The Adventures of Popeye (film #19 on ToonTracker Cartoon Showcase). [Category: Hollywood]

This is the Popeye version of Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame. A live action little boy buys a Popeye comic book, then gets beaten up by a bully, causing Popeye to appear and show him the fight scenes from a bunch of his cartoons, I guess by way of instruction. I don’t enjoy Popeye cartoons for the fight scenes generally, so this isn’t as fun as it could be. But the ending is great, featuring the little boy eating a jumbo can of spinach and then knocking the bully over the housetops.

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

Combat Bulletin No. 30 (film #1 on tape #5 of This Film Is Restricted Boxed Set (Marathon Music & Video, 1997)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Mud, snow, and rain bog down the Allied advance in this combat bulletin. In "Activities in the European Theatre of Operations", a key Nazi battleship is bombed by the RAF near Norway. Bad weather and smoke bombs make this difficult but eventually the ship is sunk. In "Front Line Steel Production", we see steel beams being produced by a Luxembourg steel mill near the front lines. In "Bombed Belgian Rail Networks", we see RAF footage of the aftermath of bombings of Belgian rail lines. Some of the twisted wreckage looks like new forms of art. In "Allied Armies Face Rain and Snow", General Eisenhower inspects troops despite snowy and flooded conditions. In "Rains Slow Allied Armies", Allied troops in Italy battle mud and flood waters more than Nazis. In "Burma Operations", lots of mules are delivered to the front lines (which looks like quite a job––some of them fall off a ferry despite being tied on!), where they are needed as pack animals. We also see timber being cut and processed in the jungle. Mud and mules make this one kind of fun.

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

The Boxing Cats (Prof. Weldon’s) (film #34 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Apparently, filmed animal abuse didn’t start with Chevrolet Leader News––they were doing it back in 1894! Two cats in tiny boxing gloves duke it out, while their owner gleefully looks on. Actually, this is pretty arresting footage, though PETA won’t like it. An 1894 Edison film.

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

All About Eve Trailer (extra on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir DVD (20th Century Fox)). [Category: Commercial]

Bette Davis fans should enjoy this trailer, as she dominates it, though Anne Baxter and Celeste Holm also get in a few bitchy moments. The movie claims to be “All about women––and their men!” but it’s the women we see here, with tongues sharper than any man’s sword. Lots of fun if you like this sort of thing.

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

Angel’s Wild Women Trailer (extra on Dracula vs. Frankenstein DVD (Troma)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

Very brief trailer for a 70s exploitation pic featuring tough chicks, one of whom sports a whip. This would be campy if it was longer.

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

Community Fly Control Operations (extra on Godmonster of Indian Flats DVD (Something Weird, 2001)). [Category: Public Service]

Stark public service film from the 50s about controlling flies in small communities. The community of “Jonesville” has a problem––on the surface, it seems squeaky clean, but the constant swarms of flies reveal a seething cauldron of filth under the nice exterior. This would be good David Lynch material, except the film is so starkly made, in grainy black-and-white with narration throughout, that it’s boring. The scenes of huge clouds of insecticide being sprayed everywhere are fairly jaw-dropping, but the rest is dull as dishwater, which, by the way, you shouldn’t be dumping on your plants if you don’t want your house sprayed by masses of chemicals.

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

The Accident (film #227 in the Action section of Brickfilms. Also, film #320 in the Comedy section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

A short, very amateurish Brickfilm about a guy who attempts suicide by jumping out of his office window. He doesn’t die, but he does cause a number of pratfalls. This almost has the feel of a kid’s pretend game, and it’s not quite funny enough to pull it off. Still, since it takes lots of time and effort to make these things, I’ll be nice and hope this director gets better with practice.

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

Britain Mourns: Soccer Champs Die in Plane Crash (film #103 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]

Newsreel story from the 50s about a plane crash in Germany that killed most of a champion British soccer team. This is pretty ordinary, but tacked to the end is the beginning of a story I really want to see: one about an old army tank demolishing a house. Unfortunately, it cuts off before the good stuff starts.

