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A Public Affair (1962)
Docudrama of how a bill becomes law in the California Legislature
This film is basically a semi-documentary (or docudrama) on how a bill becomes law in the California Legislature. Throughout the film, several of the characters and the voice-over narration provide detailed exposition on the many steps of the process.
First there must be a public 'problem' that the legislature needs to solve. Here it is the abusive and unethical practices of collection agencies and their agents, mostly in the area of automobile repossession. California Senator Fred Baines (Ed Binns) introduces a bill to move the oversight of collection agencies from under the Secretary of State to the Department of Professional and Vocational Standards. This administrative reorg is presented as the 'fix' to ensure tighter control of the collection agencies and prevent the abuses, presumably since the government official responsible for their oversight (Leonard Lohman, played by Peter Brocco) is completely in the pocket of the collection agency professional association.
We are left in no doubt as to who to root for. All the politicians and their assistants are represented as earnest and competent public servants, especially the author of the bill, Senator Baines. We see him kissing his long-suffering and beautiful wife Phyllis (Jackie Loughery) goodbye at his office in Riverside, California. He commutes by helicopter to the state capital in Sacramento.
Meanwhile, the collection agency owners and associates (including Lohman and their sleazy lobbyist Hal Green, played by Judson Pratt) are, almost to a man, depicted as goons and low-lifes. We see one bad apple in particular, Marshall Thor (Lou Kane), beat up a man (and his wife!) as he repossesses the pickup truck the man uses to make a living. In another instance, Thor tells a housewife over the phone that her husband has been in an accident and is at a local hospital, just to trick her into giving out their personal credit information. In a third example, a couple who cannot pay their bill are told 'something will happen' to their children as they walk to school.
As Bill 93 wends its way through the legislative process, Sam Clavell (Myron McCormick) is appointed as the Senate coordinator of the committee responsible for the bill. Here the film takes on the flavor of a police procedural, much like a 1950s "Dragnet" episode. (The voice-over narration of Paul Frees helps in that regard.) Sam Clavell is a tough and street-smart investigator, and it is his job to find any weaknesses in the opposition and exploit them, using the same down-and-dirty tactics that he expects the opposition will use. He hires a couple of tough investigators who start looking at the criminal records of collection agents. Marshall Thor has a criminal record and is on parole, and even worse, he carries a gun. Sam uses that information to force Thor to hire one of his undercover operatives, a young policewoman named Tracey Phillips (Grace Lee Whitney). Meanwhile, the collection agencies are applying pressure to Senator Baines by funding a bogus recall effort in his home district.
After several attempts to defeat or water down the bill, it finally becomes law.
I originally bought the DVD from Sinister Cinema because it features one of my favorite actresses, Grace Lee Whitney. She does a good job in her small but significant role. It is good to see her in her prime.
Hands Off (1952)
Make fun if you must, but films like these often got the job done.
I saw this film in my high-school vocational-agriculture class back in the early 1970s. I am positive it is the same film I saw over 45 years ago, because of two scenes forever burned into my brain:
- A farmer gets BOTH hands caught in a corn picker. He is finally able to pull out one of them, and waves frantically to attract attention from passers-by on a nearby road. But at least one truck driver thinks he is just being friendly and drives on. The farmer is stuck for several more hours until he is finally rescued.
- Another farmer is able to get his arm free from a corn picker. When he gets up and before he starts to run away, we see a momentary glimpse of the bloody stump as he puts it under his jacket.
It is a favorite pastime of many to poke fun at instructional films like this one. I do it too: I am a big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax. True, this film and others like it will never win an Oscar, and many of them are incredibly amateurish and unintentionally hilarious.
But this film is better than average. It made a big impression on me, a 13-year-old farm boy. Rather than revel in gore, it made use of viewers' imaginations. In the first scene I describe above, mostly we see the farmer's legs as first he dangles beside the machine, then slowly keeps regaining and losing his footing as he struggles (unsuccessfully) to free himself.
