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Fantoma Films presents
"Now there's a brilliant argument for you. Why, with the help of a good, kind friend, you can be turned on, make the scene, blow grass, smoke reefers, pot or mary janes. Those are just some of the cool, groovy names for marijuana. And if grass doesn't make it for you baby, especially if you need to be 'in,' you can always drop a cap of acid. Now that's the real stuff—very, very cool, very, very groovy."
DVD Review"There's no use saying no to Mary, it only makes her worse. Isn't there any positive approach to this sex education?" - Mary's dad
For those of us old enough to remember such things, most can recall with dread the geeky A/V guy wheeling a mammoth 16mm projector into the classroom for one of those "educational" films we could never manage to avoid throughout our early adolescence. There was nothing more embarrassing than watching sex films in mixed company, followed by a question and answer period.
Educational films were first introduced after the end of World War II, when young people of that generation found themselves with free time to go about their own business, which was previously unheard of. This time often involved experimenting with alcohol, sex or drugs as leisure activity. The government stepped in and ordered the creation of a number of films to help shape the future society by teaching children and adolescents proper ways to behave, adding sex and drug education to the curriculum. As the drug culture evolved in the 1960s, films designed to scare kids out of them were created, most with inappropriate special effects that often encouraged kids to experiment, rather than dissuade them, and offered a perfect authority figure to rebel against.
Thankfully, Fantoma is allowing us to relive those horrors in the privacy of our own homes, with a series of short films from the educational archives. These offer an interesting historical perspective on the types and methods employed to teach youths the facts of life, the dangers of drugs, and ways to play a useful role in society. The first in this series covers sex and drugs; ranging from three to over twenty minutes, there is a lot to learn in these old reels, but not necessarily what they were designed for. Ratings are based on "educational" and entertainment value out of five projectors.
LSD: A Case Study - 1969 (03m:39s)
"I looked down at the hot dog, and there was a face on it."
A young girl recalls her first LSD trip, and how she had a conversation with her lunch while tripping. Basically a bunch of stills overlaid with a pulsating psychedelic background, set to a soundtrack of weird synthesizer parts and abstract screaming. Whoa, heavy duty man. Check out the sepiatone on this one! Lesson: LSD is bad—but trippy.
Human Growth - 1962 (12m:09s)
Directed by Curtis Avery
"The most important things to look for are the changes that take place in our bodies and our feelings when we grow up." - Jose
Josie is on the review committee for an important film the class will see on human growth. As she prepares for the class viewing, the questions the film will answer are presented. Finally, we watch the film with the class, which tells us all about the human reproductive system, and the changes that occur in the body during puberty...
I'm pretty sure I remember that film they were watching, with nice, clinical diagrams of the human anatomy, and talk about the menstrual cycle, ova and sperm. Guaranteed to make every guy's skin crawl recalling the experience from school. Good thing the lights were out! This is only an excerpt from the whole film, which ends with the teacher telling the audience we are free to discuss the topics now. Lesson: Um, do we have to talk about this?
Narcotics: Pit Of Despair - 1967 (11m:17s)
"Young people are flirting with a poison every bit as deadly as that of a snake." - Narrator
John (Kevin Tighe from Emergency) meets up with an old school chum, but doesn't realize that Pete is now a drug pusher. On the lookout for new customers, Pete invites John to a swinging party, which John initially passes on, due to his homework responsibilities. However, John's procrastination gets the better of him, and he makes his way to the gathering, unaware of the trap that is being set. It starts with a groovy shindig, a few beers, and Helen, Pete's trusty accomplice, who invites John out to the garage where the real party is happening. Here, potheads, "grasshoppers" (I'm not making this up) and trippers are gathered. Under the influence of peer pressure, John is ripe for the picking; little does he know he is heading down a slippery slope to being a heroin addict with that first puff of a marijuana cigarette...
Dig the scene, man. Features hip tunes from a record player, happening dance moves, and a far out story of the descent into drug oblivion, with a metaphoric preamble featuring a cobra, and some abrupt jump cuts. Unfortunately the end is also abrupt and doesn't get to the part where John becomes a junkie on the street. Too bad, I could have learned something. "Squad 51, Engine 51, see 'the man'." Oh, and don't drop the roach. Lesson: Marijuana is bad (of course, we won't mention that pounding brewskies and hanging with skanky chicks ain't too cool either).
Know For Sure - 1941 (13m:33s)
"You had to learn the hard way that you can't tell by looking at a woman whether she has syphilis." - doctor
Produced by Hollywood for the National Health Board, this film dramatizes several people's experience seeking treatment for syphilis, which at the time was an epidemic requiring a year of weekly treatments to cure. It opens with Tony Madroni painting an addition to the sign on his butcher shop, announcing the arrival of his expected son. Unfortunately, the child is stillborn, a condition the physician suspects is a result of syphilis. At the venereal disease clinic, several other patients learn about the disease from the doctor, who stresses that the only way to avoid the potentially lethal and debilitating effects of the disease is to Know For Sure.
