The House Fly (film #693 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This Encyclopedia Britannica film is more strident than most, portraying the house fly as a carrier of filth and disease and a public health menace. Lots of anatomical diagrams of flies are shown, as well as lots of disgusting footage of flies buzzing around garbage, animal corpses, and dairy cattle, and that’s not even touching on the really disgusting footage of maggots. The flies seem to be everywhere in this film’s 50s world, despite attempts to control them with fly swatters, insecticide sprays, and widespread dissemination of poison. Although the film is straightforward and dry, in that EB way, it shows a disturbing picture of the seemy underbelly of 50s anxieties. This would be a good short to show before screenings of The Fly, another great example of 50s insect horror.

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

Combat America (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #352 on Prelinger Archive. Also, film #1 on Side A of Disc #10 of War Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004). Also, film #1 on Side A of Disc #9 of WWII: The Ultimate Collection DVD Boxed Set (Brentwood Home Video, 2004)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

After his wife, Carole Lombard, was killed in a plane crash, a grieving Clark Gable couldn’t face Hollywood anymore, so he joined up with the Army Air Corps, requesting that he be sent into actual combat. So naturally the Army decided he should make a movie about his combat group, the 351st Bombardier Group. Gable narrates this complete portrait of his outfit and appears in several short scenes where he interviews his comrades-in-arms. The focus of the film, though, is the group itself, especially the gunners. The film starts just after training is complete and the group flies to England to begin flying actual missions. The film covers all aspects of the lives of the gunners, from actual combat to leisure time, and from goofy hijinks to the gritty reality of seeing your buddies get killed or seriously wounded in combat. The film is quite similar to The Memphis Belle, though perhaps not as engrossing as that film. Still, the film has quite a bit of historical value as a portrait of combat and army life, and in color to boot.

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

Abe’s Job (film #256 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Apparently, Abe Lincoln is still alive and aggressively protecting his copyrights. I guess the makers of this film are in trouble, then. I wonder if he pals around with Elvis.

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

Atlas in Orbit: Radios Ike’s Message of Peace to World (film #128 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]

Newsreel story about the launch of the third Atlas missile, which, the narrator informs us, is way better than Sputnik, and which became one of the first communications satellites, broadcasting a message from President Eisenhower wishing everyone peace on earth. This was the space program in its infancy, folks, giving this some historical value, as well as some mild amusement when the narrator reports the dismal failures of the first two Atlas missiles, though he refers to them as “triumphs.”

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

Signals: Read 'Em or Weep (extra on Carnival of Souls DVD (Criterion Collection, 2000)). [Category: Industrial]

This safety film sponsored by Caterpillar features bungling construction workers fudging on safety in various ways, and then paying the price when their big ol' earth-moving machines bust up in various spectacular ways. More than any other safety film, this one makes you wonder how it was made without endangering the actors, 'cause big machines really do bust up before the camera. The best scene is the one where a faulty hose causes a big pipe to be dropped on the supervisor's truck, totalling it––the worker looks tremendously embarassed, but I'll bet the real construction workers in the audience where whooping and hollering. Not a bad piece of ephemera for being made as late as 1981.

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

A-Sub Epic: Nautilus Pioneers North Pole Seaway (film #135 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Newsreel clip documenting maiden voyage of the atomic submarine Nautilus. Unfortunately, there are no “encounters with mythical sea creatures a la Jules Verne.” Instead, we get to watch sailors playing solitaire. Boy, those nuclear subs were exciting!

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

Brussels World’s Fair (film #119 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Industrial]

Newsreel clip showing the construction of buildings for the Brussels World’s Fair, “the first world’s fair of the atomic age.” It includes the construction of a diorama showing the Highways of the Future, but it’s just not as much fun as the 1939 World of Tomorrow, darn it. Perhaps tomorrow had become today by that time.

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

The Devil's Ball (track #5 on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1913) (Sinister Cinema). Also, film #1 on Early Sci-Fi Fantasy Films (The Buyer's Gallery Home Video)). [Category: Hollywood]

This fragment of an early stop-motion cartoon is real nightmare stuff. Even the talking vegetables are evil, and that's saying a lot, coming from me. Like most dreams, it has lots of weird stuff in it and it doesn't make much sense. But you won't easily forget such images as dancing wineglasses that break themselves, an inflatable saxophone player, or a love triangle involving a shady character, a ballerina, and an ape. I wonder where they dug this one up.

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

Argentina

Argentina. Standard geography film about the South American country of Argentina. There’s some historical interest here as you get to see ...