Posts

Showing posts from 2007
Abbott & Costello TV Cartoon Intro (available for viewing on You Tube). OK, folks, time to play Guess the Decade. This is an intro from an Abbott & Costello cartoon show. It features an animated Lou Costello running around yelling “Hey Abbott!!!!” It also features a James-Bond-like jazz soundtrack. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! The 60s is correct! Not that this was at all difficult to guess. I totally don’t remember this cartoon, and I was a kid during the 60s. That only makes this more fun to me, because I like obscurities.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Know Your Enemy - Japan (available for viewing in the WWII section of Movieflix. Also, film #2 on disc #1 of Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941 DVD (Madacy Entertainment, 2001). Also, film #1 on Side B of Disc #1 of WWII: The Ultimate Collection DVD Boxed Set (Brentwood Home Video, 2004)). Frank Capra directed this film designed to stir hatred of the Japs in American GIs. Don't get me wrong––there's a fair amount of truth here about the militaristic, fanatical Japanese society that came up with the Tanaka Memorial plan for world conquest and committed horrible atrocities against the Chinese, the Filipinos, and American POWs. But the film goes overboard in trying to get us to believe that every single solitary Japanese citizen is a total warmongering fanatic willing to die rather than experience the disgrace of surrender. They all look alike and think alike, according to this film. Of course, war always seems to require that kind of thinking––otherwise it's hard to go out and k…
Image
49th Star: Alaska Statehood, New Flag, Official (available for download on Universal Newsreels.) This newsreel story shows us President Eisenhower signing the bill that made Alaska a state. Then we get to see flag manufacturer’s wrestle with the problem of making a 49-star flag that looks nice and symmetrical. They come up with a solution, one that would almost immediately become obsolete when Hawaii was granted statehood. I bet those flags sell for a lot on Ebay today.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Lady Lifeguards (available for download on Prelinger Archive. Also available for viewing on You Tube). This newsreel featurette shows us the intensive training female lifeguards received at New York’s Manhattan Beach during the 30s. They were trained in speed and distance swimming, rowing, breaking dangerous holds that drowning victims often subject lifeguards to, and the tedious out-goes-the-bad-air-in-comes-the-good kind of artificial respiration (which the narrator tells us sometimes goes on for hours before the victim is revived). After all this, they are qualified to “assist” the male lifeguards, and must undergo leering “inspections” by the potbellied head lifeguard, while the narrator says such clever things as, “This is a company anybody would love to inspect!” I’m sure they received “assistant” pay as well. The bland sexist assumptions of this film tell us just how far we’ve come in improving our view of women––the narrator seems throughout like he can barely believe that the…
American Day Fete Biggest Patriotic Meeting in History (available for download on Universal Newsreels. Also available for viewing on You Tube). Late 30s newsreel clip showing a huge patriotic rally spurred by the war in Europe. Also featured is a story about a big parade in Atlantic City, and a tribute to George Washington Carver. The soundtrack is very sporadic in this, making it hard to follow, though we do get to hear a bit of Carver’s speech, giving this historical value. And there’s some great scenes of weird balloons in the parade, including a 2-headed cat that has to be seen to be believed.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Empires of Steel (extra on Disc #1 of New York DVD Boxed Set (PBS Home Video, 2004)). This silent Pathe newsreel featurette, sponsored by U.S. Steel, documents the construction of the Empire State Building in great detail. We get to see scores of workers being dwarfed by huge steel beams and working nonchalantly higher and higher in the air as the building goes up. This has lots of historical value, making it an appropriate archival extra for the New York DVD set.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Drug Addiction (available for download on Open Video Project. Also available for download on Prelinger Archive. Also available for viewing on You Tube). This 50s Encyclopedia Britannica anti-drug film is about as campy as I’ve ever seen EB get. It tells the story of Marty, a nice, clean-cut 50s teen who succumbs to peer pressure and tries reefers. Before you know it, he’s a junkie mainlining heroin, and then experiences the inevitable downward spiral of losing his part-time job at the grocery store, worrying his parents, getting snubbed by all the other clean-cut teens, turning to shoplifting and thievery to support his habit, and finally becoming a drug pusher. Eventually he gets arrested for all of this and, after his mother tearfully tells the judge that he’s a “good boy,” gets court-ordered into substance abuse treatment. But after he gets out of rehab, all the nice teens still shun him and he has to contend with pressure from his old junkie pals to start using again. This well-wo…
Bela Lugosi Interview (available for viewing on You Tube). This early 50s clip features Bela Lugosi being interviewed by reporters upon discharge from a state mental hospital, where he had been treated for his heroin addiction. He looks cheerful here, and claims to be “cured” of his addiction. Sadly, what we know now about both addiction and Lugosi tell us that it was not to be. This interview has quite a bit of historical interest for Lugosi fans, as well as being a rare public glimpse (for the time) into a celebrity’s private struggles with addiction.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
About Conception and Contraception (available for viewing on A/V Geeks. Also available for download on Veoh). This 70s sex-ed film, made by the National Film Board of Canada, shows us a male silhouette and a female silhouette, both of which look like they escaped from an optical illusion. They get it on, resulting in the female silhouette getting knocked up. Bummer, eh? Then we are shown various forms of birth control that this couple can use to prevent this from happening again, and the couple helpfully demonstrates all of them in a slow, turgid fashion that makes sex look about as much fun as adding peripherals to your computer. All of this is shown without narration, and to the accompaniment, inexplicably, of calliope music, which ups the weird factor considerably. But who am I to judge the turn-ons of 2-dimensional Canadian silhouettes, eh?
