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Showing posts from January 15, 2006
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Destination Earth (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #424 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This animated bit of capitalist propaganda features a Martian from a totalitarian Martian society who comes to Earth to find out what makes the Earthmobiles so darned efficient, so he can repair the Head Martian’s limousine. By doing research in a public library, he discovers that oil and free-market competition make America great, so he goes back to Mars to preach this gospel (obviously the stack of books that he steals from the library don’t contain titles about air and water pollution, Middle-Eastern politics, robber barons, or the Great Depression). This inspires the Martians so much that they all go out to drill oil wells, while the totalitarian leader is conquered simply by pushing a self-destruct button––that he was defeated so easily really makes you wonder about the intelligence of the Martian race. This is propaganda, to be sure, but it’s delightful…
Alice the Whaler (film #7 on Disc 1 of Disney Rarities DVD (Disney, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]Alice is on a whaling ship with all of her animal buddies. Mostly, this is an excuse to show lots of silly antics of the animal buddies, especially the trials and tribulations of the mouse assistant to a cranky cat chef. It ends rather abruptly, with a harpooned whale dragging the ship through the waves. Never mind, the animal buddy antics are cute and funny.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Fiddlesticks (film #1 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 1 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Hollywood]Flip the Frog sings and dances his way into our hearts in this, his first cartoon. That's all, really, but he does it in such a cute and engaging way, surrounded by other cute characters such as an insect band and a piano that plays itself with its front legs. Engaging and cartoony.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Annabelle Butterfly Dance #1 (film #2 on the Viva la Dance disc of Unseen Cinema DVD Boxed Set (Image Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Early Film & TV]A woman with butterfly wings and a voluminous skirt dances gracefully while twirling her skirt around. This has a certain otherworldly beauty about it not found in films today. An 1894 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Be Fresh (film #14 in The Modern 70s Woman section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]Mildly amusing 70s commercial featuring a cranky maid who “doesn’t do toilets” because Be Fresh, an in-bowl toilet bowl cleaner, is a “shower for the bowl.” The actress playing the maid created a wonderfully cranky character, making this commercial fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Aga: Tiberias Catastrophe (film #9 in the Pre-State section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This 30s newsreel about a flood in a Palestinian city was the first newsreel narrated in Hebrew. English subtitles are provided, but unfortunately they are almost impossible to read because of lack of contrast with the background film. Too bad; understanding the narration would have increased the historical value of this for English-speakers like me. As is, the film still has some historical value for being a first in the Hebrew language.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Adventure in Israel (film #1 in the General section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Public Service]This 50s film, narrated by George Jessel and his 11-year-old daughter Geralyn, documents their trip to Israel and appeals to viewers to contribute to the United Jewish Appeal to help with resettlement of refugees. It’s done in the lighthearted and rather silly style of a Hollywood travelogue short, but the scenes of refugees in transit camps, and building homes in pioneer settlements, are genuinely touching, giving the film a note of reality that you don’t expect given its style. Jessel’s assertion that all that is really needed to solve the refugees’ problems is more money is poignant from today’s perspective, considering the ongoing violence the people of Israel have had to put up with. An interesting historical artifact from the post-war period.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating…
The Choice Is Yours (film #3 on Boozers & Losers, Vol. 1 (Something Weird, 2000)). [Category: Educational]Teenaged Louise and her little brother Jerry like to visit Louise's chemistry teacher on a regular basis so he can "practice his lectures on them." Since this is an educational film made by the Women's Christian Temperance Union, this raises no eyebrows, nor does it deserve to. The teacher actually does give Jerry and Louise a long, detailed lecture on the Evils of Drink––er, the Effects of Alcohol on the Body, complete with visual aids. Actually, this film is a lot less patronizing than most of its ilk––the chemistry prof actually treats Jerry and Louise as if they were halfway intelligent and capable of thinking for themselves. Of course, the deck is stacked in favor of them coming to the conclusion that drinking is bad, but what do you expect? The WCTU really stretches it, though, when they show children living in ghetto conditions and try to imply that th…
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Air Head Videos 3 (film #304 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Still more Stupid Lego Tricks. Highlights of this one include the minifig conga line, the use of plastic wrap to simulate water, and the closing credits, which actually give credit to the minifigs. Silly.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Conditions in Paris (film #7 in the 1929 Stock Market Crash and Great Depression section of WPA Film Library). [Category: News]Silent newsreel footage of the Great Depression as it was experienced in Paris. This is not too different from scenes from the US at that time, featuring as it does scenes of soup lines, homeless people, and children living in appalling shacks. This shows that it really was a world-wide depression.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Army Needs Must Be Met, NAM Is Told (film #67 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Rousing wartime newsreel featuring a speech by Frederick C. Crawford to the National Association of Manufacturers telling them they need lots more stuff to be made for fighting the war. So go to it, Industry! Build a better tomorrow! Also featured are stories on flooding in Italy, talks between Churchill and Stalin, and a football game. This is one of the more rousing of the patriotic newsreels, reminding viewers over and over that the war will be won through industrial production. And it was.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
A Dash Through the Clouds (track #3 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume 4: The Arrival of D. W. Griffith (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). [Category: Early Film & TV]How ya gonna keep 'em in the kitchen after they've been above the clouds? After a dashing young pilot takes Martha for a ride in one of them newfangled flyin' machines, she has no more use for her stuffy old husband Arthur, much to his chagrin. But he changes his tune when Martha and the pilot use the flyin' contraption to rescue him from a fracas in a Mexican border town (over a woman, I'm sorry to say). It doesn't make any difference to Martha, though––she still thinks he's a stuffed shirt even after she rescues him. This exciting early melodrama is loads of fun. The flying scenes in the Wright-Brothers-era plane look authentic, giving the film historical interest as well. A 1912 D. W. Griffith film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Demonstration, London Fire Brigade (film #1388 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]Silent, color film footage from the 40s of firemen putting out assorted fires. This doesn’t appear to take place in London, but in various places in the eastern U.S. Lots of smoke, flames, and vintage fire equipment for firefighting fans.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Alice in the Jungle (film #5 on Disc 1 of Disney Rarities DVD (Disney, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]Alice goes on a jungle safari, but mostly this is used as an excuse to show lots of silly animal antics, with Alice herself only briefly involved. Never mind, the animal antics are cute and funny, though Alice’s pet cat bears a striking resemblance to Felix. In fact, take out the brief Alice scenes, and this could pass for a Felix cartoon. I will resist the temptation to make a reference to copyright lawsuits and simply say for a Felix rip-off, this is not bad.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Communism (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #361 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Unlike Capitalism, this Coronet film has no dorky teenagers or weenies in it. Instead, it’s a fairly straightforward account of the history of Russian communism and Soviet aggression. This is not nearly as strident as it might have been, given the time that it was made, though it does clearly paint communism as an international conspiracy and a threat to world peace and freedom. Most of it is reasonably accurate, with the most inaccurate part of it probably being the talk about the U.S. fighting communism by supporting freedom in other countries, ignoring the U.S. policy of supporting tyrannical dictators in many countries simply because they weren’t communist. So overall the film is kind of dull, though it does contain a lot of film footage of early Soviet Russia.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: *…