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Showing posts from June 25, 2006
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Big Three Confer (film #98 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]WWII newsreel documenting the meeting at Yalta of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. This has lots of historical value, telling of many other important personages who attended the meeting, and showing scenes of it. Also included are harrowing stories about massacres in Lubin, Poland and the devastation wrought by a tornado in Alabama and Mississippi. Then it suddenly and rather jarringly gets lighthearted, with stories about the Westminster Dog Show, a Boy Scout Jamboree, and the adoption of a 4-year-old Chinese war orphan by a GI unit. This last story, though meant to be cute and amusing, actually comes off rather disturbing, with scenes of the 4-year-old being showered and accepted into the ranks as a fellow soldier. All in all, this is one of the more interesting WWII-era newsreels.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *** (for the lighthearted stories, not the harrowing ones, which rate a N/A). Weirdness:…
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Finding His Voice (film #514 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]OK, folks, I knew this would be a favorite the moment it started. It features not one, but two incredibly cute Mr. Product characters: Talkie, a cheery piece of sound film; and Mutie, a cranky piece of silent film. Mutie rudely breaks up Talkie’s act (a cute rendition of the “Anvil Chorus” on a xylophone) and demands to know where Talkie got his voice. So Talkie takes him to Dr. Western, who explains the sound-on-film process to him, and to us, in detail. This delightful animated film was made in the early days of sound, to explain the process to theater owners, which gives it lots of historical value. But historical value is not what appeals to me here––it’s the delightful characters of Talkie and Mutie, as well as Dr. Western, who veers dangerously close to being a mad scientist. The ending is a real hoot, but I won’t give it away. Suffice to say that I enjoyed this film from beginning to end. You can’t go wro…
Hair Dress Through the Ages (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #638 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]This featurette tries to cover the history of hairstyles and hats from caveman days onwards. Unfortunately, they suddenly run out of time around the 17th century. Still, they got a chance to show many outrageous and silly dos and chapeaus. It's narrated by the guy who did Ant City and Bee City, so there's plenty of winging it as well. A rather silly short subject.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Be-Bop-a-Lula (film #27 in the Film section of Bedazzled). [Category: Hollywood]I didn’t know there was such a thing as French rockabilly, but here it is, right here in this Scopitone. Actually, the singer doesn’t do too bad at getting that rockabilly sound.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Dangerous Stranger (film #9 on Campy Classroom Classics, Vol. 2 (Something Weird, 2000)). [Category: Educational]A policeman tells a bunch of schoolkids stories about some incredibly stupid kids who go off with incredibly suspicious-looking strangers at the drop of a hat. The first stranger actually says, "Hey, little girl! You're all alone! Wanna go for a ride?" We get to see another little girl literally taking candy from a stranger (the cop maintains that she was told not to do this but "forgot," but you're left wondering what planet she comes from). It's hard not to at least momentarily consider Darwin's laws of natural selection under these circumstances. For a Sid Davis film, though, this is incredibly kind and gentle. At no time does the narrating cop give into the temptation to mock or heap shame on the young victims whose stories he tells. Perhaps it's because this was made during the easy-going 70s. Speaking of the 70s, the clothin…
Captain Nissen Going Through Whirlpool Rapids, Niagara Falls (film #7 on The Mechanized Eye disc of Unseen Cinema DVD Boxed Set (Image Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Early Film & TV]Captain Nissen goes through the rapids, not in a barrel, but in a craft specially created for the feat, and Edison’s camera follows the craft as it is buffeted and turned over by the water. This is fairly exciting, especially with the dramatic music on the DVD soundtrack. We don’t get to see how Captain Nissen came out of it, though. A 1901 Edison Film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Big City Trailer (extra on The Penalty DVD (Kino Video, 2001)). [Category: Commercial]Short silent trailer from the 20s for the Lon Chaney film The Big City. This has no clips from the movie, but it does have really stunning modernistic animation and graphic design, a little bit like the title cards for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. This unusual design gives the trailer lots of historical value, as well as being a pleasure to watch.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Arnold Layne (film #76 in the Film section of Bedazzled). {Category: Sleaze & Outsider]Short film from the 60s, possibly a Scopitone, featuring Pink Floyd doing strange things on a beach with a mannequin to their song “Arnold Layne.” This was from back when Pink Floyd was a psychedelic band, and this has that British psychedelic weirdness to it, even though it’s in black-and-white. A blast from the 60s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Man Against the River (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Prject. Also, film #884 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]This 30s film documents the severe floods in Ohio, Kentucky, and Arkansas when the Ohio river overflowed its banks, and the efforts of WPA workers to provide disaster relief. The task was a huge one, involving rescuing people trapped by the flood waters, setting up emergency hospitals to care for the sick and wounded, inoculating people against typhoid, distributing food, setting up refugee camps for the homeless, piling sandbags and building levees in places where the river had not yet overflowed, fighting fires and removing dangers to public safety, and engaging in cleanup efforts after the flood waters had receded, including disposing of hundreds of dead cattle before they could cause disease. There’s no film that portrays the “Dirty Thirties” more than this one; everyone seems covered with dirt and grime, all seem to be suffering in one way or anot…
