Comin’ Round the Mountain (film #1 on Disc #11 of 100 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004). Also, film #20 on Disc #3 of 150 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]

This cartoon starts out fairly predictably, showing us two feuding hillbilly families, one of cats (the Catfields) and the other of dogs (the McHounds). After showing us a bunch of very old cat and dog and hillbilly gags, it suddenly turns into one of those “sing along with the bouncing ball” films, as we are asked to sing a wacked-out version of “Comin’ Round the Mountain” to welcome the new schoolmarm. That’s what I like about some of these old cartoons––sometimes they throw you for a loop.

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

Cartoon: TR’s Arrival in Africa (film #3 on Theodore Roosevelt). [Category: Early Film & TV]

The arrival of Teddy Roosevelt in Africa causes all the animals to scurry up a tree. Sorry, I gave away the whole plot of the cartoon. A 1909 film.

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

Blitz Beer (film #8 in the Ida Lupino & Howard Duff section of TVParty). [Category: Commercial]

Fascinating 50s commercial for Blitz Beer that features silent film footage with silly dubbed-in voices and a plot that actually mentions drunken partying! A great old commercial that would never fly today.

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

Clash City Rockers (film #293 in the Video section of Bedazzled). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

The Clash rock out their song “Clash City Rockers” on this TV clip. No lip-synching here––this was obviously a live performance. In fact, this is one of the best TV performances I’ve seen of any band. The Clash was a breath of fresh air during the 70s––just ask Kevin Murphy.

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

The Armageddon Factor Rehearsal #2 (film #90 in the Cult section of TVArk). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Another moment from the same rehearsal as in #1, this time featuring the Doctor telling off K-9 after he gives an “insufficient data” response. You know he’s always wanted to do this, so this is no surprise.

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

FDR Sees Fear Vanishing (film #173 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]

President Roosevelt tells the public that, thanks to his work-relief programs, the winter relief rolls are down for the first time in five years. This has some historical value, but it’s pretty much just as I’ve said.

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

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

This documentary goes over the state of the countries and territories in the Pacific basin before Pearl Harbor, including the histories of Hawaii and Guam, US relations with Australia and New Zealand, and the political and social conditions in China and Japan before the war started. There’s a lot of great archival footage here of social and cultural practices in those countries at that time, giving this lots of historical interest, and setting a clear context for the other films in the series.

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

First Alarms (film #1399 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

More 40s fires in and around New York City, courtesy of the Stillman Fires Collection. Other than a few mildly weird title cards (“Biscuits Burning,” “Horse Play=3 Dead”), this is like all the other Stillman films.

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

The Goldbrick (track #5 on The Complete Uncensored Private SNAFU DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Private SNAFU is bummed out by the privations of army life until Goldie the Goldbrick (who looks like an early version of Technical Fairy First Class) comes to his rescue. Goldie advises SNAFU to cop out in such ways as faking illnesses to get out of drills, digging trenches only a few inches deep and then sleeping in them, and getting a buddy to pull his loads while he rides along in back. Needless to say, when he meets the enemy he is woefully unprepared. This is a fun cartoon. I especially like the part where SNAFU, faking illness once again, is duped by the "Honorable Booby Trap Hospital." The ending is racist, but fun nonetheless.

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

Come Softly to Me (film #30 in the Film section of Bedazzled. Also, film #112 in the Video section of Bedazzled). [Category: Hollywood]

Now this is the 50s! The Delta Rhythm Boys in pink dinner jackets singing “Come Softly to Me.” Smooth-as-silk doo-wop is a necessary addition to anyone’s collection.

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

Cartoon of TR’s Reception by the Crowned Heads of Europe (film #2 on Theodore Roosevelt). [Category: Early Film & TV]

The Crowned Heads of Europe sit on a stairstep device on a pier. Theodore Roosevelt arrives on a ship carrying, inexplicably, a large carrot. The Crowned Heads wave at him. This plot description is longer than the actual cartoon. Proof that limited animation was not invented for 60s TV. A 1910 film.