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Adventures of Ellery Queen – The Hanging Acrobat (film #3 on Side A of Disc #1 of Best of TV Detectives DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2007)). This very early TV adaptation of the famous detective just screams early TV, with its cheesy organ soundtrack, its primitive production values, and its sponsorship by Kaiser-Frazier, a make of car that doesn’t exist anymore. Somehow, it’s all appropriate, though, as the plot involves Ellery solving a murder mystery at a cheap, sleazy carnival. The story is pretty ordinary, but this really makes you feel like you bought one of the first TVs in town and will watch anything that’s on, due to its novelty value.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Aim (available for viewing in the TV Commercials 1970-1975 section of TVParty). Dorky 70s commercial for Aim toothpaste, in which a father forgets the toothpaste on a camping trip and asks a neighboring family to borrow theirs. When the mom hands him a tube of Aim, he turns it down, saying his daughter needs to use a fluoride toothpaste, despite the fact that one day of brushing without fluoride will hardly make a difference, and the word “FLUORIDE” is printed in huge letters on the toothpaste tube. Fortunately, the mom sets him straight, and the little girl decides that she likes it. Hey, Mikey! He won’t brush with it, he hates everything!…Sorry, a 70s flashback hit me, and it wasn’t pretty.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Fools of Fate (film #12 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume 4: The Arrival of D. W. Griffith (Video Yesteryear, 1995)). Fools is right. Our hero starts things off by shooting a gun from a standing position in a canoe, so you know he's not exactly Harvard material. Of course, he can't swim, but a bystander rescues him despite what this would do to the gene pool. Little does our hero know, though, that his benefactor has been having an affair with his wife. He eventually finds out the truth when his wife leaves him, leaving behind a "Dear John" letter. He follows his errant spouse to the home of his rival, but when he finds out it is the same guy who saved his life, he goes home and kills himself, and the gene pool is saved. Ah, cruel fate! I guess you could say, though, that it has to be cruel to be kind. A 1909 D. W. Griffith film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Ann and Eve Trailer (extra on The Toy Box/Toys Are Not for Children DVD (Something Weird, 2002)). Lurid, over-the-top, slightly trippy trailer for an X-rated 70s Swedish film featuring two bad girls looking for sexual thrills. This is just what you’d expect, though it gets mildly campy in its over-the-top attempts to draw in the raincoat crowd.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Auto Accident: What to Do Afterward (available for viewing on A/V Geeks. Also available for download on Veoh). This 70s film tells us what to do and what not to do right after a car accident happens. Unlike accident prevention films, the accident shown is a minor fender-bender, rather than a blood and gore fest. The straightforward, dry narration of a situation where emotions usually run high is mildly campy, as is the moment when a sleazy, ambulance-chasing lawyer shows up and tries to drum up some business at the accident site (we are told not to talk to him or sign anything, good advice if ever there was some). Though rather dry overall, this should make good msting fodder under the right circumstances.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Kill or Be Killed (track #1 on Americans in War (NFV, 1990)). War really is hell. This World War II training film will totally convince you of that fact. The main message here is, "The enemy fights dirty, so you've got to fight dirty, too. Here's how." We're introduced to such fine weapons as the sawed-off shotgun, the blackjack, and brass knuckles and shown graphically how to use them. At first, I was incredibly appalled by the message of this film, but then it hit me that it was necessary under the circumstances, which is even more appalling. I consider this film to be the closest thing to real combat. I frankly don't know how soldiers survive it (real combat, not the film) without going insane. I also consider this film to be one of the most historically compelling pieces of ephemera I own. NOTE: This film is not campy in any way. It will disturb you. Not for the faint of heart.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. …
The Abominable Snowman – Location Clips (extra on Disc #2 of Doctor Who – Lost in Time: The Patrick Troughton Years DVD (Warner Bros., 2004)). This is a location film, made in 1967, showing actors and crew members of “Doctor Who” checking out the outdoor location sites for the episode “The Abominable Snowman.” This plays like a silent home movie, with people occasionally mugging for the camera. Probably the most interesting part is seeing the actors playing the Yeti trying on their costumes. A fun little extra with historical interest for "Doctor Who" fans.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
La Paz (available for download on Open Video Project. Also available for download on Prelinger Archive). Standard-issue travelogue on La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. Since this was made by the government, it focuses more on the various cultural groups and on economic development than on touristy things. The stuff about the different cultural groups is pretty interesting, actually, as are the oddities related to La Paz’s extremely high altitude. I would love to get a bunch of those miniature items that the natives are shown selling during a particular festival. Mostly, though, this is pretty ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Drug Abuse: The Chemical Tomb (available for download from Open Video Project. Also available for download from Prelinger Archive. Also available for viewing on You Tube). This 60s anti-drug film would never fly today, as it includes lots of detailed scenes of teenagers using various drugs, enough so it could be accused of teaching drug abuse techniques. Although a law enforcement drug expert and the narrator drone on and on about how terrible drugs are, what we see is kids rolling joints, close-ups of shooting up, and even a scene of gradeschoolers sniffing glue using a washcloth. There is, of course, the obligatory scene of a drug trip, and plenty of footage of 60s kids partying, which should bring back memories for those who were teens during that time. Despite this campiness, the film actually has a sensible message in that it points out that you can hardly change society if you are stoned out of your gourd most of the time. For that particular generation of teens, that probably h…
Flower Fantasies (film #9 on Melies III: The Search for Munchausen (A-1 Video)). And now, for the ladies in the audience, Melies presents some dainty magic tricks involving beautiful women and beautiful blossoms. Rather dull, but it might be better if the print was not so terrible and if the ending wasn't cut off. A Melies film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Keep 'Em Rolling (film #38 on Hey Folks! It's Intermission Time, Vol. 4 (Something Weird). Also, film #16 on V for Victory WWII Cartoons & Shorts Show (Something Weird, 1996)). This is another stirring wartime sing-along film, urging on production workers in the defense plants. Stirring scenes of Industry Creating the Arsenal of Democracy illustrate the song "Keep 'Em Rolling". The one spot of weirdness is the lyric "work your head off, so you can keep your head." Some neat examples of wartime propaganda posters appear during the opening and closing credits.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Knife-Thrower and Children (available for download on Prelinger Archive). Can you spell “child endangerment”? I thought you could. In this newsreel featurette, a mom who’s a circus performer throws knives at her two daughters, ages 5 and 2 1/2. Now I know she’s a skilled performer and the point is that she misses, but don’t scare me like that!
