Hold onto your seats while watching this rare 1918 stunt compilation. Even though this vintage film remains silent, the content is exciting and unbelievably daring! Daredevils skate on the edge of skyscrapers, jump off cars onto planes, leap from moving motorcycles onto cars moving 91 miles per hour, and more! The courageous and oftentimes humorous feats such as these give viewers an understanding of how people got their thrills in the early 1900s.
This film about sound recording for motion pictures features the talents of animator Max Fleischer who would later go on to make Betty Boop and Popeye. This film is a great example of his transition from the simple blacks and whites that characterized his earlier works, to his 1930’s animation which contained many shades of grey and more complex backgrounds. The narrator is a film strip who is trying to “find the voice” of his friend, a silent film. Their quest will reveal fascinating facts about the history of sound recording and sound editing, as well as answering the question, "how did sound get on film?" They are funny animations that make the information fun. The two film strips meet up with Dr. Western, who explains how sound was recorded back in 1920's talkies. There is footage of cameras being used in soundproof rooms and old folded horn style stage speakers. Eventually, the film strip finds his voice and the two sing “Merrily We Roll Along” together. This gem of a film is a wonderful opportunity to check out early cartoons made by one of the most famous animators of the twentieth century.
This 50's cleanliness and hygiene film aims to promote good hygiene by highlighting the threat of germs and disease. The film, geared toward elementary and middle school students, gives instructions on hand washing, bathing, showering, brushing teeth, hair care, skin care, healthy diet, drinking enough water, and caring for clothes.
In light of today’s volatile energy climate, Desert Venture becomes a highly ironic and intensely interesting classic video about American oil production in the Middle East. A propaganda film through and through, Desert Venture seeks to lionize the American investors who came to Saudia Arabia and invested in energy at great risk. The rosy face that the narrator puts on the relationships built between Americans and “suspicious, strange people” is powerful. This film is also one of the greatest collections of footage of 1950’s oil factories and plants in the Middle East. Stirring scenes of Saudi and American workers toiling in the heat for energy is captivating. For it’s outrageously positive tone and jingoistic viewpoint, as well as precious footage, Desert Venture is of crucial viewing importance today more than ever.
Produced by Encyclopedia Britannica Films, this video seeks to educate American schoolchildren on how to take cover in the event of a nuclear warning or attack. The child safety tips are dated and hilarious, consider what little help covering up is against a nuclear weapon or a nuclear explosion. Three different situations are shown, including when children are at school, at home, or at a playground. Children are shown cowering against buildings and hiding in basements. Fictional characters, Sue and Ted, are shown at home alone during an attack. The narrator even recommends that children caught outside far from home enter a random house for shelter, advising them that “strangers will understand.” The film also gives a simplified explanation of how nuclear bombs work throughout the lessons on child home safety. This is a classic Cold War era propaganda film that is light on atomic bomb facts and heavy on reassuring government rhetoric.
A frightening look at how industrialists proposed to apply nuclear power to all facets of American life, Atoms for Peace is a nonstop promotion of nuclear energy that tragically stresses the harmlessness and efficiency of nuclear energy. Nuclear power was one of the fastest growing fields in the twentieth century and this film is a landmark in nuclear power history. For example, nuclear power was embraced by the oil industry by utilizing radioisotopes to save the industry nearly a half a million dollars a year through the use of atomic tracers in the oil. The film enumerates the uses of nuclear energy, which includes how particles can tell scientists about the affects of aging on car engines, the length of paper or sheet metal in a factory, and help find microscopic flaws in metals. Perhaps the biggest advancement with isotopes is in the energy sector. For example, atomic scientists tell the viewer, much more energy is stored in a small amount of uranium compared to coal. Nuclear energy can be an alternative energy form for places that currently have no electricity. It will take quite some time before nuclear energy can be a competitive form of energy in the United States. However, a promising study just took place in which test administrators shut off the electrical power in a mock city and replaced electric with nuclear power. The lights came back on. Nuclear research also has a big affect in American agriculture. Scientists are now able to study plants in all new ways. They can build stronger, better plants. Fertilizers are being tested and improved. Great strides have been made against disease. With the help of atomic energy, pharmaceuticals are developing medicines and possible cures for cancer, leukemia, and diabetes. Researchers have even found that atomic energy can shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. Atoms of Peace gives a fascinating historical sense of the perception of nuclear power and its projected uses. The advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power are not fairly weighed in this classically biased promotional video.
