A Blast From The Past: The Innocent Party (dir by Herk Harvey)


In this education film from 1959, two dim teenage boys decide to take a trip to the big city.  They pick up two girls, the engage in behavior “condemned by society,” and the next thing you know, everyone’s got Syphilis.

Yes, this is another educational film from the 50s, where the emphasis is less on practical advice (i.e., use a condom when having sex, especially with someone who you just met) and more on passing judgment on those who transgressed society’s norms.  I have to admit that one of the things that I like about these old films is just how bleak their worldview was.  If you screw up once, your life is over.  There’s nothing you can do to fix the problem.  There’s nothing you can do to redeem yourself.  You stepped out-of-line and now, you’ve got the same disease that killed Al Capone.  Take that, teenager!  The message of this particular film was considered to be so important that it was even filmed in color, which is quite a contrast to the harsh black-and-white aesthetic of most educational films of the period.  That, along with the smooth jazz on the soundtrack, is designed to let the target audience know that sex with random people is totally squaresville and not something that a responsible member of society does.  Why go to the city when you could join the student council or take part in any number of wholesome school activities?

This film was one of the many educational films to be directed by the great Herk Harvey.  In a career that spanned decades, Harvey directed hundreds of short, educational films that were designed to show “young people” how to properly behave.  Even if he wasn’t directing a film about VD, then he was probably doing a film about why gossip can be destructive to school spirit.

Harvey also directed one feature film and it’s one of the most important and influential horror films ever made, 1962’s Carnival of Souls.  We’ll be sharing that film here on the Lens later this month.  Until then, please enjoy The Innocent Party!

 

A Blast From The Past: Tomorrow’s Drivers


Jimmy Stewart Standing Beside One Of His Many Cars

Since this is the ten year anniversary of the Shattered Lens, I’ve been making an effort to observe notable birthdays here on the site.  I’m sad to say that somehow, I missed the birthday of Jimmy Stewart!

Jimmy Stewart was born on May 20th, 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania.  He’s my favorite of the Golden Age stars, not to mention the star of one of my top films of all time, It’s A Wonderful Life.  He also served bravely in World War II and I think it can be argued that he was Jimmy Stewart before he went to war and James Stewart afterwards.

Anyway, better late than never, here’s a short 1954 film that Stewart narrated, Tomorrow’s Drivers.  The film features a bunch of kindergarten kids learning how to drive.  Apparently, it was a program designed to make sure that kids grew up with good driving habits and didn’t end up becoming a bunch of jerks like their parents.  It actually seems like a good idea to me.  Stewart doesn’t appear onscreen but he provides the narration for the film and, with his tone, he strikes just the right mix of whimsy and seriousness.

Enjoy!

A Blast From The Past: Vincent Price Reads The Raven


 

109 years ago, Vincent Price was born in St. Louis, Missouri.

I have to admit that I’m always somewhat surprised to be reminded that Vincent Price was born in Missouri.  It seems like such a …. normal place to be born, especially for someone who was as wonderfully and cheerfully eccentric as Vincent Price.

Vincent Price is best-known for his horror roles, though he actually appeared in all sorts of films during his career.  He started out as a romantic lead and then he became a character actor, showing up in acclaimed films like The Song of Bernadette, Wilson, and Laura.  Early on his career, Price was even considered for the role of Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind.  Later, he would be listed by Frank Capra as a possibility for the role of Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life.

That said, Price was always be best-known for his horror work and, because of the films that he made with Roger Corman, he will also always be associated with Edgar Allen Poe.  With today being his birthday, it seems like the perfect time to share this video of Vincent Price reading The Raven.

Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly when this was filmed.  But no matter!  It’s Vincent Price reading Edgar Allen Poe!

Enjoy!

A Blast From The Past: Orson Welles’s 1938 Broadcast of The War of the Worlds


Since it’s Orson Welles’s birthday and everyone’s kind of nervous about going outside right now, why not experience the live radio broadcast that panicked America in 1938?

Actually, there’s some debate as to just how panicked America got when they heard the Mercury Theater On The Air’s adaptation of War of the Worlds.  There was definitely some panic but there are differing reports on just how wide spread it was.  For our purposes, let’s assume that the entire country was terrified at the same time and that everyone was loading up a shotgun and planning to go out and look for aliens.  One thing is for sure.  With his adaptation of War of the Worlds, Orson Welles managed to invent the whole found footage genre that would later come to dominate horror cinema in the late 90s and the aughts.  Every Paranormal Activity film owes a debt to what Orson Welles accomplished with War of the Worlds.  We won’t hold that against Orson.