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Image
Florida (available for download on Universal Newsreels). Brief newsreel story about the launching of a communications satellite. A blip from the early space program.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
The Dropout (available for download from Open Video Project. Also, film #4 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 5: Teenage Transgression CD-ROM (Voyager). Also available for download from Prelinger Archive). Robert drops out of high school, finds that he can't get a job, and generally crashes and burns. This film epitomizes the concept of "downward spiral", accompanied by an unsympathetic narrator. The film's one purpose was obviously to scare teens into staying in school, so Robert's future is shown to be essentially hopeless. This would make a good short for a film noir double feature, say Double Indemnity as "A" and Detour as "B". Its abrupt, unresolved ending is a good lead-in to a couple of dark, feature-length noir films.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
British H-Bomb Fired as Debate on Atom Test Ban Rages (available for download on Universal Newsreels. Also available for viewing on You Tube). Britain’s first H-bomb blows up real good, leaving spectacular mushroom clouds in this 50s newsreel. Also included are stories on atrocities in Algeria, helicopters in Washington, DC, farming techniques in Israel, and model airplanes in New York City. Basically, this is a typical 50s Cold War newsreel, but if you want mushroom clouds, this film has ‘em.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
A Florida Enchantment (film #2 on Origins of the Fantasy Feature (The Library of Congress Smithsonian Video, 1995)). Wealthy young heiress Lillian (no relation to Airy Fairy Lillian), while vacationing in Florida, finds some magic seeds which change the gender of whoever eats them. Since she is in a snit over her fiance flirting with other women, she tries a seed and finds it effective––soon she finds herself smoking and flirting with pretty gals like any man. The seed doesn't affect her appearance, only her behavior, though one morning she does wake up with a mustache, which she immediately shaves off (I don't see what the big deal is about that––after all, it's happened to me befo––wait a minute...forget I said anything). She gives her maid a seed as well, which turns the maid into a raving maniac for awhile. Lillian then breaks off her engagement and returns to New York with her now masculine maid. While in New York, she orders men's clothes for herself and her maid…
Collision Rescue (available for viewing on A/V Geeks. Also available for viewing on Veoh). This 70s film shows us a family driving along in a car, when….hey, is that an accident up ahead? Let’s pull up and look at it! Holy cow, what a crack-up! Let’s get a good look at it! OK, folks, this is actually a film for rescue workers on how to get accident victims out of their smashed-up cars, but it feels a bit like you’ve been allowed to rubberneck all you want at an accident scene. It’s actually pretty interesting watching the rescue workers use different tools like the Jaws of Life to further destroy the damaged cars so that the people can be safely taken out of them. The first half of the movie shows the whole process at normal speed, then one of the rescue workers explains the whole process to a curious fireman step-by-step (while, we assume, his co-workers get to deal with stabilizing the victims and getting them ready for the hospital without him). One of the more interesting training…
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (Castle Films) (available for viewing on You Tube). This is sort of a Reader’s Digest Condensed Movie version of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. They managed to trim down an 83 minute movie to a little over 8 minutes, mostly by showing us only the scenes that contain plot development. Unfortunately, you don’t really watch an Abbott & Costello movie for the plot; you watch it for the comedy bits, which are absent here, with the exception of a bit of slapstick schtick during the chase scenes, and the amusing ending, which I wont’ give away. Still, this has some historical interest in showing us what people watched at home on their movie projectors in the days before home video.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Kamikaze (film #1 on disc #1 of Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941 DVD (Madacy Entertainment, 2001). Also available on WWII: The Ultimate Collection DVD Boxed Set (BC!)). This 1951 film documents the U.S. war against Japan in the Pacific, starting with Pearl Harbor and ending with the Kamikaze attacks and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What's fascinating about the film is that it is told from the Japanese perspective and much of the footage is taken from Japanese films, both fiction and nonfiction, of the period. Perhaps most chilling are scenes of Japanese children getting military training and playing elaborate war games. Although this is not a WWII-era film, the Japanese footage gives it ephemera value. And for a 50s film, it's pretty gritty. Not for the faint of heart.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Bicentennial Minute (available for viewing in the Classic TV Blog section of TVParty). I had forgotten all about CBS’s “Bicentennial Minutes” that aired sporadically during the mid 70s, until TVParty posted this one. Jessica Tandy tells a little-known pre-revolution story of the Liberty Tree. This has historical interest both in its content and its documentation of the hoopla surrounding the Bicentennial during the 70s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Junior Rodeo Daredevils (MST3K Episode #407: The Killer Shrews, Also available on The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 2 (Rhino). Also available on The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 7 (Rhino). Also available for viewing on You Tube). This film pretends to have a plot about Old-Timer Billy Slater (he's always referred to that way) organizing a Junior Rodeo to keep kids out of trouble, but it's really just an excuse to show some dull footage of a 4-H rodeo. The kiddie matinee Western feel is slightly campy, though, and the msting is great.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Msting: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Adventures of Champion – The Medicine Man Mystery (film #6 on Side B of Disc #12 of Ultimate TV Westerns DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2007)). Champion the Wonder Horse (really!) and his boy handler, Ricky, come across a medicine show “doctor” who’s a ventriloquist, and his dummy. Unfortunately, they are not the villains; some garden-variety jewel thieves are. This is pretty much standard kiddie Western fare, though it does feature a scene where a bad guy gets beaned by a ventriloquist’s dummy. That, and the trained animals, make it a bit more fun than most kiddie Westerns.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
Image
Driving Tips (Series Two) (downloaded from Prelinger Archive). This Sid Davis driver’s ed film from the 50s is very straightforward, covering such things as drunk driving, speeding, driving courtesy, and getting out of being stuck. No surprises here, but the visuals are interesting, giving you a clear color picture of what it was like to drive during the 50s. Huge 50s cars navigate on narrow, crowded streets and roads. A section covers driving over streetcar tracks, something most drivers have never seen today. And there’s lots of cool 50s signs to be seen, as well as views of a 50s car dashboard in the section on speeding. The film also shows us what it was like to drive in Southern California, especially the section on how to get out of a stuck place. The car shown is stuck in beach sand, and although the narrator mentions snow in passing, it’s obvious to us Northerners that he’s never had to deal with it, especially when he says that the best way to deal with getting stuck is to av…
