Incredible educational offerings from a different era...
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 09/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great disc. Here we have two of Frank Capra's Bell Science films, "Hemo the Magnificent" (1957) and "The Unchained Goddess" (1958)."Hemo" is a fascinating look at the respiratory system, and "Goddess" is the story of weather. "Hemo" takes us inside the circulatory system, with some incredible photography of the capillaries in action. "Goddess" contains some of the best tornado footage ever, as well as explaining how scientists and meteorologists study weather.Animation is courtesy of Shamus Culhane, who was the only animator to work on all of the first four animated feature-length Disney cartoons. He worked for various animation studios, and these two films were produced by his own.The two humans in the cast are Dr. Frank Baxter (Mr. Scientist), and Richard Carlson (Mr. Fiction Writer). Carlson starred in "Creature From the Black Lagoon", "Valley of Gwangi", and "It Came From Outer Space". He was sort of a strange cross between William Holden and Hugh Marlowe, all three actors being similar in appearance and voice. He actually directed "Goddess" under the watchful eye of Capra. Carlson plays a writer who has somehow created a special "Imagination Screen" (this is not explained in the two films), on which the cartoon characters appear and interact with the humans. The idea is that Mr. Scientist and Mr. Fiction Writer are rehearsing for a broadcast of some sort, and are sidetracked by the cartoons and their claims of superiority. As they disprove the boasts of the cartoons, the humans teach the audience about science.Baxter (an English professor), brilliantly explains the mysteries of science in an accessible and friendly manner, while Carlson supplements Baxter's excited dissertations as a knowledgeable "everyman". As for the balance of the cast, they go more or less uncredited. Sterling Holloway appears in "Hemo" as Jim, the film operator. Jim is mentioned again in "Goddess", but never actually appears in that installment.Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, et al) goes uncredited in both films, with the bulk of his voice work in "Hemo". Also uncredited is June Foray, who voices a deer (Foray is forever famous as Rocky Squirrel). One of the actors who voiced Goofy is also apparently present as a turtle, but of that I cannot be certain (it is an extremely Goofy-like voice, right down to the "Gawshk!"). Marvin Miller is the voice of "Hemo", and should be familiar as a voice artist from that era. He also played Arjenian in "Red Planet Mars", among other things. If you think the films are outdated simply because they were put together in the 1950's, think again. Here's a quote from "The Unchained Goddess":"Even now, man may be unwittingly changing the world's climate through the waste products of his civilization. Due to our release through factories and automobiles every year of more than six billion tons of carbon dioxide (which helps air absorb heat from the sun), our atmosphere seems to be getting warmer!"Remember, this was 1958. On the other hand, here's another quote from the same film, from Meteora the Goddess:"Mr. Scientist, would you... (a woman could never ask this, but certainly a goddess can!)... would you marry me?"The films, being from the 1950's, reflect the morals and beliefs of the era, so religion pops in from time to time. Remember, this was being broadcast to a national audience of the day, so it was calculated not to offend. Most present in "Hemo" (which should be no surprise considering the subject matter is life itself), there are a smattering of vaguely religious comments/images. However, when religion does appear, it's in a strange and even complimentary way to the science being presented. Mostly, religion takes the shape of Mr. Scientist saying that a given mystery is "a secret known only to the Almighty," or quotes from a few religious figures such as Saint Paul. The religious comments are never intrusive, and are so sparse as to be acceptable even to the hardest of present-day hearts."Hemo" is very informative, although the film of internal organs and the living heart should not be viewed while eating. Some of the mysteries that Baxter lists towards the end (things we "still do not understand" about Hemo), have actually been explained by science in the years following 1957. "Goddess" is perhaps the better of the two, with much of the information still being surprisingly relevant, although a lot of the work depicted is now done by computers and satellites.No extras on the disc other than the shows themselves, which is a bit annoying when you consider just how little we know today about the cast and the motivation behind the series. Some production notes and biographies would not have gone amiss hereThe series is brilliant, and even the outdated elements are entertaining. The films create a snapshot of state-of-the-art science, as it was in 1957-58. The disc (and it's companion, which contains "Our Mr. Sun" and "Mystery of the Cosmic Rays"), would be a most excellent gift for a friend who loves science, animation, 50's documentaries, etc.Also a great gift for yourself."