The film's purpose was to prevent accidents by showing how easy it is to get caught in fast-moving machinery, even if you have gotten away with it many times before. And it succeeded, at least in my case--I was "scared straight". I believe films like these provided a useful public service by preventing injuries and deaths.
Work to Do (1997)
"There is ... work ... to do"
Of the four Jonah Hall "Open Mike Night" short films included on the "Computer Animation Celebration" DVD, I like this one by far the best. All four feature a (presumably amateur) poet reading his or her poem to an unseen audience, at a poetry reading in a motel meeting room.
In this one, a slow-voiced bib-overall-wearing farmer relates his woes, starting with a wife who is bedridden and cannot help with the chores. He laments that he has to start his work before sunrise. He cannot find the feed for the chickens, even though he fed them yesterday--did his wife move it? He concludes by wishing he had the time to drive into town and relax by drinking a margarita.
While I realize this animated cartoon was intended to be funny, it touched me on a deeper level. It reminds me of my childhood growing up on my grandparents' farm. I had it pretty easy, but they did not. It takes a tremendous amount of work to keep a farm running. It is basically a 12+-hour-a-day job, at least 6 days a week, for pretty much forever. In a few words, this film conveys that sense of quiet desperation.
Liberation 1945 Testimony (1995)
Extremely informative and uplifting . . .
In July 1998 I was in the Washington D.C. area and finally had the opportunity to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. One of the exhibits was a video featuring the remembrances of Holocaust survivors upon being liberated by the advancing Allied armies. Also included were members of the United States military that discovered the camps or otherwise helped liberate them. In the notes I took of my visit, I wrote only that the title had the word "Testimony" in it and that two of the Holocaust survivors met just after the war, fell in love, and got married.
I always wondered what the full name of the video was, and if I could see it again without traveling back to D.C. After an Internet search last month I found the name of this video and bought a DVD copy from eBay, hoping it was the same one I saw almost 18 years ago. It was. I just now put it on the IMDb.
I highly recommend this video for anyone and for all ages. The testimonies of the 20 survivors are informative, uplifting and inspirational without being too graphic or depressive. I was especially impressed by their gratitude in simply being alive, and their willingness to move ahead with their lives after the war, after having lost so much. Their testimonies humble me deeply; I am not sure I could have endured what they did.
Many of the 13 soldiers, nurses and chaplains relate their shock at coming upon the camps and realizing what had been happening. I don't want to sound jingoistic, yet their efforts to do everything they could to save lives and heal the sick, respect the dead and restore dignity to the living, make me proud to be an American.
Mount Rushmore: The Shrine (1986)
Good introduction to the monument ; I am pretty sure it is the same video shown at the Visitor Center. . .
In September 1986 I took a driving trip out West to visit friends in Montana, and one of my stops was Mount Rushmore. It was a beautiful clear sunny morning, and it was my luck that I arrived at the same time as the yearly inspection of the statues--I have some neat pictures of rock climbers hanging off Roosevelt's lower lip! Anyway, I watched the orientation video in the visitor center, which explained how the idea for the statues came about, the reasons for the selection of these four Presidents, and how the faces were carved. After all these years, I identified the name of this video program and found a VHS copy (also available in DVD from the Mount Rushmore Society) and put it on the IMDb.
If you never get a chance to visit the actual monument, I can recommend this video as the next best thing.
Something I have not yet figured out: I distinctly remember Tom Brokaw (the NBC News anchor) narrating the video, and several Web sites back me up. But my VHS copy has another narrator, Bill Rogers. Perhaps there is a special alternate version just for the visitor center, I don't know.
Pretty cool, especially for Ohio State fans...
I first became aware of this short film when I saw it at the Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art exhibit "Objects of Wonder: from The Ohio State University" on October 19 2008. I saw it again at the 50th Anniversary/Open House of The Ohio State University Archives in May 2015, where I finally got a DVD of the film. It's a 'typical' Saturday home football game held at Ohio Stadium, Ohio State's football stadium, starting at sunrise and finishing as the sun sets. The two MAJOR SPOILERS you should know about are: 1) the film is played at a very high speed, and 2) the entire soundtrack consists of bluegrass music played by a local Columbus group. The time-lapse photography is a pretty funny effect--the people look and behave like ants as they scurry about. And the fast bluegrass tempo just adds to the manic motion. Highly recommended.
