Auto Line Demo 1970s

Auto Line Demo 1970s. If you love big, gas guzzling 70s cars (plus a few little and slightly more fuel efficient models, like the Plymouth Cricket), then this collection of TV commercials is for you. Each commercial for a particular car model is paired with a commercial for a local dealer. There’s lots of fun stuff in these commercials, including a grizzled old prospector, an aging Arthur Godfrey, an outrageous faux Frenchman, and a diamond cutter who attempts to cut a diamond while being driven around New York City in a Mercury. A fun 70s flashback.

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


Argentina. Standard geography film about the South American country of Argentina. There’s some historical interest here as you get to see tons of footage of what Argentina was like in 1961. Other than that, there’s mainly just lots of trivia about Argentina’s economy, though it’s presented in a way that’s not quite as dull as you might think.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *** (mostly for the “Can you spot the former Nazis?” angle of msting, which this film provides lots of opportunities for). Weirdness: *. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Allen Is My Brother

Allen Is My Brother. A 50s housewife gets frustrated when her 3-year-old son, Allen, keeps getting into mischief, so she does what any good 50s housewife would do—she gets his big sister Karen to look after him. Karen doesn’t think much of this, but once Mommy explains that family members help each other, she cooperates and eventually has fun with her little brother. This is a very cute film that has that white-bread, Dick-and-Jane feel so often seen in films of the period. It takes place in 50s Sitcomland, where there are no problems bigger than a lost puppy, and children get into no worse mischief than squirting the hose on the laundry on the clothesline. This should bring back lots of memories for any baby boomers watching it.

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

Adventuring Pups

Adventuring Pups. Three beagle puppies (one named Trouble, and you know what that means) run away from their mother and get into various forms of mischief with other animals. This very cute children’s film gets by on the antics of cute animals, just like the Internet does. It’s missing the ending, so we never know if the puppies find their way home or not. The stuffed animals that watched this with me (including two little ragamuffins who know a lot about getting into mischief) are concerned about the puppies’ welfare. Let’s hope they made it home OK.

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

Arabian Children

Arabian Children. This Encyclopedia Brittanica film shows us the lifestyle and customs of one Arab family. It’s portrayed pretty much without bias or commentary, just straightforwardly. Despite the desert setting, this is not nearly as “dry” a film as many EB films. It’s actually pretty interesting to watch a family of a different culture pursue its everyday life, while narration helps us understand what’s being done. This was probably a mild mind-expander to the schoolchildren it was shown to. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.


Bethune, Donald Brittain, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Bethune. This film tells the story of Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who managed to beat the tuberculosis he came down with as a medical student, and go on to invent many new surgical tools and techniques. He had a passion for bringing medicine to where it was most needed, and that led him to go to Spain and create field hospitals for the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. There he created the first mobile blood bank. Eventually he grew disillusioned with the progress of the war, so he moved on to China, where he aided partisan forces led by Mao Zedong, who were then fighting the Japanese imperialist forces. He single-handedly created field hospitals out of the caves where the wounded were left to die. No matter how bad things got, he still operated on and treated the wounded with whatever was available. He eventually died of blood poisoning after cutting himself during a surgery that he had to do without gloves. Despite his obsessive tendencies towards his work, he was also a playful character who partied hard during his off hours, though this later went away in China because the conditions were so terrible and he was so overworked. The film was not shown in the U.S. for many years because of Bethune’s connection to Mao and his communist sympathies, even though he died before the People’s Republic ever happened. It’s a very powerful film about a fascinating human being, made more powerful by the narration containing quotes from Bethune’s many letters and diaries. I love this kind of historical documentary, so this was a joy to watch, though the sections on Bethune’s efforts to bring socialized medicine to Canada made me cringe, not because I’m against it, but because it was hard to watch Canadians treating this as history, and something that obviously had to be done, when it has yet to be done in my own country.

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

Airborne Magnetometer

Airborne Magnetometer. Turns out the bird really is the word. The “bird” refers to an airborne magnetometer, so nicknamed by the U.S. Geological Survey, which made this 1952 film. This device is towed by a plane and measures magnetic anomalies in the earth’s surface, which may indicate mineral deposits. And we all know what mineral deposits mean, don’t we? Mining of all kinds of valuable minerals, that’s what. The film is rather dry, since narration is the only thing on the soundtrack, but it does have lots of great visuals of various forms of clunky 50s technology, which I happen to be fond of. And it also lends itself well to msting, especially when you consider that one of the assigned crew is known as “The Observer”. This would also be a good film to mine for a video project.

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

Assignment - Shoot the Moon

Assignment: Shoot the Moon. What if you had to take a close-up picture of a caramel apple being held by a woman on a spinning carnival ride, while you were moving around on another ride? This is the metaphor shown in this 1967 NASA film for photographing the moon close-up, in order to plan for a landing site for a manned mission. This is less bombastic than most other NASA films, and it’s chock-full of information about the unmanned lunar probes that were sent before Apollo 11 to photograph the moon. It’s mostly pretty straightforward, with some interesting imagery, and lots of historical interest, as it was made just before Apollo 11, so you get an idea of what scientists were thinking on the eve of that historic mission.

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

Anatomy of a Triumph

Anatomy of a Triumph. It’s MAN again, discovering flight and conquering the skies! Will he never stop in his quest for manliness? This early 70s government film starts off bombastically, then settles down to document the history of flight from Kitty Hawk to Apollo 11. We get to see the usual wacky early films of failed attempts at flight at the beginning, which I always find amusing. Then it’s on to working airplanes, Lindbergh, World Wars I and II, and the first rockets, which were invented by Nazis. But who cares about that? This is about MAN’s conquest of space, by golly! The Russians have launched Sputnik, so now the race is on! We get to see more embarrassing footage of the U.S.’s first failed attempts at space flight, and then the final success of the Apollo II mission. Richard Nixon ends the film with congratulatory messages, the film being blissfully ignorant of his embarrassments to come.

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

Agriculture in Virginia

Agriculture in Virginia. Rural teenager Bud Wilson (Why does that name sound familiar to me? This name must have appeared in other educational films.) is planning on following in his farmer father’s footsteps, so he takes Ag 101 class in high school, but that’s not enough for his father, who has the county extension agent take him all over the state and explain how the state government supports agriculture in great detail. This is a pretty dry film, but there are some fun images of 50s farm products, as well as some coverage of home economics, complete with attractively-dressed 50s farm wives and colorful 50s grocery products. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Accident Prevention Through Equipment Guarding

Accident Prevention Through Equipment Guarding. Guards, in this case, are not human, but refer to guard rails and metal cages used to prevent machines from killing or maiming their operators. This 1982 industrial safety film for miners teaches us the importance of guards and generally how to keep yourself safe around machines that could easily remover a finger or a limb or two if operated carelessly. It's mostly pretty dry, but it’s punctuated by staged accidents that are announced by dramatic music on the soundtrack. Oh no! There goes another one! Fortunately, the blood is kept to a minimum.