Addams Family Crest Toothpaste Commercial (available for viewing on You Tube). This is mostly just the opening theme song from “The Addams Family” with a Crest bumper at the end. Still, the theme song is one of the great ones, and the Crest bumper adds a touch of historical interest.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Flip's Circus (track #7 on Aniamtion Legend Windsor McCay DVD (Lumivision, 1997)). This is another unfinished McCay cartoon, containing periodic notes on slates or paper indicating editing cuts or subtitles. Still, it's not too hard to follow. It features Flip, who looks like sort of an animated W. C. Fields, presenting some circus acts. He first makes some rather lame, but fun to watch, attempts to balance his hat on his nose. Then he brings out Baby, a creature that looks like a cross between Gertie the Dinosaur and a hippopotamus. He hits her frequently with a club, but this is not upsetting as the blows don't seem to affect Baby in the least, and she gets her revenge by swallowing and spitting Flip up several times. Like Gertie, Baby is incredibly appealing, and this cartoon is lots of fun despite its unfinished state. My only regret is that we don't get to see any of the other animals that appear in the group shot when Flip brings Baby out. A 1918 Windsor McCay an…
Jubilee Excerpt (film #8 on World War II Remembered (Diamond Entertainment, 1995)). "Jubilee" was a sort of black "Command Performance", made for the entertainment of black G.I.s and featuring black stars. In this excerpt, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson sings a duet with Lena Horne of "That Ol' Devil Consequence". Fairly interesting from a historical perspective, though it would have been more interesting had they included more excerpts from this.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Johnny at the Fair (MST3K Episode #419: The Rebel Set. Also available for viewing on You Tube). Little Johnny goes with his parents to the Canadian National Exhibition, but when his folks would rather view some boring old exhibit rather than do the exciting stuff like rides, he wanders off in disgust and has a bunch of adventures of his own. Another boring newsreel featurette about something that's supposed to be fun. The msting is pretty good, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Msting: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Apples, Peaches, Bananas and Pears (available for viewing on You Tube). The Monkees engage in silly antics on a beach to their song, “Apples, Peaches, Bananas and Pears.” Specifically, Davy frolics with a girlfriend, Mickey gets chased by a cop, Mike digs a hole, and Peter is nowhere to be found. Typical Monkees silliness which should bring back memories for folks of a certain age.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Driving Tips (Series One) (downloaded from Prelinger Archive). More driving tips from Sid Davis, this time covering such things as littering, traffic signs, going around curves, left turns, and hitchhikers. The section on road signs has a lot of great 50s signs in it. Again, this has lots of big, ugly 50s cars on narrow streets. Again, this is pretty ordinary, but I enjoyed the signs a lot.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
A Nationwide System of Parks (downloaded from Google Video). This Department of the Interior Film provides an overview of the work the Civilian Conservation Corps did on state parks around the country during the 30s. This makes is a valuable historical record of same. There are no real surprises here, but the film moves along, and there are some interesting visuals of CCC members engaging in various activities, including a man who has just learned to write his incredibly long name. Lots of historical interest here.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Fists on Film (film #6 on Who Built America? (Voyager CD-ROM, 1993). This film documented the championship fight between Gentleman Jim Corbett and Peter Courtney. It's probably the first boxing match ever filmed, making it an interesting historical artifact, but even the narrator couldn't help commenting on Gentleman Jim's revealing shorts. An 1894 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Abbott and Costello Bloopers (available for viewing on You Tube). Short blooper reel of outtakes from various Abbott and Costello films, all featuring Lou Costello. This is a typical collection of fluffed lines and unexpected happenings on the set. No real surprises here, but a few are mildly amusing.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Japs Bomb USA (film #9 on WWII V for Victory War Bonds & Rallies Show (Something Weird, 1996)). The events of December 7, 1941 and immediately afterward are chronicled in this newsreel. Some of the language is mildly racist ("Japs," "Nipponese"), but mostly this is pretty straightforward. The footage of America's reaction to Pearl Harbor in the days immediately following the event is pretty interesting, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Flood Relief: President Inspects Area and Speeds Aid (available for download on Universal Newsreels). This 50s newsreel documents flooding in the Northeast, with some striking scenes of disaster and devastation. Also included are stories on war in North Africa, elections in the Saar region of West Germany, a train wreck in Massachusetts, and an anti-tank weapon called “the Thing.” This is pretty standard, though it does have some good disaster footage and a few scenes of interesting-looking German political posters. “The Thing,” sadly, is interesting in name only.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Jiveroo (film #1386 on Prelinger Archive). This soundie features a slightly strange nightclub floor show, with chorus girls in mini skirts, a geeky-looking Spanish dancer in a bolero jumpsuit, and what looks like an African-American woman in a French maid’s outfit. They all dance to a peppy jazz tune in typical floor show style, except for the Spanish guy, who bends like he’s Gumby. For the most part, though, this is a pretty typical soundie.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Britain’s Roosevelt Memorial at Grosvenor Square (available for download on Universal Newsreels). Brief British newsreel story about the erecting of a memorial in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt for his role in helping the Allies win the war. This has historic value, but it’s pretty ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Image
Drive Your Bike (film #459 on Prelinger Archive). This bicycle safety film from the 50s is incredibly cheaply-made and stilted. In it, some boys are discovered playing in a car. When their dad asks them about it, they tell them that they have been learning at school all about “driving their bikes;” that is, following all the traffic rules so that they will have less to learn when they finally get old enough to learn to drive a car. Then they go over all the standard safety rules with their dad in a very stilted fashion––considering Dad was on his way to work, I’m surprised that he sticks around for this as long as he does. Perhaps his job is even more tedious. Anyway, after hearing all of this, Dad then asks them if they really do it, instead of just talking about it––a sensible question if ever there was one. The boys then proceed to provide not one, but three examples of them avoiding accidents because of “driving their bikes.” Dad finally leaves for work at this point, but the film…
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (acquired through trading). No, this is not an episode of the popular serial that we all remember. This is the first filmed version of Buck Rogers, which was a short that was shown at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair (which is why it is in the Industrial category). Well, what can I say here? The direction in incredibly stagey, the acting is wooden, and the special effects are laughable. But that’s more than made up for by the incredibly campy costumes and sets, which are over-the-top. The main battle in outer space is done entirely with toy rockets, wires, fireworks, and a hypno-vision effect, all narrated by the scientist character (otherwise it would be impossible to follow). This is as much fun as an Ed Wood film, which means it’s funnier than many so-called comedies. Too bad I can’t tell you where to get a copy––it was on a DVD+R disc with the movie The Reluctant Saint that my husband got in a trade.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****+. Weirdness: *****. …
Image
Bellazza (available for download on Bedazzled). Bobby Rydell sings an Italian love song to his lady love in this Scopitone with an Italian flavor. Well, OK, he pronounces the title word “bell-late-suh.” And his sings to his blonde girlfriend at a ski resort. And there are three annoying female backup singers with no discernible singing or dancing talent, but cool pairs of white go-go boots, who break into the proceedings periodically. And they dance the limbo in a very Caucasian way. OK, I guess this is as Italian as Spaghettios, but that’s what makes it fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