Help for Higher Education, Too!
BlaskoFilms | Coon Rapids, MN United States | 12/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I work as a tutor in a community college, and just so happened to have my copy of "Hemo the Magnificent" nearby when a Medical Assisting student expressed difficulty in understanding blood circulation and cellular respiration. After one viewing, this was her exact quote: "Everyone going into my field should see this!"
Like any classic, these Bell Science "Wonders of Life" films can reach children, but aren't made to pander, bore or condescend. They are marvels, and are still able to transcend the ages and the age groups and fulfill their objectives. 50 years ago, Dr. Frank Baxter and crew knew the secret to conceptual learning: inclusive illustrations and sequential art (cartoon animation). Why has this secret been seemingly lost?
"Hemo the Magnificenr" and "Unchained Goddess", along with the other Wonders of Life DVD, "Our Mr. Sun" and "Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays," are can't-miss gifts for your science learners of any age. Are the religious overtones towards the end of several of the programs a bit heavy-handed? Maybe, but try to understand the joy that these individuals felt while marrying science and morality for the betterment of humankind, and I think you'll truly appreciate what has been created in these films. Watch, learn and enjoy."
Blast From My Past
Charlie Speight | Baltimore, MD USA | 09/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was a nostalgic purchase for me. I remember being in grade school and loved it when a class turned out to be a movie or "film strip." Of all I saw some forty years ago, "Hemo The Magnificent" was my favorite. It was a double blessing when "Hemo" played because not only did we get out of class, but we were entertained. And, we were educated as well.
It was probably "Hemo" that stuck in me the desire to know how things work. This is an excellent movie to show how the circulation system works while ingraining lots of other facts about the human body. For me, this is the premier educational film of all time. The production is superb even though it was produced in the '50's. And the voices... the voice of "Hemo" and the Professor are beautifully rich and unique.
"Unchained Goddess" is to weather what "Hemo" is to the human blood stream. To this day, as I fly around the country and foreign lands as well, I look out the airplane window and find myself relating to the weather outside with things I learned watching this movie in grade school.
If you like to know how things work and enjoy being entertained, you must get these two movies. I have a two year old grand son and we're not too far away from sharing a bowl of popcorn and watching "Hemo The Magnificent" and "Unchained Goddess." Look, I have hundreds of movies in my video library and access to thousands more via expanded digital cable. Of them all - crime stories, science fiction, war movies, action/adventure, comedies, classic dramas and documentaries - if my house was on fire and I could save one DVD.... this is the one. OK... some of that is for reasons nostalgic, but the educational and entertainment values are equally high."
Now this was Great TV!
Firefly Magic | 03/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remembered this series as a kid, both for the content and the music. Watching again, it makes me understand why SAT scores peaked in 1963 and have been declining ever since. This series of broadcasts treated kids as young adults with in-depth science information - no fluff and puff like so much out there today. Bring back the likes of Mr. Wizard, Julius Sumner Miller, and Dr. Frank Baxter and kids would be more interested in science and math again!!!!
Hemo, the Magnificent changed my life!
J. Miller | Orange, CA United States | 04/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I became a science teacher because, at least in part, I saw Hemo, the Magnificent several times as a kid. The theme of the Bell Telephone Series, of which Hemo is my favorite, is "education through entertainment." I'd like to think that that has been one of my themes over the past 29 years of teaching junior high school students.In fact, my students are finishing viewing Hemo today -- a testment to the relevance I still find in the movie, though I always offer the disclaimer that much has changed since 1958.I love Hemo, the Magnificent, and you will too -- so will your whole family. Our Mr. Sun is also excellent -- you can't go wrong here."