In 10 Words or Less
The story of the '70s, told during commercial breaks
Loves: Old commercials
Likes: Cheesy PSAs
Dislikes: the '70s
If you've ever enjoyed the Clio awards or one of those World's Wildest TV specials, this DVD should be right up your alley. There's something incredibly entertaining about how the way things are sold to Americans age. Commercials attempt to be current to the point where their shelf life is usually quite limited. Occasionally, one breaks the mold and takes on a life of its own, but they are usually quite disposable.
That's why the clips on this DVD were found in a dumpster in Portland, Oregon. There are a few legendary pieces, like the old pollution PSA with the crying Indian, but the majority of them are ones you've likely never seen before, culled from the early '70s, including some regional ads that probably were never seen outside of the Pacific Northwest. It's these unknown gems that make this disc so enjoyable.
Watching the commercials makes it obvious that the majority of people were drinking, smoking and having sex. From the beer commercials that play like a playboy's dream to the cigarette ads that extol the joy of tobacco, the '70s were a decade of vice. But to add to the fun, everything is coated with a sheen of aggressive sexism, even the ads promoting jobs for women in the military. It's such a massive difference from today's PC world that it's actually shocking.
Of all the ads on this DVD, there are a handful that are brilliant in their madness, especially the ads from various churches and safety organizations, but two stand head and shoulders above the rest. I won't ruin them, but one, a soft-drink commercial, has the most twisted message I've ever seen in an ad, while the other, a PSA from a trade group, looks like it should be straight out of Crazy People, but is instead truly something magically insane.
The ads are half the story here though, as there are also six short films cobbled together from old commercials, PSAs and film footage. Together, they run about 40 minutes in length, ranging from two minutes to 11 minutes each. There's a definite difference in the quality of the pieces.
The two best of the bunch are likely "Not Too Much Remember," a collage of old educational films, and "We Edit Life," an artistic reuse of footage to create a green-screen look. "Toast'ems" has the most memorable visuals, as the director blends new footage with old commercials to create something new, but it seems less in touch with the "The 70s Dimension" concept.
In a standard keepcase, you get a single-sided DVD and a four-page insert that describes the various parts of the disc. From a static full-screen main menu, the choice of either the original commercials or the "remixes" is available, along with a play-all option and previews of two other Other Cinema DVDs. Once you select which part of the disc to view, a chapter menu is provided, with the names and directors of the short films for the remixes and eight topics for the commercials.
There are no language options, subtitles or closed captioning.
This disc is made up of some very old film stock, and not everything is in the same shape, but the overall look is surprisingly good. Color ranges from bright to blurry, and the detail is decent across the board. There's a good amount of dirt and damage, but nothing more than you would think from 30-year-old footage found in a dumpster.
The audio, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, is as simple as it gets, but again, surprisingly robust for the time. All the better to hear some of the unbelievable jingles here.
Other than the insert, there aren't any extras here.
The Bottom Line
It may just be me, but I find these video artifacts from the past to be endlessly interesting. The change in culture from the time these commercials and PSAs originated to today is the kind of seismic shift that's hard for someone who didn't live through it to understand without seeing it with your own eyes. The DVD presents them at a high level of quality, but without any extras. If you have plenty of friends with a similar sense of interest in the obscure and bizarre, you'll get a lot of mileage from this disc, though there could have been more commercials and less of the artistic experiments.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.