A Blast From The Past: The Holy Roman Empire

It may seem strange to celebrate the Ides of March by sharing an educational film about The Holy Roman Empire, seeing as how it was famous for being neither holy nor Roman nor an Empire.  But then again, the fact that the name “Roman Empire” was still being appropriated into the 19th century shows you just how powerful a hold the Roman Empire had over people’s imaginations.  Everyone wanted to be Roman and everyone wanted to be a part of an empire.  Of course, there would have been no Roman Empire if not for the Ides of March.

Add to that, this 1961 film features not only a teacher but also historical reenactments.  I love cheap looking historical reenactments!

Here, for your educational viewing, is a blast from the past.  From 1961, it’s a look at The Holy Roman Empire!

A Blast From The Past: Book Him! (dir by Sid Davis)

In this 1971 Sid Davis-produced educational film, young teens learn that going to jail isn’t as much fun as they might think.  After exploring all of the crimes that are on the rise (vandalism, shop lifting, etc.), the film follows Jerry as he gets arrested, gets booked, and gets shown to a cell.  As is typical with Sid Davis’s films, there’s a narrator present to let Jerry know that he’s ruined his life.

I’ve never been arrested but I know a few people who have been and, just from what they’ve told me, it appears that Jerry was lucky enough to go to one of the nicer jails.  As for the rest of the film, it’s a history nerd’s dream.  Just look at those clothes!  Just look at the hair!  Just look at 1971!

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.

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.

Blast From The Past: The Outsider (dir by Arthur Wolf)

The year was 1951 and Susie Jane was struggling to fit in at school.  While everyone else was planning dances and hanging out at the malt shop, Susie was standing off to the side, quietly.  Why was Susie Jane such an outsider?  Was it the fault of her peers or was it her fault for being such a nonconformist?

This educational short, from Young American Films, puts most of the blame on Susie.  Yes, the film suggests, her classmates could have made more of an effort to include her.  But Susie also should have made more of an effort to fit in and she shouldn’t have been so quick to assume that everyone was against her.  Susie might think that Marcy is only calling the house to taunt her but Marcy is actually calling because she feels guilty and obligated.  

The short film may feel like one of the films that Herk Harvey made before directing Carnival of Souls but this film was actually directed by Arthur Wolf.  The narrator, I have to say, is a bit of a jerk and spends the entire film talking down to Susie.  Susie’s having a hard enough time without having to put up with all of that!  That said, the film also takes a very 1950s approach to the issue of fitting in.  Susie’s an outside because she’s shy.  No consider is paid to the idea that maybe Susie just isn’t interested in doing the same thins as everyone else.

From 1951, here is The Outsider.

A Blast From The Past: Better Use Of Leisure Time

Well, it’s a new year.

That means that it’s time to start thinking about what you want to make of yourself this year.  What are you going to do?  What are you going to accomplish?  How are you going to make yourself proud of who you’ve become?

There’s a lot of movies coming out.  Maybe you’ll go to them.  Or maybe you’ll be the person who spends all of their time on twitter, tweeting about how scared you are of going back to the theaters.  Both options come with their risks and their rewards.

There’s a celebrity edition of Big Brother airing in February.  Maybe you’ll watch it.  Maybe you’ll blog about it, because you like getting paid more than your dislike the show.  Or maybe you’ll spend all of your time on twitter, talking about how much you hate reality TV.

2022 is an election year.  Maybe you’ll run for office.  Maybe you’ll volunteer to work for a campaign.  Maybe you’ll spend all of your time on twitter, tweeting about how people need to vote for your candidate.  Maybe you’ll come up with the hashtag that changes the course of the election!  Maybe you’ll hang out in the paring lot of Whataburger, waiting for Beto to toll by.

Or maybe….


You’re not going to do anything.

Let’s be honest, most of us are very lazy and we have absolutely no idea how lucky we are compared to people who lived just a few decades ago.  We take a lot of things for granted and we waste a lot of time doing nothing, precisely because we can do just about anything that we want.

(Of course, in my case, I’m have ADHD.  I spend a lot of time doing things but usually, I end up trying to do them all at once.  Reading a book and watching a TV at the same time is not difficult but when you also try to vacuum the living room while doing those other two things, it starts to get a little bit more difficult.  Still, my super power is ADHD and I’m thankful.)

Well, fear not!  A short film from Coronet Films has traveled all the way from 1950 to encourage you to make better use of your leisure time!  Why …. that’s even the name of the film!  Better Use of Your Leisure Time follows a good-for-nothing, spoiled teenager named Ken as he learns why spending all of your time moping is perhaps the worst thing that you can do.  With the help of a judgmental narrator and the ability to see alternative universes, Ken learns an important lesson.  There’s no hope with mope!  Ken discovers that some people actually have hobbies and spend their free time creating and learning and being a decent citizen.  It’s an important lesson and hopefully, it’s one that Ken will remember the next time that someone tells him that moping is no big deal.

Anyway, as far as Coronet Educational Films go, this one isn’t bad.  Ken is a bit of a loser but that’s to be expected of these type of films.  It’s very much a product of its era and, if nothing else, it stands as evidence that people wasted time even before the internet existed.  TAKE THAT, LUDDITES!

Watch, enjoy, and learn.  LEARN, GOSH DARN IT!

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: 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.