Sunday, April 20, 2008

Films on 4/20/08

Paris (1952) United World Films/Castle Films
A travelogue of Paris with all the postcard scenes of Paris. Everyone was confused by the adult content in the film (lots of French drinking and smoking). I reminded everybody that Castle Films distributed films primarily to homes with 16mm projectors.

Magicians of India (1947) Official Films
Pictures a series of strange feats performed by the fakirs or magicians of India. Includes the Indian version of the shell game, a snake charmer, a trained goat and a man who lifts a stone with his eye-lids. I've got a pretty jaded bunch that watch films and they weren't buying most of these magic tricks. The best scenes were the trained goat that balanced on a tiny peg that was probably three inches in diameter and the guy who lifted stones with his eyelids. This reminded me of a great Penn and Teller DVD, Penn & Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour, were the duo watch street magicians in China, India and Egypt.

Lost in the Mish-Mosh (1972) Davidson Films/Xerox Films
Tells how a famous detective (a Sherlock Holmes knockoff) selects the appropriate unit of measure in order to save a kidnapped professor. I was hoping that this film would be as good as "Weird Number" - a great film about fractions by Davidson Films. What a let down. Everybody hated the animation and the story was muddled like many math films. Alas...

It's A Cat's Life (1957) Frith Films
Presents information about cats and kittens, such as their habits and how to care for them. Josh pointed out that the camera work was a little lazy and amateur. Emily Frith was an amateur filmmaker who marketed her films to schools in the 1950s and 1960s.

Debt to the Past - Language and Communication (1962) Moody Institute of Science
Depicts such varied means of communication as spoken, unspoken and written language. Presents the pictographic, ideographic and phonetic stages of written language. Discusses the history of the alphabet and demonstrates the power of language for good and evil. I co-wrote an article about the Moody Institute of Science with NCSU film professor "Something Different in Science Films", so there is a lot to say about the company and their controversial films. MIS released many visual stunning films with science content and a religious hook ending ("could this complex biological system haven happened by accident") taking a jab at evolution. This film is not quite as controversial since it deals with the history of language, it does talk about how the Bible got its name - from Byblos. One theme I've seen in other MIS films did seem to carry is the use of language irresponsibly - to perpetuate evil (we see scenes of Hitler). Some of MIS's science films caution about using science responsibly - a big fear in the post-Abomb world.

P.E. - Lever to Learning (1969) Stuart Finley
Discusses how specially organized physical education programs can be most productive both physically and mentally. Wow, besides using the outdated term "retarded" about two hundred times, we were shocked to see how dangerous some of the P.E. activities were. Refreshingly dangerous. Lots of horse play, obstacle courses, climbing a high boundary fence. It was reminiscent of the basic training scenes from Full Metal Jacket. There was even a scene with kids playing with logs a la Ren and Stimpy!

Sound Fields in Rectangular Enclosures (1978) John B Ochs/Penn State Univ
Early vector computer animation on a very dry subject. John B Ochs narrates, bless his dry monotone heart.

The Naughty Duckling (1970) Omega Productions/Encyclopedia Britannica
Uses puppet animation (similar to Ray Harryhausen's early work) to present the story of a naughty duckling who wants to be independent but who must learn that assuming independence before being prepared to handle it can lead to trouble. The story seemed somewhat unresolved. Germaine was sad that the fox that grabbed the duckling was caught in a trap. Right off the bat, I doubt that this film was made in 1970 and that it was made in the U.S. I'm guessing an Eastern European or Japanese animator did this film. Omega Productions did make other educational shorts - included some animated films. I'll have to get back you on this one.

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