This Jam Handy production was made to sell Chevrolets (now vintage Chevrolets), but it is a promotional video that is ostensibly an educational video. In order to teach us about the inner workings of the superbly designed Chevy engine and explain how an engine works, the production team combined clever animation with real footage of different parts of the engine to produce an entertaining and humorous film about what happens to gasoline when it is pumped into a car. A great example of black and white cartoons, one animated drop of gasoline acts as the “tour guide” through the gas line, fuel pump, manifold, and into the cylinder where he is blown up in order to power the car. At this point, he grows little angel’s wings and flies off, secure in the knowledge that he’s lived the best life possible for a drop of gas, which is fueling a Chevy, of course. There's some nice footage of old Chevy cars which along with the amusing black and white cartoon characters make this a fun promotional video.
Logic By Machine offers a historical snapshot of computers in the mid-1960’s. With an eerie soundtrack by Morton Subotnick, and crude animation, the story of how computers make our lives easier and better is told in sometimes excruciating detail. Actual mathematicians impart fascinating knowledge and historical perspective on the inner workings of the earliest computers. Some topics that the film touches on as possibilities for the future are symbolic reality, artificial intelligence, and other social and philosophical discoveries. Logic By Machine is a compelling exploration of the rich and important history of computers.
Blood and Sand (1922) is a silent film about one figure: the great Rudolph Valentino as a bravura bullfighter. This digest version of Blood and Sand also offers informative commentary about the film throughout the entire silent feature. An international sex icon, Valentino’s presence on screen is palpable. Here in Blood and Sand, Valentino is given ample opportunity to exude his ultra masculinity in the face of constant danger – be it from bulls or beautiful women. Featuring femme fatales Lila Lee and Nita Naldi, Rudolph has much to work with in this short silent film that has the gravitas of an epic. Blood and Sand is a touchstone Rudolph Valentino film that captures the essence of his brief but bright career.
In Our Hands is an anti-communist four-part series that discusses the birth of the American way of life, how we could lose it, and how we must make sure we don’t lose it. In part one, a couple and their baby are magically dropped down into a wilderness with no tools, in order to show how lost Americans would be without the privately owned means (tools) of production. The Lincoln Memorial, our founding fathers, and God, are invoked in this patriotic paean to capitalism. In part two, the films shows how even the simplest things in the American household, like Mom’s frying pan, are made by industries. It explains the freedoms Americans have thanks to capitalism. Scenes of iron industry, pan-manufacturing, farming, and more are shown. In part three, the film introduces a complex dramatization of how Americans could “lose what we have.” Two middle class couples are shown watching a political debate on TV featuring a fat, slimy communist-type candidate and a thin, scrappy, free-market candidate. Each makes the arguments for or against Big Government. The communist-type promises "full employment and full security" "We're already on our way,” he says, “We've partly socialized incomes. We're going ahead and socialize property, too!" "But what price freedom?" cries the good candidate. "You can have full employment and full security -- in a penitentiary! Government can't control everything without controlling me!" Tom, Mary, and their friends are seduced by the prospects of full employment and a “master plan” for the country. They vote for the evil candidate, and the free-market economy gives way to the parent state. A horrific scene ensues where Tom and Mary are informed by a cheeky relocation driver that their house is being given to two other families and they’re being transported to a new state and a new job. They argue in vain, as the evil party member that oversees their relocation says, “You voted for it!” As they are driven away with the few valuables they’ve been allowed to retain, the driver tells them that he doesn’t know what’s going to happen with religion, but that they’d better “button their lip” about that kind of stuff. In the final part, the film presents a vague plan for “protecting our natural resources” and continuing to participate in a democratic government with a free-market economy. The whole series presents the forces for government regulation of industry, labor unions, and foreign socialist regimes as a dangerous, real, and imminent threat to the American way of life. According to the film, Big Government meant a complete loss of individual freedom and wealth, and it uses every scare tactic, generalization, and stereotype possible to drive the point home.
Nominated for six Academy Awards, My Man Godfrey is the quintessential Great Depression diversion film and a boisterous, subtle, and powerfully acted comedy. Masterful actor William Powell is a bum whose life gets irrevocably changed upon meeting the piercingly beautiful Carole Lombard, a rich heiress. Lombard finds Powell intriguing and sets him up as the butler for her large and chaotic household. The contrast between Powell’s derelict but hopeful homeless friends and the wealthy family that he is brought into is drastic, and allows for some insightful social commentary. But not to be bogged down in anything too serious, My Man Godfrey is a laugh a minute all the way to its feel good climax. Few films attain such soaring heights as this gem from the early days of talking cinema.
