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Showing posts from February 12, 2006
Ain’t That Ducky (film #8 on Cartoon Classics, Vol. 12 DVD (Flashback Home Entertainment)). [Category: Hollywood]Great Warner Bros. cartoon in which Daffy Duck contends with a mean little crying duckling and a wimpy hunter that was probably a precursor to Elmer Fudd. This has a lot of great gags, including a wonderful moment where Daffy chews out the animator for forgetting to draw a barrel he can hide in. This just reminds me that Warner Bros. toons were generally head and shoulders above the rest during the time they were made.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: *****.
The Blizzard (film #2 on the Picturing a Metropolis disc of Unseen Cinema DVD Boxed Set (Image Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Early Film & TV]Panorama of an 1899 New York blizzard. This has the real feel of a glimpse into another time, as well as an amusing element in a guy with a shovel who follows the panorama of the camera, so as to stay on film. A great piece of filmed history. An 1899 Biograph film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
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Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (film #15 on SabuCat Movie Trailers). [Category: Commercial]Slightly campy trailer for the 60s film, Beneath the 12-Mile Reef. This mainly touts the Cinemascope process in over-the-top pronouncements, like claiming it is “The Greatest Step Forward in the History of Entertainment!” Yeah, right, let’s just get to the movie we paid to see.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Fitting Faces (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #522 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]This Paramount short features Mary Jones, who completely ruins her beauty routine by donning a pair of eyeglasses. A makeup artist shows her how to choose frames according to face shape, leaving her with three new pairs of glasses that are almost identical to her old glasses. We also get to see some interesting industrial footage of optical lenses being made. An average featurette with an industrial feel.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Behind the Blockade (film #12 in the Pre-State section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This late 40s film documents the agricultural development of pre-state Israel by Jewish pioneers. This involved lots of hard work and the ever present threat of violence. It’s an interesting story, but it’s told rather dryly, with rousing narration that nevertheless fails to stir the passions. This has historical value, but it’s one of the less interesting films on the Spielberg Archive.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
City Water Supply (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #325 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]Boring film that goes on and on about water access and water treatment in New York City. Leave it to Encyclopedia Britannica to make a dry film about water.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Drew Pearson Reports on Israel’s Living Desert (film #18 in the Rural Settlement and Security section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Public Service]In this 50s film, Drew Pearson reports on the problems of irrigation and how they were being solved in Israel. Mostly, though, the film is about the courage of the Israeli pioneers, many of whom were Holocaust survivors, and most of whom were refugees. The film is rather dry in spots, but very touching in others, particularly the interviews with the pioneers. Another historically interesting film about the history of Israel on the Spielberg archive.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Alien (film #13 on Monster Kid Home Movies DVD (PPS Group, 2005)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]In another version of The Alien, a bug-eyed alien roams around a forest killing fat guys who live in trailers. Not only that, but its rampage also includes knocking over trashcans. One fat guy manages to get away in his car, but the fat guy who uses a gun on the alien is faked out. Credits are done in ballpoint pen on notebook paper. This truly has the feel of a kid’s production, and the fat guys in the trailers, who were probably the director’s neighbors look like they’re having a good time. I’m not sure how old the director was, but it looks like he saw plenty of scenes of dead people in the movies, considering the lingering shots of the alien’s victims in this production. As usual, this is lots of fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Cuba President in US (film #137 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]Brief, poorly-preserved newsreel clip from the late 40s. The initial story is about a visit to the US by the president of pre-Castro Cuba. This is followed by a story about some sort of trial proceedings in Holland that is narrated entirely in German (or a language that sounds like German). It might be a war crimes proceeding, since they show some scenes of the concentration camp, but it’s not really clear. This is followed by a story about the Hiss-Chambers hearings. These stories all have only partial soundtracks, and despite the title cards, this feels like unedited raw footage, especially the Hiss-Chambers section. Which makes it more interesting than it might otherwise be.