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

Black Sunday Trailer (extra on Black Sunday DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999). Also, extra on Long Hair of Death DVD (Sinister Cinema)). [Category: Commercial]

This trailer for the Mario Bava film Black Sunday (here titled The Mask of Satan) is pretty straightforward, though it does have some striking visual imagery, which stimulates interest in the film. And it tells us that the film is distributed by Jolly Films, so how can you go wrong?

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

Chimes of Freedom (film #137 in the Video section of Bedazzled). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

Clip from the TV show “Shindig” featuring the Byrds singing “Chimes of Freedom” to the screams of teenyboppers. Ed Wynn introduces the clip in his inimitable style, and the lead singer of the band wears cool rectangular granny glasses. Fortunately, the screams of the teeny boppers don’t obliterate the music, though they do rise during close-ups of band members. A charming blast from the 60s.

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

Here Comes the Circus (MST3K Episode #422: The Day the Earth Froze). [Category: Hollywood]

A newsreel featurette about the circus––whoop-de-doo. Even more dreary than a real circus. There are some pretty darn weird scenes of clown acrobats, though ("Oh, no! They're doing it clown style!" shouts Tom Servo). And the msting is great.

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

Motorbikes Stay Back (film #23 in the Public Info. Films section of TVArk). [Category: Public Service]

This British PSA advising motorcyclists to avoid tailgating and to pass widely features a catchy rock ‘n’ roll jingle, which makes it seem far more American than British. An oddity.

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

The Armageddon Factor Rehearsal #1 (film #89 in the Cult section of TVArk). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Brief moment from a rehearsal for “Doctor Who” in which Mary Tamm and Tom Baker suddenly threaten to kiss each other, but it’s all in fun. All right, you two, knock it off!

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

FDR Buys First Baby Bond (film #177 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]

Brief, mildly amusing newsreel story from 1935 in which President Roosevelt buys the first six small denomination government bonds, one for each of his grandchildren, and one for himself. He pays cash for them and we get to see that he carries hundred-dollar bills in his pocket. A mildly silly blip from the 30s.

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

Attack in the Central Pacific: Makin and Tarawa (film #5 on Side B of Disc #1 of the War in the Pacific section of Combat Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2006)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This documentary covers the invasions of two key Pacific islands, Makin and Tarawa. This is all done pretty straightforwardly, though the section on the battle for Tarawa has lots of gritty combat footage of that very bloody battle. This has historical interest, but few surprises.

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

Fires Other Cities (film #1398 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

Boy, if you want to see fires, this is your movie. This firefighting film from the 40s features footage from big, spectacular fires all over the world. The footage from China features scenes of bystanders looking agog at the fire, while the scenes from Bombay are the most grisly, featuring widespread destruction and dead bodies. Unlike most of the other films in the Stillman Collection, which feature the heroics of the firefighters, the fires clearly win in all the scenes in this film. The film gives the overall impression that the 40s was one long worldwide inferno. This is the film to mine if you’re looking for footage of things burning up.

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

A Day of Thanksgiving (extra on Blood Freak DVD (Something Weird, 2002). Also, film #3 on The Educational Archives, Vol. 5: Patriotism DVD (Fantoma, 2003). Also, film #8 on Lifestyles USA, Vol. 2 (Something Weird, 2000). Also in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #407 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

A working class family has trouble making ends meet, and so the parents have to break the news to the kids that there will be no turkey for Thanksgiving this year. When the kids act like this is the End of the World, Dad changes their mind by having everybody in the family make a list of what they are thankful for. Mostly they are thankful for living in the good ol' U.S. of A., even if they are poor. This film would be laughable, except it's a Centron production, and the gritty Kansas feel gives it a certain poignancy. The kids' lists of what they are thankful for sound like genuine school compositions on the subject. And little Tommy has such a delightful Kansas twang, especially when he asserts, "We could make a list a mile long!" Some of the scenes are jarring, as when Mom says she is thankful for modern technology while we see her struggle to operate a wringer washing machine, or when she casually includes "a bill collector" into the list of nice people who might be at the door. These people are so sincere, and trying so hard to be brave, that you can't make fun of them. And that gives the message of this film a certain degree of believability, whereas it probably would have been so much hokey shmaltz in the hands of another production company.

