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

In this short film from 1958, the high school press club is thrown into chaos when their faculty sponsor selects Ben Curtis to be the editor-in-chief of the school paper.

Bob Stevens can’t believe it, because Ben doesn’t have an outgoing personality and he doesn’t come from a rich family.  Ben, himself, is shocked because he feels like all of the other students are snobs who have no interest in being friendly.  But the teacher sees something in Ben.

Can everyone learn to understand each other and put out a worthy school paper?  Luckily, there’s a narrator present to encourage everyone to set aside their differences and …. understand.  Just in case we miss the film’s message, the same event is shown to us three separate times from three different points of view.

This film was directed by Herk Harvey.  Harvey directed a ton of educational films in the 50s and 60s.  However, he’s best known for directing one of the most important horror films of all time, Carnival of Souls!  I’ll be sharing Carnival of Souls tomorrow.  For now, try to understand others.


A Blast From The Past: What About Juvenile Delinquency? (dir by Herk Harvey)

Well, what about it!?

Today’s Blast From The Past comes to use from 1955.  In this short film, a group of no-good 30 year-old high school students attack a middle-aged man who was just trying to drive home.  That man just happens to be the father of a member of the gang!  Now, due to the violence, the city council is considering a curfew!  That’s not fair to the good kids but what can be done about juvenile delinquency?

Watch and discuss.

This film was shot in Lawrence, Kansas and it was directed by Herk Harvey.  Harvey directed a ton of educational short films like this but horror fans will always know him before for directing Carnival of Souls.  I’ll be sharing Carnival of Souls soon.  For now, give some thought to delinquents!

A Blast From The Past: The Sound of a Stone (dir by Herk Harvey)

In this short film from 1955, a high school teacher in Kansas is wrongly accused of being a communist.  Despite the fact that he’s a Methodist Sunday School teacher, he made the mistake of assigning a book that was included on a list of subversive literature and, as a result, the entire town is turning against him!  While this short film might not win any points for subtlety (or good acting), it is an effective look at paranoia and how rumors get started.  I especially liked the shot of the spinning phone.

So, why am I sharing this in October?  Because this film was directed by Herk Harvey.  In the 50s and 60s, Harvey directed a countless number of short films.  Some of them were educational.  Some of them were industrial.  Some of them, like this one, were specifically made to be shown to civic groups.  However, horror fans will always know Harvery as the director of one of the most important horror films ever made, Carnival of Souls!

I’ll be sharing Carnival of Souls later this week.  For now, enjoy The Sound of a Stone!


A Blast From The Past: Manners in School (dir by Herk Harvey)

In this short film from 1958, a terrible little kid named Larry is given detention because he’s a terrible little kid.  He’s supposed to clean the chalkboard but instead he draws a cartoon character, which promptly comes to life and probably traumatizes Larry for life.  Larry does learn a little something about behaving at school but at what cost?  Seriously, Larry may have had bad manners but you know who I blame?  The parents.  That’s who the stick figure should be tormenting.

Now, believe it or not, there is a reason why I’m posting this in October.  This short film — like many educational films from the 50s — was directed by Herk Harvey.  Harvey spent the majority of his long career making industrial and educational films.  However, horror fans will always know him as the man who directed 1962’s Carnival of Souls!  I’ll be sharing Carnival Of Souls next week but for now, enjoy Manners in School!

And remember …. good manners are good for everyone!  And if you don’t believe me, a stick figure is going to lecture you and give you nightmares.

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.


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!


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.