This version edits out scenes showing the symptoms on the genitalia, and also doesn't promote condom use as it originally had, since this cut was intended for both male and female audiences. Interestingly, it infers the burden of responsibility on females for spreading the disease. Also, it does show needle use, so those who are a bit squeamish may want to skip some of this. Lesson: Syphilis is bad.
Barbiturates: A Case Study - 1969 (01m:59s)
"I tried reds. I just needed something new."
He had been smoking grass for years, doing dozens of numbers a day—but he needed something more. His friends had some pills—reds and yellows—that would give him a feeling more sedate than excessive drinking, but trying to kick was worse than 'H".
Set to more freaky and, as the intro states, surprisingly upbeat music for a film about downers, another montage of still images tells the tale of a young man's fall into barbiturate addiction. Stills are augmented by bubbly, lava lamp-style images, apparently indicating one's state of mind. Lesson: Barbiturates are a downer.
It's Wonderful Being a Girl - 1968 (16m:54s)
"You can have fun while you're menstruating." - Libby
Long before Cathy Rigby and Brenda Vaccaro started hawking them on national TV, girls had access to advertising for feminine hygiene products through educational films such as this. Jean and Libby are experiencing a time of change in their lives. Jean began having her period a year ago, while Libby has yet to start menstruating. Libby and her mom have an important talk about what it means to be a woman, which includes a display of the various contraptions this entails (made by Modess, a division of Johnson & Johnson), and instructions on using the apparatus, commonly known by womenfolk as "the belt." Libby has her reservations, but gets reassurance from her friends and teachers, despite some girls calling their natural cycle "the curse."
Libby: Guess what mom!
Mom: You're menstruating?
Here we have an example of the kind of film that young girls everywhere were herded off into secret classrooms to view, emerging with an enlightenment on womanhood that boys just couldn't, (and didn't want) to understand. It covers the clinical explanations of the female anatomy, puberty, conception (eliminating exactly how a sperm manages to get where it gets for this to occur), and the menstrual cycle through diagrams and animations. It also shows how this change of life doesn't have to be a negative experience, as Libby goes about enjoying all the activities she would normally participate in, like bowling or roller-skating, as long as she doesn't over do it. Also important to note is that you can wash your hair during your period. Lesson: Use Modess for all your feminine hygiene needs... no wait, it's great being a girl.
Marijuana - 1968 (22m:14s)
"I think it's terrible that the American people have accepted a law that makes smoking a harmless weed illegal." - student
Here we have one of the tools in the war against marijuana, but being the clever hipsters the producers were, they brought in none other than a heavily sedated Sonny Bono to "Cher" the facts in this look at marijuana, and address a number of points brought up by the kids in the opening segment—all of whom were just arrested for having a pot party. Clad in his gold lamé outfit, Bono takes the issues one by one, including comparisons to alcohol and tobacco, and pot's role as a gateway to harder drugs. While some of the content is agreeable, it is also far more biased than it pretends to be, using omission and unrealistic associative techniques to drive its point home.
"You more than likely run the risk of an unpredictable and unpleasant bummer." - Sonny Bono
They say we're young and we don't know... As a propaganda piece, this one is pretty telling, and some of the statistics are interesting, such as the claim that in 1968 there were only five to six million alcoholics in the United States—compared to nearly 14 million now—and that the proposed legalization of marijuana was expected (by experts) to create a nation of potheads dissociated from society, rationalizing that there are too many unstable people in America to make marijuana legal. The link to harder drugs and criminal behavior is pretty firmly made, while omitting alcohol or tobacco as other habit-forming influences that could also have an effect. The illegality is also played with a pretty heavy hand, opening with a group of kids getting busted, and including demonstrating execution by firing squad for drug pushing in Nigeria. It's pretty groovy, dig the threads, Sonny. Lesson: Make up your own mind about using the evil weed. I got you babe.
Amphetamines: A Case Study - 1969 (02m:51s)
"I took a few too many and felt groovy, so I started taking a few too many every day."
A young man is prescribed amphetamines for his weight problem, but soon find himself taking them for kicks. Spending days awake, he develops an emotional addiction to speed.
Once again laced with psychedelia, this short film warns of the dangers of amphetamine abuse, while running through a series of still images illustrating the story of its narrator. Lesson: Speed kills.
Social-Sex Attitudes in Adolescence - 1953 (18m:32s)
"Bob was growing up too. He knew about the reproductive organs and nocturnal emissions." - Lorne Greene, narrator
This 1953 film tells the story of Bob and Mary, newlyweds who have been raised in an atmosphere that gave them an early awareness of sex and intersex relations. Focusing on developing their sexual attitudes through the various phases of their childhood and adolescence, with the involvement of their parents as role models, the story shows how education and experience, in conjunction with a good and understanding family, can lead to a healthy adulthood, with proper perspective on the part sex plays in a relationship. This is surprisingly forward for a film of this age. It is somewhat odd to hear Commander Adama (Lorne Greene in Battlestar Gallactica) discussing masturbation (in passing) and nocturnal emissions in the voiceover, but in general this is not nearly as condescending as one would expect. The gender bias is a little skewed, with Bob having little interest in girls, while Mary is enfatuated with boys, but aside from some sexual stereotyping, it makes for an interesting watch. Lesson: Learning about sex early is good.