H.G. Wells, the original author of War of the Worlds, and Orson Welles only met once.  Interestingly enough, they were both in San Antonio, Texas in 1940.  They were interviewed for a local radio station.  H.G. Wells expressed some skepticism about the reports of Americans panicking while Welles compared the radio broadcast to someone dressing up like a ghost and shouting “Boo!” during Halloween.  Both Wells and Welles then encouraged Americans to worry less about Martians and more about the growing threat of Hitler and the war in Europe.

I’ve shared this before but this just seems like the time to share it again.  Here is the 1938 Mercury Theater On The Air production of The War of the Worlds!

A Blast From The Past: Bette Davis Sells General Electric


Today is not only Roger Corman’s birthday!

And it’s not just Albert Broccoli’s birthday!

It’s also Bette Davis’s birthday and there’s absolutely no way that we here at the Shattered Lens, as lovers of both classic and modern films, could let the day pass without acknowledging it.

Here’s Bette Davis in a General Election commercial from 1933.  This commercial would have been shown in theaters, in between a double feature.

A Blast From The Past: Robert Opel Crashes The 1974 Oscars


On April 2nd, 1974, just as David Niven was about to introduce Elizabeth Taylor so that she could announce that The Sting had won Best Picture of the year, the Oscar telecast was interrupted by a naked man running across the stage.

The streaker was a man named Robert Opel.  A former student activist who had reportedly briefly worked as a speechwriter for future President Ronald Reagan, Opel was employed as a teacher when he made his Oscar debut.  He lost his job as a result but he found a new fame as a professional streaker.  He also went on to open his own photography business and ran for President in 1976.  His slogan was reportedly, “Not Just Another Crooked Dick.”  Five years after making his television debut, the 39 year-old Opel was murdered in his apartment.

There’s some debate as to whether or not this was actually a spontaneous moment.  It’s been reported that Niven wrote down his famous quip about short comings during a rehearsal.  It’s also interesting to note that the camera seemed to be perfectly positioned to not catch anything that could actually get the broadcast fined by the FCC.  If this had been truly a spontaneous event, I’m not sure that would have been the case.

Anyway, that was 1974 for you.  Who knows what might happen tonight?

(Of course, there’s no host so, if something does happen, there won’t be any quips.  Oh well.)

 

A Blast From The Past: Combat America (narrated by Clark Gable)


Today is the birthday of one of America’s greatest screen legends, the one and only Clark Gable!

Clark Gable was born 119 years ago today and, in honor of the birthday of this cinematic icon, we’re sharing a little blast from the past.   When in the past?  1945, to be exact.  In Combat America, Gable takes you on a tour through the world of aerial combat during World War II.  Gable joined the U.S. Army in 1943, shortly after the death of his wife, Carole Lombard.  (Lombard died in a plane crash.  She had been traveling across the country, working to build up support for the war effort.  Shortly after Lombard’s death, Gable’s co-star from Gone With The Wind, Leslie Howard, was also killed when the Germans shot down a plane in which he was traveling.)  Gable trained as an aerial gunner and flew five combat missions in 1943. Reportedly, Gable was ordered to stop flying because it was feared that the American morale at home would never recover if he was shot down.

Combat America was one of Gable’s contributions to the war effort, as well as a tribute to all the men who sacrificed their lives to defeat the Nazis.  Gable both narrates and appears on camera.

Incidentally, I know that Clark Gable will always be Rhett Butler to most people but my favorite Gable performance is his Oscar-winning work in It Happened One Night.  If I had been Claudette Colbert in that film, the Walls of Jericho would have come down very quickly.  Just saying.

 

A Blast From The Past: What About School Spirit? (dir by Herk Harvey)


Director Herk Harvey

The 1958 short film, What About School Spirit?, introduces us to the greatest high school in all of Kansas.  The entire state is envious of Lawrence High.  Not only are they champions in basketball but they’re champions in academics as well!  What is it that makes Lawrence High so special?

Well, as one student explains, Lawrence High was’t always the wonderful institution that it is today.  It’s not that the school didn’t have school spirit.  In fact, it had too much school spirit!  The students were driving fast and painting the school’s initials “where they had no business to be!”  Everyone was so crazy about the school that they didn’t stop to think about how their rambunctious behavior was making life annoying for everyone else!