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

The Benefactor. This 1917 film may be one of the first biopics ever. The life of Thomas Edison is told in a lively and fun fashion for a 1917 silent film. We find out that he was an incredible prankster, extremely creative, and very hard-working. It all comes off like Edison sitting down with us and telling us stories of his youth, with the expected embellishments. General Electric added an ending where we see the real Edison accepting a Congressional Medal of Honor. Also of interest are scenes of 1917 cities being lit up by electric lights, which have an erie art deco feel to them, even though they predate art deco by some time. Lots of historical interest here.

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

Belonging to the Group: Respect as a Human Value. This 50s EB social guidance film shows us two families that are newcomers to a small town, one of average 50s folks, and one that are first-generation immigrants from an unnamed European country. They both have minor problems with getting accepted into the town’s social fabric, with the immigrants having a few more problems than the white-bread family. But all the problems are on the 50s sitcom level, i.e. they’re problems we’d all like to have because they’re so minor. There’s a slight hint of discrimination towards the immigrant family, but it all gets resolved in the end when the boy impresses kids at school with his woodcarving skills and the mom wins a cake baking contest at church. This is one of those 50s films that hints at larger problems and then denies the seriousness of them, which makes it slightly campy and somewhat disturbing at the same time.

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

Snookered + Behind the Scenes at Hutzler's from Maryland Historical Society on Vimeo.