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

Circus Capers (film #47 on 50 Cartoon Classics DVD. Also, film #5 on Disc #7 of 100 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004). Also, film #14 on Disc #1 of 150 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]

This 30s toon starts out as a standard silly circus toon, with conventional gags, belly-dancing elephants, and lame ripoffs of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. However, it gets weirder as it develops a plot concerning a romantic triangle between fake Mickey, fake Minnie, and the Master of Ceremonies. This culminates in a truly bizarre rendition by Fake Mickey of “Laugh, Clown, Laugh.” After he spurns fake Minnie in the end, his face suddenly goes into extreme closeup. Once his black nose fills the screen, we’re suddenly in a different toon involving a duckling who has to visit the little duck’s room. Huh??

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

Carriers Leaving Building, U.S.P.O., Version 2 (film #31 on America at Work, America at Leisure. Also in the Historical section of Open Video Project). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Like Version 1, but with lots more mailmen. This makes it slightly better than Version 1. A 1903 Biograph film.

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

Black Dragons Trailer (extra on Mysterious Mr. Wong DVD (Sinister Cinema). [Category: Commercial]

Fairly standard trailer for the Bela Lugosi horror-mystery Black Dragons. No surprises here, but Lugosi fans should enjoy this.

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

Bunny Yeager’s Nude Las Vegas Trailer (film #53 in the Film section of Bedazzled. Also, film #164 in the Video section of Bedazzled). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

Trailer for a very cheap 60s nudie. In this film, “nude” seems to consist of topless, but wearing bikini bottoms. Campiest is the badly-acted scene of the painter convincing two models to pose for him (or so the narrator says––there are no sound clips here). Pretty much what you’d expect, though it is fairly campy.

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

Modern Guide to Health (film #6 on National Archives). [Category: Public Service]

Delightful British animated film from the 40s designed to teach basic health concepts, such as good posture, the value of exercise, and how to get a good night’s sleep. They make full use of animation here to illustrate and personify good and bad habits. I especially like the hallucinations the woman who can’t sleep has. I love this kind of cute public service film.

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

The Ex-Convict (film #19 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume One: The Films of Thomas Edison (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

A sentimental tale, told in eight installments, of an ex-con who can't find a job but who is really a nice guy at heart, as evidenced by his selfless rescue of a little girl from being run over by a car. Finally, desperate to get some money to support his wife and sick little girl (tears jerked yet?), he resorts to burglary. By an incredible coincidence, he breaks into the house of the little girl he saved from being run down, and before the man of the house can shoot the ex-con, the little girl recognizes him as the man who saved her life. Virtue is rewarded, and the little girl's family shows up at the ex-con's house with money for the sick girl's medical treatment. This is the kind of silent melodrama that created the stereotypes of same. A 1904 Edison film.

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

Argument Miss Mary Ann Gets Into with One of the Kids About Guns (film #4 in the Romper Room section of TVParty). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Priceless clip from a 70s episode of “Romper Room” in which one of the little kids asserts that he’s not afraid of anything as long as he’s carrying a gun. Miss Mary Ann, the host, is shocked by this and starts arguing with him about gun safety. This is memorable, to say the least, and just shows the sort of unscripted weirdness you sometimes find on live TV. Considering that few “Romper Room” episodes were preserved at all, this is a real find.

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

Farmers Aim to Break Picket Line (film #183 on Universal Newsreels). [Category: News]

Newsreel story from the 30s about farmers in Iowa striking for higher prices, while an anti-strike group breaks their picket line to send farm products to market, and rail lines and bridges that were destroyed by the strikers are repaired. Another example of frightening social unrest during the 30s. Lots of historical value here.

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

At Japan’s Doorstep: Okinawa (film #2 on Side B of Disc #2 of the War in the Pacific section of Combat Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2006)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This documentary goes over the US invasion and takeover of the island of Okinawa during 1945. Lots of gritty combat footage is featured. Also covered are the death of President Roosevelt, and the Japanese kamikaze attacks on US ships. There are no real surprises here, but there’s lots of interesting archival footage to look at, giving the film historical value.

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

Fires Miscellaneous 2 (film #1397 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This 40s firefighting film features footage of an assortment of fires, mostly in tenements, revealing what firetraps those were. One fire shown was at the Pleasant Waste Materials Company, a memorable name if ever there was one. Other than that, this is typical firefighting stuff, ending inexplicably with footage of fire burning in a rectangular pan.

