All posts by Matt Spry

Cipher in the Snow (1973)

Watch on YouTube

Running time: 21m 20s
Source film:  16mm; color; sound
Year: 1973 (copyright); 1974 (release)
Director: Keith J. Atkinson
Production: Wetzel Whitaker, Brigham Young University
Writer: Carol Lynn Pearson
Cinematography: Reed Smoot, Ted Van Horn
Story: Jean Mizer Todhunter
Editor: Peter G. Czerny
Music Editor: Dennis Lisonbee

Cast: Robert Bridges, Bruce Kimball, Jacqueline Mayo, Roberta Shore, Walter Stocker, Mary Cox, Larry Watts, Martha Henstrom, Kirk Hutchings, Ronald Jenkins, Court LeRoy


During a school bus trip one morning, a sullen boy named Cliff Evans asks to be let off. The driver obliges and Cliff stumbles a few steps before face-planting in the snow (complete with a freeze-frame and title text). The driver of the car behind the bus —  a math teacher named Frank Carter — rushes to the boy’s aid as the oafish driver pleads disbelief. A crowd of kids exits the bus and assembles around their fallen peer, who is confirmed dead at the scene by EMTs. What could have caused this? Dehydration? A seizure? A drug overdose?

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Fashions on Ice and Snow (1940)

Watch on Archive.org

Institution: Internet Archive
Collection: Prelinger Archives

Running time: 11m 03s
Source film:  16mm; color; b&w; sound
Year: 1940
Production: Jam Handy Organization

Sponsor: Angstein (S.) & Company
Narration: Bill Stern


Whether you’re browsing in-store or online, most ski jackets you’ll find are probably made out of some combination of nylon and polyester. It might have synthetic insulation (e.g., Thinsulate) for warmth and seam taping and some sort of hydrophobic coating to help waterproof it. On the other hand, if you’re seeking winter wardrobe that consists of flannel or poplin, I can only conclude that you’re a time traveler from the 1930s or 1940s. And if that’s the case, shouldn’t you use your time traveling skills to go back and prevent Hitler’s parents from meeting?

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The Harry and Reba Swiff Collection: Family Celebrations (1956-1958)

Watch on Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Institution: Texas Archive of the Moving Image
Collection: Harry and Reba Swiff Collection

Running time: 16m 30s
Source film:  color; silent
Year: 1956 – 1958
Camera: Harry Swiff


When I was young — particularly during adolescence — the holiday season from roughly October through January seemed to unfold as a series of discrete events, each celebration marked by its own sights, smells, sounds, and flavors. The rest periods between them (i.e., school) always crawled at a snail’s pace, allowing the anticipation for each to build to proper crescendo. In adulthood, though, that illusion has eroded with each passing year. These same holidays now occur as a blurry blob of celebratory activity, with beginnings and endings almost entirely indistinguishable if not for the correlating bank statements and smartphone images that neatly divide by monthly markers.

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Christmas Rhapsody (1948)

Watch on Archive.org

Institution: Internet Archive
Collection: Prelinger Archives

Running time: 11m 00s
Source film:  16mm; b&w; sound
Year: 1948
Production: Encyclopaedia Britannica Films; Milan Herzog
Music: Charles Henry


Loneliness, sugar crashes, and increased alcohol consumption can all exacerbate the blue feelings that many people feel during the winter holiday season. As evidenced by the sad musings of the central character in the 1948 short Christmas Rhapsody, it can also be a real thing for at least one species of evergreen tree.

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Trust Your Instincts (1994)

Watch on Archive.org

Institution: Internet Archive
Collection: Ephemeral VHS

Running time: 24m 00s
Source film:  VHS; color; sound
Year: 1994
Director: Chris White
Production: Central Productions
Writer: Tucker Barnes
Photography/Camera: Kaye Cruz
Narration: David Arias
Technical Advisor: Det. Buzz Griffeth

Cast: Ashley Greer, Jeanette Longoria, Marj Hadnott, Norma Gutierrez, Cary Garza, Rene Lagunas, Marty Mathews, Keith Hartsfield, Joel Cabello


In the time it takes to read this review, criminals across the United States will have committed roughly three robberies, half of a rape, and about 12.5% of a murder. All this, it should be said, is calculated according to the crime rates used (without citation) at the beginning of the 1994 self-defense video, Trust Your Instincts. I feel as though about 80% of videos like this one start off with ghastly statistics about violent crime, and of those, about 50% reinforce their bullet-point precautions with title cards in ALL CAPS. This video utilizes 100% of the aforementioned techniques during its 24-minute run-time.

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