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Showing posts from October 8, 2006
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American Army Women Serving on All Fronts (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This WWII newsreel shows American women getting planes ready for battle and WACs arriving in Australia. This has some great scenes of women doing all kinds of “men’s work,” documenting their important role in the war effort. Also included are stories about the 5000th flying fortress being built at Boeing and covered with workers’ signatures, the United Newsreel cameraman preparing to document the invasion of Europe, an Italian-American pilot who was decorated for bravery returning to his family in Ohio, and extended footage of the Allied drive north through Italy. This newsreel packs a lot of WWII history into its short length.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Flexible Cellar Pipe (downloaded from Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]This firefighting film from the 30s demonstrates a new kind of hose with an adjustable nozzle that bends in various ways. The firemen demonstrate it gleefully and then we get to see it demonstrated squirting water in an endless series of tests. This should interest firefighters way more than other viewers, though the delight the firemen display with the adjustable nozzle is mildly amusing.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Anti-Superstition Society (downloaded from the Featured Clip Archive of WPA Film Library). [Category: Hollywood]Silly newsreel story about the Anti-Superstition Society of Chicago defying Friday the 13th by breaking a mirror and awarding John Glenn, the astronaut of the 13th space capsule, a watch that has only 13s on its face. A fun little pocket of weirdness from the early 60s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Country Goes to the Big City and Learns About Alcohol (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: Educational]Bill is a country boy, but in case that isn’t obvious, he’s dressed in overalls and a straw hat, and the first time you see him, he’s fishing with a homemade pole, just like in countless sentimental illustrations from the 19th century. But Bill lives in the 20th century, so he decides that since he’s 14 already (though from the looks of things, puberty is still a ways down the road for him) he ought to go find out for himself what the gol darned fuss is about the Big City. Along the way, he meets a wino who introduces himself as Mr. Whiskey, complete with whiskey label on his shirt. That’s right, a supernatural visitor, as well as a Mr. Product, that’s a wino––I guess somebody had to do it. Together, they take a bizarre trip on foot to the city, with Bill pointing out various stock footage clips that represent careers he might like to pursue, while Mr. Whiskey puts the kibosh o…
The Hut-Sut Song (downloaded from Prelinger Archive). [Category: Hollywood]Four guys in a rooming house sing “The Hut-Sut Song” so repeatedly and annoyingly that the other boarders sensibly have them carted away to the loony bin. But since when has music been sensible? Is that the head psychiatrists and the orderlies I see singing “The Hut-Sut Song”? This soundie is essential.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
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Charge of Boer Cavalry No. 2 (downloaded from Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]Another sword-waving cavalry charge, and this time it looks like the cameraman almost got run over, though the illusion is ruined by having the horses stop and mill around right in front of the camera, and by the one straggler who gets halfway there and just gives up. Doesn’t make the Boers look too good, frankly. A 1900 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Blood Freak Trailer (extra on Blood Freak DVD (Something Weird, 2002)). [Category: Commercial]This trailer for the gore movie Blood Freak has some genuinely disturbing images in it, but it is undercut by the fact that the killer is a guy in a lame chicken mask. Also, the gore ranges from realistic and stomach-turning to laughably bad, such as at one point where the blood looks like hot pink paint. Some of the scenes make the movie seem just above the level of Monster Kid Home Movies, though with much more disturbing content. Laughable and sick, which is a strange combination.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
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The Beatles on Hollywood Palace (downloaded from Bedazzled). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]No, this is not a live performance––you wouldn’t have been able to hear ‘em over the screams. Instead, the Beatles showed two short promo films for their latest songs, “Penny Lane,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” These are basically music videos before there were music videos, and they’re mildly trippy and psychedelic. As usual, the host doesn’t know how to respond to them, though the girls in the audience do. A blast from the 60s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Children in the City (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: Public Service]This 1970 film documents a federal initiative to fund recreational programs for inner-city children, showing how the money was spent in various cities. The funded programs included camperships for low-income children to go to summer camp, field trips, longer swimming pool hours, schools staying open during the summer to provide recreational activities, arts and crafts programs, athletic programs, and portable recreation vans to bring various forms of recreation, including dances and swimming pools (yes, portable swimming pools) to different impoverished areas of cities. These all look like laudable programs, and one wonders if they continue today. The film is pretty straightforward, with few surprises, though it does have a very bad folk music theme song (and I love folk music).
