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: ***.

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-worn story is told in an incredibly dorky and hyperbolic fashion––highlights include Marty’s friends getting sick when they first smoke marijuana (Marty also feels sick but hides it––the sign of a true addict-in-the-making), Marty and his friends drinking Pepsi from broken bottles while in a hopped-up state, Marty’s mother trying to talk to her surly son about her worries about him, and the post-rehab Marty trying to resist the pressure of his old junkie pal, Duke, to start using again. For those who like to laugh at anti-drug films, this one is a classic.

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

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: ***.

Beginning Responsibility: Taking Care of Things

Beginning Responsibility: Taking Care of Things . Grade-schooler Andy is a slacker in the taking-care-of-things department, so he suffers t...