Behind the Scenes at Hutzler’s. This silent film from 1938 was meant to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hutzler’s, a Baltimore department store. We get to see scenes of employees arriving at work, enjoying a party, and goofing around behind the scenes, in the employees-only areas. This was made during the golden age of downtown department stores, so there’s lots of historical interest, as we get to see the huge staff required to run those big, elegant stores, as well as the wide assortment of jobs the employees had to do. We also get to see the blasé faces of management. A real 1930s time capsule. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Basic Techniques for Home Landscaping. So, Mr. & Mrs. 1950s, you’ve had a new house for yourself way out in the suburbs, away from the dirt and grime and multicultural landscape of the city. But the house is on an empty lot, surrounded by nothing. You solve this problem by calling your local nurseryman and having him plant lots of pleasing trees and shrubbery in carefully balanced arrangements, as well as a sweeping lawn that you’ll have to mow every couple of days all summer long. But what about the backyard? We’re assuming your lot is huge, so you get to have a children’s play area, a vegetable garden, and a huge fancy formal garden for entertaining guests. How the nurseryman plans all of this is shown in this film, through the use of rather boring animation of a typical 50s suburban ranch house. By now, of course, the house is in what is known in 2017 as “midtown”. This is a real 50s suburban time capsule. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Balanced Aquarium. Two children, Susan and Fred, put together an aquarium in their home. Fortunately, they have the Encyclopedia Brittanica narrator to tell them exactly what to do in detail. This is a charming children’s educational film, and if you’re wondering how to put an aquarium together, well, this is your film. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ** Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Begin the Beguine. Latin dancing couple Varios & Vida dance to “Begin the Beguine” in this 40s soundie. Their costumes are beautiful and some of the dancing moves are impressive, but mostly this is pretty ordinary. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Bees and Spiders. Another early silent classroom film, this one about bees and spiders. Beekeepers show us how bees live in the hive, get food, and reproduce. And, oh, did I say that animals are always fun to watch? Not spiders—they’re creepy. Though they do hold your attention. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Beer Outtakes. This is billed as a series of outtakes from a 70s beer commercial, though it actually looks more like an audition tape. The soundtrack is lost, so we don’t know what the series of attractive 70s young people are saying as they drink a mug of beer in a bar setting. But it’s clear that the people drinking and chatting in the background are having lots more fun than they are. The awkwardness of the beer spokespeople just reminds me of why I don’t think drinking in bars is really very fun. But this just begs to have a new and improved satirical soundtrack dubbed into it. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Beavers. Early silent classroom film about beavers. That’s it, really, but the beavers are fun to watch, and the cuteness factor is up when they show the baby beavers, which are essentially fluff-balls with little flat beaver tails. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
The Beach: A River of Sand. This 1965 Encyclopedia Brittanica film shows us how ocean beaches are formed, what they are made of, and how they are parts of much larger geological systems. This sounds as dry as, well, sand, and it would be, except for how beautifully photographed and directed the film is. The striking imagery of beaches from all angles and distances holds your attention, making this a very successful educational film. As a Nebraska gal, I’ve only been on ocean beaches a handful of times, and this film makes me long for them. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Bate's Car: Sweet as a Nut, Tony Ianzelo, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Bate’s Car: Sweet as a Nut. Harold Bate, a British inventor, has invented a car that runs on methane gas, which he produces himself on his farm from animal manure. In this 70s film, he demonstrates it and explains it, along with several other inventions. It makes a high-octane, cheap, completely clean fuel, so, of course, nothing was ever done to actually mass produce this, though he did get a lot of interest in it in the form of letters. Setting aside any potential conspiracy theories, it’s great to see that somebody has invented a clean fuel, though it’s a pity that the powers-that-be will probably ruin the planet before they will consider using it. In any event, it’s fun to watch Bate, who is a typically kooky inventor type straight out of a British children’s novel. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Bargain Basement Clip. Before HSN and QVC, there was Bargain Basement, an early 60s TV show that hawked “As Seen on TV” type products. Since they only had a small time slot, rather than a 24-hour network, to fill, the pitches come fast and furious. Bottle openers, skin cremes, battery-life extenders, pearl necklaces, and, of course, food choppers are pitched one after the other at an amazing rate. This TV clip is a lot of fun and campy as all get out. And if you send, not $5, not $10, but only $1.98 to LBC, Box Q, Chicago, you’ll get a beautifully framed printout of this review, and the snake knives, Mrs. Presge! (Whew!) Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****. More Stars for Absolutely Free: ****.
The Baltimore Plan. This 1953 public service film outlines an aggressive plan by the city of Baltimore to clean up slums. Working one neighborhood at a time, social workers helped landlords, tenants, and homeowners to fix up and clean up their properties. For those who wouldn’t cooperate voluntarily, housing courts were set up to enforce new, tougher housing codes, though even they took a problem-solving, rather than a punitive approach. This seemed to help a great deal to improve conditions in poor neighborhoods, though I don’t know if the changes lasted, or how things are in Baltimore now. The film provides a great historical snapshot of social services in the 1950s. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Ball Handling in Basketball. First of all, stop that snickering. Gangly, skinny white guys demonstrate proper and effective ball handling—hey! You in the back! Shut your mouth!—in basketball, in this 1946 Encyclopedia Brittanica film. It’s all done in the dry EB style, but the necessary repeated mentioning of the B-word has a tendency to bring out the 7th grade boy in all of us. I’m surprised this was actually shown to young people without the entire class getting sent to the principal’s office. Great for msting. For actual basketball players, get back out on the floor and practice your dribbling (sorry). Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****.
The Balanced Land Force. Short, silent World War II film showing all the different kinds of jobs that go into waging war. It’s unclear whether this was meant to be silent, or whether the soundtrack was lost. There’s lots of great footage here for WWII documentary filmmakers to use, though. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Baja California: The Pacific Coast of Mexico. This 1949 geography film takes us down the Baja California peninsula and shows us the lifestyles of the people there. With the exception of the modern city of Ensenada, it’s pretty sparse and simple. The film is very straightforward and it provides a great deal of historical interest by depicting its location in 1949. I wonder how much has changed since then. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Bad Dog. Say, I’ve got an idea: what if dogs could make films? Whether or not you think that’s a good idea, this film tries to simulate that, showing us what things look like from a dog’s point of view. Unfortunately, this dog’s owner is Mr. Bentley from The Jeffersons during his hippie phase, and somebody told him that having a dog is a great way to meet girls. It doesn’t turn out the way he had hoped, though. What the point of showing this in classrooms was is not clear to me, unless it was to give kids more empathy for dogs. What I want to say to the director is this: No! Don’t touch that camera! BAD DOG!! Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Back to the Old Farm. This 1912 film, sponsored by International Harvester, may have been one of the first industrial films. George, an orphan raised on a farm by his aunt and uncle, tires of the endless drudgery of farm life and runs away to the city to make his fortune. Ten years later, he has a job and is doing pretty good, when he gets a letter from his aunt and uncle, inviting him back to the old farm for a visit. He takes a friend with him, and when they get there, they are surprised to find Auntie and Uncle living like country gentlepeople, thanks to International Harvester automated farm equipment. George is so overjoyed that he runs off and elopes with his cousin, for some reason. This is mildly amusing, as well as historically interesting. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Back to Life. In this 40s film, Bud Lambert, a skilled tradesman working in a factory, suddenly goes off his nut, as the British like to put it. He begins hearing voices and lashing out at his coworkers and his wife. So they put him in a mental hospital and from then on, everything goes swimmingly. He learns to trust his therapist, and gains self-esteem after fixing the loom in the occupational therapy shop. The staff think he’s ready to go home, but what about his old job? Will they take him back? This film focuses less on the treatment he gets in the hospital, and more on vocational rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the film undercuts its message somewhat by focusing on such a perfect patient—nothing goes wrong with Bud once he begins treatment, and he is able to return to his old job with no trouble whatsoever. I’m sure most real cases were a wee bit more complicated than that. Still, the film has a certain charm that comes from the bad acting (done by mental health professionals who are obviously not professional actors) and the positive way it tries to present psychiatric treatment and patients. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
The B-1B. This Air Force film from the 80s introduces the B-1B, the new and improved version of the B-1 bomber, with flight and maintenance footage, lots of dry narration full of military terminology (including tons of usage of the term “penetration”, and stop that snickering in the back), and plenty of cheap-o 80s electronic music. While it tells us plenty about how badass the plane is, it concludes that this is mostly for the Cold War goal of deterrence, rather than actually killing anybody. A blast of late Cold War military thinking. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Automatic Elevator System, San Francisco. Newsreel story about the development of automatic elevators, that, amazingly enough, operate with the push of a button, instead of a human operator. Since most of us nowadays don’t even remember elevator operators (they were on their way out when I was just a tot), this is a great piece of history. And I want the scale model elevator system shown in the film for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Attending Information Management. This early 70s film appears to be a training film for group counselors in some sort of social services job training program. A counselor has an initial session with five job program participants and goes through some initial information-gathering with them about their previous job experiences and their interests. The participants all seem to me to be somewhat troubled individuals who need help getting and keeping employment, such as a guy who likes working with kids but doesn’t like bosses, or a shy young woman who didn’t finish high school and has no work experience of any kind. The group leader is kind of awkward, but that just adds to the realism of the film. This is interesting enough that I would like to see more of what happens with this group, though I don’t know if the other films in the series stay with this same group or not. Overall, this is an interesting snapshot of social service practices in the early 70s. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Atomic Energy. This 1947 Encyclopedia Brittanica film explains the basics of atomic energy through animation and narration. Though somewhat dry, it explains its points well and in a way that is easy to understand, making it quite successful as an educational film. It begins and ends with big ol’ mushroom clouds for added excitement, and the chilling statement, “What lies ahead, no man knows.” Amen. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Atomic Bomb Blast Effects. This is basically silent color film footage of a couple of atomic bomb tests done in the Nevada dessert in the 50s. There’s some magnificent mushroom clouds, as well as interesting footage of stuff being tested in the blast area, and fun signage warning the soldiers to keep mum about the tests (“If You Wouldn’t Tell Stalin, Don't Tell Anyone!”). This would probably be a good film to mine for stock footage. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Atom and Eve. Oh my. A conglomerate of New England power companies in the early 60s decided to go for nukes in a big way, except they felt they needed to sell women on the concept. Except they obviously had very little contact with real women, so they had to rely on stereotypes. So we get a pretty model in a diaphanous gown dancing around appliances, since that’s what women mainly need electricity for. And we also get detailed descriptions of how the nuke plant will be designed, since women care about the look of things. This is a short film, but it packs a wallop of camp. Some of the scenes with the dancing woman will have you shaking your head in disbelief. The fact that its trying to sell nuclear power is the least of its problems, and that’s saying a lot. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
Atlantic Crossing: Life on an Ocean Liner. In this 60s film, 3 young boys are put on an ocean liner bound for Italy for no other purpose, it seems, than to make an educational film. One of them narrates the film, and he gets the pleasure of having a grand tour of everything passengers normally don’t get to see, such as the bridge, the crew mess, the kitchens, and the boiler room. When not getting this tour, the boys engage in various recreational activities on board the ship, such as playing ping-pong, watching trap shooters, walking through the ballroom while people are dancing, and participating in a hat party (though they don’t tell us whose was the grandest of all). They eventually make it to Italy and are greeted warmly by their Italian grandparents. This is pretty much a slice of upper-class life in the 60s. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