A Fishy Tale (film #3 on Who Built America? (Voyager CD-ROM, 1993). No, not a silly fish tale, this is documentary footage of New York City's Lower East Side Jewish pushcart fish market. The narration gives an interesting account of the history of the market and its customers. A 1903 Edwin S. Porter film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Amos ‘n’ Andy – Calhoun to the Rescue (available for viewing on You Tube). This is an episode of the controversial sitcom that’s been edited down to about 10 minutes. In it, the Kingfish masterminds an elaborate scheme to get his nephew to buy a failing antique shop that the owner promised Kingfish a commission if he can find a buyer for it. This has some funny moments and the editing isn’t too awkward, so it does give you some idea of what the sitcom was like. As you might expect, it is broadly comic and somewhat stereotyped, but it’s not as offensive as you might expect, and the twists and turns of the plot are amusing.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Ann-Margaret Canada Dry TV Commercial (available for viewing on Bedazzled. Also available for viewing on You Tube). Ann-Margaret does a big, mod production number in praise of Canada Dry soft drinks that goes on and on and on. This is very 60s, though in a Madison Avenue sort of way.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Bo Diddley Live at Montreux Jazz Festival 1970 (available for viewing on You Tube). Bo Diddley sings (what else?) “Bo Diddley” live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. This looked like a great concert, with lots of energy, and you just can’t stop that propulsive beat of his. See? It’s going through your head right now.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Land of the Giants (available for download on Google Video). Another 30s Department of the Interior film about state parks, this one focuses on the ones being developed in California’s redwood country. The film is long and kind of drags a bit, but it does show beautiful scenery and has lots of historical interest in showing the development of California’s state parks and the activities of the CCC. This film goes out of its way to praise the CCC and sell us on the idea that the program is a great thing for the young men who are its volunteers, as well as the rest of the country.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
It's Murder She Says... (film #26 on The Complete Uncensored Private SNAFU DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999). Also, film #9 on disc #2 of Pearl Harbor: Before and After DVD (Triton, 2001)). The Anopholes mosquito is portrayed as an aging party girl, who used to live the high life on soldier's blood, until the army wised up and took stringent methods against her. But she still has her way with shirtless, repellentless Private SNAFU. The concept here is fairly clever and unusual, though it could be funnier. This one makes me wonder just how many SNAFUs were about malaria prevention, though––this must have been a major sticking point with the army.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Andy Kaufman – Blue Moon of Kentucky (available for viewing on You Tube). Andy does a dead on impression of Elvis singing “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” That’s it, really, but it’s not a bad impression.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
5 Nations Seek Balloon Title (available for download on Universal Newsreels). 30s newsreel showing competitors in a balloon race taking off and talking from their balloons by radio. Also included is a story about Major Ernst Udet doing stunt flying in a biplane at an air race. This is pretty ordinary, but it does give us a taste of how flight wowed ‘em back in the 30s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Akron Hulk Salvage (available for download on Universal Newsreels. Also available for viewing on You Tube.) Brief, silent newsreel story of the wreck of the airship USS Akron being fished from the deep. The images of the wreck are striking and give you an idea why airships never quite became a viable form of travel.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Frigidaire Imperial Line (available for download on Open Video Project. Also available for download on Prelinger Archive). This bombastic film from 1957, meant to introduce the new “Imperial Line” of Frigidaire appliances, is the ultimate populuxe monstrosity. Appliances are talked about in endlessly bombastic, yet reverent tones while a single, elegantly dressed housewife walks from one to the other to demonstrate them. At times, she caresses the appliances almost ecstatically, yet it is a restrained ecstasy designed not to undercut the reverence. The campiest and weirdest section involves a surrealistic montage of appliance parts that drift past the women, supposedly reprenting “a woman’s dreams.” Monderninity is worshipped here, as everything new, technological, and modernistically designed is portrayed as All Good. The appliances have the spare design of a modern glass-walled skyscraper, while the range control panel resembles the controls of an airplane. All of this is great fodd…
A Jazz Etude (film #1383 on Prelinger Archive). A guy in white tie and tails does a tap dance to a peppy jazz tune. This soundie had my toes tappin’.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Ammi Belcacem (available for download on Bedazzled). This Arabic Scopitone features an attractive female singer in Western dress singing what sounds like the Arabic version of pop music. She has flirty facial expressions, but doesn’t move her body at all, though at one point she shows us her hair, a decidedly non-Muslim thing to do. Her backup singers all sport Western dress and hairstyles, but rather than dancing, they sit politely behind her while singing their parts. This Scopitone provides a fascinating glimpse into the pop music of another culture.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Cheerios (available for viewing on Movieflix). Early 50s Cheerios commercial that features an early version of the Cheerios Kid and a great 50s Cheerios box. Brief, but captures that 50s tv commercial feel.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Angel Levine Trailer (extra on The Angel Levine DVD (MGM)). Trailer from the 70s film The Angel Levine, in which Harry Belafonte plays an angel who visits Zero Mostel. Since this is the 70s, rather than the 40s (the heyday of this sort of thing), this is tough and depressing rather than charming and inspirational. It does a fairly good job of making the film look intriguing, though.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Drive and Survive (film #7 on Disc 2 of Hell’s Highway DVD (Kino Video, 2003)). Gory clip from a 60s driver’s ed film that goes over the possible causes of accidents. This stands out because it doesn’t completely blame the driver, but also talks about unsafe auto design and highway engineering as possible factors. It also gives some good advice about what to do if you find yourself in a zero visibility situation. Of course, the gory visuals of corpses tell a different story.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Image
Blockbuster (available for download on Bedazzled). In this TV clip, 70s glam-rockers The Sweet sing “Blockbuster.” It’s all long hair and glitter, and the guitarist in the SS uniform and Hitler mustache is guaranteed to offend your parents. I think I know where Spinal Tap got a lot of their ideas.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Formations (available for download on Open Video Project. Also available for download on Prelinger Archive). This Jam Handy driver safety film from the 30s tells us we should drive as if we are pilots flying in formation, which is just a goofy way to say we should be aware of the other cars on the road. The film goes over basic defensive driving strategies in the imitable Jam Handy style, which is lively and a bit silly. The film also gives us a good idea of what driving was like back in the 30s, an era of signaling turns with hands and fewer traffic laws. Typical Jam Handy fare with historical interest.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
A Fire in a Burlesque Theatre (film #34 on The Art of Cinema Bagins (Video Yesteryear, 1997). Also, film #34 on The Movies Begin, Volume One: The Great Train Robbery and Other Primary Works (Kino Video, 1994)). Firemen rescue some fancily-clad burlesque dancers from a burning theatre. Lots of uncovered bestockinged legs––hubba, hubba! The version on The Movies Begin is in better shape than the one on The Art of Cinema Begins. A 1904 Biograph film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: **.
