Extra! Special! Roosevelt Inaugurated (film #170 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]

This lively newsreel documents the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt as president. It starts with self-congratulatory crowing about how Universal Newsreels uses an airplane to deliver the film footage, so that it will be up-to-the-minute. Then we get to see the newly elected FDR and former President Hoover riding to the capitol together, and FDR’s inaugural address, in which he asserts that if Congress fails to cooperate with his policies, he won’t hesitate to ask for executive powers similar to those given the president in wartime. It shows how desperate things were that this didn’t frighten people. Then we get to see the inaugural procession down Pennsylvania Avenue. This newsreel has a great deal of historical value, both in documenting Roosevelt’s inauguration, and giving us a taste of what it was like before TV news documented everything instantaneously.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Assault on Italy (film #2 on Side B of Disc #1 in the War in Europe section of Combat Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2006)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This documentary covers the Allied invasion of Italy during the months before D-Day. The Italians quickly surrendered, but the country still had to be taken from the Germans, who were fighting back fiercely. The segment about the liberation and rebuilding of Naples, which the Nazis horribly decimated as they retreated from it, is the most interesting part of this film. The rest is fairly dull, with not even very much good archival footage to brighten it up.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.

Fires Miscellaneous (film #1396 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This 30s firefighting film is a whole potpourri of firefighting stuff. It starts with a whole bunch of demonstrations of different firefighting techniques and equipment, including a showing of what the fire chief keeps in his car. These segments have a somewhat goofy quality to them, as if the firemen weren’t taking them all that seriously. Then there’s footage from a bunch of different fires. Most of these are humongous blazes that cause tremendous destruction. One segment appears to show injured and dead firemen being pulled out of rubble. This is one of the more interesting Stillman films, with something to please just about every fire buff (not to mention pyro) out there.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

A Day in the Death of Donny B (film #402 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

This 70s anti-drug film is one bleak trip. It features Donny B, a young black man who’s a junkie, as he makes his way through his bleak ghetto world, trying to score money for his next hit through such things as purse-snatching, panhandling, stealing hubcaps, and engaging in a crap game. On the soundtrack we hear his parents despairing over his future, former addicts describing the junkie lifestyle, and neighborhood cops informing us of the consequences of illegal drug use and addiction. This is actually one of the most realistic anti-drug films I’ve ever seen, though whether it really deterred any teens like Donny from drug use is questionable, considering the bleakness of their environment even without drugs.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Bless Them All (film #2 on Bedazzled. Also, film #1 in the Film section of Bedazzled. Also, film #2 in the Video section of Bedazzled). [Category: Hollywood]

Ah, men––can’t live with ‘em and can’t live without ‘em. So Shani Wallis blesses ‘em all in this Scopitone. It’s usually men who express this sort of sentiment, so it’s good to see the genders reversed for once. It helps that all the men here are big-muscled eye candy.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Circus Day in Our Town (film #8 on Campy Classroom Classics, Vol. 5 DVD (Something Weird, 2004)). [Category: Educational]

This Encyclopedia Britannica circus film from the 50s actually does a better job of making the circus look interesting than the other circus films I’ve seen, even though it’s in black-and-white. The performers actually look as if they have some talent, and there’s a good variety of acts, giving you a good feel for what it was like to attend the circus during the 50s. Highlights include lots of focus on the elephants and how they help put up the circus tent, and a fairly scary scene of clowns putting on makeup. This is a surprisingly lively EB film with lots of historical interest as well.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Carriers at Work, U.S.P.O. (film #29 on America at Work, America at Leisure. Also in the Historical section of Open Video Project). [Category: Early Film & TV]

A bunch of postal workers busily sort mail into bags and cubbyholes in a big post office building. This has a real feel of authenticity about it, making it a good slice of work life in 1903. A 1903 Biograph film.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Bisodol Commercial (extra on Disc #1 of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe DVD Boxed Set (VCI Home Video)). [Category: Commercial]

A very old and wrinkled Buster Crabbe pitches Bisodol, an antacid, by showing us disgusting views of antacids entering the stomach. So this is what happens to serial stars when they get old. A fun extra on the Flash Gordon set.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

The Eviction (film #14 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume 6: Rare Films (Video Yesteryear, 1997)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

The misadventures of a hapless landlord and some clueless cops as they attempt to evict a poor but aggressive family from their tenement. Uh-oh, watch out for the lady in the second floor window...d'oh!! It all ends in a huge melee, the cops fleeing in terror, and the landlord getting dumped in a water trough. Gee, being a property owner is harder than I thought. A 1904 British film.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.

