Monday, April 28, 2008


So, why am I giving you a second short before our feature presentation of Carnival of Souls? The first reason is obvious... I'm buying more time to write the review. The second reason is that Herk Harvey, director of Carnival of Souls, turns out to have also helmed over 400 educational and industrial films throughout the 50s and 60s. You MSTies out there may remember Mike and The Bots take on Herk's expressionistic classic Cheating. Cindy Goes To A Party isn't quite so sturm und drang as it tells the lighthearted story of a little girl upset over not receiving an invitation to a friend's soiree. The night before the party Cindy's fairy godmother, apparently channeling Bjork, appears to inform her she will indeed receive an invitation, but only if she stops being such an uncouth slob and follows the rules on how to properly behave at a get together. For the most part the dictates the fairy godmother lays down are pretty much common sense, although one does directly contradict that invaluable life-lesson we all learned from St. Elmo's Fire, "It ain't a party till something gets broken!"

“It’s easy to poke fun at this stuff" says Ken Smith, author of the book Mental Hygiene, "and one of the reasons I wrote [my] book is because that’s all people are doing. There’s actually a deeper story behind them... [The films] were made by some of the most liberal and progressive-minded people of their time. Their goal was noble: to help children become well adjusted, happy, and independent (within limits). The films look corny and manipulative to us today, but not because the people who made them were evil and stupid... The people responsible for these films were driven by a sincere desire to guide young people toward behavior that they felt would make them happy." Ironically enough, it's seems to be the same "liberal and progressive-minded people" who are the most likely to criticize these films today. New York Times critic Richard Woodward, writing in 1994, stated that "for dubious indoctrination... nothing quite compares with films created during the 50's expressly for teen-agers. "More Dates for Kay" [1952]), described in the program notes as "one of the most insidious and sexist social-guidance films ever made," applauds the many original and degrading ways an intrepid young woman goes about meeting boys... The issues ignored were also similar during this period. Blacks and other minorities make only fleeting appearances in these films. Women are routinely belittled by the authoritarian male narrators. A seething bias against homosexuals is pervasive." Um... oops.

Call me nuts, but maybe the educators were just messing around in areas best left to the children's parents. If we're to believe the Catechism, "parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom... The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies." Sounds like a plan to me. Now if we can just get all of us parents to go along with it.


D. G. D. Davidson said...

Yikes, that is awful. I can think of many ways I'd rather learn my life lessons than from one of these Lecture It to Beaver shorts.

Is it just me, or did Fairy Godmother get kinda whiny at the end?

And where's all this bigotry and manipulation I was promised?

D. G. D. Davidson said...

Hey, I just found More Dates for Kay. It's not nearly as awful as Richard Woodward makes it out to be. It's a good deal more interesting watching Kay go than it is getting a lecture from Fairy Godmother, and I particularly laughed when the narrator said she got more dates after "putting herself out a little," which I assume didn't mean then what it means now.

These films are probably criticized because of cultural differences more than anything else. Back when Kay was made, "playing the field" was normal. Sure she's boy-crazy, but why shouldn't Kay want more dates? People who get grumpy at this film are probably just jealous that they don't get more dates themselves.

EegahInc said...

Thanks for the link, that was a good one. Not quite as insidious as The Times critic made it out to be. I'm gonna update the post to link to the Kay video.

Anonymous said...

In the bedroom scene with the mother, did you notice the white crucifix on the headboard bookcase? It's gone by the time the fairy GODmother arrives.

And yes, if that actresses name isn't Anna Bjorksgrandmater, you sure coulda fooled me.

EegahInc said...

Hmmm, that's a weird change in the set dressing considering these things were filmed in one or two days. Wonder what that was all about?