Andy Kaufman and Howdy Tell a Tale (available for viewing on You Tube). Andy Kaufman does possibly the worst ventriloquist act ever, with the help of a tattered Howdy Doody Puppet and a flip-over Little Red Riding Hood/Grandmother/Wolf doll, but because it’s Andy, he makes it work. The story of Little Red Riding Hood is successfully told despite the fact you can’t understand a word the puppets say. A fun clip from Andy’s early days of weirdness.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Blue Streak Rocket (available for viewing from National Archives). The Blue Streak rocket was a rocket developed by the British in the 50s to be an ICBM. When if failed at that function, it was tested in Britain’s early space program as a possible rocket for satellite launching. This early 60s film shows us the rocket being built and test-launched in Australia, with a very excited and hopeful air. However, the National Archives site tells us the rocket failed tests as a space vehicle and was eventually pulled from production, so that colors the film. The film is pretty ordinary for the most part, but you can’t help but begin to get a pathetic feeling for western Europe’s collaborative space program at this time.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Bonn Hails Ike: Says US Will Stand by Berlin (available for download from Universal Newsreels). 50s newsreel story about a visit by President Eisenhower to West Germany to attend talks about the status of Berlin. This is unsurprising, but it has some historical value.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
The Infantry Blues (film #6 on The Complete Uncensored Private SNAFU DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999). Also, film #7 on Private S.N.A.F.U. (Rhino, 1992)). Private Snafu sings the blues about all the hardships he suffers in the infantry. He is sure that the other branches of the service have much cushier jobs. Technical Fairy First Class gives him his wish to change services and he learns that every G.I. has it tough. I like Technical Fairy First Class' faux auctioneer patter and the concluding song, sung to the tune of "Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo".
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Freeze-In (available for viewing on A/V Geeks. Also available for download from AV Geeks. Also available for download from Google Video). Man, the 60s could get weird. This sales training film for freezer salesmen at Sears features Judy Carne and Arte Johnson in a “Laugh-In” version of freezer sales. Mostly, this involves a lot of lame gags featuring Carne as a goofy housewife and Johnson as a hapless freezer salesman. These are punctuated by “Sock It to Me” freezer gags and Johnson saying “verrrry interesting!” This was supposed to encourage the Sears salesmen to pitch their product to young housewives by promising convenience, rather that pitching to farmers and promising cubic foot space, like they had been doing for years. What the salesmen thought of this film remains lost in the mists of time, but today it elicits a huge “Huh?”
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Jack Frost (film #13 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 2 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). Also available for viewing in the Cartoon section of Movieflix. Also, film #4 on She (Sinister Cinema). Also, film #3 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot, Volume 3: Things That Go Bump in the Night (Kino Video, 1993).). This cute kid's cartoon features a bear cub that dares to tussle with Old Man Winter instead of hibernate, despite the warnings of Jack Frost and his mother. This is your basic kiddy cartoon plot about a child who does something he shouldn't and lives to regret it. There are a few cute cartoony touches, but for the most part it's pretty ordinary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Army Explorers in Space (available for download from Open Source Movies). This late-50s army film documents the first successful American satellite, Explorer 1. At last, we had finally caught up with Sputnik! This has a stripped-down feel to it, unlike the high-tech films of NASA to come. Other than that, it’s pretty ordinary, but it does have some historical interest.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Big Flame-Up (film #7 on Cartoon Sing-Along DVD (PC Treasures, 2006)). A fire department made up of various cartoon animals fights a fire in a fireproof warehouse made up of anthropomorphic cartoon flames. The flames generally prevail, getting strong enough to lead the audience in a rousing chorus of “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.” I like singing and dancing inanimate objects a lot, and these flames are particularly anarchic. The song is a lot of fun, of course, and the animal firefighters are appealingly goofy. This is not a great cartoon on say, the Warner Bros. level, but there’s lots to enjoy here.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Door to Heaven (film #1 on The Educational Archives, Vol. 6: Religion DVD (Fantoma, 2003). Also available for download from Open Video Project. Also available for download from Prelinger Archive). This 40s religious film takes abstract spiritual concepts and makes them concrete through a host of visual aids. Salvation is portrayed as a literal Door to Heaven. Mistaken routes to heaven, such as Good Works, Church Attendance, and (my favorite) Self-Righteousness are also portrayed as doors marked with the proper signs to identify them. Qualities that must be let go of on entrance to heaven are portrayed as actual objects, my favorite being a huge brown-wrapped package labeled “SIN” (wonder what’s in it?). Although amusingly simplistic, this film is utterly charming in its sincerity and kooky-looking props, so I’m not going to be too hard on it. Its religious message is reasonably sound for the believers and would-be believers it was made for, so why not let the prop department have …
Image
Chauncey Depew, Senator Perkins, and Governor Whitman of New York at GOP Convention, 1916, Chicago, Ill. (available for download from Theodore Roosevelt). Early newsreel showing delegates to the Republican National Convention in 1916 in Chicago, and the coliseum where it was held. This is well preserved and has historical value as a record of the political machinations of the time, as well as being a good example of an early newsreel. A 1916 Pathe film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Andy Griffith for Post Cereal (available for viewing on You Tube). Andy Griffith shows us a pop art tie that somebody sent him, then tells us that he deals with 60s confusion by eating Post Toasties, an “old reliable”. A blast from the Silent Majority (remember them?) of the 60s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Beatles Around the World (Treasure Box Collection)). This dollar store DVD features TV news footage and newsreels of some of the Beatles’ travels. Mainly, these are travels to Australia, though the last segment features their return to England after their first US tour. Hordes of screaming fans predominate this footage, giving you an idea of the sheer intensity of Beatlemania at its height. The footage is well preserved, and though the DVD is short, it has a place in the collections of ephemera lovers and Beatles fans.