At the Winter Sea Ice Camp: Part 1, Quentin Brown, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

At the Winter Sea Ice Camp. This film, another in the “Man: A Course of Study” Netsilik Eskimo series, is quite a bit longer and more intense than At the Autumn River Camp. Again, it’s beautifully photographed and very realistic, and it seems like not a detail of the Netsilik’s traditional ways is left out, even those that are kind of hard to watch, such as scenes of butchering seals, people enthusiastically chowing down on raw seal organs, and the little baby boy frolicking in the nude (you can tell it’s a boy by…well, you just can.) One wonders of the appropriateness of some of these scenes for 5th graders, the audience this was supposedly made for. Still, there are many amazing things to watch here, such as the Eskimos building a huge, multi-roomed igloo out of nothing but snow blocks, and installing an ice window in it, the unusual way seals are hunted (it’s a variation on ice fishing), children tumbling in the snow during blizzard conditions, demonstrations of many different indoor and outdoor games, men playing a huge, really cool-looking sealskin drum, and seal hunters riding their dogsleds into a wilderness of white. It’s also a lot colder in this film than in the other one—everybody’s breath is constantly visible and the men’s facial hair is caked in ice most of the time. A great documentation of a native people’s traditional ways of life. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****+. Overall Rating: ****.

At the Autumn River Camp: Part 1, Quentin Brown, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

At the Autumn River Camp. This 60s film, made as part of the “Man: A Course of Study” series, shows us Netsilik Eskimos demonstrating traditional ways of life and survival in a frigid Arctic world where the average temperature is -10° F, and everything freezes eventually. This is all presented without commentary, and without any translation of the language the people are speaking. The action is beautifully filmed and although these activities were supposed to be recreations of old ways no longer completely practiced, it all looks very convincing and realistic, though I sometimes wish there was some explanation of the purposes for some of the less obvious activities. This was supposed to be shown in 5th grade classrooms, and it must have been a real departure from the sort of films usually shown in grade school at that time. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****+. Overall Rating: ****.
Assignment: Tomorrow. This postwar film, made by the National Education Association, tells us how great teachers are, because they shape the future. They also explain why teachers have to get politically involved sometimes. It’s a valid message, but the film is so strident that it invites msting. Also, there are just lots of great images here of schools in the late 40s, including non-white schools, so there’s lots of historical interest. I do agree that teachers are generally unappreciated and need to be paid more, but I couldn’t help msting this film as I was watching it. I guess I could thank Mr. Hodgson for that. Warning! The end of this film is not really the end, even though it says “the end.” You’ll still have to sit through a bunch of footage about the NEA and how great it is before the bell rings. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Assessment of Lingual Tactile Sensation and Perception. This 70s educational film for speech language pathologists is about as technical as its name would suggest. It starts with a very boring lecture by a guy in a 70s brown suit, but forget that. The lecture is followed by footage of a male lab technician giving a series of tests to a female patient on how sensitive her tongue is to tactile stimulation. Dots are drawn on her tongue with a non-toxic ink, she is blindfolded, and her tongue is touched with various items and in various places to see if she can feel them properly, while the boring narrator drones on in the background. Although this is somewhat dull to watch all the way through, the images of the tests are striking and have great creative potential for video artists to use out of context. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Artificial Respiration. This 70s film on how to do artificial respiration is pretty straightforward. Acted scenes of everyday accidents that require artificial respiration are alternated with stock footage of disasters. The acted scenes are a tad bit dorky and very 70s, but they don’t undercut the message of the film and what it is trying to teach, which is an important skill. The film teaches it well, presenting the steps clearly and making it look easy and non-intimidating. Each acted scene ends with an announcement that the victim was lucky the people who were with him or her knew what to do, the best of these being, “It pays to know the right people!”, which somehow doesn’t fit into a first-aid film. Other than that, though, this is pretty standard. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Arrow to the Sun (1973) from waanaki on Vimeo.

