A Blast From The Past: Ben Affleck For Diet Coke

In the year 2001, Ben Affleck wasn’t only Matt Damon’s best friend.  He was also a commercial spokesman!

For instance, he narrated this creepy commercial for Diet Coke.  Oddly enough, he doesn’t say anything about Diet Coke but he does say a lot about his wife’s underwear and then, eventually, the underwear that he saw in “the hamper as a kid.”  Wait, what?  Weirdo.

I actually get what this commercial is attempting.  Diet Coke is a soft drink for real people and real people get married and eventually stop having sex.  But do real people tell complete strangers about it?  Of course, they do now but this commercial was before social media.

This is from the same ad campaign that featured Renee Zellweger watching her neighbor take a shower and sing.  (I shared that commercial last week.)  Since we didn’t see Renee’s face in that previous commercial and since we don’t see Ben’s face in this one, I like to think that this commercial is a sequel to the previous one.  Renee eventually married the guy across the street and then started wearing cotton underwear.  And I assume that the guy stopped singing.

Wow, this was a depressing world that Diet Coke created.

A Blast From The Past: Renee Zellweger for Diet Coke

In the year 2000, Renee Zellweger was not only starring in movies and working her way to eventually winning two Oscars.  She was also apparently spying on her neighbor across the street.

Did it not occur to this guy to get curtains for his bathroom?  And also, how loudly is he singing that Renee can hear all of the lyrics to I Want You Want Me?  If Renee can hear him from across the street, I can only imagine what it must be like to live right next door to the guy.

That said, I do think this is kind of a cute commercial.  The guy is adorable in his dorky way and I’d probably watch him too.  But I don’t think he and Renee are ever going to get together because it might kind of creep him out to know that she’s been watching him in the shower for all this time.  To be honest, this commercial feels more like a Sandra Bullock movie than a vehicle for Renee Zellweger.

And what exactly does any of this have to do with Diet Coke?

A Blast From The Past: Gang Boy (dir by Arthur Swerdlow)

In this 1954 short film, two rival gangs are fighting.  They both come from the same neighborhood.  The members of both gangs grew up poor.  All of them feel like there’s no hope for them.  They’re all angry and sad and fatalistic.  In fact, there’s only one difference between the two gangs.  One gang is made up of white kids and the other gang is made up of Mexicans.  That’s the only reason the two gangs fight.

The leader of the Mexican gang knows that things have got to change.  While looking over the quarry where, years ago, his younger brother died while trying to be as tough as him, the leader of the gang remembers the early days of the gang and how what started out as a place for outsiders to feel like they belonged soon became something violent and destructive.  The community wants to have a dance but the threat of violence is in the air.  Can he defuse the situation?  Maybe that friendly detective could help….

Gang Boy is a Sid Davis production, a look at how poverty and prejudice were fueling the rise in gang violence in the 50s.  Unusually, for a Sid Davis film, it’s remarkably nonjudgmental.  There is, of course, all the “you’ve ruined your life” melodrama that one would usually expect from Davis but the final blame is put more on society than the members of the gang.

Speaking of the members of the gang, the cast of this film was apparently made up of actual gang members who all hated each other.  The film may end with the promise of a better tomorrow but it’s hard to avoid the feeling that a fight broke out as soon as the camera stopped rolling,

Personally, I think of this as being a prequel to West Side Story.  Before the Sharks and the Jets learned how to dance, there was …. GANG BOY!

A Blast From The Past: Name Unknown (dir by Sid Davis)

In this 1964 short film from Sid Davis, a teenage girl has been arrested.  It turns out that her boyfriend was a bank robber.  Even though she didn’t know that he was a criminal when she got together with him, the theme of this film appears to be that she should have known and, as a result of being foolish, she is now the worst person who ever lived.

In other words, this is a typical Sid Davis production.  Sid Davis films were always the most judgmental of all the old educational films.  Sid Davis specialized in using holier-than-thou narrators, who would often say things like, “And now, you’ve ruined your life.”  In this film, the narrator is a judge who is fond of saying that juveniles are “delinquent in good sense.”  As proof, he tells the story of two lovers who were robbed, a babysitter who was murdered, and another girl who was assaulted by a man who asked her out on a date.  In each case, the judge seems angrier with the victims than with the actual criminals.  As for the case of the unknowing girlfriend of the bank robber, the judge has no choice but to sentence the girl to 3 months of hard time at a juvenile detention center.  It’s for her own good because she was delinquent in good sense.

