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Showing posts from June 18, 2006
A Magic Box (film #24 in the General section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Public Service]This 50s film documents an American teenaged girl named Hannah’s trip to Israel that she won for being the JNF Blue Box Champion; that is, collecting the most money for the Jewish National Fund in little blue coin boxes. The film begins in a very bright and breezy way, as she expresses her excitement about her trip and her celebrity status, and the Tel Aviv Blue Box Champion, a young boy named David, shows her the different tricks of the trade he uses to get people to contribute. The film gets more serious as it shows Hannah how the money is being spent in land reclamation and in helping develop pioneer settlements in the Israeli frontier. This is a fun film which also has an educational and promotional message that is not too heavy-handed. I liked seeing the little blue boxes and hearing their history at one point in the film. The film has h…
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Anomalies of the Unconscious (film #2 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This experimental film was made by actually doing physical things to the film emulsion, such as scratching, dying, and experimenting with various chemicals. The result is a stunning abstract film, any of whose stills could stand alone as a work of abstract art. The soundtrack, by Negativland, harmonizes well with the images, as it is an abstract sound collage. All in all, this is an excellent experimental film, of a quality much higher than you expect to find on Open Source Movies.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Election ’97 – Sky News (film #10 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]Dramatic opening credits for 1997 British election night coverage on Sky News. This features quotes from politicians and a giant spinning question mark which I want for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices. That and the beginning of the clip, which features the nightly schedule, make this a little more interesting than the other election 97 clips.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Big News of 1941: The Editors of Universal Newsreels Present Dramatic Highlights of an Epochal Year (film #97 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This end-of-year-wrap-up newsreel presents the top stories of a very eventful year, 1941. Included are stories about the Lend-Lease Act, Roosevelt’s election to a third term, acts of sabotage and strikes, the flight of Rudolf Hess to Scotland, the British takeover of Syria, the US takeover of Iceland, the sinking of the destroyer Kearny by torpedo, Russian victories against the Nazis, British victories in Libya, FDR buying the first war bond, Halie Selassie regaining the throne in Ethiopia, and, oh yes, the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This has a great deal of historical value as well as being interesting to watch. 1941 sure was an exciting year for news.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Festival in London (film #20 on National Archives). [Category: Industrial]This 1951 film documents the Festival of Britain, the same world’s fair whose architecture was covered in Brief City. But unlike that other film, there are no dark post-war undertones here, only light and glorious color, dramatic orchestral music, and bombastic narration about the contributions of the British people to science and the arts. This makes it much more typical of the world’s fair genre, though no less enjoyable to watch. The film is well made and beautifully preserved, with lots of striking images from all over the fair. In fact, after awhile, the narration ceases in order to allow us to simply enjoy the visuals. I love a film like this, because it gives me a chance to experience what these old world’s fairs were like. This goes down as one of the better films in this genre, as well as standing in stark and fascinating contrast to Brief City.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical I…
Cad and Caddy (film #5 on Disc #6 of 100 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). Also, film #27 on Disc #3 of 150 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2005)). Also, film #14 on Disc #3 of TV Cartoon Classics DVD Boxed Set (Platinum Disc, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]Little Lulu torments a golfer in this cartoon. This is standard Little Lulu fare, with the exception of the ending, in which the golfer goes bonkers and digs his own grave, adding a dark note to an otherwise very ordinary cartoon.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
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Capsize of Lifeboat (film #52 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]A bunch of people who have already been dumped into the drink flip over a capsized lifeboat. There! That’s better! Though this does make one wonder about the safety of lifeboats. An 1897 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Dangerous Stranger (film #378 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]This earlier version of The Dangerous Stranger is a little less ridiculous than the later version, perhaps because it was made during the early 50s, when “don’t talk to strangers” wasn’t so ubiquitous. It’s also in murky black-and-white, and it seems to have been filmed in a bleak inner-city neighborhood that looks like it really is quite unsafe for kids. The campiest moment is the end, where Sid Davis hauls out silly caricatures of dumb kids getting into cars with and taking candy from strangers. These are a real hoot and definite items for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices. Overall, there is something quintessential about this kid’s safety film, making it a necessary addition to any collection of educational films.