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 and assumes the new identity of Lawrence Talbot (no relation to the famous werewolf) plus valet. Returning to Florida in women's clothing, she goes on a riverboat trip with her former fiance, gives him the brush-off one last time, then she and her maid change back into men's clothes and gleefully throw their women's clothing overboard. Later, when the clothes wash up on shore, her fiance comes to the conclusion she's been murdered. More comic antics ensue, culminating in the fiance's taking a seed and turning into a prancing ninny. As the plot description implies, this is a very silly film. A 1914 Vitagraph film.

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

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 films for rescue workers. All right, folks, move along now. Nothing to see here.

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

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: ****.

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 avoid situations where it might happen, something that’s not an option when snow is everywhere. The historical interest carries this film.

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

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 animated film.

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

Better Reading

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