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Fantoma Films presents
The Educational Archives: Volume 2—Social Engineering 101 (2001)

"You're a living cake of soap!"
- Billy

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: November 22, 2001

Stars: Dick York, Mike Wallace
Other Stars: Soapy, Chalky
Director: Various

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:50m:08s
Release Date: November 20, 2001
UPC: 014381126129
Genre: educational

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B+B+ C-

DVD Review

This is the Central Scrutinizer: The youth of today live in complicated times. Your government has produced a series of educational films to help you learn to live healthy, productive lives. In classrooms all across America, students are learning the values of personal hygiene, manners and respecting their parents. These are not propaganda films, they are your guide to the future. Pay attention.

The lights go out. The class grows silent. A great foreboding fills the air. A click from the back of the room, and the screen lights up, with that all-too-familiar countdown to the inevitable: the educational film. The second disc in Fantoma's Educational Archives series focuses on social engineering, as those who know dispell the facts, and teach us how to be model citizens. By digesting the ten films included here you will be on your way to being a better person. Trust us, your government knows best.

Compared with the first disc in the series, these films have fewer humorous moments, perhaps due to most of them having been produced earlier, with less attention to trying to be hip with the youth of the day. Most do have good messages, but sometimes go a bit far in their understanding of the causes of the problems they address. It will be interesting to see what other films come out in this series, as this group is an interesting collection, but weren't quite as heavy on propaganda as I had expected. Now wash your hands, comb your hair, and sit quietly to enjoy the films.

Ratings out of five projectors for style and content.

Lunchroom Manners - 1959 (09m:31s)

"Phil had good manners. He didn't want to be like Mr. Bungle in the lunchroom." - Narrator

Before lunch time, the class sees a puppet play, whose star, Mr. Bungle, provides a good example of a bad example. He doesn't wash his hands or comb his hair before lunch. He barges to the front of the line in the cafeteria. He is rude and clumsy. Phil and his friends don't want to be like Mr. Bungle, and as Phil makes his way to the cafeteria, he is reminded of all the things that Mr. Bungle did that made him unpopular and ill-mannered.

Here is a good example of encouraging young people to think before acting, and to have consideration of others. However, a kid like this would have been beaten to a pulp for being such a suck. Lesson: Don't behave like an inanimate object with a hand up its backside.

Soapy The Germ Fighter - 1951 (10m:00s)

"Billy has always been a nice boy, but he hasn't always been so clean." - Narrator

Young Billy Martin learns that it's important to be clean from a talking bar of soap in tights. We even get a plug for the health inspectors. Billy learns all about germs and how they can hurt you, and gets some helpful tips for staying clean and healthy. Words of wisdom come in spades here, including the concept that boys should have a bath more often than just on Saturday nights.

I don't know what mom put in those brownies, but the halucinations did a world of good. Lesson: Girls should wash their hair once every two weeks.

Appreciating Our Parents - 1950

(10m:17s)"When Tommy went to school this morning his room was a mess, but now everything is neat and straight." - Narrator

Tommy notices that things change around the house when he goes to school: his room gets tidied, his clothes get mended, the breakfast dishes are washed and put away. When he gets his allowance, he figures he should ask for more, but when he sneaks downstairs and overhears his parents talking, he comes to realize all the work they do for their family. Tommy learns to help out around the house. Lesson: Clean your room and you get more dough.

Shy Guy - 1947 (13m:40s)

"You can't forget that you're alone, an outsider." - Narrator (Mike Wallace)

Being a social outcast isn't much fun. Dick York (Bewitched) plays a high school boy who doesn't fit with the "in" crowd. He sits in his basement fixing radios. Dad comes to the rescue offering words of advise: wear a sweater, and mimic what the popular folks do.

This one wasn't nearly as conformist as I had imagined. It promoted individuality, and consideration for others as a way of gaining popularity. Lesson: Cardigans attract the chicks like lint.

Why Doesn't Cathy Eat Breakfast? - 1972 (04m:06s)

"You're making me sick!" - Cathy

An enigmatic National Dairy Council production that queries a young girl as to why she doesn't eat breakfast. You have to love the "Stop projector, discuss film" ending. Lesson: Milk goes on everything.

