The old educational films of the '40s through the '70s provide an endless array of embarrassing moments, kind of like "The Government's Funniest Home Videos." When played as short clips highlighting the best of the worst examples, they can be very entertaining. Luckily, because of the features available on any standard DVD player, that's the way you can watch "Chalkdust Memories," a new collection available on Passport Video. Watching this thing all the way through can be alternately depressing and wearisome.
The collection, on one DVD, is broken into chapters devoted to sex, nuclear war, car safety and drugs, hot topics in any era. These are then subdivided by the year the particular film was released. This arrangement sometimes offers a glimpse at the evolution of attitudes, particularly in the case of sex, but other times only proves redundant.
The quality of the clips varies, both in their production values and their entertainment value for present-day observers. Some of the movies, such as "Social Sex Attitudes in Adolescence," hold your interest for their entirety perhaps because of their focus on everything and anything but the topic. "Weed," a 1971 film in the drugs category, stands above the rest with its quick pacing and unconventional cutting, and contains bust scenes that could have been the prototype for "Cops."
On the other end of the competence spectrum, titles such as "Duck and Cover" and "Red Nightmare" prove only that Americans in the '50s were much less likely to die from nuclear bombs or invading Soviets than of deadly boredom.
"Chalkdust Memories" is a collection, nothing more, and it begs a companion piece commenting on some of the old-fashioned attitudes and pointing out the occasional appearances by star actors and filmmakers. To really get a kick out of the less groovy aspects, you may have to experiment with some of the substances being discussed. Otherwise, duck and cover. SClick here for more Arts & Culture