Delegating Work (available on You Tube). [Category: Industrial]

Joe, a factory foreman, has a problem. He micromanages all his subordinates and has no sense of priorities, to boot. Then he wonders why his subordinates are overly dependent and undependable, and why nothing important ever seems to get done. This is another one of those Calvin discussion films that ends unresolved. It’s somewhat less campy, but more believable than the others in the series. One hopes that foremen like Joe eventually got a clue from watching this film.

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

A Coy Decoy (film #2 on Cartoon Explosion, Vol. 1: The Henpecked Duck/Popeye & Olive Oyl DVD (Front Row Entertainment, 2000)). [Category: Hollywood]

This is one of those Warner’s toons that takes place in a bookstore after hours, only instead of featuring random characters from the books, it features a plot that involves Daffy battling a wolf that tricks him with a wind-up female duck decoy (who, of course, Daffy immediately falls in love with and courts using his best Charles Boyer impersonation). This is not quite as weird as some of the other of the Warner’s bookstore toons, but it’s funny all the same. The politically sensitive will want to watch for an outrageous racist caricature gag near the beginning of the cartoon that was, no doubt, cut for all the prints licensed to TV. The ending charts new horizons in genetic engineering.

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

Are You Listening? (available on You Tube). [Category: Educational]

An elementary school teacher has trouble getting her kids to “listen and follow directions” (i.e. obey her every command), so she uses her talents in the black arts to turn them into hideous mutant giant ears, while turning herself into an even more hideous mutant giant mouth. Then, if that’s not bad enough, she actually takes the kids out into public in this condition! She tries to teach them the safety rules for crossing the street, totally oblivious to the fact that the kids can’t see, being giant ears. She does eventually change them back at the end and rewards them with ice cream for being cooperative little mutants, which almost makes up for it, but still. I bet this film scared more than a few kids into listening to their teacher!

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

Champs Elysses (downloaded from Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Many horse-drawn vehicles go down the Paris thoroughfare. This has historical value in capturing a scene from before the takeover of the automobile. I especially like the double-decker trolleys. A 1900 Edison film.

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

The Blood Drinkers Trailer (extra on Beast of Blood DVD (Image Entertainment, 2002. Also, extra on Brain of Blood DVD (Image Entertainment, 2002)). [Category: Commercial]

Campy trailer for what looks to be a very cheap Mexican horror flick. The font used in the titles is cool and, of course, bright red. Fans of cheap horror should like this.

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

Faithful (track #2 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume 4: The Arrival of D. W. Griffith (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

A rich fellow hits a retarded man with his car, nearly missing running him over. To make up for it, he gives the man money and buys him a new suit of clothes, unaware that he is making a new friend for life. The retarded man, called "Faithful", begins following him around like a puppy dog, causing the rich fellow much grief. After a number of comic mishaps, Faithful redeems himself by saving the rich man's fiancee from a burning building. A mildly funny early comedy. A nice view of Hollywood as it was in 1910 can be seen during a chase scene in the Hollywood Hills. A 1910 D. W. Griffith film.

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

Communal Living (downloaded from the Hippies section of WPA Film Library). [Category: Sleaze & Ousider]

Clip from a 60s documentary about communes, where they are predicted to be the wave of the future. Well, it’s the future now, and it didn’t seem to come true in any big way, but bits and pieces of it did, such as diminishing sex roles and organic food. This clip has some great footage of hippies engaging in communal life, giving it historical value.

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

Alabama Highlands (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: Public Service]

This 30s film profiles the state parks near Birmingham, Alabama and shows the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in improving them. Although there’s nothing truly surprising about this film, it’s very enjoyable to watch because there are many interesting visual moments, both in terms on scenery and in terms of seeing lots of things you’re not likely to see today. In fact, this film goes way off of the historical interest scale, because it’s just so 30s. You really get a sense of the time period from this film. I especially love the title cards with their 30s graphic design. If you’re researching Alabama during the 30s, or the CCC, then this is definitely the film to watch. Also, it’s just plain well made and visually interesting.

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

Hollywood Canteen excerpt (film #9 on World War II Remembered (Diamond Entertainment, 1995)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

An excerpt from a short film about the Hollywood Canteen, a social hall in Hollywood run by the movie industry for service members. Anybody in uniform was admitted free to the canteen, which was usually packed to the gills with Hollywood stars volunteering their time. Dinah Shore narrates the film, which seems to be a filmed tour of the canteen, giving the G.I.s who couldn't make it a little taste of what they were missing. An interesting historical record of something that probably couldn't exist today, war or no war.

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

Aim for the Head (available on You Tube). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This bit of altered ephemera combines footage from Night of the Living Dead with footage from 3 Stooges shorts to make an instructional film on how to survive a zombie attack. Mainly this involves showing the Stooges’ various pratfalls as strategies for battling zombies. This is actually funnier than it sounds, since the title cards that drive the film are genuinely amusing. The overall premise is quite amusing and that helps.

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

America in Space: The First Decade (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: News]

This NASA film from the late 60s documents and celebrates the first decade of NASA accomplishments, including unmanned space exploration, the building and launching of satellites for many purposes, aeronautic breakthroughs, and the research leading up to putting a man on the moon. It does this with very annoying narration that constantly talks about Man and His achievements in space. Other than that, it’s a pretty interesting film, with lots of striking images of space technology. Especially striking is a mildly trippy sequence showing the wide array of jobs involved in manned space flight, consisting of brief clips of all kinds of jobs, with only the sounds of the work on the soundtrack. There’s also an interesting sequence on NASA’s failures, including a bizarre-looking craft that fails in the air and crashes, and a rocket that blows up spectacularly. The film has historical interest in documenting how NASA viewed itself just before Apollo 11. All in all, this is an interesting film that’s fun to watch, though I do wish they would get off of this “Man” kick after awhile.