Arrow to the Sun. This 1973 film tells a Pueblo Indian story about the son of their sun god who goes on a search for his real father and endures various trials along the way. The story is primarily told with beautiful animation based upon Pueblo artworks. There is very little dialogue and no narration, just stunning visuals and native music. I didn’t end up with a real firm grasp of the tale in the end, but it hardly matters because the visuals are so stunning. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A (though there is a moment during the final trial that resembles an 80s video game—but that would be a trial, wouldn’t it?). Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Are You a Good Citizen?. Clean teen Jim breaks the window of Mr. Heinemann playing baseball with his buddies in the street. Heinemann uses this as an opportunity to teach Jim good citizenship, since he has been named the town’s First Citizen. He finds out that Jim and his friends need a good place to play baseball, so he helps Jim to organize a bond issue for the town to buy a nearby vacant lot and turn it into a playground. This film is dorky as all get-out, but it’s message of self-empowerment through engagement in the political process is actually a good one, though it makes the process look a lot simpler than it actually is. P. S. Vote Bernie in 2020! Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Are Manners Important?. Grade schooler Mickey doesn’t seem to think so. He barges through his 50s world without a care for anybody but himself and says, “Manners are just for grown-ups!” when his mother confronts him about his rude behavior. But when it seems like the other kids are rejecting him, he gets frustrated and has a fantasy where, as president of the United States, he issues a proclamation banning manners forever. Unfortunately, a big group of kids barge in and bring manners back through mob violence. I guess that’ll teach Mickey a lesson, though the narrator leaves it open for discussion. A fun, campy little EB film with some great moments of bad child acting. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Arab Identity: Who Are the Arabs?. This 1975 educational film about Arab life and culture holds up well today. It shows us lots of things non-Arabs would normally never get to see, such as what a pilgrimage to Mecca is like, and isolated areas on the Lebanese/Israeli border populated only by Palestinian gurerrillas. It also shows the huge contrasts of the Arab world and how they create strife and conflicts, and yet how Arabs also have a lot of unity as a people. A very good educational film that gives a good understanding of the Arabs as a people. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Application of Pascal’s Law, Part 1. This dry WWII vintage Navy training film about hydraulics is spiced up slightly when the concept of “work” is shown by an animated Sailor Goofus trying to move a heavy box. Otherwise, it’s just pistons moving and narration, though the design of the animation is kind of cool. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Another to Conquer. This 1941 film was made to encourage Native Americans to get proper treatment for tuberculosis, which had become epidemic in Native populations. Young adult Navajo siblings Don and Nema had both parents die from the disease, and their grandfather, Slow Talker, tells them their parents died because they had abandoned traditional ways. Nema wants she and Don to get examined to see if they have the disease, but Slow Talker is mistrustful of the white man and discourages it. Their friend Robert decides to go to the Indian school, to Slow Talker’s dismay, and there he is given a physical exam and is found to have the early stages of TB. He is sent to a sanitarium for treatment (antibiotics hadn’t been invented yet) and slowly recovers. Slow Talker, upon hearing of Robert’s illness, calls him “lazy” for staying in the hospital. But then Don collapses while working hard during the annual sheep dip, and it turns out that he has an advanced case of TB. This changes Slow Talker’s tune, and he agrees to take himself and Nema to be examined. Nema turns out to be disease-free, but Slow Talker turns out to be a carrier who may have been the one to infect his family. He makes the difficult decision to stay in the sanitarium so he won’t continue to infect his family. This film is admirable in its aims, yet it has a patronizing attitude to the Natives that it is trying to persuade. The answer is “white man’s medicine” which couldn’t have been very persuasive to Native audiences. The film has lots of historical interest in showing both attitudes toward disease and Native American life in the 40s. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Animated Sailor Cartoon. A cute animated sailor and his dog take us on an unlikely world tour and show us all the places you’ll go if you join the Navy! This silent film from what looks like the 20s combines animation and live action to reel in the recruits. Fortunately, there aren’t any wars going on in all those places, though the animated sailor and his dog get to play around with bombs and shells for a bit. A cute example of an early military recruitment film Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Animals Growing Up. This 1949 Encyclopedia Brittanica film shows us….oh, look, baby chicks!….oh, sorry, it shows us three different kinds of….oh, look, puppies! Cute!….uh, sorry, three different kinds of animals….oh, look, that little calf can hardly stand up! Ohhhh…so cute! (Sorry.) This would be the usual dry EB fare, except for all the cute baby animals, which are entertaining by themselves. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Cuteness: *****. Overall Rating: **** (sorry, folks, I love cute animals!).
Animal Cunning. In which various kinds of wild animals are tormented and abused for our amusement. If they’re not feeding cigarettes to deer, the filmmakers are poking lizards with sticks, pulling sloths from trees, and forcing a vulture and a puma, respectively, to fight an iguana. And then there’s the narration! It’s fun to make fun of animals, kids! This film is only “educational” in the loosest sense; it looks like it was made as a theatrical short, though it looks like the New York Board of Education distributed it, probably to schools. It’s not quite as upsetting as some of the worst of this genre (Catching Trouble, anyone?), and animals are always fun to watch, but I’m glad we seemed to have grown out of thinking this sort of thing is entertainment (if we haven’t, I don’t want to know about it.) Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.
Angel and Big Joe. This 70s sociodrama features a teenage Hispanic boy who befriends a lonely telephone lineman. The boy is a child of migrant workers and he lives in grinding poverty with his mother and younger siblings in a shack next to the tomato fields they just harvested. His family is waiting for a call from his father, who has gone on to Texas to look for work. Angel befriends Big Joe after Joe fixes the pay phone that the family is waiting for the call to come in on. Angel is desperate to do any kind of work to help out his family, and he eventually convinces Joe to hire him to do odd jobs on his property. A friendship slowly develops between them, as Angel discovers that Joe is a divorced man whose grown son left to join the Navy, leaving him to a solitary existence. Joe had planned to build a greenhouse with his son and start a business raising flowers, but that was abandoned when the son joined the Navy. Eventually, Joe rekindles this dream, having Angel help him build the greenhouse. They raise a crop of roses together and get a good profit for them. At this point, though, Angel’s mother finally gets a call from his father and plans to take the family to join him in Texas. When he tells Big Joe, Joe encourages him to stay and be his business partner, offering to let him live in his house with him. This leaves Angel with a very difficult decision to make: does he stay with Joe and help him with his business, which he enjoys, or does he support his family by going with them to Texas to do more migrant labor, which he hates? This film was made to encourage classroom discussion about the issues it raises. It is quite touching and real; you feel like Angel and Big Joe are real people with real problems. This is a good example of the increasing sophistication educational films developed after the social changes of the 60s. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