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Atom Sub: President Officiates at Laying of Keel (film #74 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Early 50s newsreel documenting the keel-laying of the first atomic submarine, the Nautilus. This is fairly standard, but the narrator’s assertion that the sub is a “deadly weapon for war or peace” leaves you scratching your head. Also included are stories about a POW uprising in Korea, a new bomb targeting system, a transit strike in New York City, the Rose Parade in Oregon (including disturbing floats and a beauty queen taking a simulated bath on one float––all I could think of was the thorns! Ouch!), a British soccer match, and a rodeo in Oregon. This complete newsreel gives you a feeling of the contradictions of the early Cold War period, with disturbing war stories alternating with lighthearted entertainment. A great snapshot of the early 50s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Desilu Screen Test excerpts (film #4 on TV Turkeys (Rhino, 1987)). [Category: Early Film & TV]One of the great things about watching stuff from the early years of film and/or tv is watching them try all different kinds of things, searching for the formats that would work in the new medium. In the early 50s, they didn't know yet what show formats would rake in the ratings, so they tried all kinds of bizarre ideas. Somebody got the idea that people maybe wanted to watch screen tests, and so "Desilu Screen Test" was born. We get to see an unbearably cute 4-year-old do the kinds of stuff such little girls do at adult parties when their parents are showing them off. She smiles, curtsies, talks about her pets, sings "Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?", etc. Then it gets weird––they have her do a scene from The Bad Seed, the infamous movie about an evil little girl. She delivers her lines surprisingly well for a 4-year-old, but blows it with her facial expressions…
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Drawing Account (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #458 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This goofy Jam Handy film features a cartoon animator who meets a Chevrolet mechanical engineer on an airplane that totally lacks seatbelts. The animator manages to talk the engineer into helping make a cartoon in which a bunch of gremlins run a car engine. The engineer helpfully provides a cutaway engine model for the guys in the animation studio to look at. This results in a baffling scene in which the kooky animators brainstorm about the gremlins while the engineer gives boring lectures about how the car engine works, sneaking in sales messages about how great Chevrolet engines are while he’s at it. One animator, who looks like a Radford Baines wanna-be gets way too excited about making one of the imps into a Roman chariot driver: “We’ll make him a big, muscular guy with a whip!” he crows. Then we get to see a really interesting sequence on how cartoons are …
D-Day Minus One (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #600 on Prelinger Archive. Also, film #2 on World War II, Vol. 8: D-Day, the Normandy Invasion (Madacy Video)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]The story of the paratroop and glider corps, who landed in France the day before D-Day and cleared the way for the invasion, is told with first person narration. It's actually a fairly compelling story, which impresses you with the bravery of the men involved. The footage is excellent, giving you a real feel for what it must have been like to be over there.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
April Maze (film #9 on 11 Cartoons Starring Felix the Cat DVD (PC Treasures, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]This is an early sound Felix, and boy did sound have an impact. This seems way more creaky than the earlier silent Felixes, which are pretty lively. In this one, everything is turgid, probably for the purposes of sound synchronization, and even then, the sound doesn’t synch up very good. The cartoon is about Felix’s attempts to go on a picnic with his two kittens, and how they are repeatedly thwarted, first by an evil stormcloud, and then by a trickster rabbit. The turgidness of the proceedings gives the cartoon a dark, depressing feel, especially during the parts about the stormcloud. You don’t want to so much laugh as cry, making this a fascinating piece of ephemera.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: -****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
Fish from Hell (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #520 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]This is one of the all-time great ephemera titles and it doesn't disappoint, though to be more accurate, it should be called Narrators from Hell. Murky footage of deep-sea sport fishing is narrated by a guy whose religious mission is to convince us that fish are EVIL. The passion and logic of his arguments lay somewhere on the spectrum between circuit-riding revival preachers and psychotic cult leaders, and his delivery brings back scary memories for me of my dad listening to the Nebraska-Oklahoma football game and nearly blowing a gasket. The footage cooperates with the narrator's religious mission by mainly showing us various ways to kill sea life, including guns. The highlight of the film is the scene with the giant octopus––to the narrator, this creature is Satan himself and he responds accordingly. Even porpoises are dismissed as only being good for …