This is a funky 1940's hygiene film that teaches college students how to clean, groom, and dress themselves in order to make a good impression (and strictly conform). A young coed is shown using her good habits to seduce a male student, proving the validity of the film’s arguments. This is the beginning of dated, sexist rhetoric that peppers this odd movie. Hair, skin, nails, teeth, and clothing are all discussed in detail, and the film animates things like hair follicles and sweat glands. Some of the tips border on absurd, like suggesting that women wash their hair every two weeks. With the sexist ideas, grooming tips that would be considered outrageous today, and some nifty scenes from Cornell University’s campus, this is a highly recommended classic video.
Call of the Wilderness is a pleasant family and pet adventure movie that pits Caesar the Dog against both animal and human foes. Caesar was a cute and cuddly feature film star that was often compared to Rin Tin Tin during his film run. Using both intelligence and brawn, Caesar must save himself and his family in Call of the Wilderness. Leading his loving family through the forests, Caesar battles with rattlesnakes and even mountain lions on his way to proving himself a worthy dog. Call of the Wilderness exemplifies early talking cinema, and is great wholesome family fun from the 1930s.
When thousands of dollars have been stolen and an innocent man accused, who should come to the rescue but Tarzan the Wonder Dog! Inside Information is the family friendly story of this magnificent police canine that can sniff out criminals. When a banker is mysteriously robbed and wrongly blamed for it, Tarzan the Wonder Dog and his partner Lloyd Wilson (Rex Lease) must uncover the real criminals. Originally intended as a happy way to spend an afternoon during The Great Depression, Inside Information is positively delightful to watch today.
As We Like It documents a reverent history of beer, throughout world history and in 1950’s America. Full of hilariously over the top adult beverage promotion, the film describes beer as a necessity to a healthy economy, community cooperation, and “gracious living.” The movie also exclaims that beer is "Sparkling, golden, pure, refreshing, a beverage as old as history." After describing the origins of beer, the film explains how the brewing industry functions as a valuable source of tax revenue and jobs for the American economy, providing interesting historical perspective. It then moves to a description of all the different sorts of places people can enjoy “malted beverages,” coming to the conclusion that the best place for ordinary people to hang out is at their neighborhood tavern, where their favorite beer is on tap and the owner contributes to the community through charitable giving. As We Like It is a fun snapshot of beer making, and drinking, history.
Jean Parker, one of Hollywood’s classic beauties, plays an innocent woman framed for murder in Lady in the Death House. This gritty noir-style film intricately traces Parker’s extraordinary circumstances that lead to her awful predicament on death row. Deftly flowing from past to present and everywhere in between, without ever leaving the viewer confused, Lady in the Death House builds tension and thrills the old fashioned way: with good storytelling. The final scenes are particularly harrowing, as every aspect of the film races towards its horrifying conclusion. Lady in the Death House has that black and white 1940s film noir electricity that infuses every shadow, every wry smirk, and every harsh word with an extra sharpness and sense of depth. A gem of classic cinema that deserves more recognition, Lady in the Death House is simply fine filmmaking.
Desirable Lady is a first-rate look at stereotypes and cultural values of the nineteen forties that includes exotic dancing, nightclubs, and exploitation. The voluptuous Jan Wiley, who usually starred in Western movies, takes the scantily clad leading role. The corrupting of morals and seedy business transactions abound as Wiley tries to improve her lot in life. She’s constantly thwarted by those out to exploit her and her luscious body. But when Wiley ends up in the slammer for lewd activity, something has to give. Desirable Lady is a classic example of a grind house film that played in side street theaters.
The Battle of Midway received the Academy Award for best documentary in 1942 because of its stark and harrowing footage of an actual World War II battle. Famous director John Ford was stationed at Midway Island. When the base is attacked, Ford was shooting film from atop a power plant and actual took a shrapnel wound! The footage that he risked his life to capture is nothing short of spectacular. Henry Fonda provides narration that leans heavily on American war propaganda. But the true treasure of this fantastic film is in its rare and honest footage. The Battle of Midway is a crucial piece of documentary filmmaking that will forever be part of the bedrock of cinematic history.