And Women Must Weep. This dramatic, anti-union film supposedly tells the story of a wildcat strike in Princeton, Indiana. The strike was supposedly called by a tiny committee within the union, after the union president had been fired after breaking some rules that were in the union contract. The firing causes him to call the strike as a personal vendetta against the company, and out-of-state goons came into the town to railroad the union members into supporting the strike, and to harass members who crossed the picket line. It all ends with an anonymous gunner shooting at a trailer home of one of the union members who crossed the picket line, hitting his baby. This is all presented as God's truth about unions who require membership of all company employees. Except it didn’t happen that way. We learn in the union’s rebuttal film, Anatomy of a Lie, that the strike was not wildcat, there was no secret union committee, the female union president discouraged the union from striking because of her firing, there were no out-of-state goons, and the police determined that the shooting at the trailer home had nothing to do with the strike. This totally undercuts the message of this film and makes you wonder about the real motives of the filmmakers. Even without the information in Anatomy of a Lie, there are aspects of the film that don’t hang together. For instance, if the strike was wildcat, where did the out-of-state goons come from? Certainly not the union, if it didn't approve of the strike. This film is the very essence of propaganda: overly emotional and not too concerned with the facts. The fact that the National Right to Work Committee still touts it as truth does not speak well for that organization. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
And So They Live. This 1940 documentary shows us the lives of the poor mountain people in rural Kentucky. It focuses mainly on one poverty-stricken family that lives in a log cabin, farms corn on depleted soil, and eats a diet consisting mainly of biscuits, cornbread, fat pork, potatoes, wild berries, and little else. Their lives are shown with little narration, and the visuals tell the story. What narration there is focuses on how the curriculum taught in the one-room schoolhouse the children go to has little relevance for them, and how necessary subjects that could improve their lives, such as improving the soil through crop rotation, or milking the goats that they keep, are not even mentioned. The most striking scene, though, is at the end of the film, when the father of the family gets out his banjo and plays a ditty. One of his young sons, who couldn’t be more than 6 years old, dances a jig to the music. His father is so pleased with his son’s dance that he rewards him with a cigarette, which the boy promptly lights and smokes like an experienced smoker. The striking images of poverty and rural life in this film are unforgettable, and give the film lots of historical interest. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *** (mostly for the child smoking scene; otherwise it would get an N/A). Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Ancient World: Greece. Made by the same folks as The Ancient World: Egypt, this film also lets the art tell the story, but this time, instead of providing their own narration, the filmmakers let the ancient Greeks themselves tell the story, with all the narration coming from ancient Greek writings. It comes out a little less coherent than the other film, but no less beautiful and compelling. It gives you a real feel for how the Greeks thought about things, and how they saw themselves. Again, I think this would stand up in classrooms today. NOTE: The link is to Part 1. Follow the link on the page to view Part 2. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Ancient World: Egypt. This 1951 history film for the classroom on the ancient Egyptian civilizations is surprisingly compelling. I was expecting dry narrated facts or poorly-acted recreations, but no; this film tells its story through the majesty of ancient Egyptian art. Shown in beautiful color and with finely-crafted camerawork, the art tells the story, with the help of dramatic music and stirring narration that never quite gets over the top. This was probably a breath of fresh air for students in the 50s, who were used to dry ERPI fare for history class. A fine film that could be shown in classrooms today. NOTE: The link is to Part 1. Follow the link on the page to view Part 2. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
AC Wholesalers Campaign 1971. AC!…IS THERE…FOR YOU! AC…IS THERE…FOR YOU! AC…IS…oh, sorry. This 1971…sales promotional film…for AC auto parts…tries hard…to be bouncy and psychedelic…but fails…because the spokesmen…can’t act their way out of a paper bag. Oh, by the way: AC…IS THERE…FOR YOU! Sorry, I’m having a hard time shaking the badness of this film. Anyway, to top off the excitement, they do a very 70s thing: give away free 8-track players with orders of sufficient size! Wow! To be fair, they have a bit of a tall order in promoting auto parts, since most consumers don’t even notice them until they malfunction. I guess that’s why this film is completely dude-oriented (the only woman in the film is cheesecake in one of the commercials), since car-obsessed dudes are the only ones who can get excited about auto parts. Don’t forget…AC…IS THERE…FOR YOU! If this review seems disjointed, wait till you see the film. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Anatomy of a Lie. This 1962 film is a refutation of another film, And Women Must Weep, which is also on my list to review. That film was an anti-union film that dramatically showed how a machinist’s strike in Princeton, Indiana supposedly damaged the community. Anatomy of a Lie was made by the union who voted to strike and interviews the workers who were involved in it, mostly women. The workers all point out that the anti-union film grossly misrepresented the facts of the strike, making it sound like it was not supported by the workers (actually it was overwhelmingly supported by them), that the picket lines exploded into violence (they didn’t), and that the union hired out-of-state goons to harass people who tried to cross the picket line (the sheriff even corroborates that there were no out-of-state goons, and the workers point out that the company hired out-of-state strikebreakers to cause problems on the picket lines). It all comes off as very convincing, since the interviewed workers are all real people and not actors. My favorite part is when they interview the tough old woman who was union president at the time of the strike. Part of the company’s dirty tricks was when they fired her on a trumped-up pretext. The anti-union film turned her character into a bitter, rabble-rousing man who gets the union to strike in revenge for his firing. When the interviewer asks the real union president about this, she says she actually discouraged the union to strike because of her, because “I’m fat, old, and ugly enough to take care of myself.” Yeah, you go, sister! Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **** (mainly for being an ephemeral film that rebutts another ephemeral film). Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Americans at Work: Hotel and Restaurant Workers. This chapter of “Americans at Work” focuses on those who work in the kitchens and dining rooms of big hotels and restaurants. There’s lots of footage of cooks and food preparers working in big kitchens with huge quantities of foods. It’s pretty impressive, really, all the work that goes into you being able to go out for a nice dinner, which was the point, I guess. Pretty straightforward with lots of historical interest. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
An American Valley: The Story of Trade Adjustment Assistance for American Workers. This 70s public service film is aimed at workers who have been laid off due to plant closings caused by cheap foreign imports. It explains the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, which provided additional unemployment benefits, career counseling, and skills training to such workers. It looks like it’s a pretty good program which prevented economic collapse in some areas hard hit by plant closings. There’s a subtle underlying message, though, that cheap foreign goods causing American unemployment is an absolutely necessary thing that can’t be helped, which I question. The film has that depressing style of many 70s films that’s a little hard to explain, but you know it when you see it, and that makes it less watchable than it might be, and makes even the happy endings for some workers not seem that great. An interesting flash from the 70s that still has relevance today. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ** (mostly from 70s ties). Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
American Tanks in China. 1920s newsreel about U.S. troops protecting American interests in China during the Chinese civil war. There’s some great footage of old tanks here, as well as footage of Chinese people during the 1920s with lots of historical interest. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The American Spirit. Early silent film in which the spirit of our American forefathers is transmitted to a new generation though overacting. Proves that you don’t have to hear dialogue to know when acting is bad. The film is in very poor condition, so it might have looked a little better in its time, but that would have just made the acting that much worse. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *** (would have been more if the film had been better preserved). Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ***.