LSD: Insight or Insanity -1969 (14m:53s)
"Taking LSD is like playing Russian Roulette." - Sal Mineo
Hosted by Sal Mineo, who tries to be hip with phrases like "Why be lame, baby? Give yourself a real kick," this documentary contrasts the views of young people (portrayed by actors) on their experiences with LSD to scientific research on the drug, and clinical treatment for those who have had bad trips, or freak outs. Some rather stuffy doctors outline the history of LSD, from its discovery in 1938 by Dr. Albert Hoffman during research into possible migraine treatments, to its use in modern society, pointing out the danger inherent in an unregulated and unpredictable supply chain. The effects of the drug are delineated from its euphoria and sense of increased awareness and creativity, to its darker hallucinogenic properties, which inevitably, according to this film, lead to a bad trip, and instant insanity. The actors portraying young people come up with some classic lines promoting the drug, such as "LSD is like a vitamin for the brain, like to expand your mind." The delivery is pretty dry, and the condescending attitude of the announcer does little to engage the audience. More psychedelia is included to illustrate the experience. Lesson: LSD is a bad trip, man, and it doesn't cure migraines.
Heroin: A Case Study - 1969 (03m:47s)
"I felt I could do just about anything you want." - narrator
A young man is pressured into trying heroin, and winds up a junkie. His habit escalates into a life of crime, for which he winds up in jail.
More photo montages and trippy imagery. Lesson: Smack is bad.
ABC of Sex Education for Trainables - 1975 (19m:18s)
Directed by Maxwell Brecher
"Do you think it's a good thing for a man to have a penis?" - teacher
Teaching children about sex is a delicate subject at the best of times. This film was produced by Planned Parenthood to train teachers of developmentally-challenged young adults (called "trainables" here) about their bodies, reproduction, and the place of sexual relations in society. While there are a few fairly humorous scenes in here, such as a group of teachers coming up with alternate names for the penis, or a mother walking in on her son while he is masturbating, this film actually does the best job of dealing with the issues of sex in context with society.
"We may not always be able to reach the trainables. We must always try."
Teachers offer diagrams to teach their pupils their anatomy, and discuss the many aspects of normal development and sexual maturity. Issues that would be difficult to address, such as the appropriateness of public masturbation, or being aware of being exploited by others, are handled with tact and matter of factness. The style is a little off, especially the Sergio Leone style closeups of the central commentator, but in all this is quite an interesting piece on what would present a real challenge to those caring for developmentally-challenged individuals, and their responsibilities as sexual beings. It is the most educational, and least condescending sex education film of the lot.
I would have preferred the inclusion of more sex education material, as this was usually the most nerve-wracking to sit through as an adolescent, though the drug coverage is good. As for ratings, the gold lamé certainly has a style, and they cover a lot of substances, man.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Image quality is all over the map here, which totally suits the subject matter. The thought of watching these educational films from crisp, pristine masters is unthinkable, so the more blips and blops, jump cuts and visual anomalies, the closer it is to perfection. Hues on the color segments are generally washed out and faded. There are lots of print defects on most of the presentations. Random edits also abound. Grayscale looks good on the black & white segments, which also contain running streaks or other source defects. My grading on this one is the reverse of what I'd normally use, since this faithfully reproduces the experience of watching these films in the classroom, warts and all. These look as beat up as they should. Only some visible compression gives them a downgrade, though the compression would be a challenge.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is also presented in a realistic fashion, though with much more frequency range than we ever managed out of the old Bell and Howell. Pops, clicks, crackle, hiss and hum abound, along with unsynced and mismatched splices. The transfer retains these intact and adds no additional problems. An authentic reproduction. I hope the teacher isn't looking.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
If you weren't old enough to remember 16mm films from school, you certainly won't remember the filmstrip. Included here is the Jam Handy presentation We Grow. Johnny is just full of questions with the arrival of his new baby sister. "She's so small!" Johnny says. "You were small once too." replies his mother, and so begins the story of growing up. By looking through photo albums of when he was a baby, Johnny sees that he too was once little, and learns he will someday grow up to be a man. Just like the real thing, you frame advance through each slide. Boy, aren't we learning now!
The insert features a short essay on the history of the educational film, along with diagrams demonstrating how to thread the film on your projector. You'll be completely geeked out.
Extras Grade: C-
Final Comments"Did you buy the sanitary napkins for me today?" - Jean
While drug addiction, the facts of life and social diseases are important and serious topics, the films designed to enlighten young people about the subjects demonstrate how out of focus (ahem) their producers often were, with stilted and condescending commentary, hip lingo, and corny stories trying to coerce young people into towing the socially accepted line. The Educational Archives: Volume 1: Sex & Drugs features a collection of twelve such films ranging from female hygene to the evils of drugs. The only thing missing is the film running off the projector, and the sound of desks overturning as someone stumbles for the light switch. A must for film geeks, and a great historical archive. Dig it man, it's just far out.
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