Atomic Test (downloaded from Open Source Movies). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This is actually clips from two different films: Excavating with Nuclear Explosives and Plowshare. We see a number of underground explosions as narrators tell us about plans to use nukes for excavating purposes. This is a scary concept––I hate to think of what the radiation would do to the soil. This is pretty short, but it has some interesting-looking explosions on it.

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

Food for America (available for download from Open Video Project. Also available for download from Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This 50s film tells you way more than you want to know about the Beatrice Foods Company, using one of the hokiest framing devices ever. Mrs. Hargraves, an excessively polite housewife, is assigned by her church women’s group to do a paper on the food industry. Obviously she’s seen and taken to heart the film How to Prepare a Class Report, because she gets the idea off of a milk bottle to visit the local Meadow Gold plant and then immerses herself in a truly obsessive research project, by using her family’s vacation to visit darn near every Beatrice foods plant in the country. At every plant, including corporate headquarters, she is warmly welcomed by the man in charge, and they exchange very stilted conversation about the company after she goes on the standard factory tours. The factory tour footage is pretty interesting, there are some fun scenes of 50s food packages, and, of course, I enjoyed the ice cream plant footage a lot. But boy, does this film go on and on. They even give a detailed explanation of company finances, which probably interested the firm’s stockholders but nobody else. And the film’s creaky organ soundtrack and stilted acting lend an amateurish air to the proceedings that makes you yearn for Jam Handy after awhile. Still, this is a prime example of the company profile film, giving it historical interest, as well as the occasional campy moment.

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

Disputes and Rules (film #4 on Campy Classroom Classics, Vol. 4 DVD (Something Weird, 2004)). [Category: Educational]

This Coronet film aimed at grade-schoolers goes over different ways to settle disputes, including compromising, following rules, getting the facts, and voting. These ideas actually have some merit, making this one of the more reasonable and believable Coronet social guidance films. I particularly like the way the film explains that many rules are designed to help avoid disputes, which is a better reason for following rules than put forth by many social guidance films. The kids’ performances are charmingly dorky and stilted, true to Coronet form. The film does have one rather strange aspect: all the outdoor scenes have no synchronized sound, with the narrator telling us what the kids are arguing about, while the indoor scenes allow the kids to talk for themselves. Perhaps there was a technical reason for this, but it comes off looking like they were reluctant to let us hear the kids’ outdoor arguments. All in all, though, this is one of the more charming and believable Coronet films.

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

Customers Wanted (available for download on Feature Films. Also, film #44 on 50 Cartoon Classics DVD. Also, film #9 on Disc #1 of 100 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Treeline Films, 2004). Also, film #9 on Disc #4 of 150 Cartoon Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2005)). [Category: Hollywood]

Popeye and Bluto operate competing penny arcades and get into a fight over a customer, who just happens to be Wimpy. This gives them the opportunity to show scenes from previous Popeye cartoons on their respective nickelodeons. Naturally, the winner of this competition turns out to be Wimpy. I tend to find cartoons that cannibalize previous ones in the series to be a bit of a rip-off, but this one is pretty fun all the same, featuring as it does some great penny arcade devices, as well as a great ending. Not one of the best Popeyes, but not bad for a retrospective cartoon.

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

Courtesy at School (available on A/V Geeks. Also available for download from Google Video. Also available on You Tube). [Category: Educational]

Jerry is so hepped up about being the first one on the baseball field that he thoughtlessly knocks the books out of a girl’s hand’s as he brushes by her, and then breaks up a marble game by running through it. Fortunately, though, Jerry’s class is learning about courtesy that day. After getting a rundown on all kinds of rules to follow at school in order to make everyone’s life easier, Jerry reforms and makes himself a bunch of picture signs to remind himself to be courteous. This Cornonet film tells its story entirely through narration, making it less lively than the usual Cornonet fare. Other than a brief scene of a really strange puppet show (no Mr. Bungle, though), this is pretty ordinary.

