Picks and Pans Review: Federal Follies, Vols. I and Ii

updated 05/04/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/04/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

There's an ingenious idea behind this tape series: to take instructional films made by various government agencies and turn them into video documents that combine history with unwitting comedy. These two 50-minute tapes include, for instance, a Smithsonian production in which Julia Child tries to explain the "recipe" for the primordial soup that first spawned life. There's Our Job in Japan, narrated by actor Arthur Kennedy, directed by Theodor Geisel (out of his Dr. Seuss guise) and aimed at showing the American troops who are occupying Japan that the Japanese brain—a model of which frequently appears onscreen—is gullible. And Duck and Cover, made in 1950 by the Civil Defense Administration, contains the offhand comment, "We all know the atomic bomb is very dangerous." The problem is that these films are sparingly edited, and the fascination wears thin. That's all the more true with, say, the 16-minute Blondes Prefer Gentlemen, produced in 1966 to teach dating manners to Naval Academy midshipmen (it is noted that one should not drink from the finger bowl at formal dinners). The Follies series, created by a Long Island businessman who has worked as a consultant to various federal agencies, is scheduled to include at least 10 tapes. One tightly edited 90-minute compilation might have served the purpose. (Brookville Productions, $24.95)

From Our Partners