The Educational Archives, Vol 6 Religion review by The Grim Ringler

Times have certainly changed. I can remember being a kid and walking into class at school and whenever Id see a projector or slide machine I knew it was an easy day. Now, I am sure those days still come for modern kids but not in the same way. Not to age myself, but when I was a kid in elementary school youd be shown movies on old, run-down projectors that many times drowned out the sound from the films themselves, most of which were as exciting as a presidential debate, and all of which were almost to the point of being useless. The sciences evolve so quickly that to show science filmstrips from the fifties, sixties, and seventies is a bit silly. But even now I sometimes think back on those halcyon days of yore and kinda pity the poor kids of today that they dont get to watch the laughably bad short films and filmstrips that us old-timers suffered through, I mean, were honored to see. Though, seeing the last film in this compilation, it seems that while the technology may have been updated (shot on video, whoo-hoo!), the comic-fodder remains.

Released by indie company Fantoma, this DVD is one of a series that the company has put out which focus on the educational short films, which were as much a part of learning as a kid as school was. Youd see them in school, in church, and anywhere else that had a message for kids to hear. There have been several of these discs released which each cover a different topic (from sex to patriotism) but the one which I am reviewing focuses on ten short films (and a filmstrip!) which were made in the hopes of illuminating the world of God and heaven for both followers and non-believers.

Most of these short films are black and white films made very simply and with a simple goal, which at times is even deeper than just the base religious meaning. Here we see, over and over again, good people who want to do the right thing but who are tempted to do things that wouldnt be as God or Jesus would wish. Of these, only one really seems to see a hostile world around, in this case, Christians, which the protagonist must fight against in this case some classmates that make fun of his belief in God. Its an interesting short and has some good points but the undercurrent that the world is hostile towards Christians is weird for one, and way off base at its heart (this is set in the U.S. for goodness sake). Worse to me though was the short that featured actor Fred MacMurray in a propaganda film about how great atomic energy is and how its a gift from God. I got a kick out of watching MacMurray looking rather bemused at some of the claims made by the pastor he is in the film with but there are a lot of things that are said in this short that feel just creepy. The idea that feeding a chicken radioactive fluid in order to figure out how eggs are made is going to help us in the long run is more than just a bit eerie. Another short is a strange biology lesson about carnivorous plants that, as a sort of punch line, links these plants with religion and how they are part of Gods plan (!?). Weird stuff folks.

The color entries are a bit more far out though and the creepiest of all the films is on entitled Stalked, in which a man who owns a carnival and who hates Mankind and God so much that he goes on vacation (!) to his homeland (which seems Dutch but is an amalgam of a few places I think) to see his family again. What he finds though is a deserted city in which he is the lone person, save for the sound of someone walking down the street (after him?) in wooden shoes (yes, wooden shoes!). The short takes a turn for the macabre as the man enters a church in the hopes of finding his mother and father and comes upon a life size scene of worshippers bowing before a very scary looking Christ on the cross. Hallucinating that Jesus is moving, the man takes a spear from one of the statues and stabs him in the side before running out and locking the church up. Something or someone is determined to get out though and slams against the doors of the church with all their force. The man runs to find help but finds none, stopping only when he finds a sort of musical cart that he had liked as a child. Suddenly the man in the wooden shoes appears. The man begins to throw torches at the man but misses and tries to take the cart away so he can be alone with it. It is too heavy though and in a flash is set alight by some of the other torches that were nearby and he had knocked down. The man catches fire and the stranger with the wooden shoes removes his robe to put the flames out but cannot calm the man who pushes the flaming cart to the nearby river and pushes it in to put out the flames. From the depths then rises a crucifix with the Christ upon it looking very much like the stranger in the wooden shoes. The man then returns home to the carnival and, I think, is changed, though we dont really see how.

Weird?

You bet your ass. I cant even fathom how this odd and obtuse short film, which plays more like an episode of any number of T.V. anthologies than a religious film, could help someone find their faith but heck, its a fun watch and was the best thing on the disc.

The weirdest and most disturbing short presented though is one called Youth Suicide Fantasy, in which two brothers attempt to prove how rock music is not only evil but will cause people to kill themselves. Making unfounded and unproven claims, the brothers list off bands that range from AC/DC to Prince and Elvis and give evidence of the corrupt lifestyles they have lead and then show how they are evil influences on all that listen to them. While its easy to admit that rock stars are far from the people to emulate, the brothers here make outrageous claims and take lyrics, album art, and incidents at concerts out of context in order to prove their shallow point. Their proof that rock music can lead to teen suicide comes in the form of two sad young men that killed themselves for reasons we will never ever know but which happened to have rock music so therefore, were inspired by it to end their own lives. Nothing else is examined in these two young mens lives and it seems enough to the brothers that they liked rock music. The entire short gives you a surreal, sick memory of some of the people that were around in the eighties. As fun as the music is to many now, people like Boy George (who is referred to specifically as a bi-sexual and much is made of this) were seen as evil influences on children whose parents rarely even bothered to understand the draw of the music their kids were listening to.

As much as I wanted to just laugh at these shorts, all three-and-a-half hours worth, I have to admit that many of the ten shorts are ably made and were created with good intention. Sure, they are nave and simpleminded, but none seem terribly harmful. More than anything its in intriguing look back at some of the teaching methods that were used so long ago and some of the arcane ideas that were rampant as recently as the eighties (when the suicide film was made). Really interesting to watch and a bit creepy at times, this is the perfect DVD for when friends are over or when you have some time to kill and want to watch something short. A great release and a great disc. The coolest bonus here is the ability to listen to the shorts in a classroom experience mode which fills the rear channels with the sound of a running projector. Wicked!

c




8 out of 10 Jackasses
blog comments powered by Disqus