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Fire! (film #38 on The Movies Begin, Volume Two: The European Pioneers (Kino Video, 1994)). A policeman discovers a house fire and calls out the fire brigade. The brave chaps rush to the fire and do their duty admirably, saving the residents of the house in the process. This is an interesting snapshot of how fires were put out back in the days of horse-drawn fire wagons. It also includes most of the cliches we've come to expect in fire scenes, including a fireman saving trapped man who had despaired that all was lost, and the fireman spreading out a rug for another trapped resident to jump into. A 1901 James A. Williamson film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Dead Right (available for viewing on You Tube). This Sid Davis pedestrian safety film from the 70s is aimed at adults for a change. It’s pretty straightforward, and not as full of scare tactics as you would expect from Davis, though he does show us a guy with a spinal cord injury he sustained after being hit by a car when he thought he had the right of way. The basic message of the film is that even if you legally have the right of way, you could still get slammed by a car if you don’t pay attention and use good judgment crossing the street, and if you get injured or killed, the fact that you were “right” will be small consolation. This is a sensible message for the most part, making this film less campy than the usual Davis fare, though the scene of the drunk pedestrian is mildly campy and the clothes, hairstyles, cars, and general depressing look of the film just screams 70s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Adventure of the Dumbfounded Detective (extra on The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes DVD (MGM, 2003)). This is a vignette that was scripted but deleted from the film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. In it, Holmes recounts a story from his youth about an experience that led him to distrust women and romance. There is little of the filmed scene, and the empty spaces are filled with pages from the printed script and photographs. Still, you get a pretty good idea of the story. I felt the vignette was pretty obvious, but maybe it worked better within the context of the full film. Holmes fans may enjoy this glimpse into the famous detective’s youth.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Image
First US Satellite Launched (available for download from Universal Newsreels). 50s newsreel documenting the successful launch of Explorer I, the first US satellite. It was well behind the Soviets, but that wasn’t mentioned. Also included is a story on Egypt and Syria merging to form the United Arab Republic. This is a fairly standard 50s newsreel with some historical value.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Blue and Gray at 75th Anniversary of Great Battle (available for download from Universal Newsreels). 30s newsreel of the unveiling of a Civil War monument at Gettysburg by President Roosevelt. Civil War veterans of both north and south shake hands over a dividing line. This was back when there were still living Civil War veterans, which gives this some historical interest. Unfortunately, the sound is only intermittent and the visuals are dark and murky, which reduces its value somewhat.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Freedom and Power (available for download from Open Video Project. Also available for download from Prelinger Archive). This 50s film, sponsored by General Electric, is the quintessential industrial capitalist propaganda film. It tries very hard to sell the idea that what’s good for General Electric is good for the nation. It starts with a brief history of the American Revolution and manifest destiny, then goes on to the history of electrical technology, calling invention “another kind of pioneering.” Then we get to see the world of the 1950s “electrical age,” and how electricity has given us more freedom and power. Then the life of an old man is profiled, as it shows how electricity has changed American life in his lifetime. Then, of course, it goes on to show us the electrical future, including a wonderful profile of an all-electric “Home of the Future.” We just get to the glories of atomic energy, when suddenly the film casts a Cold War shadow on all these rosy proceedings, and sta…
Infant and Child Care (film #8 on Atomic Scare Films, Vol. 2 (Something Weird, 2000)). Infant and child care under "disaster," i.e. bomb shelter, conditions is the topic here. Although in color, this film is stark and bleak. Somehow, seeing kids languidly tossing a baseball back and forth in a bomb shelter gives immediate meaning to the phrase "the living will envy the dead," especially if you imagine them having to stay in the shelter for more than a few days. Even teens are touched upon, and that opens up a whole new can of worms in your mind. One of the better arguments against nuclear war.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Baseball Bugs (available for download from Google Video). Bugs Bunny’s big mouth gets him into a single-handed baseball game against the Gas House Gorillas, a real bunch of hoodlums. This classic Bugs toon features all the great Warner Bros. baseball gags you remember, including the screaming fly ball, Bugs pulling a reversal in the “safe/out” argument, and the “he got it” gag. A necessary piece of pop culture.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Jack and the Beanstalk (film #24 on The Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 1 DVD (Image Entertainment, 1999)). This cartoon retelling of the traditional fairy tale has lots of wonderful cartoony touches, such as anthropomorphic magic beans and a doorbell on the giant's castle that plays the upper towers like a calliope. Cute and lots of fun.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
Image
Charleston Chain Gang (available for download from America at Work, America at Leisure. Also available for download in the Historical section of Open Video Project). A chain gang is marched out for work, complete with chains, striped suits and all. Most of the prisoners are African-American. A bit of American prison history, as well as a source of stereotypes. A 1902 Edison film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Alka-Seltzer (available for viewing in the Buster Keaton on TV section of TVParty). Buster Keaton plays a mountie in trouble who is helped by Speedy Alka-Seltzer to relieve his headache and indigestion and, oh yeah, get his man as well. This is a fun commercial with Keaton providing a not-embarrassing celebrity appearance and Speedy providing a cute Mr. Product character.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Alan Freed’s Big Beat Dance Party Dancers (available for viewing on Oldies Television). We see a bunch of 50s teenagers dancing to a doo-wop song on “Alan Freed’s Big Beat Dance Party.” Then we see some brief clips of Freed answering to payola charges, and then a clip from the show after the host was replaced. This is definitely a piece of rock and roll history that needs to be preserved.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Image