Annie Oakley – Justice Guns (film #6 on Disc #1 of Classic Kids’ Shows DVD (Genius Entertainment, 2004)). [Category: Early Film & TV]In this episode of “Annie Oakley,” Annie has to help out an aging lawman who doesn’t realize he’s past his prime. This is a well-written story with a fair amount of suspense. It also has the original Canada Dry commercials in it, which liven things up a bit, being “ginger-uppers” and all.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Ape Trailer (extra on Night of the Blood Beast DVD (Sinister Cinema)). [Category: Commercial]Fairly campy trailer for a classic old horror flick featuring Boris Karloff as “A Man Gone Mad!” and a man in a gorilla suit who terrorizes a town. The claim that the movie is a “Spine-Tingling Horror Drama” is a real hoot, as are the titles that shake with fear. Lots of fun creature feature stuff.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Beautiful Tel Aviv in Winter (film #12 in the Cities section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]Silent Israeli color film from 1950 showing scenes of Tel Aviv. This goes on and on, and without a soundtrack, it gets pretty dull. It does provide you with a snapshot of Tel Aviv in 1950, which gives it some historical interest.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
The Dream and the Deed (film #8 in the Health section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Public Service]This early-70s film documents the history of the Hadassah organization in bringing medical facilities to Israel. It starts way back in 1909, where a small clinic for mothers and babies was set up in Palestine to 1971, where many Hadassah-funded hospitals in Israel, particularly the huge Hebrew Medical Center on Mt. Scopus, practiced cutting-edge patient care and medical research. The film is narrated by a folksinger, who breaks into song periodically. This could have been unbelievably hokey, but in this film, it works; it actually carries the story along and makes things a bit more lively and less dry. A great source of information on the history of the Hadassah movement.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Alien (Audio Commentary) (extra on Monster Kid Home Movies (PPS Group, 2005)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Bob Burns, director of The Alien, uses the commentary track as an opportunity to narrate the silent film. Since he has lots of fun with this, including making fun of himself and the movie, it’s great. It also allows you to make a bit more sense of the film, as he includes what he was originally intending to portray during certain moments that were unclear in the original movie. The Alien is lots of fun on its own; this commentary track adds to the viewing experience.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Circus Day (film #7 on Clowns and Cavemen DVD (A/V Geeks). [Category: Educational]This 60s film features a clown from a circus in a sports arena who narrates what it was like back in the old days of circus tents and circus trains. We see color footage of an old-time circus from the 40s, and get a real sense of what it was like back then to attend a circus under a tent. It’s rather pathetic, actually, involving out-of-tune band music, hay bales, tired-looking animals, and lots of sawdust. Still, this is a fascinating glimpse into a form of entertainment that doesn’t exist anymore. Of course, I have a hard time imagining even the 60s kids this was made for getting excited by this film, much less the kids of today.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Crowds in New York and Los Angeles (film #9 in the Apollo 11 section of WPA Film Library). [Category: News]Silent footage of the Apollo 11 astronauts getting a ticker tape parade, commendations from the UN, and nifty plaques from President Nixon. This has some historical value, but it would have been better with sound.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
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The Atom Goes to Sea (film #3 on AV Geeks). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Fairly dull film made by General Electric to document the creation of the first two atomic submarines, and to champion GE’s role in the development of one of them. In fact, the non-GE submarine, the Nautilus, was considered so unimportant that the section of the film devoted to it goes immediately from introducing it to showing it being christened, so that more time can be devoted to describing the development of the GE submarine, the Sea Wolf. A huge sphere is shown that had some important role or other in the development of the submarine’s engine; it isn’t really clear what, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, which gives you an idea of how much interest this film stimulates in its subject matter.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
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Down the Gasoline Trail (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #457 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This cute animated Jam Handy film for GM shows the journey of a gasoline drop down the fuel line to the engine, where it is vaporized, turning it into an angel which flies out of the exhaust pipe. I won’t touch with a ten-foot pole the theological issues involved here. I’ll just say that this is a fun film with a great “Mr. Product” character. Remember, folks, every time you drive, angels are flying out of your exhaust pipe. Or at least they did in the days before catalytic converters.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Derby (film #16 on The Movies Begin, Volume Two: The European Pioneers (Kino Video, 1994)). [Category: Early Film & TV]Trackside view of a horse race. Even the restoration efforts of The Movies Begin people couldn't cut the graininess of this one. An 1896 R. W. Paul film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.