Child ice skating prodigy Irene Dare stars in Frolics on Ice, a whimsical classic film with young love, tons of music, and, of course, ice skating. Irene Dare began her acting career at the age six, and she lights up the screen with cute smirks and then showcases her remarkable ability on a skating rink. Dare’s grumpy uncle (Roscoe Karns) wants to make money off Dare and her older sister, preferably by marrying them off rich. Amidst the songs and the skating, young little Dare sorts out her sister’s relationship problems and teachers her uncle a good lesson. Frolics on Ice is a sweet slice of Americana pie with extra cuteness heaped on top.
Riotous youthful pranks from the thirties! Peck’s Bad Boy with the Circus is a parade of childish gags, executed to perfection by a seasoned (for children!) group of rapscallions. Many of them are alumni of the Little Rascals, but the leader Billy Peck (Tommy Kelly) lights up the screen. Billy is on his way to the championship obstacle race, but first he and his gang want to go to see a traveling circus. The rowdy bunch causes all sorts of problems, driving the owner crazy. Built up with laughs, cute kids, and outrageous situations, Peck’s Bad Boy with the Circus is a darling family film that should be enjoyed by all.
Borrowed Power is a typical driver’s education film meant to scare kids into being cautious and responsible drivers. Jerry Thomas, quarterback of his high school football team and all-around great guy (the classic 1950's perfect young man), turns into a different person when he gets behind the wheel of a car. He drives aggressively, speeds, and generally abuses the “borrowed power” of the car. When he and two friends get hauled into court on suspicion of a hit-and-run in their (now) vintage cars, Jerry gets a lesson in the responsibilities of safe driving from the judge. In a touching showing of loyalty, a parade of friends and family come in to testify about how Jerry is such a great guy. The judge comments to Jerry’s father that Jerry received enough training to be a good pedestrian and bicyclist, but that he needed some more guidance when it came to being a good driver and vehicle safety. Life lessons abound by the end of the film as Jerry begins to understand what a serious matter safe driving is. One of many educational videos to employ scare tactics, Borrowed Power effectively contrasts reckless driving with defensive driving, car safety, and safe driving habits.
Rogues Tavern is a creepy murder mystery in a creepy old hotel, the bar of which is frequented by a gang of smuggling jewel thieves. A detective and his newlywed bride come to stay at the hotel for their honeymoon. When an innocent man is found murdered with his throat torn out, the detective goes to work looking for culprit. His wife, sometimes smarter and more capable than he is, helps along as everyone staying at the hotel becomes a prime suspect. The house is unpleasant, and the first obvious candidate is the part-wolf canine that stays tied up outside. But while the dog is present, more murders occur. Rogues Tavern is enigmatic and enjoyable, with a cast of veteran actors on hand to work with an intriguing script. You’ll be guessing until the very end!
This Works Progress Administration (WPA) video documents the destruction and rebuilding that occurred after the January 1937 flooding of the Ohio River that stretched from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to Cairo, Illinois. The effects of this devastating incident were increased further due to the struggles that America was already facing while in the midst of the Great Depression. While the devastation was extensive and left many people homeless or dead, it would have been further compounded without the help of the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal Agency created to provide work to the unemployed. These workers bravely and tirelessly aided in the evacuation of people from the area, the distribution of food supplies and clothing, and the eventual clean up of the wreckage caused by the flooding. This video strongly and rightly praises these workers and acts as a motivator for those employed by the WPA and stands as a persuasive justification for the funds spent to employ the workers.
A low budget monster movie lovers dream, The Mad Monster is a fiendishly absurd killer werewolf film from the early nineteen forties. Not to be missed is George Zucco playing one of the greatest evil-genius-mad-scientists ever to appear in film. Zucco has devised a way to fuse a man and a wolf, the only problem is deciding what to do with it. Should he build an army to create a new militaristic world order, or unleash the bloodthirsty creature on his former scientist friends? Ah, the difficult decisions of the deranged experimenter! Unintentionally funny, intentionally absurd, and continuously entertaining, The Mad Monster is a masterpiece of guilty pleasure freak creature cinema.
How Much Affection?, a telling vintage social guidance film, discusses whether or not to indulge in “heavy petting.” When Laurie and Jeff get deeply immersed one night while parking, Laurie suddenly regrets her behavior and runs off to have a heart to heart with her mother. Timeless wisdom is delivered: “If you'll just slow down the rush and pressure of your feelings a little, then judgment has a better chance to take hold and guide you away from wrong behavior. When you can rely on judgment rather than emotion to rule your behavior, as you did tonight, then you'll really be grown up.” Resorting to scare tactics, gross depictions of different couple who went too far, got pregnant, and had to get married fly across the screen. How Much Affection? is a telltale conservative 1950’s film that makes for fascinating viewing today.