An American in the Making (1913) from Ned Thanhouser on Vimeo.

An American in the Making. In this 1913 film, made by US Steel, a Hungarian immigrant gets a job at the US Steel plant in Gary, Indiana, is introduced to, and vastly impressed by, the wide array of safety equipment used in the plant, marries his pretty English teacher, and lives happily ever after with his wife and son in a nice middle class house. I’m sure that he, as well as all the workers he was meant to represent, were so darn happy they had no need for any of those rabble rousing unions. In US Steel’s dreams! Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
The American Indian Speaks. This 1973 Encyclopedia Brittanica film is a surprisingly harsh critique of the white peoples’ and the US government’s treatment of Native Americans. American Indians do speak in this film, and what they have to say Is unsettling to non-native citizens. What’s especially surprising is that EB would have sanctioned such a political film. According to Geoff Alexander’s Films You Saw in School, the suits at EB were shocked by the film and didn't much care for its message, but were afraid of being criticized if they failed to release it. This is a truly educational film that really helps you to empathize with the struggles of the Native Americans, and how they are continuing to be treated shamefully by the rest of this country. I wonder how much this film was shown in actual classrooms, at least after administrators and conservative moral guardians got to see it. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Air We Breathe in Industrial Environments. This industrial safety film explains the hazards of breathing air contaminated by various industrial pollutants, and the importance of wearing proper safety gear when doing various kinds of industrial jobs. It’s pretty standard for the most part, but there’s an old guy who’s not the narrator who has a great set of visual aids in the form of blocks that represent various concentrations of gasses, including one that says “FATAL” on the bottom (a must for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quriky Devices). Also, there’s lots of footage of gritty-looking industrial environments, where it’s hard to breathe just looking at them. Take a deep breath, folks, and be grateful you don't work in a coal mine. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The ABCs of Film Direction. This 60s film on the basics of film direction is a lot of fun to watch, not just because of its lively and somewhat campy Calvin Workshop style. It’s also really interesting for those of us who are into badfilm, as it shows us just how some directors are so incompetent that they screw up directing basics that are taught to beginners. In particular, there is a scene that shows how you can show an actor crossing a room and going up the stairs without showing every last little bit of it, a mistake I’ve seen many a time in bad films. The film also provides some great scenes for miners of video footage; I have a feeling that many of the scenes are a lot campier out of the film’s context. There's some mstable content in a scene of a male boss a female secretary that the narrator keeps referring to as a “girl.” Don’t forget to ask a member of the Calvin staff if you have any questions about this film! Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The American Indian: Child Life. This 1930s silent film shows us the everyday life of Native American children from several different tribes, mostly southwestern. From the time it was made, you’d expect lots of stereotypes, but you would be wrong for the most part. What you get is lots of charming and very real images of Native American children playing, working, interacting with animals, and going to school. A few of the title cards might make you cringe (like the one about how Indians can’t resist drumbeats), but for the most part, this film is quite respectful of its subject matter. Which gives it a great deal of historical interest. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Aeronautics and Space Report 1977. OK, it’s the 70s now, and NASA has calmed down quite a bit. (Told you the drugs were just a faze.) It's now in the space shuttle business and even has a pointy-haired boss in charge of finding customers for the shuttle’s payload area. Watch this after America in Space: First Decade to get an idea of what “settling down” looks like if you’re a space agency. No more MAN talk here; they’re even considering hiring women astronauts! Mostly, though, this film is about as interesting as your first real job was. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: **.
America in Space. So it looks like NASA made an earlier film to celebrate 5 years in space. This 1963 film is far more ordinary than the 1969 one. I wonder what happened in between—oh yeah, the 60s. So it must have been the lack of drugs that makes this film farm more coherent than the other one. There’s still a lot of MAN talk—what will MAN find in space, where will HE go, etc.? But since this film is more coherent and lots shorter than the other one, it doesn’t grate as much. For lots of trippy footage to mine, go with the 1969 film. For a little bit of historical interest on the history of the space program, go with this one. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Acting Is the Art. This 1971 film shows an African-American acting teacher teaching a basic acting class to a group of 4th and 5th grade African-American students. He plays acting games with them to draw them out, then helps them to create and act out short stories that they make up themselves. This is a charming and realistic film that really puts you into this situation. I’m not sure of the economic background of these children, but they seem to me to likely come from poor backgrounds (that may just be my stereotype, though). This passionate teacher may be providing them with their only experience of being encouraged to tell their own stories. I believe this must have had positive effects on them. Anyway, it’s fun to watch these ordinary kids being encouraged to use their imaginations and what they come up with when they do. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
The All-American Ski Tournament. Water skiing, that is. This early 60s film from Cypress Gardens, Florida shows us the highlights of what looks like the American waterskiing championships for that year. The action is pretty impressive, and both’s women’s and men’s events are shown. Also shown are bits of the show skiing by bathing beauties that they had between events. If you want footage of waterskiing, then this is your film Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
American Farmer. This 50s film features a clean-cut 50s teenager from the city who takes a summer job working on a farm. He narrates the entire film, giving his impressions of farm life and the new experiences he has. This is a charming little film that gives a really great glimpse of what it was like to live and work on an American family farm during the 50s. There are a few campy moments, such as some of the farmer’s facial expressions, but the charm and sincerity eventually keep you from making fun of this film too much. Just about everything in farm life is here, from chores, to animal care, to the great food, to the farmer worrying about the weather and his account books, to going shopping in town and visiting the county fair. A great snapshot of a particular time, place, and way of life. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
America the Beautiful. If you're looking for a good old-fashioned gung-ho American propaganda film, look no further. This 1940s film goes way over the top in telling us that America is the best nation on earth, bar none. This, of course, begs to be msted, but it almost makes it too easy. The film borders on self-parody, but at least it’s lively. We’re just the best nation that ever existed, OK??? Here's some stock footage to prove it. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Propaganda Quotient: *****+. Overall Rating: ***.
The American Cowboy. In this 1950 film, sponsored by Ford, a journalist visits a Colorado ranch to learn how the cowboys live. He is initially surprised that they aren’t exactly like the ones in the movies—they drive pickup trucks and all!—but quickly learns that they are a hard-working lot, and much of the work has changed little since the days of the Old West. If you like cowboys, this is your film. It documents a year’s work raising cattle on the ranch, and also includes plenty of rodeo footage. Lots of historical here, pardner. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
American Antiquity. This color yet silent travelogue from 1945 shows us the American southwest, with particular focus on evidence of early human habitation in the area. We get a tour of the ancient pueblos of Mesa Verde and images of many kinds of artifacts that have bee dug up there. We also get to see lots of footage of the Native Americans of the southwest carrying on their traditional ways of life. There's a great scene of a Native American woman carding, spinning, and weaving wool into a beautiful blanket with traditional designs on it. Lots of historical interest here. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
America in Space: First Decade. This NASA film documents the first decade of American space exploration. Made on the eve of Apollo 11, it tells its story in a somewhat trippy fashion, with an endless montage of images of space and space-age technology, narrated in an annoyingly sexist fashion. It would have us believe that all of humanity is Man (MAN wants to explore space; MAN has figured out that HE can survive in zero-gravity, etc.), and that all the people who worked together to put MEN into space are all MEN wearing white shirts and skinny black ties. But ignore the narration and get off on the great images in this film that stream by in a psychedelic fashion. There’s some good historical interest here and lots of great footage to mine for a video project. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story. This 1952 film shows us the work of Mary, an African-American midwife who helps poor rural African-American women to give birth. We get to see her work specifically with two different women: Ida, a woman who lives on a family prosperous farm, and who is well-prepared for the birth of her baby; and Maybelle, a woman who lives on a very poor farm and has miscarried the last two of her pregnancies. Mary works hard and manages to do well with both cases, helping Ida to deliver a big, healthy boy, and helping Maybelle deliver a premie. This is an incredibly heartwarming film that shows the birth process in great detail and under what we would today consider very primitive conditions. Mary takes her job very seriously and scrupulously follows the sanitation rules laid down by the public health doctor and nurse that she works with. She also provides lots of encouragement and emotional support to the new mothers she works with, as well as plenty of education on the importance of pre-natal care and good nutrition. Since this was made in the deep south in the early 50s, there’s a subtle backdrop of the Jim Crow realities black people had to deal with back then, such as the fact that the professional doctor and nurse are both white, the black women studying to be midwives practice on a white baby doll, and all of Mary’s clients seem to live in grinding poverty; even Ida’s house, which is the better of the two, doesn’t have electricity, and is heated with a wood stove (so is Mary’s, in fact). Still, this is a film that treats its subject with respect for the most part. It has tremendous historical interest for portraying childbirth practices in its time and place. And it stimulates lots of compassion for Mary’s clients, as well as respect for Mary and her profession. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****+. Overall Rating: *****.
Airport in the Jet Age ( This 1962 film shows schoolchildren how an airport runs and all the different kinds of jobs people do in it. Since its Encyclopedia Brittanica, the narration is rather dry, but the visuals just scream early 60s, a time when flying was really special, and people would go to the airport just to watch the jets take off and land (I should know; my family did this). There’s also an innocence about this film that makes it ripe fodder for msting; I came up with some great jokes without half trying. I suppose kids nowadays have to watch “Airport in the Age of Terrorism” (“Here’s where all the passengers take off their shoes, so the safety workers can check for bombs. This woman is getting her bra padded down.”). Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Aircraft Carrier Footage ( This is an excerpt from what looks like a WWII film about aircraft carriers, specifically how the deck workers help the planes land. I’m wondering if anybody knows what film this was from, as even just this excerpt has tons of historical interest. The camera is positioned from the point of view of the deck workers, so it really feels like you are there with them. The narration is sparse, but helpful in explaining what you are seeing, Too bad it looks like the rest of this film may be lost. Rating: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Eyes on the Prize - 03 - Ain't Scared of Your Jails, 1960-1961 (PBS) from NetNZ on Vimeo.

