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: ****.

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...