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

Air Victims Come Home (film #39 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Short newsreel story from the post-war period about the arrival of the bodies of five American airmen who were shot down over Yugoslavia when their planes went off-course during a storm. Lots of patriotic narration about heroism here, from what seems to have been a tragic accident, but I guess when you die while serving in the armed forces, you die for your country.

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

Famous People at Play (film #30 in the Documentary section of Movieflix). [Category: Hollywood]

I expected this newsreel featurette, made in 1935, to be filled with footage of Hollywood stars in relaxed moments. There's some of that, but it's really more of a general survey of famous people from the 30s, including sports heros and European royalty. Most poignant are the scenes of the royal figures pursuing various sports and recreational activities, seemingly unconscious of the looming shadow of WWII. Most amusing is a scene of W. C. Fields goofing around on trapeze rings, obviously being held up from the bottom. This is a lot better than I thought it would be. It has a great deal of historical interest, particularly in terms of it being a snapshot of pre-war Europe.

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

Coffee Break (film #342 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

Jim has a problem. His boss is upset about how workers find a way to tack on lots of extra minutes to their coffee breaks with such unnecessary activities as talking, smoking, going to the bathroom, and, oh yeah, getting coffee. Since Jim is the personnel manager, the boss hands the problem off to him, demanding that he make the workers limit their breaks to 10 minutes on the nose, or else! To intimidate Jim more, he gives him a “gift” of an hourglass that measures 10 minutes and orders him to use it twice a day at coffee break time while he spends exactly 10 minutes thinking of the solution to the problem. The boss especially has a problem with women, lambasting them for spending time in the ladies’ room touching up their appearances (though I’ll bet if any of the women failed to do this, they’d be written up for poor appearance). Not considered is the fact that the workers seem to have to leave the building entirely and patronize a local diner with table service in order to get coffee, something that probably takes a lot more time than 10 minutes. Jim solves the problem by using his 10 minutes to get coffee with a buddy, along with a few extra minutes to have a cigarette and go to the bathroom. This management training film is a lot of fun, with a boss you love to hate and workers who gleefully get as much out of their coffee breaks as possible. The message of wasted time is undercut by the fact that the boss is portrayed as such a control freak with no sympathy for the worker’s position, so that even though the workers are essentially schmoozing on company time, you take their side just to thwart that boss. It ends with a Centronesque “What would YOU do?” ending. I’ll get back to you on that after I go get some coffee.

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

Beyond Bengal (film #25 on Feature Films. Also, film #11 in the Documentary section of Movieflix). [Category: Hollywood]

This 30s nature adventure documentary is the Asian version of Africa Speaks. It’s somewhat less offensive than the other film, since the natives are treated respectfully for the most part (with the exception of a romantic couple that stages a silly wedding) and at least some of the animal killing does not seem to be gratuitous. This actually looks like it was quite dangerous to make, as there are tigers, leopards, panthers, pythons, and stampeding elephants around every turn, and there are some actual scenes of people getting seriously injured by them. Most upsetting is their treatment of the monkeys––in one scene we see one get captured and humiliated seemingly only because it was annoying, though they do tell us they let it go later (I think they do––it’s hard to tell because there’s a cut in the soundtrack at that point), and in another scene we see a monkey almost being squeezed to death by a python. Granted, that’s nature for you, but since they go on to tell us that they rescued the monkey and kept it for a pet, the amount of time we see it getting squeezed by the python seems gratuitous. This film certainly doesn’t meet today’s standards for animal treatment, environmental practices, or cultural sensitivity, but it moves. And it gives us a peek into the wild jungles of Asia back in the days when wild animals were really abundant, giving the film historical value.

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

Buying Food (film #7 on AV Geeks. Also, film #10 on The Educational Archives, Vol. 8: Social Engineering 201 DVD (Fantoma, 2003)). [Category: Educational]

Straightforward Centron home ec film about getting the most from your food dollar. This is fun because it shows lots of 50s food products and 50s supermarkets. And just because it’s a home ec film, a genre I particularly enjoy. Also fun is the opening and closing theme music that sounds like Centron hired the organist at the local roller rink to do it. Beware of impulse buying, or you might end up like the bad example in this film, with a dinner consisting of oysters, rutabaga and stale cake.

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 ...