Ain’t Scared of Your Jails, 1960-1961 ( This episode of the TV documentary series “Eyes on the Prize” documents the Civil Rights movement of the early 60s, including the lunch-counter sit-ins and the Freedom Rides. Although originally made for TV, this was edited and distributed to schools to show in the classroom. It tells a tremendously inspiring story of how nonviolent protest brought real and important change to the entire nation. It should be required viewing nowadays to progressives who want to bring about positive change in this country. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
Agricultural Midwest ( Several midwestern farm families describe in their own words what it’s like to live on a family farm and make a living in agriculture. We also get to spend a little time at a grain elevator, a cereal making plant, and the Chicago Board of Trade, where farm commodities are bought and sold on a busy trading floor (Buy corn! Sell beans! No, buy beans! No! SELL! NO!…sorry). This part of the US is where I was born, raised, and still live, though I’m a city gal myself. But this is all very familiar territory to me, because even in urban Omaha, you never get far away from the influence of agriculture. This is like a holiday visit to my in-laws, who live in rural Nebraska (I even have a sister-in-law and brother-in-law who run their own family farm). This is a fairly well-made and realistic film. You get a sense that the people in it are real and are talking spontaneously in their own words, all with a charming rural accent. I bet they eat dinner at noon and everything. A real slice of life with lots of historical interest. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ** (slightly more if you live here). Weirdness: BOMB (these people are hyper-ordinary). Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
The Agony of Jimmy Quinlan ( Jimmy Quinlan is a middle-aged, homeless alcoholic, living on the streets of Montreal. His agony comes when he attempts to get sober, with the help of a mission. This National Film Board of Canada film is very compassionate and realistic in its portrayal of life on the streets and on the bottle. We meet many such homeless men and get a taste of the culture they have built for themselves, including how they attempt to sabotage those, like Jimmy, who attempt to escape it. These are men without hope, whose only solace comes in a bottle. We see Jimmy sweat through his withdrawal, getting help from other recovering alcoholics who have been through the same thing. The film ends on a note of uncertainty, with Jimmy sober just four days. We don't know if it will last, because it’s just one of many attempts he has made to get off the bottle. And even if he is successful, we have no idea of what may lie ahead for a sober Jimmy. This is a great slice-of-life film of a group of people that are society’s cast-offs, that most of us would prefer not to think about. And that makes it very thought-provoking. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
African Monkeys ( This silent Geramn educational film features several species of primates engaging in typical behaviors in the wild. This is a lot like watching primates at the zoo, but without the sounds and smells, and in a more natural environment. Which makes this more fun to watch than you might think. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overal Rating: ***.
African Pygmy Thrills ( This 30s travelogue, although very unenlightened in its narration, nevertheless impresses in its documentation of a Pygmy tribe’s building of a bridge across a crocodile-infested river. Their obvious ingenuity and bravery almost completely counteracts the unfortunate narration that calls them “little men.” There is lots of educational content and historical interest in this rather exploitatively-titled film. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Adventure in Telezonia ( Billy has a problem—he lost his dog, Bounce. And he can’t even figure out how to use the telephone to call his mom! So he consults with Twangy…er, Handy, the evil sprite that lives on the telephone lines for help. Soon Handy gets his whole family of evil sprites to tie up the phone lines looking for Bounce. Eventually, Billy gets Bounce back and even learns how to use the telephone in the process, but now he has a bigger problem: psychosis. This thoroughly evil film is great fun from beginning to end. It actually makes cell phones seem like a blessing. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.
Admiral Cigarettes ( This 1897 film may be the first advertising film ever made. Uncle Sam, a stereotyped Indian and a couple of other costumed folks oped a package that contains a costumed woman who throws cigarettes in the air, as the other unfurl a banner that says, “WE ALL SMOKE.” Whoopee! Smokes for all! There can’t possibly be a downside to this, can there? Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
The Acrobatic Fly ( Silent film from 1910 which shows a fly laying on its back and tumbling various tiny objects with its little fly legs, including a tiny barbell, a wine cork, and another fly. This is bizarre enough that it’s kind of fun to watch. It was probably even more fun for audiences of its day. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Accuracy First ( This silent Western Union film from 1928 warns telegraph operators that small mistakes can cost their customers thousands of dollars. A female transmitter is interrupted by a coworker (and I’m wondering why she’s stroking her hair, but never mind) and this causes her to transmit an error in the telegram she’s sending. The female worker at the other end sees the error and thinks she can “correct” it, but actually doesn’t know what she’s doing and thus ends up printing a telegram with the wrong message, causing a stockbroker to make an expensive mistake on the trading floor. This is pretty lively for a training film, with characters that are shown to be real people, rather than drones. It also has lots of historical interest in showing what it was like to work as a telegraph operator during the 20s. And don’t forget to sell one October and two December! Or is that buy? Sell, no buy! Arrgh!! No wonder the stock market crashed! Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
I'm baaackkk!!! (Not that anybody cares, probably.)
L’Abbaye ( This French language instruction film, made by Encyclopedia Brittanica, features a young French woman and a much older man (who we hope is her grandfather or something) touring a French cathedral. This must have been for advanced French students, because the characters babble on in fluent French without any subtitles or anything. It’s obvious the young woman is impressed with all that she sees, and indeed, there are some lovely camera angles of the grand architecture here and there. Mostly, though, this is pretty ordinary, though it is very French. 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 ...