The Enchanted Sedan Chair (film #8 on The Movies Begin, Volume Four: The Magic of Melies (Kino Video, 1994)). [Category: Early Film & TV]An enchanted sedan chair enables a magician to do lots of tricks involving fancily-dressed French people. I guess this was before the silk top hat became the standard. If you like silly camera tricks, you'll like this. A 1905 Melies film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Another Look (film #2 on Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Short experimental film made from clips from Prelinger Archive films. The sound and music also comes from the films. This is mildly weird, with some striking choices of images, some altered or slowed down for effect. It ends up as a fairly decent montage film, though nothing brilliant.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Anchor (film #2 on Open Source Movies). [Category: News]This short documentary about the career and death of Peter Jennings has lots of great news footage in it, including the initial announcements of his death on both ABC and Fox news, 9-11 footage, and even footage from early in his career, when he was on ABC radio. The film is well made as a fond tribute to Jennings, without being overly sentimental. It’s just this sort of surprising film that I love to stumble across on Open Source Movies.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Big 3 & Berlin: Concern Mounts as Deadline Approaches (film #91 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: Military & Propaganda]50s newsreel clip documenting arguments between Krushchev and Eisenhower over the status of Berlin, which had been divided in half in reflection of the status of East and West Germany. The clip from Eisenhower’s speech, in which he argues against general mobilization, has lots of historical value.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Financing the American Family (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #513 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This film, made by the Household Finance Corporation in the early 30s, presents a middle class family that is struggling with debts. The answer for these people, amazingly enough, is supposed to be getting another loan. The bank turns them down, saying that they can’t afford to deal with small borrowers. Just as they begin to sink into despair, they turn on the radio, which by an incredible coincidence is broadcasting a detailed infomercial about HFC. They go to HFC, and after they determine that they’re good housekeepers and all-around nice people by giving them a home inspection, they promptly get the $300 loan they’ve been wanting, which was quite a chunk of change back in the early 30s. The wife asks what would happen if her husband died or they otherwise lost his income. The loan officer placates them by saying they wouldn’t expect them to “d…
The Fighting First (track #13 on WWII V for Victory War Bonds & Rallies Show (Something Weird, 1996)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This film tells the story of the First Infantry Division, a large division of GIs that did most of the hard, mud-caked, slogging combat to defeat the Nazis in Europe. It's a pretty inspiring story, though otherwise this film is pretty ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Came the Brawn (extra on The Wizard of Oz DVD (BCI Eclipse, 2001)). [Category: Hollywood]This “Little Rascals” short features a goofy wrestling match between Alfalfa and the Masked Marvel, who was originally supposed to be wimpy egghead Waldo (the only kid Alfalfa believes he can lick), but who really ends up being neighborhood bully Butch. The rules of wrestling are bent so far that they break, but you don’t care, because Butch is so unpleasant you want to see him get beat. This is a charming and mildly amusing short, with a few weird moments here and there.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion – The Foreign Legion (film #5 on Disc #2 of Classic Kids’ Shows DVD Boxed Set (Genius Entertainment, 2004)). [Category: Early Film & TV]This 50s action-adventure show would have us believe that a member of the French Foreign Legion is allowed to have a grizzled sidekick named Fuzzy and a kid named Cubby accompany him on his adventures. Never mind, this is basically an exotic French version of a kiddie western. The plot, involving a group of bank robbers, is pretty standard action-adventure fare, but it’s a real hoot to watch Buster Crabbe as Captain Gallant pretend to be a Latino criminal and mangle the occasional French word he has to say. And they included the commercials for Heinz ketchup, which are great fun––one of them has an animated chef helping out a housewife, while another has Cubby asserting that he eats ketchup on everything, morning, noon, and night. All in all, this is a fun blast from the past.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. We…
Bic Lighters (film #5 in The Most Memorable Commercials of the 1970s section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]Memorable, fun commercial for Bic lighters from the 70s that places the phrase “flick your Bic” in various silly situations, sometimes allowing it to sound suggestive. This is one I remember from the 70s, and it’s still pretty fun today.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Duke Is Tops (film #2 on Side A of Disc #3 of Classic Musicals DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]In this all-black cast musical, Lena Horne plays Ethel Andrews, an up-and-coming singer who is romantically involved with her producer, Duke Davis. When a talent scout claims he can make Ethel a star, but only without Duke, Duke cuts off Ethel, falsely claiming he was paid off, in order not to hold her back. Unfortunately, Duke’s show is a flop without Ethel, and he is reduced to helping a friend of his beef up his medicine show. It turns out that Ethel is not so hot without Duke either, and it all ends happily with them successfully hitting the big time together. This is a well made and entertaining film, with few stereotypes, good acting, and fun musical numbers. The scenes of the medicine show give a fascinating look at a form of entertainment that was in its death throes during the 30s. Lena Horne had not yet developed her temptress pe…
Green Pastures (film #634 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]In this early claymation short, a cute horse gets harassed by a bee when he crosses a creek to what he thinks is a greener pasture. The horse's frantic attempts to get rid of the bee are very charmingly animated. A cute, mildly funny cartoon.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.