Alaska's Marine Highway (2013)
Beautiful - makes me want to take the trip ...
I have been interested in traveling to Alaska most of my life, especially in driving the Alaska Highway. But from Ohio, Alaska is very far away, and life just keeps intervening. I saw this one-hour travelogue on my local PBS station in August, and now I have another trip to dream about: riding the ferry up the coast from Washington state. Best of all, I don't have to do the driving.
The aerial and shore-based photography is absolutely stunning--if the actual scenery is only 1/10 as pretty, Alaska remains a beautiful state indeed! The early history of the ferry system is also included, along with reminiscences from crew members of times when the weather was at its worst. The ferry system even helped in the clean-up of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
I highly recommend this program, if you can catch reruns on your local PBS TV station.
I believe I saw this program broadcast on the Discovery Channel in the United States on January 22 2006. The title shown after commercial breaks was "Psychology of Suicide Bombers" and Anne Gartlan was credited as the narrator, but the director, producer, and editor credits match up. And since the closing credits called it a "BBC Discovery Channel Co-Production" with copyright year 2005, I am fairly confident I am commenting on the same program.
If my memory serves, the program examined and attempted to explain what was going on in the minds of suicide bombers (not necessarily just the 7/7/2005 London bombers, but other attackers also) and why they did what they did. I vaguely recall video footage of one female suicide bomber whose bomb failed to go off, and her anguish over her 'failure'. I recommend this program highly.
History Specials: Weird Warfare (2011)
This program is AWESOME !!
I caught the last third of this program on the History Channel last year (March 2012) and I was intrigued. I finally bought the DVD this month and watched the whole thing. AMAZING! If you are the least bit interested in either technology, history, warfare, or just general human goofiness, you MUST see this program! Lie, cheat, steal, be unkind to old ladies, do whatever you can to get a copy (it is currently posted on YouTube.) It is worth it for the wisecracks alone--for example, when reviewing the effectiveness of dogs delivering bombs to explode underneath Nazi tanks, the narrator mentions that several Russian tanks were destroyed by "friendly fur". (Trust me, it was funny.)
Sentimental Journey (1976)
Good for aviation fans ...
I saw this film on the compilation video "What Were They Thinking?" from Netflix. Based on what I found on the Web, I must be in a minority of reviewers, because I liked it. True, none of the performances are Oscar-worthy, but they are not abysmally bad either. Although this film is definitely "sentimental", I disagree with the adjective "cheesy".
The theme is aviation history. So even if you are a Jimmy Stewart fan, you will probably not appreciate this film unless you are an aviation buff also. It is a tribute to the Douglas DC-3, one of the most important airplanes in history, on the 40th anniversary of its introduction in 1936.
Bottom line: if you are an aviation or history fan, worth a view. Otherwise, probably not.
Decent portrayal of evangelical Christianity ...
I agree with other reviewers that this is not a typical "Rockford Files" episode: Jim Rockford is a peripheral character, victimized almost beyond credibility, and his scenes are marginally relevant to the main plot. So if you are a James Garner fan, this would not be one of your favorite episodes. And the "coupla guys" are not compelling either; I agree with the reviewer who cannot tell if they are good or bad. They are just annoying.
Years ago a friend told me about a scene in a Rockford Files episode with an "I Found It!" bumper sticker on a mobster's limousine. ("I Found It!" was a 1976 evangelistic campaign by Campus Crusade for Christ, now known as Cru.) It took a lot of Internet searching to find this episode because the Christian plot element is rarely mentioned. I rented the DVD mainly to see how an evangelical character would be portrayed.
