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 kill 'em. The worst part, for my money, though, is the part about Japanese spies. Yeah, Japan did send out spies to countries they planned to conquer, but this film makes it look like every Japanese-American barber or gardener or fisherman had a direct line to the warlords in Tokyo, a way of thinking that created the internment camps, I'm sure. (Capra does pay very minor lip service to the highly-decorated Nisei regiment of the U.S. Army during the opening credits, calling them loyal Americans, which he deserves a little credit for, since most people weren't even giving them that much. But his assertion that their exploits "are documented in plenty of other films" makes me say "Oh really? Like what other films?") Like Kamikaze, the film has lots of fascinating footage taken from Japanese cinema. The first part of the film, which tells the history of the social and political structure of Japan, is told visually almost totally by footage from Japanese historical films. There's also lots of interesting Japanese newsreel footage. This film is part propaganda and part interesting historical information, and it's hard to tell which is which. Still, it's a great piece of ephemera. Warning: The scenes of Japanese atrocities are fairly grisly.

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

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 “girls” can do all that lifesaving stuff. Another good film for an ephemera “ladies night.”

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 ...