Right Or Wrong? (Making moral decisions) - 1951 (10m:39s)

"Every decision we make affects others around us." - Narrator

A young boy is seen hanging out with kids who throw rocks through a warehouse window. The security guard calls the police. The boy is questioned about who his friends are, but won't tell. His mother wants to protect him, a church guy takes him home for the night.

This film requires the audience to examine the moral judgements made by the participants: the boy, the security guard, the policeman, the mother, and the church guy. Lesson: Don't get caught, it inconveniences others.

Personality & Emotions - 1954 (12m:38s)

"Emotions cannot be denied, only suppressed."

This film looks at emotions, and their role in human development. Tracing our emotional responses back to our earliest development, it is clear that bad parenting in early childhood is the cause for all your future psychosomatic problems. This was about twenty years ahead of its time.

While this does do a good job of explaining emotional nature, it stretches credibility, and seems more like an ad for the new professions of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Lesson: Get therapy.

Why Vandalism? - 1955 (16m:17s)

"Vandalism may be the symptom of a sickness."

Jeff Turner and his friends are outcasts, and come from bad homes—their parents either absent, poor or always fighting. One night, the boys get into trouble and are forced to face the consequences of killing a rabbit.

Another interesting film trying to determine the cause of vandalism. Lack of a moral upbringing, and poor social choices are tabled. Lesson: Go to church more often.

Manners In School - 1959 (10m:42s)

"You are a bad-mannered young man, aren't you?" - Chalky

Larry Carson has to stay after class to clean the blackboards for being rude. A stick figure named Chalky appears on the blackboard, and gives Larry a lesson in manners.

Another film designed to make children think about their actions and be considerate to others by holding conversations with imaginary characters. Lesson: That's some magic chalk dust.

The Outsider - 1951 (12m:18s)

"Why do they make you the outsider?" - Narrator

Susan Jane Smith is a loner, though she doesn't want to be. She is different, always making different choices. She doesn't know why the other kids don't like her. She imagines they are always making fun of her behind her back. One girl senses that Susan is like she herself used to be, and reaches out by asking Susan to a party.

Interesting to me as this was produced by Centron, the production company for which Herk Harvey of Carnival Of Souls fame worked. Typical film about fitting in, asking the audience at the end to look for people like Susan Jane and get to know them. Lesson: Look for Susan, not Mary Jane.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Image quality is generally better than it ought to be. Source elements contain a fair number of major flaws, specifically dropped frames, which are appropriately jarring. Streaks and scratches are abundant as well, as is grain. Films like this deserve to be seen pretty beat up, to create an authentic reproduction of the classroom experience. I'm happy with the look presented here, with few compression issues.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Crackling, hiss, pops, and out of sync dialogue were trademarks of the educational film, and are presented here in all their audio glory. Add in just the right amount of distortion and you have a perfect recreation of the educational film experience. All we need now is the running clicking of the projector to create a fully mind bendng experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Educational filmstrip
Extras Review: The Educational Archives: Volume 2 uses the same themed menu as the first disc, where you can set the focus and sound for your projector. The option to play all the features skips the written introductions available from the separate title menu.

A bonus filmstrip is included, this time Your Fight Against Fear. A group of high school kids face their apprehension of graduating and moving on to the next stage of their lives. This strip illustrates their choices in confronting or being crippled by their fears. Just like the real thing, you frame advance through the feature.

The insert features a short essay on the "social guidance" film, with more projector diagrams carried over from the first set.

I do have to comment on the spine art: If you are creating a series, please follow the advice in these films and conform to make them match. No one wants a DVD spine designed by Mr. Bungle.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

The lessons of good personal hygiene, moral values, self worth and emotional balance are outlined in this series of guidance films, primarily from the 1950s. Not quite as funny as the sex education or drug films of later years, they are still a pretty entertaining and enlightening watch. I'm looking forward to more discs in this series, as they offer a great historical perspective on how we were meant to behave. Some of the lessons learned here would be of great value to modern society.


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