Alien TV (film #107 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Experimental film involving psychedelic-looking altered film footage of people with a crawling superimposed title telling us about aliens or something. It gets mesmerizing after a bit, with some striking visual imagery, though for me it resembles a little too much the obligatory “trip” scene found in youth-oriented movies from the late 60s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdnessmode***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Brazil: South American Medley (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #244 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]This National Geographic film is a standard, though fairly well-made, educational travelogue about Brazil. A few isolated spots of weirdness include some guys in drag in a Mardi Gras parade and venom being harvested at that weird snake ranch in Sao Paulo. But mostly this is just what you’d expect.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Beatles (film #1 in The British Invasion section of WPA Film Library). [Category: News]Newsreel clips documenting the Beatles’ arrival in America, including huge crowds of screaming girls and amusing press conference footage. This gives you a good idea of the impact of their arrival, giving this quite a bit of historical interest considering how short it is.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Chaplin - The Rounders (film #37 in the Silent section of Movieflix). [Category: Early Film & TV]Looks like the Little Tramp married into money. This time he's a rich fellow with a habit of coming home drunk to his feisty wife. His wife throws him out, where he encounters Fatty Arbuckle, who is also in the habit of coming home drunk to a feisty wife. Together they stumble off to a restaurant and are thrown out for trying to go to sleep on the floor. Their wives in hot pursuit, they end up stealing a rowboat and drown in it when it fills with water. I'm not particularly a fan of drunk humor and I have to say that even with the presence of Arbuckle, this is one of the weaker Chaplin efforts. A 1914 Charlie Chaplin film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Algeria (film #11 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Newsreel clip of street violence in Algiers during the struggle for Algerian independence during the 50s. A bus wreck is a striking moment in this. Has historical interest and some striking scenes of violence, but not too much else.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Combat Bulletin No. 5 (film #2 on tape #1 of This Film Is Restricted Boxed Set (Marathon Music & Video, 1997)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This Combat Bulletin focuses mainly on the resourcefulness of GIs. In "Stop That Tank!", we're shown the strengths and weaknesses of a captured Japanese tank and how to take one out in battle. In "Something New Has Been Added" we get a good look at the then-brand-new B-29 bomber. In "No Field Cable?", Signal Corpsmen improvise a cable wrapper out of some wire spools and gears. In "Home-Made Gadget Steps Up Bazooka Power", GIs quadruple bazooka power by simply connecting four bazookas together. Clever? You bet! But the enemy can be clever, too. In "A New Land Mine Problem", we're shown a new German land mine made in a simple little wooden box. Finally, "Modern Day Specialists" is a tribute to the infantry and their extensive training. I love resourcefulness and improvising useful gadgets from junk, so I think this bulletin is pretty fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Chevrolet Leader News, Vol. 3, No. 4 (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #305 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial](Sigh!) More silly “news” “stories” from Chevrolet. There’s a traveling barber that serves trailer folk, a combination bus-train, more animal abuse in the form of a fire dog that gets sent into flames to rescue a little girl’s dolly, an early version of eye-in-the-sky traffic reports, and model boat races. (Sigh!) I need to go to bed now…
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
To New Horizons (film #1 on Lifestyles, U.S.A., Vol. 1 (Somthing Weird, 2000). Also in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #1529 on Prelinger Archive. Also, film #15 on Ephemeral Films CD-ROM (Voyager) (excerpts)). [Category: Industrial]The 1939 New York World's Fair is a source of endless fascination for me. So I was delighted to find this film made for the GM Futurama available from these sources––it's the next best thing to a time machine. The Futurama was the most memorable exhibit at the fair––it contained a huge miniature replica of a "typical" city of 1960. This film documents that exhibit and the boundless optimism behind it. What's amazing is that it really wasn't that far off the mark, especially in the case of the superhighways, which look a lot like modern Interstate highways. And it's just a really fun piece of ephemera, from the cheesy organ soundtrack, to the assertion that "we are all interested in the future, for that is where we will be spending the rest of our lives"––so that's where Criswell got that phrase!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
Betty Boop and Grampy (film #295 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Hollywood]Betty goes to a party at Grampy’s house, bringing along with her any and all passers-by, who immediately abandon their jobs, no matter how important. Grampy entertains them by turning kitchen gadgets into an elaborate music-making machine. This is one of the later Bettys, so it’s not as weird, but I always love Grampy’s clever inventions, so this is pretty fun anyway.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Dick Whittington's Cat (film #32 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 1 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Hollywood]This seems a lot more like a typical cat-and-mouse cartoon than a fairy tale. A cowardly cat gets accidentally sent to a foreign land where there are no cats and the mice have essentially taken over. The cat manages to defeat the mice by developing a cat version of Dissociative Identity Disorder––when he is tied up by the mice onto a mini-guillotine and frightened into unconsciousness, his nine lives take over and beat the crap out of the mice. This particular part of the cartoon is pretty strange, but the rest of it is pretty predictable.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Black Diamond Express (film #29 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]Some guys work on the railroad all the livelong day, that is, until the train comes. A slice of workingmen’s life from the 1890s. An 1896 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Boys Beware (film #239 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]This memorable Sid Davis film about homosexuality rates high on most people’s camp list, as it is chock full of juicy tidbits of misinformation, the main one being that homosexual equals child molester. In fact, I wonder if this precise cognitive distortion is what lays behind much homophobia. But this is not even the most jawdropping of this film’s assertions. That comes at the end of its first case study, when we find out that Jimmy, after telling his parents about being sexually abused by Ralph, and his parents told the police, was placed on probation and “released into the custody of his parents,” implying that criminal charges were brought against him as well as Ralph! I’m sure that encouraged lots of boys to turn in their molesters (NOT!). What is really sad about this film is that it so totally failed to address the real dangers of sexual abuse children face, while inciting homophobia and giving vague warnings about not going anywhere with strangers (warnings I’m sure most of its audience members had heard a million times). The only sensible part of the film comes when a paperboy copies down the license number of a car driven by a stranger, after one of his friends got into it. He later gives the license number to his friend’s mother, who calls the police, who track down the stranger. This little bit of advice just might come in handy in those rare cases of stranger abduction of children. But even then, it’s pretty unrealistic, as the boy waits until he happens to be delivering a paper to his friend’s mother before telling her about the stranger in the car. In the real world, especially in the pre-Amber-Alert world this film takes place in, the guy would have been long gone and the kid dead by then. Of course, all this makes for great ephemera, and this film is a must-have for educational film collectors.
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...