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes Trailer (extra on Disc #2 of Planet of the Apes DVD (20th Century Fox, 2003)). [Category: Commercial]This trailer for the first sequel of Planet of the Apes has all that you’d expect from a Planet of the Apes trailer: battling apes, mutants taking off their masks, a sexy mute woman, a doomsday device, and Charleton Heston shamelessly overacting. “A planet where apes evolved from men?” You decide.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Dracula and the Dirty Old Witch (extra on Dracula the Dirty Old Man/Guess What Happened to Count Dracula DVD (Something Weird, 2002)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]In this “adult” featurette (the quotes are necessary, believe me), Count Dracula prefers sleeping in the nude, likes tormenting chained-up naked women in his basement, and has a witch for an assistant who would be right at home in The Magic Land of Mother Goose. He finds his true love in the form of a bucktoothed blonde, but before he can make mad passionate love to her (in a manner of speaking; his words are a little less polite), the witch gets revenge upon him for treating her like dirt. The film is incredibly cheaply made, with atrocious acting throughout. Like Captain Bondage vs. Women’s Lib, this is really really bad, though apart from a brief scene of him tormenting one of his chained women, this is not nearly as disturbing as the other film. It’s more just plain silly, which is usually how sexual fantasies actua…
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Made in the U.S.A. (film #867 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]This 30s film was designed to teach American citizens that foreign trade is vital to the American way of life. The film does this by telling a goofy story about a guy who goes to a general store and hears a cracker barrel philosopher spout off about how we don’t need to get anything from them there foreigners, ‘cause we can get everything worth having right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. At this point, a traveling magician pitches his show by making some Brazil nuts disappear. The main character, though, has narcolepsy, and so he promptly falls asleep and has a weird dream where he and his wife are driving home with the magician, who makes everything imported from a foreign country disappear when he says the country’s name. Naturally, this makes the car fall apart, as well as getting rid of most of the groceries the wife bought. After waking up from the dream, the guy now sees the light about foreign trade…
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Another Day, Another Dollar (film #40 in the Comedy section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Repairing some strange machinery causes a Lego guy to get a nasty shock in front of his boss. Oh well, I guess that’s life in Legoland. The special effects here are pretty good, but the animation is really clunky, and the story leaves you scratching your head.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Election 97 – ITN (film #9 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]Opening credits for coverage of the 1997 British elections on ITN. Other than the rather bizarre accent of the anchorman, this is ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Employees Leaving Lumiere Factory ["Sortie d'Usine"] (film #1 on The Movies Begin, Volume Two: The European Pioneers (Kino Video, 1994). Also, film #1 on Pioneers of the French Cinema (Hollywood's Attic, 1996)). [Category: Early Film & TV]Pretty much what the title says. Lumiere & Co. sure employed lots of folks. Still, since this is one of the first films of any kind ever, it has some historical interest.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Big Four’s Peace Meet Open Again (film #96 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Another post-war newsreel about a peace conference among delegates from the Big Four nations. This is basically just an announcement of the meeting and brief mention of some of the issues on the docket to discuss. Also included are stories about the celebration of 100 years of peace between the US and Canada, and about Juan Peron coming to power in Argentina. This is a fairly ordinary post-war newsreel.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
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Felling Forest Giants (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #508 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This 20s silent film shows logging and lumber cutting practices in the Pacific Northwest, including the felling of giant redwoods. This is quite interesting from a historical perspective, since the film has a raw, rough quality that convinces you that you’re seeing the real deal. Interest is added by showing some of the more esoteric parts of the lumberjack’s job, such as shoeing the oxen, though their general treatment of the beasts might upset animal lovers. All in all, this is a mildly interesting portrait of logging practices during the 20s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Busy Bodies (film #12 on Laurel and Hardy DVD (Hallmark Home Entertainment, 2003)). [Category: Hollywood]This classic Laurel and Hardy short should have been shown as an industrial safety film, since the duo demonstrates the consequences of violating every safety rule in the book, such as: Don’t lean over the work table while your buddy is planing wood; Don’t roughhouse around the chip disposal chute; and Don’t drive your car through a bandsaw. Of course, the biggest safety rule violated is Don’t hire Laurel and Hardy to work in a sawmill. It’s this kind of classic comedy that healed Norman Cousins; the gags are perfectly timed and I laughed almost without stopping throughout.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