Then, luckily, the basketball team captain, Bob Corby, spoke at a student assembly and what Corby said changed the entire direction of the school.  I’m not sure how that happened exactly because, judging from what we see of his speech, it’s nothing that special.  In fact, I think Bob Corby’s kind of overrated.  That’s right, I said it.  Of course, after giving the speech, Bob Corby got sick and died.  The students, of course, continued to display properly controlled school spirit in his memory.

I guess the message here is that teenagers should be proud of their school without being too loud about it.  To be honest, though, Bob Corby and all of his followers kind of come across as being little fascists who are determined to quash any hint of nonconformity or rebellion.  The next time that they say, “It couldn’t happen here,” you tell them that it already happened at Lawrence High.

This film was directed by Herk Harvey, who made a career out of doing educational films like this one.  However, horror fans will always know Harvey best for directing the massively influential Carnival of Souls.  That’s a film that we’ll watch later this month.  For now, enjoy the legend of Bob Corby!

A Blast From The Past: Responsibility (dir by Herk Harvey)


Director Herk Harvey

The year is 1953 and a rural high school — maybe one that’s a lot like yours — is in chaos!

That’s the idea behind Responsibility, a short film that was apparently designed to make students think about the importance of …. well, responsibility.  Narrated by a rather judgmental principal, Responsibility tells the story of two teenagers.  Lloyd is responsible and mature and boring and probably is destined for a middle management job at the local feed store.  Hank is a new student with a chip on his shoulder and a haircut that screams “trouble.”  Hank is irresponsible but charismatic and, in the real world, there’s absolutely no question who would be the more popular of the two.

However, this is a short film from the 50s so we’re thrown into this weird fantasy world where students actually give serious thought to their options before voting in student elections.  It’s a world where everyone might like Hank better but they just can’t forgive him for blowing off class and losing the big debate tournament.  It’s world where boring old Lloyd could possibly be a more appealing choice than a rebel in a leather jacket.

Lloyd and Hank are friends but that doesn’t stop them from both running for president of the student body.  The initial vote is tied but there is one absentee ballot.  That ballot will determine who will become the new president — unless, of course, the absentee student has a sense of humor and wrote in their own name, like I always used to do.

“Who would you vote for?” the principal asks.

Me?  Why, Gary Johnson, of course!

This is yet another educational short film from Herk Harvey.  Harvey made a career out of doing films like this but, today, he’s best remembered for directing the classic horror film, Carnival of Souls.  We’ll be watching Carnival of Souls later this month.  For now, enjoy Responsibility and ask yourself …. “Who would you vote for?”

A Blast From The Past: The Good Loser (dir by Herk Harvey)


Director Herk Harvey

What’s more important?  Being a good winner or a good loser?

Does being a good winner make it more difficult to be a good loser?

Should an individual loss matter if it contributes to a team victory?

When your child loses, is it a good idea to relentlessly taunt them about it?

These questions and more are explored in the 1953 short film, The Good Loser.  This is one of those films that they used to show in schools in order to teach students how to …. well I’m not sure what anyone learns in The Good Loser.  It tells the story of Ray, who is the best public speaker in all of Kansas or, at least, he is until he makes the mistake of agreeing to mentor Marilyn.  After Marilyn beats him at the speech and debate tournament, Ray throws a little hissy fit.  It doesn’t help that everyone — from his classmates to his own father — is making fun of him for losing to his protegee.

“What do you think?” the narrator asks and I’ll tell you.  I’ve never been a good loser so I totally think that Ray has every right to drop out of school and spend the rest of his life wandering around the country, drifting from job-to-job and refusing to trust anyone.  “Second place just means you’re the best loser.”  A teacher said that to me once and the end result was …. well, actually, I think I was kinda like, “Really?  The best?”  Anyway….

Now, if you’re wondering why I’m sharing this video in October, it’s because this film was directed by Herk Harvey.  Harvey made a career out of directing short educational films but, to horror audiences, he’s best known for directing a classic horror film called Carnival of SoulsCarnival of Souls is a film that I’ll be sharing on later in the month.  On the surface, The Good Loser may not appear to have much in common with Carnival of Souls.  However, I think you can compare Ray’s insensitive classmates to the insensitive ghosts who haunted Candace Hilligoss in Carnival.  If nothing, they’re all similarly relentless.  They’re also all jerks, if you ask me.

What do you think?