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: The Trouble Maker (dir by Herk Harvey)


The 1959 short film, The Trouble Maker, tells the story of Mel Stone (played by Bret Waller).

Mel is the least popular student at his high school and it’s not hard to see why.  Mel is seriously creepy.  He spends all of his time sneaking through the hallways, following around the members of the football team and lying about the girls that they go to school with.  When Mel spots a member of the team “breaking training,” he starts spreading rumors and trying to make life difficult for everyone.

The title claims that Mel is a trouble maker but actually, he comes across like a total sociopath.  He even stalks the members of the football team outside of school, the better to collect gossip about them.  The film’s narrator encourages us to wonder why Mel is the way that he is and if there’s anything that we, as a group, can do to make Mel become a better person.  To be honest, it seems like the only solution to a problem like Mel is to frame him for a crime and send him to prison until his 21st birthday.  Admittedly, Mel would probably be even more dangerous once he got out but that’s why you move to a different town after graduating from high school.

The Trouble Maker was one of the many educational short films to be directed by Herk Harvey, who made a career out of films like this.  Today, of course, Harvey is best known for directing the seminal horror film, Carnival of Souls.  We’ll be sharing Carnival of Souls in an hour but, for now, enjoy The Trouble Maker and be sure to ask yourself….

What Would You Do?

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: The Griper (dir by Herk Harvey)


Oh my God, it’s a ghost!

No, actually, that’s not a ghost.  That’s George’s conscience, who apparently leaves George’s body while George is asleep and tells strangers all of the sordid details of George’s home life.  Hmmm …. actually, that sounds scarier than a ghost.

Anyway, George is the anti-hero of the 1954 educational short film, The Griper.  George’s problem can be found right in the title.  He’s a teenager who complains about everything and he’s ruining high school for not only his classmates but for his teachers as well!  George isn’t happy during the basketball game.  George isn’t happy about his class assignment.  Even when his only friend, Betty, tries to show him a cute cartoon, George snaps at her.

George’s problem, of course, is that he was born 60 years too early.  If he had been born several decades later, he could have just joined twitter and then he could spend all day cancelling people and getting all of the likes and retweets that come along with being a judgmental jackass.  But sadly, George is a teenager in the 50s and he’s expected to be a lot more positive.

Personally, I think everyone in the film’s being a bit too judgmental of George.  I mean — yes, he’s a jerk.  And yes, I would probably avoid him because I love snark but I hate negativity.  But if George is always in a bad mood, that’s his right!  He can always make new friends or pursue a career as a film critic.

George is going to be alright.

This short film was directed by Herk Harvey.  Harvey made a career out of doing short films like this but horror fans will always know him as being the director of the incredibly influential Carnival of Souls.  We’ll be watching that movie later this month but for now, enjoy watching George isolate himself while destroying everyone else’s happiness and be sure to ask yourself,

“What would you do?”

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?

A Blast From The Past: Patriotism


Flag (Erin Nicole Bowman, 2010)

Today is Loyalty Day!

If you haven’t ever heard of Loyalty Day before … well, then you’re probably a subversive or something.  Loyalty Day has been a real holiday since 1955.  That was when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed May 1st to be Loyalty Day.  (I’m going to guess that this was done largely to provide an alternative to International Workers Day or Communist New Year or whatever May Day was known as back then.)  The official statutory definition reads as follows:

(a) Designation.— May 1 is Loyalty Day.(b) Purpose.— Loyalty Day is a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.(c) Proclamation.— The President is requested to issue a proclamation—

(1) calling on United States Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on Loyalty Day; and
(2) inviting the people of the United States to observe Loyalty Day with appropriate ceremonies in schools and other suitable places.

So, in honor of Loyalty Day, here’s a short film from 1972.  It’s called Patriotism and it was apparently made to teach school children what it meant to be a patriot.  Apparently, it means working as a crossing guard and wearing a vaguely fascist-looking vest while doing so.  It also means keeping an eye out for weeds and trash in your neighborhood.  My favorite part of this film is when the kid spots the turned over garbage can and gets a look of disgust on his face.  You can just tell he’s thinking, “Those goddamn hippies.”

(For the record, that’s what I always think whenever I can’t find a pen at work.)

Personally, I agree that making a good neighborhood is the first step in making a good country so I definitely applaud the kids for taking the time to clean their neighborhood up.  Still, I have to wonder: where are the adults?  How many grown ups walked past the overturned trash can and just ignored it?  Perhaps all the adults in the neighborhood were so disillusioned by George McGovern dumping Tom Eagleton as his running mate that they just gave up on life.  Who knows?  1972 was apparently a pretty traumatic year for some people.  Myself, I just find it amusing that there was a politician named McGovern.  That’s like a seminarian named McClergy.