Tom used to play tennis, go bowling, and was an avid hunter. But Tom will never do any of those activities again because he has lost his leg in a car accident. Worst of all, his friend and passenger, Jim, is still in the operating room in the hospital. Tom has always been a cocky driver; and he had never been in any accidents before. When coming home from hunting trips exhausted and sleepy, or driving under the influence, Tom has always managed to escape without incident. Until now. Few Too Many is a classic dangers of drunk driving video that seeks to prevent drunk driving. Many people are affected by alcohol at as little as 0.05% blood alcohol concentration and all are affected at 0.1% BAC. Drunk driving statistics punctuate the often penetrating footage of horrible drunk driving accidents. Tom's story is not unique, and discussion of why teenagers drunk drive is an important part of the film. Some interesting cultural perspectives are illuminated, such as how alcohol abuse was thought of completely differently in the mid 20th century. At the time of this film, the idea of drinking was strongly tied together with the common idea of a man in America. Men were expected to hunt, bowl, and play sports - while drinking. So instead of changing this strongly held idea, Few Too Many seeks to lessen the danger: less drinking (not abstaining), safer driving and good judgment.
This interesting 1950’s social guidance film for young women discusses how to find a mate. Instead of talking about how to dress and act on a date, however, Choosing for Happiness concerns itself with the issue of women taking men “as they are” and not trying to change them into the person they might want them to be. Mary, the narrator, is surprised that her vibrant and attractive friend Eve isn’t engaged yet. She investigates the issue, and shows flashback scenes from Eve’s past relationships. In each, a boy with a different personality type is subjected to Eve’s controlling ways, resists, and each relationship eventually fails. With the help of her realistic friend Mary, Eve learns that instead of trying to change her boyfriends, she should focus on the ways she can change herself for the better, and make fewer demands upon her suitors.
His Brother’s Ghost is an uproarious romp through the Wild West which is haunted in this film! Olympic gold medalist Buster Crabbe, known for his smashing portrayals of Tarzan and Flash Gordon, is given top billing in this cowboy adventure, but the real star is Al “Fuzzy” St. John. St. John was usually Crabbe’s sidekick, but in this film he’s killed early on and returns as a vengeful ghost! St. John clearly loves the role and steals the show scene after haunting scene. But of course there’s still plenty of screen time for the gun slinging Crabbe to blast away bad guys, which is exactly what he does. Funny, fast paced, and explosive, His Brother’s Ghost is a superb vintage Western adventure.
Heroin. It's one of the most powerful illegal drugs and is still regularly abused around the world. This intense film explores where heroin comes from, how it's processed, and by what methods it enters into the United States for sale on the black market in the 1970's. It's also narrated by the wonderful Hollywood icon Paul Newman who illuminates the history of heroin. Opium has been a source of drug addiction for thousands of years. The film reveals how opium is made into heroin. Originally used chiefly in Mediterranean countries, the drug eventually spread to Arab countries and to the Far East. It is now smuggled into the United States. Today, illegal drug smuggling is a serious issue in the United States as smuggling techniques become more sophisticated. Despite efforts to crack down on the availability of narcotics, it is nearly impossible to prevent them from entering the country. The manner of processing opium into heroin has also become more advanced. The effects of heroin are examined, as well as substance abuse treatment for heroin addiction. The film continues with a description of how heroin addicts have started to be treated differently in the 1970s. The major shift was from moving away from criminalization of addicts to treatment. This is ironic, however, since less than a decade later the War on Drugs would begin and drug abuse would return to criminal activity. A stirring look at heroin abuse, Distant Drummer: Flowers in the Darkness is an intense but important viewing experience to learn more about the history of drug abuse.
The Inside Story of Modern Gasoline is a cute educational video from the 1940s about how automobiles convert gasoline into energy, and crude oil refining. The film follows animated (and personified) droplets of gas as they travel through the engine. While explaining how an engine works, the film treats viewers to vintage automobiles, gas stations, and oil refineries. Entertainingly informative, the chemistry of engine processes are broken down with a mixture of wacky dated scientists and animated molecules flying around. Simple chemistry, shown by basic chemistry animations, help get across the complex processes. Gasoline is important, but a detailed examination of oil and engine lubricant is also looked at closely. Nice shots of old gasoline engines, old engine parts, and oil refineries are included. Finally, gasoline and oil's calibration for optimum performance is explored, including lab vapor tests and corrosive testing. The Inside Story of Modern Gasoline works as a fun and interesting film, with a blend of useful information and amusing dated effects.