Bop Girl Goes Calypso Trailer (film #67 in the Film section of Bedazzled. Also, film #197 in the Video section of Bedazzled). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This 50s trailer tries to sell calypso music as the next big thing, and with the likes of the Goofers and the Mary Kaye Trio, how could they go wrong. Wait, those were the acts for white people. They did have Lord Flea, the only genuine-looking calypso act in the bunch. And allegedly, “Hollywood’s Grooviest Rock and Rollers,” though you can’t tell by what you see on screen. As you might suspect, this trailer has quite a bit of camp value.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Mirror on the Motorway (film #20 in the Public Info. Films section of TVArk). [Category: Public Service]

This 70s British PSA urges drivers to use their mirrors often when driving on high-speed motorways. It repeats this message several times during its short running time, I guess trying to beat it into drivers’ heads. With all the crazy drivers there are out there, I’m not surprised.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.

The Arctic Bird Giant (film #2 on Disc #1 of Clutch Cargo: The Complete Series, Volume 1 DVD (Brentwood Home Video, 2005)). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This episode of the very limited animation series features Clutch & Co. tracking down and capturing a giant arctic bird that’s been stealing the cargo of a trader who is trying to build an igloo housing development for the Eskimos that includes a TV in every igloo. That’s about as enlightened a portrayal of Eskimos as it gets. This is one of the sillier Clutch episodes, with an Eskimo character that will make you cringe at times.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Explorer VI Paddle-Wheel Moon Puts Eye in the Sky (film #168 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]

Early 60s newsreel about the launch of Explorer VI, a research satellite. This has some good launch footage, but mostly it’s pretty ordinary.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Gas (film #12 on The Complete Uncensored Private SNAFU DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Private SNAFU is late for a gas drill because his gas mask is at the bottom of his duffel, under huge amounts of junk. He is punsihed by a huge-mouthed sergeant who puts SNAFU through so many drills in his mask that he ends up throwing it into the trashcan the first chance he gets. Of course, that's when the real gas arrives. This cartoon was directed by Chuck Jones and it's one of the funniest and best animated SNAFUs I've ever seen. The sergeant is just one huge mouth and he's wonderfully animated. The anthropomorphic gas is great too. And watch for a very funny cameo by Bugs Bunny himself.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: *****.

America’s Unpreparedness (film #2 on Side A of Disc #1 in the War in Europe section of Combat Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2006)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This documentary covers the gradual preparations for war made during the months before Pearl Harbor. The basic training of newly-drafted soldiers gets lots of attention, and there is some great archival footage here of that training. The Pearl Harbor attack is also covered, including footage of President Roosevelt’s declaration of war speech. Lots of historical interest here.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Citrus, the Golden Fruit (film #3 on Campy Classroom Classics, Vol. 10 DVD (Something Weird, 2004)). [Category: Industrial]

This film, sponsored by Sunkist, shows us in great detail how citrus fruits are grown, harvested, and shipped. The process is very similar to the one shown in Apples, but because this is a sponsored film, the narration is much more bright and breezy, trying to convince us that citrus fruits are just about the best things you can eat, ever. This gives the film more energy, and makes it more fun to watch. It also has a section at the end on cooking with and eating citrus fruits, featuring bizarre-looking concoctions that are not too unappetizing, since it’s hard to make citrus fruits look bad. Overall, this is a prime example of a sponsored film that tries to build good feelings for an agricultural product.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Cheese Burglar (film #37 on Disc #2 of 150 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2005). Also, film #15 on Disc #1 of TV Cartoon Classics DVD Boxed Set (Platinum Disc, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]

A cat and a dog are best buddies, loving nothing more than to torment the resident mouse. That is, until the mouse turns them against each other. This is a pretty ordinary cartoon, though it does have a mildly weird ending involving the effects of wine.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.

Apples (film #6 on Campy Classroom Classics, Vol. 5 DVD (Something Weird, 2004)). [Category: Educational]

This 50s film tells us all about how apples are grown, harvested, and shipped. It’s all told in a straightforward way which is not too boring, but has no surprises, either. I liked looking at the fruit crate labels that appeared in the section on packing the apples for shipment. Otherwise, this is very ordinary.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Carmencita (film #56 on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]

A rather hefty woman in a twirly skirt dances for our amusement. Some of the steps seem rather difficult for her, but she tries hard. More turn-of-the-century entertainment. An 1894 Edison film.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.