Speaking of adults, this short film was hosted by actor Bob Crane, who would be murdered six years later and whose life would serve as the basis for a rather depressing movie called Auto Focus.

Anyway, in the immortal words of Team America: World Police, “America!  Fuck yeah!”  Let’s make this the best Loyalty Day ever!

 

 

A Blast From The Past: I Just Don’t Dig Him (produced by The Department Of Mental Health, State of Connecticut)


The haunting opening scene of I Just Don’t Dig Him…

Ah, parents and their children!

It doesn’t matter what year it is or where they live or who they are.  Parents never understand their children and children never understand their parents and, ultimately, there’s always that one friend who ends up nearly chopping his finger off.

At least, that’s the message that I got from watching the 1970 educational film, I Just Don’t Dig Him.

This film was produced by the state of Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and apparently, it was designed to show that adults and teenagers actually had more in common than they realized.  For instance, in this film, both groups share an intense loathing for each other.

The film is about a father and his son.  The father spends all of his time complaining about his son.  The son spends all of his time complaining about his father.  For some reason, we’re treated to a really gross close-up of the son’s bare feet.  Meanwhile, the father applies aftershave as if the fate of the world depended upon it.  The son’s best friend assures him that his father isn’t so bad.  The father’s best friend assures him that his son isn’t so bad.  And then the son’s friend accidentally chops off his finger while fooling around with a car engine.  The father helps to stop the bleeding while his son stares at him resentfully.  The message appears to be that adults and children need to communicate better but, ultimately, you want an adult around if anyone starts bleeding.

I like films like this, largely because I’m an unapologetic history nerd and I Just Don’t Dig Him is such a product of its time that it might as well be wearing bell bottoms and dropping brown acid.  Watching the film today, it’s hard not to be amused by how intense both the father and the son are about … well, everything.  When the father shaves, you’re first thought is, “That man should not be allowed to handle anything sharp.”  When the son talks on the phone, you feel bad for whoever’s having to listen to him whine.  Generations are at war, this film seems to say, and there’s no hope until the younger generation realizes that they have no business working on cars.

With this being 4/20 and the world currently being caught up in its own increasingly tedious generational war, today seems like the perfect time to share I Just Don’t Dig Him!

A Blast From The Past: Case Study: LSD


Though it’s been a while since we last did so, we occasionally like to share old educational and promotional films here at the Shattered Lens.  For some reason, we always seem to end up sharing quite a lot of them in October.  Something about the over-the-top educational format just tends to bring out the ghoulish melodrama in some aspiring filmmakers.

Take Case Study: LSD, for instance!  This 3 and a half minute film is from 1969.  It was made to dissuade viewers from experimenting with LSD but I get the feeling that I probably just mostly inspired people to try to recreate the infamous hot dog scene.

It’s a good film for October, though.  Plus, I like looking at all the hippies in their hippie clothes.  GET A HAIRCUT, YOU HIPPIES!

Believe it or not, Case Study: LSD has a page over at the IMDb but no director is listed.  Judging from the film’s use of still frames, I’m going to guess that it was directed by Chris Marker.

Enjoy!

A Blast From The Past: Make Mine Freedom


Hi there!

Well, it’s May 1st!  Not only is it International Worker’s Day but, here in the United States, it is also Loyalty Day!

What are you supposed to do on Loyalty Day?  To be honest, I’m not really sure.  I actually didn’t even know there was such a thing as Loyalty Day until about two years ago.  I guess I’ll spend this Loyalty Day as I spent previous Loyalty Days, ironically commenting on the fact that it’s Loyalty Day.

So, with all that in mind, here’s a rather odd blast from the past (1948, to be exact) called Make Mine Freedom.  It’s a cartoon about why America rules and the rest of the world sucks.  Woo hoo!  Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!  USA!  USA! USA!

As for the cartoon itself, it’s charmingly odd and will be best enjoyed by people who have a sense of humor about their ideology.  (Good luck finding anyone like that in 2017.  Those of us who think that both the left and the right are worthy of ridicule are becoming an endangered species.)  This cartoon was produced by Arkansas’s Harding College and, online, there seems to be some debate over who actually directed it.  Some sources claim that this was one of the first projects on which Joseph Barbera and William Hanna ever worked.  Others insist that this film should be properly credited to either Fritz Freling or Fred Moore.

Well, whoever directed it, did a good job of exposing that mean old Dr. Utopia…

Enjoy Make Mine Freedom and happy May Day!