The Fightin' U.S. Marines (film #11 on WWII V for Victory War Bonds & Rallies Show (Something Weird, 1996)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Marine boot camp is shown highly idealized and with a gung-ho spirit. It all looks like great fun, though tough, sort of like a beefed-up summer camp for adults. Of course, that was the point––to encourage recruitment, as well as build up good feelings for the Marines among the general public. This is propaganda, folks.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Canoeing on the Charles River, Boston, Mass. (film #28 on America at Work, America at Leisure. Also in the Historical section of Open Video Project). [Category: Early Film & TV]A bunch of pleasure boaters go out canoeing on the Charles River. There are so many of them that they form a bit of a traffic jam at one point, but it eventually clears. No surprises here, just canoeing. A 1904 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
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Belair Commercials Compilation #5 (film #167 on UCSF Tobacco Industry Video Collection). [Category: Commercial]This group of early 60s Belair commercials features a couple frolicking on the beach, enjoying the good fresh air, and then ruining it all by inhaling tobacco smoke into their lungs. Again, the ridiculous “Breathe Easy, Smoke Clean” jingle is featured. At the end are some bumpers from the “Mr. Lucky” program. This is campy, dorky fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Grass Diet (film #2 in the Makeovers, Diets & Fitness section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Hollywood]British newsreel footage from the 40s about a woman who eats a health food diet consisting of grass, accompanied by raw fruits and vegetables. They actually show the woman picking the grass from a vacant lot. Since the footage is in black and white, the grass looks dirty, even after she washes it. Nowadays, of course, it would be laden with pesticides. I don’t care how much it might extend my life, I am not eating grass!!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Door Is Open (film #12 in the Immigration and Absorption section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]This 50s film, narrated in Yiddish, tells the stories of several immigrants to Israel, and how the process of absorption happens. It’s hard to follow because of the language barrier, but it still managed to hold my interest because it appears to be very well made, with many striking visuals of objects, such as keys, luggage labels with numbers on them, and ephemera from the Holocaust. The immigrants get to tell their own stories on film through interview footage; one of them speaks English, but, frustratingly, his comments are translated into Yiddish in voice-over fashion, making his original English comments impossible to hear. Despite the language barrier, you can tell that this is a very well made and interesting film, with lots of historical value in documenting the immigration experience in Israel.
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Lucky Junior (film #860 on Prelinger Archive). ]Category: Public Service]In this 40s film, sponsored by the Michigan Medical Society, John Rogers Jr. has just been born, and his doctor remembers that he also delivered his father, John Rogers Sr., years ago. This causes the doctor to marvel at how much easier it will be to protect Junior’s health than it was his dad’s, given that many infectious diseases such as whooping cough and diphtheria can now be controlled with immunization, and that prenatal care has improved. This was most likely a profound relief to parents and doctors of the time; those of us who were born when such immunization was routine can only guess how it must have been to fear that your child could be killed at random by any of a bunch of nasty diseases, and there was nothing you could do about it. Of course, parents today have lots of other things to worry about, and the benign portrait of the medical profession, especially in terms of treating the poor, certainly d…
Curious Habits of Man (film #3 on Best of Huh? DVD (A/V Geeks)). [Category: Educational]A teen attends an adult party, presumably given by his parents, though it isn’t really clear, where there is a lot of drinking going on. Since this is boring, he sits down at the tv and watches a nature documentary. Pretty soon, he starts mentally comparing the extremely unattractive, drunk partygoers to the animals he sees on the documentary. This premise doesn’t really hold water, though, because the animals are far more classy and better behaved than the partygoers. If they wanted to make drinking look unattractive, though, they succeeded––you won’t find a more unattractive bunch of drunk partygoers in any other film. Considering that they are all members of the teen’s parents’ generation, though, I doubt whether this really had much impact on its intended audience, since they could just chalk it up to older people being square, whereas teens drinking would still be considered cool.