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

Charity Ball (downloaded from American Variety Stage. Also available on Edison Film Archive). [Category: Early Film & TV]

An attractive couple do a rather athletic ballroom dance for our entertainment. That’s it, but it gives you an idea of what wowed ‘em in 1897. An 1897 Edison film.

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

Blood of Dracula Trailer (available for download on Bedazzled. Also, extra on Track of the Vampire/Nightmare Castle DVD (Madacy Entertainment)). [Category: Commercial]

Mildly campy trailer for the 50s horror flick Blood of Dracula, featuring evil women, black magic, teens, and silly title cards, such as the assertion that “You Will Have Nightmares for a Week!” There’s some mild fun here, but I’ve seen better.

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

Bend Me, Shape Me (downloaded from Bedazzled). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

One-hit wonders The American Breed sing, or rather lip-synch, their one hit, “Bend Me, Shape Me,” in this TV clip. The drummer looks like he’s having way too much fun back there. This will bring back those 60s TV-watching memories.

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

Fat and Lean Wrestling Match (film #15 on Melies the Magician DVD (Facets Video, 2001)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

Now this is what I call wrestling! Really, wouldn't the sport be a lot more interesting if it allowed such things as women turning into men, blasting your opponent to pieces and putting him back together again, or fat guys falling on skinny guys and flattening them as if they had been run over by steamrollers? One of the silliest, and therefore greatest, sports movies ever. A 1900 Melies film.

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

Cradle of the Father of Waters (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: Public Service]

This 30s Department of the Interior film profiles the state parks in northeastern Minnesota, particularly Lake Itasca State Park, which contains the headwaters of the Mississippi river. Scenes from their annual pageant are shown, which celebrates the history of the area. Native Americans are very much a part of this story, and their portrayal in the film is somewhat more sympathetic and enlightened than you usually find in 30s films, though not perfect. The film also reports on the improvement projects being done by the CCC. This is a historically interesting film, documenting as it does the development of state parks during the 30s, and it has some interesting scenic and historical images in it.

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

Attack of the Evil Robotic Turkey from Outer Space (available on Brickfilms). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

This silly brickfilm features an evil William Shatner, who builds and unleashes a giant robotic turkey to take over the world. Fortunately, a cowboy hero saves the day with a rolled-up newspaper. The voice acting of Shatner is very bad, but that’s appropriate somehow. The best thing about the film is the variety of amusing things in the background, such as the zombie brickfilm the hero was watching when interrupted to battle the turkey, or the “Josef Stalin for Mayor” sign.

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

Earth Resources Technology Satellite (downloaded from Google Video). [Category: News]

This early-70s NASA film profiles the Earth Resources Technology Satellite, a satellite designed to produce detailed photos of the earth from space. These photos turned out to be very useful for a number of purposes, including charting land use, tracking environmental changes, predicting weather, and establishing geographical boundaries. The uses being discovered are profiled in detail, which makes the film rather dry after a bit, but the images themselves are very striking and beautiful, and that makes things a bit more interesting. The film is also very 70s, with 70s clothing and hairstyles aplenty, plus lots of scenes of antiquated computer technology, which was state-of-the-art at the time.

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

The Home Front (available on A/V Geeks. Also available for download on AV Geeks. Also, film #8 on The Complete Uncensored Private SNAFU DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999). Also available on You Tube.) [Category: Military & Propaganda]

SNAFU, stuck in a frozen wasteland, starts complaining that everybody at home has it soft: "They don't even know there's a war on!" Technical Fairy First Class brings out a televisor that shows him just how soft the folks at home have it: Dad builds tanks, Mom plants a Victory Garden, Grandpa welds ships, and his girl has joined the WAC! This is a fairly typical SNAFU with a few good gags and a really weird moment of a horse spreading his own manure on Mom's Victory Garden.

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 ...