*MAJOR SPOILERS* The mobster (a Mr. Lombard played by Gilbert Green) is apparently retired and has become a born-again Christian. He is having problems with a neighbor, a still-active mobster named Tony Martine, played by Antony Ponzini. One of Mr. Martine's relatives was convicted but committed suicide before going to prison. Since Mr. Lombard serves on an Interfaith Council with the local Catholic cardinal(?), Tony has been pressuring Lombard to convince the Catholics to allow his relative to be buried in 'consecrated ground', which they refuse to do. Desperate because he is running out of places to store the body, Mr. Martine kidnaps Mr. Lombard's daughter Renee to put even more pressure on him. (It was Renee who hired Rockford initially.) The coupla guys think that stealing the corpse would be a good(!) way of dealing with the situation, and they find out where it is hidden. It just so happens that Renee is being held in the same place, a restaurant with a walk-in freezer. Rockford convinces Mr. Lombard to finally call the cops, and they show up at the restaurant in the nick of time. *END MAJOR SPOILERS*
I was pleasantly surprised to find Christian characters that were not portrayed as evil or stupid or crazy.
Suite for Freedom (2004)
I saw this animated short film at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 11 2005. It was showing as an orientation film for the museum, and I believe it was commissioned by the museum for that purpose. Per the museum web site freedomcenter.org it is still showing there.
The film is in three parts: Freedom and Unfreedom / Slavery / The Underground Railroad . Each part was done by a different animator with differing styles, and the parts were tied together with narration and an underlying musical theme. To be honest, I do not remember that much about it, but I was impressed by the differing animation techniques and the use of color. Much more information is available on the the awn.com and acmefilmworks.com sites.
Jeu de coudes (1979)
Mildly interesting ...
I believe this short animated comedy was included as part of an animation compilation film called "Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation", which I saw in a Columbus, Ohio, USA art theater (most likely the now-defunct Drexel North) in the late 1980s. I don't think that this compilation film was one of Spike and Mike's 'Sick and Twisted' offerings; I don't recall that was part of the title. All I really remember about this short film are the identical-looking characters, standing close together in a line. One character elbows another character beside him, who elbows the next character, and so on. Sorry I cannot provide more detail. . .
This documentary is also included as a bonus on the children's DVD "The Torchlighters: The Eric Liddell Story". This program is very well done and I highly recommend it, not only for Christians but for all who are generally interested in sports and history. In addition to Mr. Liddell's Christian beliefs and dedication, topics discussed include: Christian missionary work in China; collegiate sports and boarding-school life in England; the 1924 Paris Olympics; the Japanese occupation of northern China in the 1930s and 1940s; and the internment of foreign nationals by the Japanese during World War II. Commentators include David McCasland (author of "Eric Liddell: Pure Gold"), eldest daughter Patricia Russell, the Rev. John Keddie (consultant to the film "Chariots of Fire"), and several internees of the Weihsien camp who knew Eric Liddell personally. A fitting tribute to a fascinating and inspirational servant of God!
Somewhere in the Arctic (1988)
Cute little film...
I saw this cute little animated short as part of the animation feature film "Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation", at an art theater in Columbus, Ohio in the late 1980s. (There may be a video version of the Spike and Mike film (not part of the Sick and Twisted series), but I don't know if this short is included or not.) The plot, as I recall, is pretty basic: a group of Eskimos are chasing a polar bear, presumably to kill it. The polar bear stops suddenly, causing the hunters to give up the hunt--why? I won't give it away, but I will hint that the reason occurs every day in every public library in the world! By the way, director Andrew Stanton went on to earn much-deserved fame with his animated films for Pixar.
Satellite in the Sky (1956)
Started off great but didn't fulfill promise...
I watched this film on DVD (in color with the original widescreen aspect ratio, a double-bill with "World Without End") with no expectations, not having seen it before. The movie started out great, with some amazingly beautiful footage of the delta-wing Avro Vulcan bomber. Then there was some excellent footage of another British jet plane, a small fighter which I believe (but am not sure) was a Folland Midge. The first views of the "Stardust" spaceship were really cool. And unlike many reviewers, I didn't mind the "talkiness" of the screenplay--I thought it gave the characters needed depth. So far, so good. But then things started falling apart, science-wise.
