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'Orphan Film' Selections From the Archives

These 10 ephemeral works from the last century provide a fascinating window into our culture of the past — for better or, oftentimes, for worse.

Celluloid archaeologists are striving to preserve a fast-decaying historical resource. Here is a small sample of provocative and entertaining (not always intentionally) "orphan films" from the Prelinger Archive and elsewhere.

1. Take a peek at what clothing may look like in "A.D. 2000" (from 50 or so years ago):

2. In "Cooking Terms and What They Mean," can newlywed Margie Blake figure out how to bake a cake for hubby Tim "just like his mother used to make"?

3. "A Date With Your Family" (1951) explores proper manners in the home:

4. Excerpt from a Cheverolet-sponsored safety film, circa 1937:

5. If dock workers at the nation's ports go on strike, the U.S. economy could sink, we recently reported. Here is some footage from the 1934 San Francisco longshoremen's work stoppage:

6. From the ephemeral film archivists at, this circa 1970s public service announcement about venereal disease is strangely upbeat:

7. "A Day in the Death of Donnie B." is a 1969 documentary about the life of a heroin addict:

8. The 1961 film "Boys Beware" shows teenage boys how to avoid being potentially molested by homosexual men:

9. A homemaker journeys into the future in "Out of This World," produced by Frigidaire for the 1964 World's Fair. Underwater colonies aren't as interesting as what's in store for tomorrow's kitchens, apparently:

10. The violent propaganda film "My Japan" is how Japan looked in 1945 -- as seen through the lens of the U.S. War Finance Department:

This introduction to the Prelinger Archive and its work includes many priceless clips: