Los Angeles Streetcars – The Final Years

This is a short documentary about the last of the Los Angeles Yellow and Green streetcar lines of the mid-1950s. For me, Los Angeles is the most beautiful American city because of its nearly mystical relationship with the natural landscape intruding so markedly upon the urban scene. One gets the feeling that at any moment the terrain could obliterate the city entirely. The resulting dichotomy makes for eerie and unsettling intrusions of nature into the urban landscape. Turn a corner, even today, and you are quite likely to find yourself looking up a natural hillside with only a dirt path for access. Old films like these fascinate me for their glimpses of the cityscape and its long-ago relationship to the desert surroundings.

Santa Claus: 1959 Christmas Movie From Mexico

Here’s a Mexican take on the story of Santa Claus. It was released in 1959 and then dubbed into English for a 1960 release. It was directed by René Cardona. The story has Santa working in space and relying on his assistant, Merlin the Wizard, to battle with the Devil’s minion who is sent to ruin Christmas. Even though it won several awards and was featured on television stations during the 60s and 70s, it is widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made! But I enjoy the Mexican flavor that permeates all the typical North Pole settings.

Aspects of Nuclear Radiation – 1950s Atomic Propaganda Film

In the 1950s, while the US army was intentionally blasting soldiers with radiation in order to study them as they melted and died, this film was made to minimize public worry about nuclear radiation. Governments always lie about nuclear radiation. They never tell the truth. So, as President Obama stands before the nation assuring us that no dangerous radiation will reach our shores from the sudden nuclear Armageddon of Japan, watch this reassuring little film and wonder.

Road to the Stars – 1957 Soviet Space Vision with Stunning Special Effects

Excerpt 1 – First Men in Space:

The film is in Russian but you absolutely do not need to know Russian to enjoy it!  Unfortunately, I can’t find the entire film, only these three excerpts.

Pavel Klushantsev’s 1957 film, Road to the Stars, features astoundingly realistic special effects that were an inspiration and obvious blueprint for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey ten years later.  The film is an extended form of science education, building upon existing 1950s technology to predict space exploration of the future.  The sequences with astronauts in zero gravity are incredibly realistic.  The second excerpt from the film features the construction of and life aboard a space station in earth orbit that is not only convincing but also beautiful.  There are several scenes with space station dwellers using videophones that anticipate the famous Kubrick videophone scene.

Excerpt 2 – Space Station:

Excerpt 3 – Moon Landing: