The Black Rocks of Chorazim (film #1 in the Rural Settlement and Security section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This early 60s film documents the building of an Israeli settlement on a site that once held an ancient civilization. It’s narrated in Hebrew, so it’s a little difficult to follow, but it seems to cover the same ground of most films of this type: hard work, bringing forth new life from the desert, and ending with a celebration. A fairly typical Spielberg Archive film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
The Essence of It All (film #9 in the Health section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Public Service]This 60s film documents the work of the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, a huge hospital serving patients of many nationalities and cultures. This is told very idealistically and touchingly as a story of people helping people. The film has a very Jewish feel to it, using a variety of Jewish narrators and regularly invoking religious ideals. It could have been maudlin, but apart from a section on handlicapped children which is hard to watch by today’s standards (a toddler who is paralyzed from the waist down is referred to as “half a baby”––this gives you an idea of the tone of this section), it’s actually quite touching and not overdone. The multicultural content of the film is ahead of its time, giving the film a lot of historical interest.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Flying House (film #10 on Animation Legend Winsor McCay DVD (Lumivision, 1997)). [Category: Hollywood]A woman, after eating too much rarebit, dreams her husband put a huge gasoline engine in the attic and transforms their house into a flying machine. They fly all over and have lots of strange adventures, including blocking a smokestack, destroying a dome, being attacked by an outer space giant while attempting to land on the moon (the giant is much bigger than the moon––now that's some giant!) and having the house destroyed by a rocket shot out of a giant space gun. Winsor McCay does it again––this is beautifully animated and lots of fun to watch, combining a great script with beautifully-drawn imagery, especially the backgrounds. Highly recommended.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Alien (Audio Commentary) (extra on Monster Kid Home Movies DVD (PPS Group, 2005)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]The commentary track for this second film called The Alien features the filmmaker giving us some idea of the process he went through to make the film, including the fact that it had a total of three actors (so there was really only one fat guy––this was not obvious in the original film) and that he actually played one of the victims as well as the alien at one point. This actually makes the film seem a little bit more impressive, though the commentary is also quite funny as well.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Early Films Whose Titles Make Them Sound Pornographic, but They Aren't
- Airy Fairy Lillian Tries on Her New Corsets
- Aunt Sallie’s Wonderful Bustle
- The Bangville Police
- The Dandy Fifth
- Discharging a Whitehead Torpedo
- The Doctor’s Secret
- The Exploits of Elaine
- Fat and Lean Wrestling Match
- Fatty’s Spooning Day
- Fatty’s Suitless Day
- Foxy Grandpa and Polly in a Little Hilarity
- Freight Train Fun in Camp
- A Frontier Flirtation
- Fun in a Bakery Shop
- The Gay Shoe Clerk
- A Gesture in Hester Street
- A Girl’s Folly
- Going Through the Tunnel
- Grandma and the Bad Boys
- Gussie’s Wayward Path
- The House with Closed Shutters
- How a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the New York Herald Personal Columns
- How Jones Lost His Roll
- Interrupted Lovers
- Love in a Hammock
- Love, Loot and Crash
- Maude’s Naughty Little Brother
- The Messenger Boy’s Mistake
- The Old Maid Having Her Picture Taken
- The Stenographer’s Friend
- Tom Tinker’s Pony Patter
- Trapeze Disrobing Act
- Treloar and Miss Marshall, Prize Winners at the Physical Culture Show in Madison Square Garden
- What Happened in the Tunnel
- What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City
- Why Mrs. Jones Got a Divorce
- The Widow and the Only Man
- Wife and Auto Trouble
- Women of the Ghetto Bathing
The Civil War (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #328 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]Straightforward, rather dry film on the Civil War made by Encyclopedia Britannica. Actually, this is a little bit better than you might expect given the low budget I’m sure they had to work with. Some attempt is made to get an emotional feel for the material. Mostly, though, this is the typical Civil War stuff you learned in school.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
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 ...
Autumn on the Farm . Farm kids Joan and Jerry have fun exploring the farm during the autumn in this 1940s EB film. They pick apples, grapes...
Beginning at Plymouth Colony. From the title, this 50s film sounds like it will be a dry historical film about the settlers at Plymouth Co...
Beginning Responsibility: Taking Care of Things . Grade-schooler Andy is a slacker in the taking-care-of-things department, so he suffers t...