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Showing posts from May 28, 2006
The Cool Hot Rod (film #377 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]Bill Bowers, a teen would-be hot-rodder, moves with his family to a new town that he thinks is full of “squares” who drive like “old ladies.” He is prepared to educate them in the ways of hot-rodding, which to him means driving like a maniac a la Dick York in Last Date, but he is actually the one who gets reeducated. The town has an organized hot-rod club that requires passing a driver education course, the car’s passing a rigorous safety inspection, six months of driving without getting a single ticket, and passing a “reliability test” as just some of its requirements for membership. Then you get to race your rod on the town’s dragstrip. Amazingly, Bill wants desperately to join this highly exclusive club and spends months taking driving lessons and working on his car in order to do it. As a result, he turns from a hood into a nice young man with an afterschool job at the gas station, which, of course, is the p…
Collective Adventure (film #3 in the Pre-State section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This film, made in 1939, shows a colony of Jews building an agricultural settlement in Palestine, erecting all the buildings in a single day. Not only is this a lot of hard work, but they must also be constantly on guard against attack from those who oppose Jewish settlement in Palestine. There is an additional sense of urgency from the fact that the Jews in Europe were beginning to experience the Holocaust at this time, and you know that these pioneers were some of the lucky ones who got out in time. It’s a fairly stirring story, though it’s a bit long, and drags a bit in the middle. Mostly, though, you end up being inspired by the courage and industry of these pioneering people. The film has lots of historical value as a document of Zionist pioneering in pre-state Israel.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall R…
A Long Journey in a Small Country (film #23 in the General section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Public Service]Now this is different for the Spielberg Archive. A limited animated contributor to the Keren Hayesod organization tours Israel with the help of a limited animated guide to see how the money is being spent. The two of them are the only limited animated people on the trip and the contributor gets to see lots of the various ways new immigrants to Israel are being helped with Keren Hayesod funds. Eventually, he decides to make a large contribution to build a kindergarten, which qualifies him to get his name put on a plaque on the building. The first kindergarten made possible by a contribution from a limited animated cartoon character––now that I’d like to see!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Andy Griffith Show #4 (film #4 on Side A of Disc #8 of TV Favorites DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2003)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This episode gets somewhat annoying, as it features Barney trying to find Andy a wife, and he gets so controlling you want to scream after awhile. It does have some historical value for Mayberry fans, though, as it features the first appearance of Helen Crump and Andy’s decision to date her.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
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Eisenhower and Johnson on Medicare (film #1048 on Open Source Movies). [Category: News]Narrated news footage documenting President Eisenhower’s and President Johnson’s attempts to pass Medicare legislation. Included is an excerpt from a speech Johnson gave on the subject. This has a bit of historical value, but it’s pretty ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
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Berlin (film #89 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Newsreel story about conditions in Berlin just as the Berlin wall was going up. This is fairly moving, with scenes of bricks being put into place, troops on both sides patrolling the streets, and families being split apart by the wall. Lots of historical value here.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Far Speaking (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #500 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]Charming Western Electric film about the history of long-distance telephone service up to 1935, and the technological innovations that made it possible. The film is framed by a silly scenes of a couple in 1877 who get their first telephone––the wife expresses skepticism that it will ever catch on––followed by an ending scene of the same couple, elderly in 1935, getting a call from their granddaughter in Japan (this time the wife insists that it was the husband who was originally skeptical). Between this are technical explanations of how long distance developed. These are kept lively by showing interesting graphics and animations of the devices involved, as well as a well-done down-through-the-years montage sequence. It all comes off as charming and fun, which seems to be typical of films made by the old Ma Bell.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Hist…
The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (film #8 on Melies III: The Search for Munchausen (A-1 Video). Also, film #20 on The Movies Begin, Volume Three: Experimentation and Discovery (Kino Video, 1994). Also, film #2 on The Devil's Plaything disc of Unseen Cinema DVD Boxed Set (Image Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Early Film & TV]May I respectfully submit that cheese sauce is not this guy's problem––alcohol is, along with trick photography. His dream is one of the first filmed hallucinations, making this also one of the first anti-drug films. Enjoy the ride, kids, but just say no to cheese. A 1906 Edwin S. Porter film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Ben and Me (film #18 on Disc #1 of Disney Rarities DVD (Disney, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]Charming cartoon based on Bill Peet’s book about a mouse named Amos who supposedly gave Benjamin Franklin all of his best ideas. There’s no real surprises here, but this is a charming story, well adapted to the screen by Disney.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Buster Makes Room for His Mama at the Bargain Counter (film #47 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]Buster does this by having Tige do backflips, which apparently make the other shoppers believe he’s gone mad. His mother gives him a kiss for helping out, which says a lot about how Buster got to be so rambunctious in the first place. A 1904 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Ahh! Snow Cones (film #4 on Drive-In Movie Ads). [Category: Commercial]Fun, cheesy, and brief promo for snow cones at the drive-in. Snow cones magically appear in a desert landscape in lots of flavors. Features those pointed Dixie cups we all remember. Brief but necessary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
