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Showing posts from May 15, 2005
A Kalinga Supply Plane Landing and Being Unloaded (in the Educational section of Open Video Project). [Category: Public Service]A bunch of Himalayan natives receive supplies from a plane, in a bizarre combination of ancient and modern practices. Another historically interesting clip of documentary footage from the 40s of Apa Tani tribespeople and their ways.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Alphabet (film #1 in the Documentary section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This simple little brickfilm uses only a few bricks to spell out the alphabet, two letters at a time. This looks like it would fit right in on “Sesame Street.” A clever use of a few bricks.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Ancient Mexican Dances for President (film #2 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]Newsreel story from the 30s showing Mexican Indian tribes doing tribal dances for the Mexican President. The huge headdresses are somewhat interesting, but this is too short to really have much historical value.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Aid Britain, Says Hull (film #136 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This is basically just footage of two boring speeches made on the eve of World War II by politicians, one urging aid to Britain and one announcing a tax hike for national defense. A little historical value here, but not much else.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Chevrolet Leader News, Vol. 5, No. 2 (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #309 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This rather dull edition of Chevrolet Leader News features bathing beauties fencing on the beach, the utterly fascinating world of rice growing, more model boat racing, traffic cops getting aerial photographs of intersections with a camera attached to a balloon, and, in the latest animal abuse news, baby chicks being transported on a seaplane to South America. Actually, this doesn’t really qualify as animal abuse, so they had to make up for it by placing a couple of the chicks in a humiliating toy plane. Another slow news day at Chevrolet. The graphic design of the title cards is cool, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Truck Farmer (MST3K Episode #507: I Accuse My Parents). [Category: Industrial]The values of modern truck farming are extolled here, and the msting is merciless. From the exploitation of farm workers: "Where else are people exploited?", to slash and burn agriculture: "Stupid trees! I hate 'em!", to the overuse of chemicals: "There's nothing we can't spray!", to the overly meat-heavy American diet: "Well, it's not meat, but I supposed I'd better buy some just for appearances' sake,"––not a thing gets past Joel and the bots without commentary. Which is good, because the short itself is fairly dull.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Msting: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Ancient Chinese Field Games (film #1 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Hollywood]Newsreel story from the early 30s documenting a sports festival in China, including a sport that must be an early version of the hackysack. Narration is breezy, but manages to avoid stereotypes for the most part, which is amazing given the time this was made. It does give you a historically interesting brief glimpse of pre-war China, however, I don’t know what to make of the comment about “Chinese flappers.”
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Easter Island (film #472 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]Silent color footage of what looks like an archeological expedition. It could just be a travelogue, though––it's hard to tell without the soundtrack. There are some rather primitive-looking graphic cards featuring the famous Easter Island statues to break things up a bit, as well as lots of footage of people unloading things from ships. A head-scratcher.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
Bobby Bumps Starts a Lodge (film #2 on Origins of American Animation). [Category: Early Film & TV]Bobby Bumps invites his friend, an African-American kid, to join a lodge he has made up on the spot. The initiation involves a blindfold and a goat, but it’s not as scary as you might think. After the black kid cheats on being initiated, he gets trapped by a bear. When Bobby saves him, Bobby gets trapped by the bear and has to be saved. Since they both saved each other, they decide to be initiated together. The black kid is drawn and speaks (in subtitles) in a very racist stereotyped way, yet the fact that he’s Bobby’s friend, is invited to join the lodge, and meets an equal fate to Bobby in the end means that this film was vastly ahead of its time in portraying kids of two different races playing together. This makes it a fascinating piece historically, as well as being a great example of early animation. A 1916 Bray film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical In…
The Angry Red Planet Trailer (extra on The Angry Red Planet DVD (MGM, 2001)). [Category: Commercial]Fairly campy trailer for The Angry Red Planet that features a gimmick––Cinemagic––which is essentially just a red filter in the camera, though the trailer tries to make it out to be much more. The supposedly great special effects that they tout look incredibly cheesy and cheap. Which makes this a fun trailer to watch––it’s this kind of hyperbole that makes a trailer.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
A Day at the Zoo (film #68 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This sign-language interpreted version of the hoary old Warner Bros. toon takes a somewhat more sensible approach. The cartoon is narrated, so they took out the original narration and replaced it with narration by the sign language interpreter. This avoids having the gags overexplained, though she does miss some gags, such as the “two bucks and five cents” gag. This is not always a bad thing, though, as the explanation for what made the wildcat wild is left out, and it would thoroughly puzzle anyone too young to remember 30s movie theater “Bank Nights.” Most interestingly, the interpreter plays the narrator’s role in chiding Egghead for teasing the lion. His usual line, “I’m a bad boy” is left out, but the gag comes across anyway. This is to my mind one of the better of the sign-language interpreted toons I’ve seen.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Ratin…