Ratings: Camp…
Anne Frank in Bricks (film #9 in the Action section of Brickfilms. Also, film #20 in the Comedy section of Brickfilms. Also, film #2 in the War section of Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Oh, so it was all a dream, and Anne hid out from the Nazis in a “Benny Hill” episode. And Hitler was evil and German. That explains a lot.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: BOMB. Overall Rating: ****.
Election 97 – BBC News (film #8 in the News section of TVArk). [Category: News]Opening credits for coverage of the 1997 British election on the BBC. This is not quite as impressive as some of the earlier credit sequences, for some reason. This is really pretty ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
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Big Four Turns Down Austria on Tyrol (film #95 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]Post-war newsreel story about Austrians demonstrating at a peace conference in favor of having the southern Tyrol region returned to Austria. Tyroleans turned out for the demonstration in their traditional costumes, which are kind of fun to see. Also included is a story about the swearing in of a new chief justice of the Supreme Court. A fairly standard newsreel from the post-war period.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Feeding Cattle in Winter (film #5 on Buckaroos in Paradise). [Category: Industrial]Cattle Rancher Les Stewart narrates this 40s film that he made that shows how hay is spread for cattle to feed them in winter. It’s actually fairly interesting, as he explains some of the reasons horses are better than tractors for this task, and I wasn’t even aware that horses were still used for things like that. Also demonstrated is a large crane-like device that was used to load hay on to the wagon. This has historical value in documenting 40s cattle ranching practices.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Bride and Gloom (film #6 on Cartoon Explosion, Vol. 2: Finny Fiesta/Popeye’s Greatest Hits DVD (Front Row Entertainment, 2002). Also, film #20 on Cartoon Mania DVD (Front Row Entertainment, 2002). Also, film #42 on 50 Cartoon Classics DVD. Also, film #7 on Disc #1 of 100 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004). Also, film #7 on Disc #4 of 150 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]It’s the night before Popeye’s and Olive Oyl’s wedding, and Olive Oyl has a strange, disturbing dream about giving birth to twins that are basically miniature Popeyes and about as well-behaved as Woody Woodpecker or Little Lulu. This turns the dream into a nightmare, as you might expect, yet the strangest part of it for me was a moment during the dream wedding where Popeye had to down a can of spinach in order to be able to say “I do.” I couldn’t help but imagine at that point whether or not he would need spinach to get through the wedding night. Th…
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Cancelling Machine, U.S.P.O. (film #27 on America at Work, America at Leisure. Also in the Historical section of Open Video Project). [Category: Early Film & TV]A postal worker runs a canceling machine on letters and stacks them in bunches so that another worker can pick them up and take them elsewhere. Every once in awhile, he smiles and looks aside, as if he is being teased or sharing in-jokes with other workers. Must be a fun place to work, that post office. A slice of life from 1903. A 1903 Biograph film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Belair Commercials Compilation #4 (film #165 on UCSF Tobacco Industry Video Collection). [Category: Commercial]More Belair commercials from the early 60s. These all focus on Raleigh coupons and seem to feature a common theme of the woman getting the man to give her the coupon. These get rather repetitive after a bit, making them somewhat less entertaining than the other collections.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Elopement on Horseback (film #1 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume 1: The Films of Thomas Edison (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). [Category: Early Film & TV]As our hero rescues his bride out the window and carries her away on horseback, a couple of other guys (comic relief, I suppose) tumble out the window after them, but are too busy tussling with each other to give chase. This is very short and poorly preserved, but I'd be willing to bet it's the first elopement scene ever filmed. An 1898 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.