Saturday, October 11, 2014

The latest in 1950s RKO-Pathé shorts

There are a couple of the RKO-Pathé shorts coming up on TCM in the next 24 hours. Objectively, these 1950s shorts aren't very good in terms of technical quality or presenting the subject material. But they're always interesting time capsules.

First up is the Sportscope Canoeman's Holiday, a little after 5:00 PM, or just after The Westerner (3:15 PM, 100 min plus the intro/outro from Ben Mankiewicz). This one looks at a hunting lodge for fairly wealthy tourists in New Brunswick just over the US/Canada border from Maine. This is the sort of short that really needed Traveltalks-style color cinematography but because of RKO's financial state we get black-and-white and even worse narration than what James A. Fitzpatrick would give us. It's a shame because the scenery would have been nice and I'm sure there are people interested in duck hunting.

Following this week's TCM Underground -- a double bill of blaxploitation horror in Blacula at 2:15 AM and Scream, Blacula, Scream at 4:00 AM -- we get the short Alert Today -- Alive Tomorrow. This one looks at civil defense in the 1950s, which back then obviously meant preparing for the possibility of a nuclear attack. This was still the days before ICBMs, I think, so the bombs would have come via bomber, and as we saw last year in Polar Outpost, our government was busy trying to keep the Soviets from coming in over the pole. But if the Soviets did succeed in dropping a bomb, it would have been up to Civil Defense to deal with the damage. Here we see CD preparing in Reading PA, and the fact that we get one of those now-decaying Rust Belt towns as it was in the 1950s is what really makes this short worth a view, along with the look at how people thought about the possibility of nuclear war back then.

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