Builders of the Broad Highway (film #260 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]Another educational film about highway building. This one goes into quite a bit of detail about the process, and it impresses you with the skill and the risk-taking of the construction workers. But it basically just goes on and on about highway building, which is interesting if you’re into that kind of thing, but boring if you’re not.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Help Needy, Says First Lady (film #1 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Public Service]Newsreel clip of Eleanor Roosevelt speaking to the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, urging women (read: wealthy women) to do charitable work to help the poor during the Depression. This has some historical value, but it’s creaky as all get-out.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Aloha Ha Ha (film #30 on Film Chest Vintage Cartoons). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This is one of those lame New Three Stooges limited animation tv cartoons, with live-action bumpers by the Stooges themselves. This one features the Stooges trying to avoid being eaten by a cannibal tribe, while the bumpers feature a very old, lethargic, and tame lion who is so pathetic they had to dub in a roar. There’s a real bottom-of-the-barrel feel to this, as if nobody cared about the kids at home watching, except for maybe the local hosts that showed syndicated cartoons like this. Something to watch when nothing else is on.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Al Smith Hails End of Dry Law (film #1 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]New York’s governor Al Smith pontificates briefly on the end of Prohibition. This clip should be placed in a documentary about the 30s right before scenes of drunken partying to Spike Jones’ “Cocktails for Two.” By itself, it’s pretty dull.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
La Cheval Emballe (film #15 on The Movies Begin, Volume Three: Experimentation and Discovery (Kino Video, 1994)). [Category: Early Film & TV]While a deliveryman shmoozes, his horse eats a sack of oats in front of a grocery store. The oats must be super-vitamanized, because the horse takes off at top speed, mowing down everything in its path, creating a particularly anarchic chase scene. Eventually the horse finds its way home, and its owner deals with all the pesky folks chasing it by making use of a handy garden hose. One of the better chase films. A 1907 Pathe Freres film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
Akron Disaster (film #111 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Silent newsreel story documenting the crash of Navy dirigible U.S.S. Akron. Mostly this involves showing the bit of ocean it crashed into and showing the recovery of dead bodies from the deep. They do include some footage of the Akron in its heyday, though, and those scenes are quite historically interesting, bringing back the days of huge airships floating silently through the sky.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Balbo Nears American Goal (film #1 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Industrial]Newsreel footage, some of it silent, of an armada of planes flying from Italy to the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago. This has some cool footage of radiotelegraph signals from the planes coming in and messages typing out on a huge Western Union typewriter. Otherwise, this is pretty ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Anzac in Curious Racial Mixup (film #1 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Hollywood]Brief newsreel story about an Australian man who was taken to China by his parents and then orphaned there, ending up being raised by Chinese villagers. The fact that he’s a white man who is culturally and linguistically Chinese is portrayed with all the awe accorded to Siamese twins and other forms of freaks. Of course, the other way around isn’t as amazing, which reveals the racism of the time. I have to admit, though, that I jumped a bit when his Chinese interpreter started speaking English with a perfect Australian accent.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Build Your Vocabulary (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #259 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]Pete’s dad, Mr. Willis, has a problem (Pete doesn’t have a problem, which is unusual for a Coronet film). It seems that folks keep usin’ all these high-fallutin’ words around him, words like “explicit” and “anthology.” It darn near drives him nuts (in a very campy scene) until he starts writin’ in one a’ them-there vocabulary notebooks. Now he can finally understand what his wife is talking about! This is a very campy film. Its main character is pathetically stupid, so much so that you get the impression that the only thing keeping him in his job is the fact that he’s a white male. He even gets the book Fundamentals of Printing from the library to read for the first time––considering he works for a printing company this is probably a good idea. Good thing he’s not a doctor. This character, and the fact that an adult is portrayed as the clueless one for o…
Bob’s Electric Theater (film #3 on Early Sci-Fi Fantasy Films (Buyer’s Gallery Movie Memories)). [Category: Early Film & TV]Some kids are bored, so they start experimenting with stop-motion animation of their toys. This gets pretty weird in spots, especially when the spanking begins. It’s an interesting early experiment in stop-motion, though. A 1906 Pathe Freres film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
American Express Card (film #7 in The Most Memorable Commercials of the 1970s section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]Early example of the “Do You Know Me?” campaign featuring either Siegfried or Roy, I can’t remember which is which. Since American Express is still making these commercials, there are really no surprises here, though it might have a bit of historical interest.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Bubbling Over (film #1 on Side A of Disc #9 of Classic Musicals DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2005)(in Soundies Festival)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]Ethel Waters stars in this bizarre musical short that involves a lazy husband, his philandering relatives, a bogus swami fortune-teller, and an uncle who they think has struck it rich but is really a nutcase. Racist stereotypes abound, and it’s a shame to see Waters, who is obviously an intelligent and very talented woman, have to struggle with such insulting material. Her songs are good, but otherwise, this leaves you with a big “huh?”
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Junior High Schools in New York City (film #794 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]This early 60s film tries to explain the whole concept of junior high schools to parents who didn’t go to them, and thus don’t think they’re necessary. It does it in as stilted and controlled fashion as possible, with everything carefully scripted and acted out by people who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag. This gives the film a geeky quality which is rather appealing after a bit. It is sure to bring back lots of memories, not all of them pleasant, in folks who attended junior high during the 50s and early 60s. Gender roles aplenty appear, including boys lining up in the front of the classroom while girls line up at the side; boys learning woodworking and electrical tinkering in shop class, while girls learn cooking, table manners, and dressmaking in Home Ec; and girls doing folk dancing in P.E., while the boys play sports. It was somewhat ahead of its time, though, in the portra…
A Chess Dispute (film #18 on The Movies Begin, Volume Two: The European Pioneers (Kino Video, 1994)). [Category: Early Film & TV]An argument over a friendly game of chess degenerates into punching, scratching, suspender-throwing, seltzer-squirting mayhem. Those violent chessmeisters! Amusing, though. A 1903 Robert W. Paul film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.