Now in art houses: old education films





In 1974, a cheerful, androgynous man-child named Telly was used to teach grade schoolers phone etiquette and dialing technique. The character wore all white: tights, gloves, heeled boots, belted shirtdress; and sang his lessons in a cloying timbre. Best of all, Telly lived in Telezonia, a place that could only be reached through a tinfoil tunnel, accessible only through the rotary dial of an enormous pink telephone.

Sixteen millimeter short films like " Telezonia <http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5844452338623457489>; ," once used to educate American schoolchildren and workers, are now reappearing in art-house theaters and online. Time and technology have transformed earlier generations' lessons into a younger audience's entertainment. But beneath unbelievably campy surfaces, these vintage films encapsulate a sort of lay anthropology, a window onto the collective fears and convictions of past generations that is as illuminating as any documentary - and far more droll.


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