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

House Cleaning Blues (film #16 on Cartoon Crazys: Sci-Fi (WinStar Home Entertainment, 1999). Also available for download on Film Chest Vintage Cartoons). [Category: Hollywood]

Betty Boop has those house cleaining blues, so she calls on Grampy to help with his amazing inventions, and the housework is done in no time. Oh, if housework was only this much fun, the world would be a better place. Also, I want an in-dash soda fountain, like Grampy has in his car.

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

Allied Drive on in Italy – Planes Smash Foe in Air (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This WWII-era newsreel documents Allied progress in Italy, with lots of shoot ‘em up combat footage. Also included are stories on the making of a new transcontinental air speed record by an Air Force pilot, 1300 cadet nurses being sworn in, new army divisions winning medals, crop dusting, and the Allied taking of Hollandia in New Guinea. No surprises here, but there are some striking images of combat and a fair degree of historical interest.

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

Coal Miner (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: Industrial]

This late-70s film, made by Bethlehem Steel, gives a profile of coal mining as a career. It shows a particular coal miner at home, at work, and in the community, letting him speak in his own voice about how he feels about his job, and about being a coal miner. Mostly, it’s very positive feelings about following in his father’s footsteps, making a good living and providing for his family. Later in the film, his fellow miners also talk about their experiences with mining, and again, it’s mostly very positive. Unions are not mentioned, risks are downplayed, and miners are shown living comfortably with their families in nice houses, implying good wages. Of course, this is what you’d expect by a film made by the Company. Still, the miners speak in their own words, and you get a feeling of sincerity from them, which makes the film at least somewhat believable and very interesting to watch. Most surprising is a scene of the miners cleaning up after work in a gang shower and engaging in very mild horseplay. The whole film seems pretty sanitized, yet enough sincerity comes through to make it an interesting portrayal of the life of coal miners during the late 70s.

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

Dinner Party (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #430 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

Stiff, stilted manners film from the 40s featuring teens having a dull, lifeless dinner party, and the narrator reading their thoughts, most of which consist of worries that they are not doing everything absolutely 100% correct. The constant implication is that any manners gaffes, no matter how small, have the potential to totally ruin such a party, even though the narrator takes pains to deny this. Other implied contradictions include the narrator repeatedly asserting that the rules of etiquette have logical reasons behind them while never even once giving such a logical reason and further implying that even logical behaviors are forbidden if they’re not “correct”, and the assertion that being perfect in one’s manners increases enjoyment for everyone despite the fact that the both the hosts and the guests of the party are constantly worrying about whether they are doing things right or not. Simmel-Messervey seemed to have a talent for producing “manners” films that exposed the dark side of 40s and 50s middle-class conformity. Their masterpiece in this is A Date with Your Family. This film shows that even outside of the family, the straightjacket of conformity was tightly bound.

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

La Bamba (downloaded from Bedazzled). [Category: Hollywood]

No, this is not Richie Valens, but a Mexican Scopitone that does the song in a more traditional fashion, with a female singer and two mariachi guitarists. No real surprises here, but this is lively and fun.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. 0verall Rating: ***.

And Then It Happened (downloaded from Google Video. Also available on You Tube). [Category: Educational]

We’ve come a long way from the 50s, kids. By the 70s, educational filmmakers had abandoned the “we just love being safe and following the rules” approach to safety films in favor of the scare approach. So this school bus safety film for junior high kids was based on the driver’s ed scare model, though perhaps not quite as gory. It tells the stories of two different bus accident caused by kids acting up on the bus. The kids are very realistic and extremely obnoxious, requiring the drivers to stop every few minutes to put out cigarettes, remove dogs, stop fights, and, in one case, to summon police to take a sick kid who had been popping pills to the hospital. You’re surprised that enough driving takes place to cause an accident, but the accidents eventually happen when the kids’ behavior becomes even worse. These dramatizations are portrayed with little narration, and the inevitable accidents are shown in lurid slow-motion. I suppose, if anything, this film prepared its junior high audience for the gory scare films they would later see in driver’s ed class in high school. This also qualifies as a scare film for anybody who was in junior high during the 70s, as it’s bound to bring back unpleasant traumatic flashbacks. And like watching most accidents, it’s extremely unpleasant, but you can’t tear yourself away.

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

Champs de Mars (film #59 on Edison Film Archive. Also, film #4 on The Mechanized Eye disc of Unseen Cinema DVD Boxed Set (Image Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

A whole lot of nicely-dressed turn-of-the-century people walk down a Paris street, and Edison’s camera captures them in a panoramic sweep. This is a great snapshot of a particular place at a particular time. A 1900 Edison film.

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

Blood Bath Trailer (extra on Monster-a-Go-Go/Psyched by the 4-D Witch DVD (Something Weird, 2002)). [Category: Commercial]

Campy, lurid trailer for the 60s AIP horror flick Blood Bath, featuring a deranged artist/serial killer. What does it say about our culture that we seem to equate the artistic temperament with homicidal mania? Or maybe it’s just an AIP thing. At any rate, this trailer is mildly campy, but not very surprising.

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

Factory on Film (track #4 on Who Built America? CD-ROM (Voyager, 1993). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This excerpt from one of the first industrial films shows us the Westinghouse Air Brake & Electric Motor Company's huge Pennsylvania plant. Huge motor parts predominate as well as turn-of-the-century female factory workers. An interesting brief glimpse into the Industrial Revolution. A 1904 Billy Bitzer film.

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

Better Reading

Better Reading . Teenager Harold Wilson has a problem—he can’t read for (expletive deleted). So he has to spend all his free time studying ...