Dateline: Tomorrow (film #398 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

Now this is an industrial film! It not only has lots of excellent factory tour footage, but it shows how little metal tags off things are made, a real fascination of mine. It also shows all kinds of neat-looking aluminum products, such as hardware, kitchen utensils, office furniture, architectural details, bottle caps, aluminum foil packaging, and license plates. All of this stuff is accompanied by narration that says how modern and futuristic it all is, while the designs, when looked at from today’s perspective, are all charmingly retro. I guess this film proves that the future has officially become the past. I only wish it was in color, so that we can see brightly-colored aluminum tumblers in all their glory, and that it had a Mr. Product, like Aluminum Man in Aluminum on the March.

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

The Bear That Wasn’t (film #18 on Disc #3 of Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 3 DVD (Warner Bros., 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]

Charming 60s cartoon made by Chuck Jones and Frank Tashlin at MGM about a bear out of water, so to speak. A bear wakes up from hibernation only to find his forest has been chopped down and plowed over and made into a factory, Worse, the plant foreman refuses to believe he’s not a bear, thinking he’s just a recalcitrant employee in a fur coat. He takes the bear up the chain of command and each boss refuses to believe he’s a bear. The bear finally gives in to all this pressure when they show him some bears in a zoo, and they refuse to believe he’s a bear because he’s on the other side of the bars. This cartoon has a highly interesting and rather surprising theme of how groupthink does not necessarily equal truth. Considering it was made by a big company, it’s surprising the project saw the light of day. The story is charmingly animated in the sparse 60s style. What Jones and Tashlin were doing at MGM, I don’t know, but this is a great little rarity nonetheless.

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

Burial of the Maine Victims (film #43 on Edison Film Archive. Also, film #14 on The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Remember the Maine? Personally, I’m too busy remembering 9/11, the Kennedy Assassination, and Pearl Harbor. Anyway, this film shows a long funeral procession of victims of the shipwreck that started the Spanish-American War. It’s basically a more dour version of the various parade films that Edison made. An 1898 Edison film.

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

Felix the Cat Ducks His Duty (track #3 on Felix the Cat, Vol. 1 (Video Resources, 1994)). [Category: Hollywood]

This one tells us where Felix got his cranky wife. After some upsetting experiences as a soldier, Felix discovers that married men are exempt from military duty, so he goes out and proposes to the first tabby he sees. He then discovers that the horrors of war are nothing compared to the horrors of domestic violence. This one is somewhat disappointing, in that it doesn't have much of Felix manipulating the environment. Still, the whole concept is bizarre, and some of the battle scenes are interestingly animated.

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

Automobiles (film #21 in the Daws Butler’s Cereal Commercials section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]

Cute animate commercial from the 60s for Ford used cars featuring that ever-recognizable voice. A guy trades in his magic carpet for a used Ford. It must be cursed, I say.

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

Doggone Tired (film #524 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This sign-language interpreted cartoon is one of the weirder ones. The original toon features a rabbit who tries to keep a hunting dog awake so that he won’t be able to get up for the big rabbit hunt the following morning. Most of the gags here, as you might expect, involve the rabbit making noises, a concept I have a hard time imagining deaf kids being able to relate to. Still, the interpretation seems to actually add to the proceedings this time, rather than being an intrusion, though I won’t touch with a 10-foot pole the line “How cute! The rabbit and the dog are sleeping together!”

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

Don’t Spread Germs (film #6 on National Archives). [Category: Public Service]

Clever little British PSA featuring the guy from Coughs and Sneezes being trained by an unseen narrator to use a hankie, for God’s sake, when sneezing. Then he’s trained to immediately place the hankie in a bowl of disinfectant. Considering how many sneezes there are in the average cold, this must have made the hankie manufacturers very happy, at least until Kleenex was invented. I somehow doubt that anyone did this, though. This is a fun PSA anyway.

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

A-Hunting We Will Go: Chuck Jones’ Wabbit Season Trilogy (film #17 on Disc #1 of Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 3 DVD Boxed Set (Warner Bros., 2005)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This DVD featurette profiles that classic trilogy of Warner Bros. toons: Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit! Duck! You remember, the ones where Bugs and Daffy compete to confuse Elmer Fudd about what hunting season it is. The featurette combines making-of information with comments from admirers, as well as clips from the toons. The comments are generally intelligent and witty, and, of course, the clips are classic gags, making this a lot more fun than this sort of thing usually is. One would expect quality extras on these Looney Tunes sets, and this one doesn’t disappoint.

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

CNN Millennium (film #2 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]

Logo and a very brief snippet of CNN’s coverage of the turning of the millennium. The logo is pretty cool, with lots of little clips of historical footage. Wish they would have included a bit more of the coverage, though.

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

Army Digs in for Defense of Arctic (film #66 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This 50s newsreels features all kinds of stuff, including military maneuvers in the Arctic (talk about a Cold War!), tanks in Spain (you’re welcome!), Billy Graham in Japan (all those who understand English get saved), a train wreck in Maryland (aka Death Rides the Rails), Christmas in February (complete with scary Santa), ladies’ fashions (complete with Plastron buttons), skiers experiencing the Agony of Defeat in the Winter Olympics, and stock-car racing in Florida. The variety of this one makes it fun, giving you a real feel for the 50s.

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

Cheating (MST3K Episode #515: The Wild World of Batwoman. Also, film #4 on Disc #4 of The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 2 DVD (Rhino, 2002). Also, film #289 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

"So, is this Ingmar Bergman's first American film?" asks Crow, and it would seem so. High school big-shot John talks his sweet girlfriend Mary into providing him with the answers on algebra tests (he's too busy being a student council member to study). Eventually he gets caught and must suffer for his transgressions. Being kicked off the student council is the least of his troubles, though, as he is tormented by the disembodied head of the algebra teacher, dark lighting, depressing sets, and an incredibly loud ticking clock. This is one of the most depressing films I've ever seen. Never has the concept of shame been so aptly depicted. The triviality of the sin compared with the tone of the film creates a remarkable absurdity. And the msting is great, too: "Mother Theresa called. She hates you!"

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

Dateline Long Island (film #397 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This 50s film profiles Newsday, Long Island’s daily newspaper, and how it was rising to meet the challenge of a population explosion on the island that was part of the overall flight to suburbia that was going on at the time. There’s a brief, but historically interesting, section on Levittown, and an extended and quite fascinating segment on how the paper was printed, back in the old days of metal type. Mostly, this is a great film about Long Island in the 50s, about suburbia, and about newspaper publishing at the time. Not much is surprising, but this is a solid film with lots of historical value.

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

The Curtain Pole (film #3 on Before Hollywood, There Was Fort Lee, New Jersey DVD (Image Entertainment, 2003)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

In this amusing slapstick comedy, a klutzy fellow tries to do a good deed by buying a new curtain pole for a young lady after he breaks her old one. Unfortanately, the guy can barely move without knocking everything and everybody over with said pole. When he hires a buggy to take him home, it gets a lot worse. This results in one of those legendary Mack Sennet cumulative chases. According to the narration, this was the first of those chases, giving this film historical value. And it's a lot of fun, to boot.

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 ...