Sid Davis’s film are still popular today, precisely because they are so bizarrely angry and judgmental.  If Sid thought 1964 was a dark time for society, one can only imagine what he would think of 2022!  Watch Name Unknown below and ask yourself, “In this crazy world of ours, is there room for forgiveness?”

A Blast From The Past: Lucy (dir by Paul Glickman)

In the picture above, you can see Lucy (played by Olga Soler), the title character of the 1975 educational short, Lucy.  Lucy is 15 years old and she spends almost all of her time with her boyfriend, Joe (Michael D’Emidio).  As Lucy herself explains her narration (which is provided by an actress named Marilyn Gold), her entire life revolved around Joe.  Since Joe dropped out of school, Lucy dropped out of school too.  Since Joe wanted to spend all of his time walking around New York City, Lucy did the same.  They thought they were in love.  One discreet sex scene later and Lucy’s pregnant!

Lucy is a bit different from some of the other educational films that I’ve seen about teenage pregnancy.  Though initially shocked and angered, Lucy’s parents are eventually supportive.  Joe doesn’t run away but instead promises to do whatever he can to help, though Lucy ruefully acknowledges that it won’t be much as Joe doesn’t even have a high school diploma.  Though a friend offers to help Lucy get an abortion, Lucy decides to have her baby and social services shows up to help her.  At the end of the film, Lucy is still not sure whether she’s going to keep her baby or give it up for adoption.  She just knows that her life will never be the same.  Compared to just about every other educational film that I’ve seen about this subject, Lucy takes a rather low-key and matter-of-fact approach to its story.  It’s well-made but rather depressing.

It’s also a rather obscure film.  I couldn’t find much about the film on the IMDb.  Is the Paul Glickman who is credited as the film’s director the same Paul Glickman who edited some of Larry Cohen’s best films?  Who knows?

Now, I know I’ve probably made this film sound really depressing to sit through but there is a dance scene towards the start of the film.  That helps.

Blast From The Past: Engagement Party (dir by William Thiele)

Green Stamps were a little bit before my time but they sound like they were fun.  From what I’ve been able to pick up, apparently you could get green stamps at any store and then you could exchange them for various goods at the Green Stamps distribution center.  Apparently, the more you spent, the more green stamps you received.  At least, that’s how I think they worked.  As I said at the start of this paragraph, they were a bit before my time.

In fact, just about everything I know about Green Stamps comes from watching Engagement Party, a 30-minute film from 1956, on TCM.  In Engagement Party, Carl Landis (Craig Hill) is the son of the owner of Landis Department Store.  Soon, Carl will be taking over the family business.  Unfortunately, the family business isn’t doing so well and, until Carl can figure out how to turn things around, Carl is reluctant to marry his girlfriend, Ellen (Gloria Talbott).

When Carl first meets Elliott Winston (Leon Ames), a friend of Ellen’s family, he rolls his eyes when Elliott mentions that he works for the people behind Green Stamps.  Carl is a frequent eye roller, largely because Carl is a jerk.  Carl explains that he considers Green Stamps to be a scam and there’s no way that he would allow them to be distributed in his store.  Elliott takes it upon himself to show Carl the error of his ways.

Basically, this is just a 30-minute commercial for Green Stamps but, from a historical point of view, it’s an interesting little time capsule of the world of 1956.  To me, the most interesting thing about this short film is the fact that Carl really is just a totally self-righteous jerk.  Why would Ellen want to marry someone who simply will not stop talking about how much he hates Green Stamps?  Get a life, Carl.  To his credit, Elliott Winston can barely seem to hide his intense loathing for Carl.  Even when Elliott’s being friendly, you can tell that he just wants to take a swing at him.

For your education and your enjoyment, here is a Blast From The Past….