Many of the scientific explanations were standard 1950s sci-fi B-movie gobbledygook--for example, that the space-plane would travel "beyond gravity" when it was merely going into orbit. The whole "metallic attraction" explanation for the bomb sticking to the end of the spaceship was nonsense, but I guess they needed some sort of plot device to endanger the crew. What really killed it for me was the rocket-exhaust effect. The exhaust floated about like cigarette smoke in a light breeze, nothing like actual rocket plumes. (I must believe that a little extra effort on the part of the FX crew could have given a much more believable rocket exhaust.) I really liked the observation bubbles on each side of the spacecraft, though--quite a nice touch.
I still recommend this film for sci-fi and aviation buffs, if only for the Vulcan footage at the beginning.
The Hitler Family (2005)
A fascinating subject, well-presented...
I am almost certain I saw this program broadcast on the History Channel on November 19 2005, and also in May 2007. In the version I saw, English-language narration was provided by Edward Herrmann with German narration by Joachim Höppner. This is a fascinating program about the relatives of Adolf Hitler, a subject shrouded in mystery. The program is an investigation into Adolf Hitler's relatives, including his sister, his half-brother and half-sister, and various nephews and cousins, some still alive today. As I remember, the relatives profiled are: sister Paula (archive footage of her was in the film); older half-brother Alois (who ran an inn); half-sister Angela; a niece who shot and killed herself; distant cousin Hans; nephew Heinz (who fought in WW2 and died after capture at the Russian front); and (perhaps the most interesting of all) nephew Willy, an English playboy who tried to blackmail Adolf and lived to tell the tale--he eventually fled to America and served in the U.S. Navy!
I Spy: The Honorable Assassins (1967)
Scary snake scene...
I remember watching several episodes of the I Spy series when they first aired, when I was around 10 years old. They made a big impression on me then, although they seem a bit dated now. One of the most vivid and scary scenes I remembered from those years was in this episode. Culp and Cosby were sleeping in a far-from-5-star Moroccoan hotel room. When they are awakened in the middle of the night, they find the floor crawling with poisonous sidewinder-like desert snakes! (Obviously put there by the villain). They kill the snakes by stopping up the sink drain next to their beds, flooding the floor with water, then using a wire from a lamp to electrocute the snakes. Ingenious!
Springtime Saps (1929)
Really funny ...
I saw this silent short film on July 25 2001 at the Ohio Theater in Columbus, Ohio, as part of the CAPA Summer Movie Series. I enjoyed it and thought it was quite funny. My memories of the plot are sketchy (it was almost 7 years ago!) but I believe Snub Pollard played some sort of bum or ne'er-do-well. He and his partner, a big or fat fellow, kept running into a policeman who didn't want them hanging around, I believe. At some point they encounter a pretty young girl. The most vivid scene I remember is of them driving down the street in an old car, with a female mannequin's bare legs sticking out of the side windows, one leg out of each side--a rather suggestive sight! I would love to see this film again. This short film was advertised as being included on the 2-DVD Weiss Bros. silent film collection entitled "Weiss-O-Rama", but it was not.
I saw this experimental short film on November 30 2005 at the Wexner Center for the Arts on the campus of The Ohio State University. The video was being shown on a continuous loop in a small exhibition room known as "In The Box". I watched a few minutes of it. According to a handout provided by the Wex, the audio portion was taken from an NPR (National Public Radio) interview with a woman whose soldier son (Travis) was killed just after President Bush declared an end to major hostilities in the Iraq war. The video portion was a fluid and changing pattern of abstract colors. Perhaps the movement of the colors was tied in electronically with the mother's voice; I don't know. I found the film rather haunting. I could really pick up on the mother's anguish, and the video portion reinforced that. Recommended if you ever get a chance to see it.
Dobro pozhalovat! (1986)
Neat little satiric film (anti-Communist allegory?)