A City Called Eliat (film #2 in the Cities section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This 60s film documents the development of the city of Eliat in Israel from an old settlement to a modern city. This is in Hebrew, so it’s hard to follow if you don’t know the language, but it seems to be mostly about what a gosh-wow modern city Eliat is, since there’s lots of bouncy music on the soundtrack and lots of scenes of new construction and modern technology. What the scene of a bunch of men ogling a woman in a smoky bar means, though, I have no idea.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall (track #21 on Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgettable Moments DVD (Garner Creative Concepts, 2002)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This is one of the best segments of the Stay Tuned DVD. In addition to documenting the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, it contains footage of the wall's construction, footage of several presidents commenting on the wall, and breaking CNN news footage of the announcement by East Germany that travel between east and west will no longer be restricted. The footage of crowds of citizens participating in the tearing down of the wall show how much of a symbol of oppresion it had become. A great piece of history.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Long Hard Days (film #22 in the Jewish Communities section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Public Service]This early 60s film, made by the United Jewish Appeal, shows the struggles of Jews from North Africa fleeing war and persecution in their homelands to France as a waystation to immigrating to Israel, and how the various Jewish agencies in France, funded by the UJA, help them. This is told in a stark, dry fashion that drags a bit in spots, though the overall story is interesting, with the human struggles shown stirring the emotions. The film has quite a bit of historical value in documenting the struggles of a particular set of Jewish refugees and how they were helped by various Jewish organizations.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Andy Griffith Show #3 (film #3 on Side A of Disc #8 of TV Favorites DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2003)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This episode features Opie having his first crush on a girl named Karen, and how Thelma Lou’s attempts to cheer him up interfere with Barney’s dating plans. Again, this could have been insufferable, but Griffith & Co. manage to have just the right touch with this material, with a number of genuinely funny moments involving Opie’s innocent questions about romance.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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80th Congress Convenes (film #24 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]Dull post-war newsreel documenting the opening of the 80th congress, the first with a Republican majority since 1931. The section featuring President Truman’s state of the union address drags on and on. More interesting are the stories about the Orange Bowl and Tournament of Roses parades, with their goofy floats, including a really scary giant dog balloon. But this is interspersed with boring footage of the football games, resulting in a pace that continues to drag.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Beaten Nazis Sign Historic Surrender (film #89 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This newsreel documents the German surrender to the Allies, which spelled the end of the European war in World War II. Also included are stories on the arrival in the US of the last group of German POWs, the death of Mussolini (this story contains some grisly scenes of dead bodies being strung up), the statue honoring the taking of Iwo Jima being unveiled and used to sell war bonds, President Truman visiting his mother on Mother’s Day, the first American GIs being discharged, soldiers being awarded medals, and the beginning of horse racing after a wartime hiatus. This has lots of historical value, as it documents a lot of different things that were happening near the end of the war, and, unlike most of the WWII-era newsreels on the site, it’s well preserved.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Funny Face (film #9 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 2 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Hollywood]Oh no! Flip the Frog's girlfriend has found another beau! Flip the Frog decides this happened because his face is, like most cartoon characters', pretty silly-looking. His solution is to go to a plastic surgeon and get another face. Is it just me, or is there something perverse about a cartoon character getting plastic surgery? Especially when the sample faces in the doctor's office start singing. Anyway, the girlfriend's pretty-faced beau turns out to be a total wimp in the confronting bullies department, running home to Mama and leaving her in the lurch with a local ruffian. Meanwhile, Flip discovers that his new face makes him irresistable to every girl in town, and they all start chasing him, like That Cute Guy in Levi's Slacks. He eventually hides in an old house that just happens to be the same place where the bully is …
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Family Portrait (film #499 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This 40s film profiles the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, going into a great deal of detail about how the company is run and how it benefits its policy holders, employees, and society as a whole through its investments. This is all told very straightforwardly and in a way that is neither dry nor bombastic, making this a very well-made film overall. Which is pretty amazing considering how negatively I generally view insurance companies. Again, Jam Handy did a very good job with this one, though that makes it somewhat less interesting from an ephemera standpoint, since there are no real surprises here.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Bars and Stripes Forever (film #9 on Cartoon Mania DVD (Front Row Entertainment, 2002)). [Category: Hollywood]Lame Warner Brothers cartoon taking place in a dog prison, and featuring every prison cliché and gag you can think of, all of which fall flat. Most annoying is the running gag of a big, tough prisoner who causes trouble but gets all his punishments pounded on the head of his tiny, wimpy cellmate. Proof that Warner Brothers had its off days once in awhile.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
Cooking: Terms and What They Mean (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #376 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]Margie, a new bride, ruins her first chocolate cake because she doesn’t know the meaning of basic cooking terms like “stir” and “boil.” Fortunately, the narrator explains all of these terms to her, and consequently she gets to bake a new cake before her husband comes home, so he never learns of her first cooking disaster. But there are many meals to come, and if Margie is that clueless, disaster in the kitchen is only a matter of time. This is a cute, charming home ec film that says more about the gender roles of the time than it does about cooking. It would have been better, I think, if Margie had been allowed to talk, but still, her facial expressions are priceless. And the food, as expected, looks uniformly terrible (we’re talking the successful dishes). There’s even cheesy organ music in the opening and closing, though this is certainly n…
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Buster and Tige Put a Balloon Vendor Out of Business (film #48 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]When Buster’s mama refuses to buy him a balloon, Buster sicks a whole pack of dogs on the vendor, which effectively puts him out of business. Brat! The painted backdrop in this is great. A 1904 Edison Film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Dream and Reality ["Reve et Realite"] (film #12 on The Movies Begin, Volume Three: Experimentation and Discovery (Kino Video, 1994)). [Category: Early Film & TV]The dream, if you're our hero, is sharing champagne with a pretty masked woman. The reality is waking up in bed next to your ugly wife. Har-de-har-har! A 1901 Pathe Freres film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.