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Atomic Vignettes (downloaded from Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]Amusing short montage film in which clips from various 50s social guidance films are combined with civil defense footage in ways that give new meanings to the clips. Most amusing is a scene where the nice young man from Are You Popular? is made to ask an emergency mechanic for a date. This is the sort of thing I like to see being done with Prelinger Archive footage.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
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The Dream That Wouldn’t Down (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: News]This NASA film is a documentary about the life of Robert Goddard, the pioneering rocket researcher without whose work the space race wouldn’t have been possible. The film contains lots of archival footage of Goddard’s experiments, and was mostly narrated by Goddard’s wife, who seems to be a very intelligent woman. Still, the film ends up rather dry and tedious, which is a pity, because Goddard is such an important figure in the history of aeronautics and space travel. Part of the problem is that this was digitized in such a way that you can hardly hear the soundtrack, but still, I wish this had been a little livelier.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Discovery (available in the 1960s section of the ITV section of the Schools TV section of TVArk). [Category: Educational]Now this is sex education! This clip from an early 60s British educational TV show features a clipped British narrator and a huge electronic model of a sperm cell that the guy on the program spent a lot of time and effort to make. It’s really cool, actually, and I disagree with the writer on the website who says it was fortunate that computer graphics replaced this sort of thing. Of course, this is definitely an item for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
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Allies Win Myitkyina Airstrip (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: Military & Propaganda]WWII newsreel that documents the taking of an important Burmese airstrip by the Allies. Also included are stories on US servicewomen touring Egypt after active duty, fighting in Normandy (including some scenes of shells with messages written on them, such as “Happy 4th, Adolph”, and the taking of Saipan. This is a very ordinary wartime newsreel, but it has historical value.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Falling Wall ["Demolition d'un Mur"] (film #3 on The Movies Begin, Volume Two: The European Pioneers (Kino Video, 1994). Also, film #6 on Pioneers of the French Cinema (Hollywood's Attic, 1996)). [Category: Early Film & TV]A construction crew knocks down the wall of a house they're demolishing. The narrator on The Movies Begin tells us that exhibitors used to run the film backwards on this one, causing the wall to "rebuild" itself, which delighted audiences of the time. Hey, what did they have back then, RKOs? An 1895 Lumiere film. The version on The Movies Begin is in much better shape than the one on Pioneers of the French Cinema, plus it includes the backwards version!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Electric Car (downloaded from the Featured Clip Archive of WPA Film Library). [Category: Industrial]British newsreel story from the 60s about electric cars, showing two different models and predicting they’ll be all over the place before long. Alas, it was not to be. The cars are cute, though, and so is the car model being used as a paperweight on the car designer’s desk.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
La Cucaracha (film #7 on Side A of Disc #1 of Comedy Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004)). [Category: Hollywood]This Hollywood-made short tells the story of a Mexican romantic couple who just barely get along, but do a smokin’ hat dance together. The woman is in a snit because a big theatrical promoter is threatening to take lover-boy away, but her attempts to prevent this end up making her a part of the show as well. This is only mildly amusing, but the costumes and dancing are pretty good.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Bike (available on A/V Geeks). [Category: Educational]A boy covets his neighbor’s bike. After the neighbor family goes away from home, leaving the bike in the yard, another kid comes over and convinces the first kid to “borrow” the bike for a ride. Later, the second kid breaks the bike in a minor accident and both kids agonize over what to do, while blaming each other. This is a well made and realistic film that simply shows the two kids dealing with the situation in kid fashion. It ends unresolved, probably to spark discussion. Assuming such discussion took place, this was probably one of the more effective “conduct” films out there.