Approx 78 min. USA.


EPHEMERA: POPULUXE from Spectacle Theater on Vimeo.

No outlet served post-war American culture’s ebullient pride and prosperity better than that of the now-infamous educational film. Today these didactic artifacts are relegated to sideshow status by the likes of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Weird Al, MST3K and Adult Swim, all of whom freely lampoon such easy targets for their comically dated sensibilities. Our monthly EPHEMERA program aims to present these documents to a contemporary audience in perhaps a more even light, ideally free from the ironic framing that can easily overwhelm some of their more interesting details. Fortunately… the humor is irrepressible.


September’s installment POPULUXE is the first all-color edition, celebrating the  Golden Age of America via the lavish advertisement culture of late-50s/early-60s. This is the Space Age, the Atomic Age, the age of car and kitchen culture, of the nuclear family, of modern design, of leisure, wealth, empowerment, ideals and commerce. In the luxurious world of the future, everything is going to be gorgeous, sleek and perfect and we would like to sing and dance and dazzle all that money out of your pocket. The sky is the limit.


Films featured in POPULUXE include: Aluminum On The March (1956), American Look (1956), Century 21 Calling (1964), Design For Dreaming (1956), The Golden Years (1960), A Touch Of Magic (1961) and The Wonderful New World Of Fords (1960).


Special thanks to the Internet Archive, Rick Prelinger and everyone at the Prelinger Archive.


Rick Prelinger began collecting “ephemeral films”—all those educational, industrial, amateur, advertising, or otherwise sponsored—in 1982, amassing over 60,000 (all on physical film) before his Prelinger Archive was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002. Since then, the collection has grown and diversified: now it exists in library form in San Francisco and is also gradually being ported online to the Internet Archive (http://archive.org), where 5,336 of its films are currently hosted (as of this writing).


Of course, the content of the Prelinger Archive’s films varies in accord with the variety of mankind. Historic newsreels, mid-century automobile infomercials, psychological experiments, medical procedurals, big oil advertisements, military recruitment videos, political propagandas, personal home videos, celebrity exposes, amateur narratives, scientific studies, war bulletins, instructional films, special interest op-eds, safety lessons, hobby guides, travel destination profiles and private industry productions all sit comfortably together in one marginalized category.


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