austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Give me a ship to fly

[ Late, yes, but here's the important thing: bunny_hugger is wonderful, and even greater than the Musik Express at Seaside Heights is the Musik Express at Seaside Heights introducing soap bubbles during the ride. ]

I want to put up a thesis: a really good mental hygiene short has to be crazy. At least a bit crazy. The core of a mental hygiene film is, at least in theory, common sense: ``don't spend more than you can afford''; ``don't let other people shame you out of liking something harmless''; ``don't put your hand in the spinning whirling blades of death''. Fine messages but pretty dull ones since we theoretically know that already. To stick to the mind, they have to add some crazy element: the ghost of a founding father dropping in during your dreams to sing a vaguely country song about the spinning whirling blades of death.

To that end TCM Underground has been showing a short, Time Out For Trouble, 1961, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Mental Hygiene Division, which satisfies that perfectly insane bill. In it, Alice Spann as a mantle clock taunts, in whispery urges to hurry --- be reckless --- be careless, the daughter-in-law to whom it was given. This may not sound like much, but it's really deeply weird. The woman is going about the slightly amplified chaos of a family of the kind you get in these shorts, where the kids are running around shooting suction-cup darts at each other and this makes her get caught in the vacuum cleaner cord and fall past the stove spilling the pot of boiling water on the hot iron tripping her down the stairs. Add to that filming in a very stark black-and-white on early 60s grain and it's an eerie effect.

The rhetorical point, as best as I can figure, is that feeling rushed causes accidents and therefore you need to slow down, stay calm, and think about what you're doing, although since I've never been one to stick pot handles out over walkway space that particular lesson is lost on me. Still, the mantle clock cackles about how Jane will ``never suspect'' why she's having so much trouble when it all looks ``completely accidental'', the clock somehow ... making people ... really, I don't get the clock's agency here, other than that it's watching as the house falls apart, at least until Jane does less yelling and stops tripping over power cables.

The clock (spoiler!) eventually meets its grizzly end, being hit by a softball thrown in the house, and it mourns how it failed to foresee how these ``stupid humans'' could spoil her evil plans by such horseplay. This perfectly insane little short has a clock gloat about how it somehow being responsible for Jeff's drinking habit and his unhappy marriage and how this causes accidents by ... boredom, I guess. The short makes sure you won't easily forget it, so it's just a bit of a shame it's hard to figure out how specifically to live more safely from it.

Trivia: The eternal candles of the Virgin Holy Family Church, lit since 1871 to commemorate being spared the Great Fire of Chicago, were extinguished for the August 1942 blackout. Source: Don't You Know There's A War On?, Richard Lingeman.

Currently Reading: Gil's All Fright Diner, A Lee Martinez.

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