I saw this cute little animated comedy short film on the video "Animation Celebration Video Collection Volume 3". A friendly moose encounters an insect in the forest. The moose offers the bug a ride on his antlers. The insect then invites other creatures that he meets to share in his good fortune. Eventually the moose has an entire menagerie living on top of his head, including a flock of woodpeckers and a full-grown bear! When the moose wants to cross a stream to the other side, the squatters become indignant. They even have a referendum on the matter. When the vote is tallied (the moose is the only dissenter, of course) the creatures declare that their "democratic" election gives them the right to prevent the moose from taking their "home" where they don't want to go. But the moose has the last laugh!
Isaac's Storm (2004)
Interesting view of American thinking in 1900...
I have seen this documentary film a couple of times now on the History Channel. It tells the story of the (unnamed) hurricane that destroyed the coastal city of Galveston Texas in the year 1900. Actually, it's really the story of weather forecaster Isaac Cline, who failed to fully warn the population and suffered the consequences along with them (his wife died in the storm). In my opinion, the most interesting point brought out in the film is the mindset of Isaac Cline and others like him--they believed that the technological and scientific progress of the 19th century had given mankind (read: Americans) control over the forces of nature. A decade before the storm, Mr. Cline had written a newspaper article saying that Galveston would never be in danger of destruction from a hurricane. The hubris and belief in American superiority are further illustrated by the fact that the U.S. Weather Bureau basically ignored the Cuban weather forecasters during the 1900 hurricane season, apparently believing that the Cubans had nothing significant to offer regarding Caribbean storms!
Grounded on 9/11 (2005)
Fascinating for aviation buffs ...
I saw this TV special on either the Discovery Channel or the History Channel (I cannot remember which), sometime in early 2006. This program tells the story of the air traffic controllers in the U.S. and Canada who had to deal with the chaos in the air after the attacks of September 11 2001. For anyone interested in aviation, I highly recommend this program. Several controllers, the FAA Administrator, the president of the U.S. controllers' union, and at least one airline captain discuss that day and their part in it. I was especially interested in how trans-Atlantic traffic is handled; I was surprised to learn that the FAA outsources communications to private firms, who do not maintain moment-by-moment contact with the aircraft.
This Little Ship (1953)
Melodramatic but still a good reminder of the era...
I saw this black-and-white short film on the DVD of "Atomic Journeys: Welcome to Ground Zero". It's the story of Britain's first test of an atomic bomb. Actually, it's a eulogy to the ship that carried the bomb and was blown up along with it, the River-class frigate HMS Plym. (A frigate is like an anti-submarine or convoy-escort destroyer, and I believe "River-class" refers to the naming convention, after British rivers.)
This film takes a rather melodramatic approach to its subject, starting with the last people to walk the ship's decks and the 8 1/2-minute countdown to detonation. Flashbacks describe Plym's honorable but unremarkable World War II service, the solemn yet glorious challenges of building the bomb, Plym's selection from the anonymity of the "mothball fleet" to such a high honor, the final trip to Australia, and the setup for the test. Jack Hawkins' sonorous narration adds to the portent of doom. I am led to think of Plym as almost a person--I understand the need for her sacrifice, and I mourn her passing.
I am pretty sure that William G. Penney, known as the father of the British atomic bomb, appeared (uncredited) as the chief atomic scientist.
Not as funny as I remember...
This video is a compilation of short humorous films produced by Jerry Fairbanks and released by NTA (National Telefilm Associates) in the late 1940s. I presume they were shown in movie theaters before or after the main feature; something to keep the kiddies happy. All of them feature wise-cracking talking animals whose lips are animated to correspond to what they are saying. If you like that kind of thing, then I can recommend this video. Otherwise, don't bother. I remember seeing a few films like these in my youth, and enjoying them quite a bit. Perhaps I am growing too old to appreciate this type of humor...
The films: Our Friends, They're Not So Dumb, The Gnu Look, Hocus Focus, Home Sweet Home, Meet the Champ.