Home on the Range shines with the culture and lifestyle of the Old West cattle ranchers. The film was produced by the US Department of Agriculture in order to promote the domestic war effort in the thick of World War II. Thanks to a fantastic narrator with a wild west twang to his voice, as well as some lovely shots of cowboys at work in their fields and ranches, this is an excellent and enriching film to enjoy. The earnest and patriotic narrator implores American’s to “save a steak or two for the boys overseas.” Home on the Range is a highly enjoyable relic from the day of WWII promotional filmmaking.
This early driving promotional video and driving safety film by General Motors won the 1936 National Safety Council’s first place award. Using animation, color, black and white, live action, and split screen footage, We Drivers presents the problems of reckless driving behavior in the ancient paradigm of the good self and bad self, represented by animated “angel” Sensible Sam and “devil” Reckless Rudolph. These funny 1930 cartoon images, along with “Old Man Momentum,” a sort of hairy giant that takes curves too fast and tailgates, help tease out the risk factors of driving situations, like night-driving, driving in fog, bad drivers, changing gears, speeding cars, driving while tired, aggressive driving, and road rage. Of course, plenty of great footage of classic cars and vintage vehicles populate the film. Not your typical car accident video, however, the end comes when Sam and Rudolph engage in a boxing match and, when Sam knocks Rudolph out, the referee calls out a list of ten vehicle safety rules instead of the traditional countdown. We Drivers balances cute characters with serious business, making for a fun and effective educational film. It's also worth noting that the film doesn't rely too heavily on scare tactics, or push its sponsor General Motors to an overbearing degree.
This oddball and antiquated social etiquette and health video is a funny post World War II film. Three teens: Ernie, Jean, and Hal, are basically normal kids who have some “health” problems that they solve by discovering exercise. Ernie is in a “run down condition” and gets colds all the time. He solves this problem with stomach crunches and trunk stretches. Jean is shy and awkward. But when she joins in a tennis game, her awkwardness turns to “poise and confidence” and she finds new friends and social contacts. Hal reads too much and is “nervous and irritable.” After reading about exercise in a book, he decides to try it out for himself and discovers that it can relieve all his “tensions.” He starts an acrobatics club. All the teens find exercising in same-sex clubs or teams a great outlet for their “emotional tensions” (read sexual hormones) in this bizarre Coronet social guidance film.
A precious glance at Harlem and African American culture in the nineteen forties, Murder on Lenox Avenue is a walk through nightclubs and political strife, home life and murder. Also featured is an extraordinary performance by Mamie Smith, one of the first women to ever record blues music, as she sings in a hot swing club. Intricately woven, the biting characters of Murder on Lenox Avenue are mostly out to get each other: from stealing jobs to stealing daughters. Historically significant, abrasive, and politically charged, Murder on Lenox Avenue is an electric foray into Harlem in the early twentieth century.
It’s a Joke, Son! was the first film to feature the blustering fictional Senator Claghorn, a hot headed southern politician created by Kenny Delmar for use on his Fred Allen Show radio program. Claghorn was an enormously popular radio character, and his exaggerated Southern zealotry (he refuses to drive through the Lincoln Tunnel and only drinks out of little Dixie Cups!) translates beautifully to the big screen. Delmar boisterously plays the Senator, while the lovely Una Merkel is his wife and soap opera queen June Lockhart is his daughter. Mostly a backdrop for sidesplitting jokes, the story centers on the bumbling Senator Claghorn getting mixed up in absurd political games during an election cycle. Biting political satire intermingled with uproarious gags and pranks, It’s a Joke, Son! is a treat from start to finish.
All aboard the Paradise Express! This unabashedly feel-good film sets the handsome and heroic good guys of a small railway service against the mustache twirling corrupt mob-tied dark haired villains of a large trucking company. The rail company is lead by dashing leading man Grant Withers (who starred alongside John Wayne in many of the Duke’s best films), who suggests that the fledgling business challenge the immoral truckers to a race, winners take all! By his side is the glamorous and subtly seductive Dorothy Appleby, who delivers a top notch performance. Paradise Express is a nonstop, fun filled ride.