BBC Election Night (film #19 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]

Clip from BBC coverage of the 2005 British election. I was expecting tedium here, but was surprised––this is a great deal of fun, actually. A hyperbolic, yet very British, anchorman promises “to be fast, to be accurate, and to have a bit of fun along the way.” Then we see footage of election workers running around with boxes of ballots, and the co-anchors are given a chance to make hyperbolic pronouncement. Everything is very properly British, of course, so it all comes off as a bit silly. I’d rather watch this than American election night coverage any day.

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

Adm. Kimmel Testifies on Pearl Harbor (film #31 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Newsreel from the early post-war period featuring stories on Adm. Kimmel testifying in a hearing concerning the attack on Pearl Harbor (he maintains that being let in on certain intelligence information held by the White House would have prevented some loss of life); the United Nations electing a president (Mr. Spock wins––really!); General Eisenhower telling us when the boys will finally be able to come home (he says soon); a British train wreck that killed 10 people, and was the third such wreck in a week’s time, sullying British Rail’s pristine safety record (1’ll say!); a boat show featuring some bizarre floats (Hello, Mr. Sun1); and a speed skating competition (lots of skaters fall down). All in all, it’s a fairly ordinary newsreel, with some mildly amusing moments, giving us a snapshot of what things were like in 1946.

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

Combat Bulletin No. 23 (film #1 on tape #3 of This Film Is Restricted Boxed Set (Marathon Music & Vidoe, 1997)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Mostly combat footage on this one, with a few interesting moments here and there. In "E.T.O: German Installations", we are shown a number of cleverly camouflaged German installations, including a gun emplacement disguised to look like a movie theater (talk about cinematic bombs!) and an aerodrome disguised to look like a quaint, peaceful village. In "Pacific: Invasion of Morotai Island", we get to see GIs waterproofing their jeeps' and other vehicles' engines with a truly disgusting-looking asbestos paste (not to mention the waterline on General Douglas MacArthur's pants). "B-29s in Operation" is just what is says. The other segments, "5th Army Pierces Gothic Line", "E.T.O.: Allies Capture More French Ports", "Capture of Le Havre", "E.T.O.: Allied Armies Drive on Germany", "American 1st Army" and "British 2nd Army", are all basically just combat footage.

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

Bookkeeping and You (film #8 on AV Geeks). [Category: Industrial]

This early Coronet film goes through a high school bookkeeping class and gives the reasons why all the students are taking it. This mostly involves students needing to know how to keep the books in various family businesses, meaning that their parents probably made them take the class. We get to see the parents of these students use bookkeeping in various Mom and Pop businesses, a girl who is learning bookkeeping because she wants to become a stenographer and perhaps get promoted to secretary in an office full of male accountants, and the rich kid being forced to take the class so he won’t squander the family fortune, while his Mom checks up on the accuracy of the figures reported by the treasurer of her women’s club. Dick York is wasted in a cameo role, though it is a hoot to see him attempt to be a farmer. And the kid who wants to be a politician is realistically obnoxious––he probably went far in his chosen career. This is not one of Coronet’s best, but because it is by Coronet, it’s a lot more fun than it could have been given its subject matter.

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

A Video Tour of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Mfg. Company (Hollywood's Attic, 2000). Also, film #1615 on Prelinger Archive ("A Visit to Wurlitzer")). [Category: Industrial]

This early 20s film takes us through the process of manufacturing one of those big, elaborate organs that used to be in movie theaters during the silent era. It goes all the way from kiln-drying the lumber to installing the organ in a new San Francisco picture pallace. One fun scene features a comparison of the biggest and smallest pipes in the organ. The biggest is several stories high and big enough around that a man can sit comfortably inside of it. The smallest is about the size of a pencil. Many parts of the organ are made with huge machines, while others are carefully hand-built. This is another early industrial film that gives us a fascinating view of another era.