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Charge of Boer Cavalry No. 1 (downloaded from Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]A bunch of cavalrymen wielding swords charge toward us at top speed, but fortunately slow down before they run us over. A demonstration of turn-of-the-century military might. A 1900 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Blood Feast Trailer (extra on Blood Feast DVD (Something Weird, 2000). Also, extra on Blood Freak DVD (Something Weird, 2002)). [Category: Commercial]If you are shocked and disturbed by viewing red paint and fake body parts, then don’t watch this trailer for the Herschel Gordon Lewis gore flick Blood Feast. Actually, considering how cheap and amateurish Lewis’ films usually are, this trailer is surprisingly well made, though gory as all get-out. The opening warning is mildly campy, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Hollywood Victory Caravan (film #6 on World War II Remembered (Diamond Entertainment, 1995)). [Category: Military & Propaganda]The first five sections of World War II Remembered are standard documentaries of various World War II subjects, but the last section, entitled "Hollywood Goes to War", is a collection of wartime propaganda ephemera featuring celebrities. It starts with this short bond drive film, in which a young L.A., woman who desperately wants to see her wounded G.I. brother in an army hospital in Washington D.C., but who can't get a seat on a train going there, sneaks into Paramount studios to try to talk Bing Crosby into letting her hitch a ride on the Hollywood Victory Caravan train taking movie stars to a big bond rally in Washington. Once in the studio, she gets chased by a cranky security guard just like the one in the Porky Pig cartoon You Ought to Be in Pictures and meets lots of movie stars, all of whom are incredibly nice and anxious to help her…
Andy Warhol and Sonny Liston for Braniff Airlines (available on Bedazzled). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]Sonny has that deer-in-the-headlights look as Warhol babbles on about soup cans in this weird commercial. That one facial expression is worth the whole commercial.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Boulder Dam (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: Public Service]OK, so you want to know about Boulder Dam? All about Boulder Dam?? With no detail left out? Then this is your movie––35 minutes of non-stop dam construction, narrated in a breathless fashion. OK, folks, this has lots and lots of historical value in documenting the construction of the dam, but there’s only so much dam dam I can take! Include me out of the next dam movie, at least until I’ve seen a few more Mr. Products and supernatural visitors!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Humpty Dumpty (film #8 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 1 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: Hollywood]Humpty Dumpty, Jr. has an adventure of his own as he must defeat the villainous Bad Egg, who has designs on his girlfriend Easter. This eggy melodrama is very cute and funny––I particularly like the concept that when both Humpty and Easter are rescued from boiling water, they end up "hard-boiled". And the egg chorus line is a memorable cartoon image. A good one.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Atomic (downloaded from Open Source Movies). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]This film features a montage of clips from cold war civil defense films, including Duck and Cover, About Fallout, and newsreel footage of the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, while on the soundtrack a slow, soulful gospel song plays. At times, audio from the films plays over the music, which actually works, rather unexpectedly. The film’s simple format works well in conveying its anti-war message. One of the better ephemera montage films I’ve seen.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Debrief: Apollo 8 (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: News]This NASA film documents the Apollo 8 mission in a less technical and more lyrical form than usual. Burgess Meredith narrates footage from the mission by attempting to grasp a deeper meaning, interspersing his own thoughts (OK, the thoughts of the writers) with quotes from thinkers in a bunch of different disciplines. This ranges from pretty hokey to genuinely touching. The film does give you an idea of the sense of wonder the Apollo missions generated in people during the 60s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
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Allied Patrol in Action on Anzio Beach (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: Military & Propaganda]This WWII-era newsreel documents the Allied victory on Anzio Beach after D-Day. Also included are stories on a State Department official’s visit to London, women in the armed services showing off their new uniforms (this is presented like a fashion show), a baby beauty contest among servicemen’s kids (good baby boom footage here), new kinds of snow plows clearing roads in the northwest, a Peruvian admiral being honored at Anapolis, a 7-to-1 win in the Kentucky Derby, and an Australian water carnival. This is a great slice of life from the war years.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
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Discipline During Adolescence (downloaded from Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]This is sort of a Centron “discussion film” for parents (though it was not made by Centron). Steve’s parents are worried about him because he’s been staying out late every night, neglecting his schoolwork, and generally having a bad attitude about things. Steve’s mom, amazingly enough, wants to deal with this by ignoring it, because this tactic worked with the teenaged son of one of her friends. Steve’s dad is all for punishment, but he decides to try it Mom’s way after she talks him into it. Unfortunately, Steve’s behavior just gets worse, so Dad steps in and lays down the law, grounding Steve for a week and cutting off his allowance. This means Steve can’t take his girlfriend to the big school dance, an end-of-the-world outcome for a 50s teen. So, while the narrator asks us what we think about Steve’s parents, we see Steve looking at the want ads, obviously in preparation for leaving home. Stev…