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

Going Home (film #13 on The Complete Uncensored Private SNAFU DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

Private SNAFU goes home on leave and blabs confidential information about his outfit to everybody who will listen, resulting in his outfit being wiped out. This is a really cleverly-done cartoon. Every time SNAFU shoots his mouth off, his words are transformed from private conversation into some form of public broadcasting. For example, his conversation in a movie theater about a secret weapon turns into on-screen newsreel footage of the weapon in all its particulars, a conversation with his girl behind the bushes in the park gets flashed on a neon sign, and a conversation in a barber shop is skywritten with an airplane. I love this concept, especially the newsreel footage (fake ephemera-within-ephemera?) and the neon sign. Ironically enough, this cartoon was never released because the "secret weapon" portrayed was too similar to the atomic bomb, a real secret weapon at the time.

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

Chick and Double Chick (film #11 on Disc #3 of TV Cartoon Classics DVD Boxed Set (Platinum Disc, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]

Little Lulu and her dog must protect a bunch of chicks from a hungry cat, lest her father get rid of the dog. This is really a very ordinary cartoon, which doesn’t even make much use of the character and usual antics of Little Lulu. It’s an example of what happens when a particular cartoon franchise winds down, resulting in cartoons that are generic.

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

Carriers Leaving Building, U.S.P.O., Version 1 (film #30 on America at Work, America at Leisure. Also in the Historical section of Open Video Project). [Category: Early Film & TV]

A whole bunch of mailmen dressed in suits leave the post office. A few get on bicycles, but most are on foot. This has historical interest, but it’s not much. A 1903 Biograph film.

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

The Black Devil Trailer (extra on Starman, Vol. 1 DVD (Something Weird, 2002)). [Category: Commercial]

This trailer is basically for a dubbed Zorro ripoff. A masked swordsman beats off enemies, while we hear hyperbolic narration on the soundtrack. This is mildly campy because of its cheesiness, but mostly it’s pretty much what you’d expect.

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

The Brain on Drugs (film #3 in the Hippies section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

Op-art animations attempt to simulate a hallucinogenic drug trip. This is mildly trippy, but I’ve seen better. Also, it’s silent footage––some psychedelic music on the soundtrack would have really added to it.

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

Mr. Finley’s Feelings (film #7 on Angry Night DVD (A/V Geeks). Also, film #29 on AV Geeks). [Category: Public Service]

Mr. Finley has an anger-management problem. He gets ticked off at his boss after being given a last-minute assignment to be completed at home. He gets even more steamed when he realizes he’ll have to miss his poker game to get it done. At home, he builds towards the boiling point when family members disturb his work. Finally, he storms off in a paranoid rampage, believing everybody’s against him, and ends up in jail on a reckless driving charge. His friend George visits him and helps him to see that he has a distorted view of other people, interpreting innocuous statements and acts as signs that people are against him. He is surprised to find out that most people think well of him, and are not even angry at him for the drunk driving charge, just concerned. This starts him on the road of change. This animated mental hygiene film is one of the more realistic and sympathetic I’ve seen. The ending is somewhat pat, but at least there is some acknowledgement that change will take time and effort. And the visuals are wonderfully creative, especially the scene of Mr. Finley’s driving rampage, which is a surreal 3-D montage of city streets, signs, and traffic lights. This is one of the more impressive films of the mental hygiene genre.

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

Arena (film #3 in the Miscellaneous section of TVArk). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Opening credits of a 1975 British documentary show, featuring a bottle floating in water and soundtrack music from Brian Eno’s Another Green World. Mildly weird, but mostly leaves you scratching your head.

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

Health Wheel (film #3 in the Makeovers, Diets & Fitness section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Hollywood]

Forget Pilates––check out the latest exercise fad of the 20s: the Health Wheel! This footage from a British newsreel shows us crazy folks from “the continent” rolling around inside of giant wheels that look like they’re made of tubular metal. Actually, this footage is quite striking, and when you consider that Futurism was also all the rage in Europe during the 20s, you almost feel as if people have finally become machine parts. It does look like fun, though.

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 ...