The Bishop’s Wife Trailer (extra on The Bishop’s Wife DVD (MGM, 2001)). [Category: Commercial]

I found out from this trailer that David Niven, Loretta Young, and Cary Grant decided not to make a trailer for The Bishop’s Wife. So I decided not to review it. Have fun reading this review.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Black to Comm (film #270 in the Video section of Bedazzled). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

The MC5 jam for a good long time in this 60s TV clip. Lots of psychedelic camera tricks enhance the trippiness of the proceedings. At the end, the middle-aged host doesn’t quite know what to make of the performance, but the band loved all the camera tricks. An obscure blast from the 60s.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

The Headless Horseman (film #18 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 2 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999). Also, film #8 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot, Volume 3: Things That Go Bump in the Night (Kino Video, 1993)). [Category: Hollywood]

Tom Bones scares off Ichabod Crane by pretending to be a headless horseman, so he can win the hand of fair (and chubby) Katrina. But who's that unexpected wedding guest? Does this bear any resemblance to the original Legend of Sleepy Hollow? I don't know, because I haven't read the story. At any rate, this cartoon is pretty ordinary.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.

Mine Eyes Have Seen (film #26 in the General section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This 1960 film documents a trip to Israel made by an American delegation from the B’nia Brith organization to see where its donated money is being spent. Apparently, it was being spent on everything, for the film goes into a great deal of detail, covering practically all aspects of Israel’s development, from agricultural development to industry to social services to honoring those killed in the Holocaust. The film has a set-up gimmick that is unique: it is told from the point of view of the movie camera, which lends a mildly strange Mr. Product-like air to the proceedings. Mostly, though, this is just what you’d expect. It does have lots of historical interest in documenting in detail Israel’s various development programs as they stood in 1960. It ends coming to the conclusion that Israel’s children are its biggest hope for the future, and when they start talking about how these children are growing up in peace, it becomes hard to beat back the irony when you consider how much war has taken place in Israel since 1960.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Archie’s TV Funnies (film #80 on ToonTracker Cartoon Showcase). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Opening of “Archie’s TV Funnies,” a Saturday morning cartoon show that is another blast from my childhood. Popular comic strip characters were animated on the show, and the opening gives you a rundown of what comic characters were popular in 1971. Remember Moon Mullins or Nancy and Sluggo? Lots of historical interest here.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Eugene McCarthy (film #2 in the Featured Clip Archive of WPA Film Library). [Category: News]

TV news clip from the 60s of Eugene McCarthy criticizing President Johnson’s policies, especially on the Vietnam War, and announcing his plans to run for president. This has historical interest, but it’s very ordinary.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.

America Goes to War in the Pacific (film #4 on Side A of Disc #1 in the War in the Pacific section of Combat Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2006)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This documentary covers the Japanese takeovers in the Far East following Pearl Harbor and America’s preparations for war in the Pacific. There’s some really interesting footage of military training here, as well as footage from Japanese films about their military victories early in the war. The rest is pretty ordinary, but this has lots of historical value, as do most of the films in this series.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Fires Miscellaneous (film #1395 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

More fires and firefighting, courtesy of the Stillman Fires Collection. This film is from the 40s and it’s in color, but still silent. It shows firemen setting up to fight a fire, then footage of several different fires around the New York City area, including spectacular footage of flames leaping out of a window. The rest is pretty ordinary, though. Still, this has historical interest in documenting 40s firefighting practices, as well as some great 40s signage.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Cavalcade of the Academy Awards (extra on The Wizard of Oz DVD (Warner Bros.)). [Category: Hollywood]

Excerpts from a short about the 1939 Academy Awards, featuring the awards won by The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland is presented with the award for Best Performance by a Juvenile Actress, and she is asked to sing “Over the Rainbow,” but instead of continuing to her song, the film switches to Garland singing the song in the movie, which is curious. I sure wish they had put the whole film on the DVD, rather than just these brief excerpts.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

A Day at the River: A Film Lesson in Nature Study (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #401 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

This 20s silent educational film looks at various kinds of water life in a river. It’s pretty standard for the most part, but some of the photography is nice, and it has a charming 20s feel to it, including a Tom Sawyer-like kid going fishing.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Argentina

Argentina. Standard geography film about the South American country of Argentina. There’s some historical interest here as you get to see ...