thing is representative of early local kid shows, making this a great historical relic, as well as a lot of fun to watch.

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

Andy Griffith Show (film #28 in the 1964 section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]

Commercial for Post Toasties where Barney gets Andy to exercise so he can steal his Post Toasties. Mildly amusing and quite nostalgic.

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

Blonde Pick Up (film #17 on SabuCat Movie Trailers). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

Campy, lurid trailer for the exploitation cheapie Blonde Pick Up, aka Racket Girls (msties, take note!). Lots of great over-the-top ad lines, plus a scene featuring Timothy Farrell, always a sign of high-quality cinema! Lots of fun.

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

Desert Demons (film #25 in the Documentary section of Movieflix ( [Category: Hollywood]

Here we see an ant in a life-or-death struggle with a wolf! Seriously, it's this kind of nature documentary that the Pythons were making fun of. With the exception of a few very brief shots of owls and turtles, this is all about desert animals killing other desert animals. I guess that's how they packed 'em into the theaters during the 1930s.

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

Better Reading

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 ...