A Blast From The Past: Why Study Speech? (dir by Herk Harvey)

Director Herk Harvey

98 years ago today, director Herk Harvey was born in Lawrence, Kansas.  Today, Harvey is best-remembered for his only feature film, 1962’s Carnival of Souls.  Carnival of Souls is a Halloween favorite here at the Shattered Lens and it’s a film that has been cited as being an influence on everyone from Sam Raimi to Martin Scorsese to David Lynch.

However, before and after he directed that ground-breaking film, Herk Harvey made his lesson directing educational short films.  Today, in honor of what would have been his birthday, the Shattered Lens presents Why Study Speech?  This 1954 short film explains why all high school seniors should study speech when they get to college.  It opens with a somewhat quirky montage that, if nothing else, serves to remind us that we’re watching a short film from the man who, just 8 years later, would direct Carnival of Souls.


A Blast From The Past: How Do You Know It’s Love (dir by Ted Peshak)

Jack: “I love you.  Do you love me?”

Nora: “I’ll have to think about it.”

OUCH!  That had to hurt, though I’m totally on Nora’s side here.  Jack is coming on way too strong.  I mean, they were having a perfectly pleasant time and then suddenly Jack has to bring “love” into it all.  They’ve only been dating a few weeks!

Jack and Nora are the two “teenagers” at the heart of How Do You Know It’s Love?, an educational film from 1950.  After Nora’s mother informs her that she’s too young and immature to understand anything about love and after Jack’s brother taunts him for falling in love with a new girl every week, Jack and Nora decide to go on a double date so that they can see what mature love is all about.  The main message of the film is that one shouldn’t mistake attraction for love and that teenagers should date a lot of people before settling down.  It’s not a bad message but it’s one that will probably be missed by many viewers due to the fact that Jack and Nora are both kind of goofy.

Believe it or not, this film was not directed by Herk Harvey.  Instead, this one of the 33 educational films that former journalist Ted Peshak directed in the 1950s for Coronet films.  Though Peshak made a lot of films for Coronet, he was never paid more than $190 a week and, perhaps understandably, he abandoned the educational film game in the 60s and instead went to work in real estate.  I don’t blame him.

Anyway, here’s the film.  Watch and ask yourself the big questions.

A Blast From The Past: Vincent (dir by Tim Burton)

Today is Vincent Price’s birthday!

Price was born 111 years ago, in St. Louis, Missouri.  When he first began his film career in the 1930s, he was promoted as a leading man and he was even tested for the role of Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind.  (Imagine that!)  However, Price would find his greatest fame as a horror icon. 

Among the fans of Price’s horror films was a young animator named Tim Burton.  In 1982, Price and Burton would work together for the first time, with Price providing the narration for a short, stop motion film that Burton had written and directed.  Called Vincent, the film was about a seven year-old boy named Vincent who wanted to be — can you guess? — Vincent Price!  The six-minute film follows Vincent as he gets involved in all sorts of macabre activities.  Of course, as Vincent’s mom points out, Vincent isn’t actually a monster or mad scientist.  He’s just a creative child with an overactive imagination.  (To say the short feels autobiographical on Burton’s part would be an understatement.)  The animation is outstanding and full of wit but it really is Vincent Price’s wonderful narration that makes this short film a classic.

Both Price and Burton would later call making this film one of the most creatively rewarding collaborations of their respective careers.

On Vincent Price’s birthday, enjoy Vincent!

A Blast From The Past: John Wayne For The American Cancer Society

Screen icon John Wayne was born 115 years ago, on this date, in Winterest, Iowa.  

Best-known for his appearances in western films, Wayne spent the last decade of his life battling cancer and serving as a spokesman for The American Cancer Society.  He made his final film appearance in 1976, starring in The Shootist as a veteran gunslinger who was, just like Wayne, facing his own mortality.  The film not only provided a capstone to Wayne’s film career but the footage of Jimmy Stewart (as a doctor) informing Wayne that he didn’t have long to live was used in one of the commercials that Wayne did for The American Cancer Society.

Of course, in the commercial, the footage was followed by Wayne encouraging viewers to get tested and also threatening to “take you apart” if they didn’t.  Three years after the release of The Shootist and this commercial, Wayne would succumb to cancer but his efforts would lead to more people getting tested and more cancers being detected early.

Here, from 1976….