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

A Me Piace Celentano (film #1 in the Cinebox section of Bedazzled. Also, film #4 in the Film section of Bedazzled. Also, film #6 in the Video section of Bedazzled. Also, film #4 on Scopitones). [Category: Hollywood]

Wacky Italian (I think) Scopitone featuring a geeky boy with a huge pencil (shut up, Freud!) trying to do his math homework. Now I don’t understand Italian, but I think the point here is that he much prefers twisting with girls about twice his size and one and a half times his age to doing math. Of course, for all I know (Warning: Ethnic Stereotype Ahead!) this could be how the Italians actually teach math. I will say that for a geeky math whiz, this kid dances a mean twist.

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

The Electric House (film #8 on Side 2 of Disc A of Comedy Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). [Category: Hollywood]

Buster Keaton plays a recent college grad who gets his diploma in botany mixed up with another grad’s diploma in electrical engineering, and, as a result, gets a job installing electricity in a rich man’s house. He bones up for the job by reading Electricity Made Easy, and thus is able to install lots of clever electrical devices in the man’s house, including an electric stairway, an electric billiards rack, and an electric train that serves dinner. Since this is Buster we’re talking about, though, it’s only a matter of time before everything begins malfunctioning, and to add to the problems, the real electrical engineer shows up and takes his revenge by going into the little room with all the wiring and messing up all the connections. I love films that are full of clever electrical gadgets and this does not disappoint, though it’s hard to tell which is funnier––the devices themselves or watching them malfunction.

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

BBC1 Junction Into Welsh Programme (film #2 in the Schools section of TVArk). [Category: Educational]

This starts as a boring clock graphic, with a clipped British announcer telling us the next program will be in Welsh and “only on certain transmitters.” Then, in case we’ve forgotten it’s the 70s, we get to hear the Bee Gees sing “Night Fever.” After a bit, a psychedelic graphic appears, then one of the standard mesmerizing countdown clocks, while the music switches inexplicably to the Pink Panther theme. OK. I only wish they had added a bit of the Welsh program in order to tip the scales on weirdness for this one.

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

Beverly Hills Uplift Society (film #1 on Burns & Allen, Vol. 3 DVD (Television Classics)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This early episode of “The Burns & Allen Show” just screams early tv, with its Carnation “from contented cows” opening. The show itself is very funny, as it showcases Gracie’s illogical logic. Gracie’s club, The Beverly Hills Uplift Society, has been locked out of their clubhouse for failing to pay the rent. This is because Gracie, the club’s treasurer, took the $120 earmarked to pay the rent and spent it on a $120 safe to keep it in. This is only the beginning of such ditzy shenanigans, of course. I think what I love about Gracie is that she is gleefully clueless about the havoc she wreaks, and somehow things always manage to work themselves out. The show is charmingly close to its radio roots, with George periodically giving monologues, and Harry Von Zell working the commercial for Carnation milk right into the plot. The show is quite well-preserved considering its age, and the fact that it’s on a bargain $1.99 DVD that comes in a cardboard envelope.

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

The AA (film #2 in the Adverts section of TVArk). [Category: Commercial]

Very 70s singing commercial for the AA, which I take to be the British Automobile Association. Charmingly inoffensive, though I must point out that we Yanks get three A’s in our similar organization. I do think the AA plates that go on the front of the cars are cool, though.

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

The Bully (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also film #263 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

Chick Allen, a high-school kid who spends his time bullying a bunch of grade school kids, makes big plans to bust up the class picnic, even though he’s invited too. He forces all his little victims to go along with his plans. Fortunately, one of them tells his older sister, who is on the picnic planning committee. She tells the rest of the kids in the class and they secretly change the location of the picnic, then stupidly send Chick a note after he and his victims show up at the original picnic site inviting him to come to the relocated picnic. When Chick and his victims show up, Centron asks us, “What do you think?” This is one of the most amateurish Centron productions I’ve seen. The acting is universally horrible, with the actors’ charming Kansas twang not bailing them out this time. The plot is bizarre, with a setup that bears no resemblance to real bullying, except in the infliction of pain and fear in the victims. Still, this makes the movie quite campy and ripe for msting.

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 ...