Land of Ten Thousand Lakes (available for download from Google Video). This 30s Department of the Interior film shows us scenes from several of Minnesota’s state parks. But unlike most of the films in this series, there’s no mention of history, park improvements, or the Civilian Conservation Corps. Instead, the focus is on the people who visit the parks for recreational purposes. Scenes of people camping, hiking, fishing, and picnicking in beautiful surroundings are shown with a minimum of narration. This gives the film a lot of historical value in showing us what outdoor recreation was like in the 30s.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Alan North Audition (extra on Police Squad! DVD (CBS Paramount, 2006)). Several audition tests for Alan North, the actor who played Frank Drebbin’s boss on “Police Squad!” These are pretty stark, but they do show that North had the character of Ed Hocken down pat, and that the scripts were pretty strong.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Don’t Touch (available for viewing on A/V Geeks. Also available for download on AV Geeks. Also available for download on Google Video). This is another film about the dangers of blasting caps, this time targeting teens and taking place during the 70s. A kid finds a blasting cap, and even though he doesn’t know what it is, he thinks it would be a good idea to hook it up to the radio he’s building (where’s Dick York when you need him?). Fortunately, he has a friend who remembers seeing a poster warning about blasting caps at school. The friend calls the police, who send out a guy in a red car, labeled “EXPLOSIVES,” who verrry carefully puts the blasting cap in a metal strongbox and then shows the kids a video about the dangers of blasting caps from the tv he just happens to have in the back of his car. The highlight of this is a bizarre-looking mannequin that is used to show what would happen to a person in the vicinity of an exploding blasting cap. This film isn’t nearly as much fun as…
First Self-Treatment by Haemodialysis (available for viewing on Open Source Movies). British newsreel clip from 1963 featuring a man with kidney disease who was able to hook himself up to a dialysis machine, and thus live an “almost normal life.” This fails to convey the fatiguing aspects of dialysis experienced by most patients, but it does have some historical value.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Bloody Iwo (film #1 on Side B of Disc #2 of the War in the Pacific section of Combat Classics DVD Megapack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2006)). This documentary shows us the very bloody battle to take the island of Iwo Jima in great detail from a soldier’s perspective. There are few surprises here, but the story is well told and many of the visuals are quite striking, especially the night combat footage. You really get a feel for the grit of combat from this film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Adventures of Chip and Dip (available for viewing on You Tube). Another great industrial film touting processed foods, this film was sponsored by the Potato Chip Institute, an organization loved by couch potatoes everywhere, I’m sure. Chip and Dip are two incredibly lame animated leprechauns who comment about the proceedings, while chips and dip are foodstuffs that are featured in the many recipes in the film. Yes, this film has all the industrial film necessities, including supernatural visitors (OK, pretty lame ones, but they are there), endless and increasingly unlikely recipes using the product in question, factory tour footage, and questionable nutrition information. Potato chips are touted as “real food,” containing “93% energy” (read: empty calories) and being a “natural source of salt.” Let’s see, calories, salt and fat, three of the main ingredients that bring on the disapproval of the food police, as well as making something taste real good. All that’s missing is sugar, but …
Base Brawl (film #5 on Cartoon Sing-Along DVD (PC Treasures, 2006)). At the zoo animals’ baseball game, the elephant team is pulverizing a team made up of cute little forest creatures. During the 7th inning stretch, we are invited to sing along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” following the bouncing baseball. This little sing-along toon is rather ordinary, but charming.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Are You Popular? (available for viewing on You Tube.
This 1958 remake of the 40s social guidance classic shows a bit of wear and tear around the edges. The acting is uniformly terrible––the kids look and sound like they were recruited from Centron. The script is basically the same, though this time Ginny is ostracized for dating all the boys at the lunch table, Carolyn has a conversation with a friend about the dangers of going steady (so you can’t date lots of boys and you can’t go steady; what’s a girl to do?), the slightly more sophisticated 50s Carolyn agrees to go to the movies at the Strand rather than a skating party and weenie roast (and there’s no mention of “Teen Town”; the town council must have closed it down after the JD’s took over), and the couple drives away in a big 50s car with tail fins, rather than running down the street throwing snowballs at each other, illustrating the rising standard of living in the 50s. And though the house is different (smaller and poorer-loo…
Buy a New Car (available for viewing in The Goldbergs section of TVParty). Clip from “Molly,” the syndicated version of the early TV classic “The Goldbergs.” In it, Molly and Jake argue over the purchase of a new car. This gives you a feel for what the sitcom was like, but it’s a little hard to make sense of out of context.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
Fine Feathers Make Fine Birds (film #20 on The Origins of Cinema, Volume 6: Rare Films (Video Yesteryear, 1997)). Some rogues steal a car and go out on a joy ride. Police make bungling efforts to stop them, but fail until the joyriders stupidly drive the car into a pond. This allows the cops to make a wet, splashy capture of the ringleader. A rather silly film, all told. A 1905 British film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
After the Thin Man Trailer (extra on After the Thin Man DVD (Warner Bros., 2005). Also an extra on The Thin Man DVD (Warner Bros., 2005)). Trailer for the first sequel to The Thin Man, the film that introduced the witty detective couple Nick and Nora Charles. This has few surprises, but it does have titles in a wonderful Art Deco font and that forgotten sense of style from Hollywood’s golden age.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.