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Showing posts from March 26, 2006
Call of the Earth (film #13 in the Pre-State section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This film from 1940 documents the development of a Jewish agricultural settlement in Palestine. Unfortunately, it’s missing its soundtrack, so it’s kind of hard to follow. There are some historically interesting visual images of Zionist agricultural life in Palestine here, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of the story.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Hadassim: A Children’s Village (film #24 in the Rural Settlement and Security section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Public Service]This Canadian film from the 50s shows a rural home for homeless children in Israel and its program of rehabilitation and education for children who have been traumatized by war and the Holocaust. This is told very straightforwardly and rather impersonally in comparison with the many personal-story-type films on similar topics on the Spielberg Archive. This is basically your standard good-works film, made to show charitable donors how their money was being spent. It has historical value in the documentation of the assimilation of homeless children and youth into Israel, but no real surprises.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Ali Baba (film #1 on Disc #4 of 100 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). Also, film #9 on Disc #2 of 150 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2006)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This made-for-tv cartoon features a cheesy live-action host named Mr. Piper who tells us fairy tales with the help of very limited animation. For all that, the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves is told in a surprisingly authentic way, including the murder of Ali Baba’s brother, Ali Baba’s wife belly dancing, and the thieves being foiled by having boiling oil poured on them. Of course, this is all done with extremely primitive animation, so it’s nothing the kids shouldn’t see, but considering the cheapness of the proceedings, I’m surprised they were so careful with the story. And this very cheapness increases the camp value and weirdness of the proceedings, making this more interesting than you might expect a cheesy made-for-tv cartoon to be.
Ratings: Camp/Humor…
Don’t Look Now, But… (film #7 on News Bloopers DVD (Time-Life Video, 1999)). [Category: News]This section of News Bloopers features newscasters and reporters who are distracted or interrupted by something unexpected happening in the background. Many of these are quite funny, though some of them leave you wondering at the wisdom of the reporter’s choice of location. Overall, though, this is one of the better sections of News Bloopers.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Baby Bonds for Defense (film #81 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Newsreel clip from the early days of World War II showing the first War Bonds being printed and announced by government bigwigs. This has some great factory tour footage of rolling printing presses producing bonds and stamps. The part where the bigwigs talk is boring, but brief. A historically interesting snippet from the war years.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Electricity Hazards (film #8 in the Public Info. Films section of TVArk). [Category: Industrial]70s British PSA warning industrial workers of the hazards of improperly repairing or jerry-rigging electrical equipment. A guy gets a bad shock after he jerry-rigs an inadequate repair of his electrical power tool, and another guy who tries to help him gets shocked, too. “Fix things properly!” exhorts the narrator in a very British voice. OK, I get it.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Ants in the Plants (film #8 on Disc #12 of 100 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004). Also, film #8 on Disc #3 of 150 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2006)). [Category: Hollywood]This Dave Fleischer toon is a typical little-guys-against-the-big-bad-guy toon. In this case, a highly organized ant society battles a big stupid anteater. Unfortunately, the anteater has superior weapons technology in the form of an eyedropper, but the ants have a secret weapon in the form of their potential to make one itch. This is pretty much what you’d expect, but the 3-D forest backgrounds are beautiful.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Dinosaur and the Missing Link (film #3 on Creature Silent Feature (Creepy Classics). Also, extra #2 on Dinosaurs! (Simitar Entertainment, 1993). Also, film #3 on Origins of American Animation. Also, film #3 on Willis O'Brien Films (LSVideo)). [Category: Early Film & TV]This early example of stop-motion animation is prehistoric in more than one sense. It was probably one of the first films to pair cavemen and dinosaurs, even though that match is historically inaccurate. But on the other hand, what's the fun of a caveman movie without dinosaurs? Here it's played for broad slapstick comedy, though it's so creaky it's hard to follow what's going on. Still, the look of some of the "prehistoric" creatures is quite strange, creating a bit of interest. The ending is missing (and probably lost). A Willis O'Brien film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
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The Burning Stable (film #45 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]Some firemen rescue horses from a burning stable. This is real vintage firefighting, folks, complete with a guy sliding down a ladder. Lots of historical interest here.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes Trailer (film #18 on Disc #2 of Planet of the Apes DVD (20th Century Fox, 2003)). [Category: Commercial]Trailer for what looks like not one of the best of the Planet of the Apes series. This is pretty much what you’d expect, but what do you expect from Planet of the Apes? Decent actors in rubber ape masks, less interesting human characters, lots of violence, and dead seriousness, that’s what. This can be viewed as incredibly campy, or as Serious Science Fiction, take your choice. Personally, I prefer campy, you damn dirty ape!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Divide and Conquer (film #3 on Cinemocracy. Also, film #23 in the WWII section of Movieflix. Also in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #443 on Prelinger Archive. Also, film #2 on Side A of Disc #7 of War Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004). Also, film #3 of the boxed set WWII Special Edition (Madacy Entertainment, 1997)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This third film of the "Why We Fight" series documents the Nazi push into western Europe and the conquest of Norway, Belgium, Holland, and France. This film is kind of dull––it's mostly combat footage and military strategy explained by an intelligence officer talking in a monotone and pointing to an animated map. About the only really interesting thing about it is that it contains lots of animated footage of the type described in Cartoons Go to War––my favorite is a scene of a bunch of little swastika termites eating away at the foundation of a castle meant to represent France. Pretty s…
Building a Future (film #10 in the Immigration and Absorption section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This 60s film documents a group of Jewish young people from South America who were brought to Israel to go through an intensive training program designed to help them become productive Israeli citizens. It focuses especially on an Argentine woman named Shoshana, showing her initial homesickness and anxiety, and her eventual adjustment to Israeli life as she is trained to be a pediatric nurse. This personalizes the story, helping you to really get a feel for the immigration experiences of these young people. This film has lots of historical value for those studying Israeli history and the different ways Jews from all over the world were helped to make the adjustment to becoming citizens of Israel.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
A Boy Named Ami (film #9 in the Immigration and Absorption section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Public Service]This early 60s Israeli film tells the story of a troubled teenaged boy named Ami, and how the Youth Allyah organization helped him to adjust to life on a fishing kibbutz. Ami was distant and wary at first, but is finally drawn in to the life of the kibbutz when a resident identifies and cultivates the boy’s interest in archaeology. This is a touching, well-made film of the troubled-youth-is-helped variety. There’s nothing particularly striking about it, except perhaps its Israeli setting, but it leaves you with a hopeful, optimistic feeling without being unrealistic or overplaying its hand. And it has a wonderful mock-ship piece of playground equipment that I want for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
For the Birds (extra on Monsters, Inc. DVD (Disney-Pixar, 2002)). [Category: Hollywood]This is that rarest of birds––a recently-produced theatrical short. Some birds land on a telephone wire and do some birdlike things. This winner of the 2001 Academy Award for Best Short Subject proves that it's all in the execution.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: N/A (it's too recent to be historical). Overall Rating: *****.