The weirdest vintage commercials on YouTube

The weirdest vintage commercials on YouTube (photo)

Posted by on

I call YouTube “the black hole of the Internet,” because you go there looking to do research on old movie advertising and two hours later you’ve gotten nothing done but you’ve found the “Ghostbusters” logo drinking a Diet Coke. These are the results of one of my recent excursions into the black hole: seven of the weirdest vintage commercials in the history of television (American television, that is; weird commercials from around the world deserve a list all their own). Here, presented in no particular order, are my favorites:

Radioactive Makeup Tests
Dorothy Gray Cosmetics

“A clean skin is a healthy skin,” boasts this ad for Dorothy Gray Cosmetics. And really, what gets skin cleaner than a big old blast of radioactivity? This absurd makeup advertisement proves the effectiveness of cold cream by using it to remove dirt that’s been rendered “just radioactive enough” to register on a Geiger counter. Just enough! Amazing — watch as the cold cream removes the dirt, along with the rest of this lovely woman’s skin! Let’s pray this ad faked the radioactivity stuff, otherwise that model was going to need a lot more than cold cream to fix her face in a few years.

Load Your Toy Gun Just Like a Real Psycho Killer
Mattel Fanner .50 Shootin’ Shell Cap Gun

You could easily make a whole list of the creepiest vintage toy gun commercials on YouTube, but I picked just one “favorite:” this spot for Mattel’s Fanner .50 Shootin’ Shell Cap Gun. Most toy gun ads from the period play up the authenticity of their product — this other ad for the same gun boasts that it looks “just like Uncle Matt’s real .45!” — but this particular announcement gets bonus points for the “demonstration” of its eerily realistic loading and firing mechanics. In a scene straight out of a serial killer movie, an unseen subject lovingly prepares each individual bullet for its deadly mission: delicately applying caps to the back of each shell and loading them into the revolving chambers after blowing smoke from the freshly fired barrel. Afterwards, a child practices his quick draw moves on an elaborate Western town set. My sources tell me that child grew up to be John Malkovich’s character in “In the Line of Fire.”

The Scariest Doll Ever
Remco’s Baby Laugh A-Lot

This single 30 second ad for Remco’s Laugh A-Lot doll is more disturbing than all five “Child’s Play” films combined. The doll itself is bowel-looseningly terrifying, with a godawful laugh and Joker-esque cheshire smile. Plus there are these jarring quick cuts of girls turning to camera, obstensibly with surprised delight as they hear the doll. But the sequence is cut and shot in a way that suggests the head-spinning body horror of Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” Then everyone bursts out into a fit of uncontrollable laugher, as if they were being compelled by Satan himself to pay homage to his latest earthbound messenger. Seriously, if you’re reading this article after 9:00 PM do NOT watch this commercial. You won’t sleep tonight.

Glasses Make You Smart
RadioShack Tandy TRS 80

Why should you trust the opinion of Bill Bixby, an actor, when deciding which computer to buy? Because he wears glasses so he must be smart! Check out the hilariously unsubtle move Bixby makes twenty seconds into this ad, as we cut from a close-up of a computer monitor to Bixby pulling off a pair of specs. Apparently glasses automatically make someone an expert in the field of personal computing. “Well, hell hun, he has a slight case of myopia! Throw that Macintosh in the trash! We’re getting a Tandy!”

Yabba Dabba Do… Smoke!
“The Flintstones” for Winston Cigarettes

It’s inconceivable today that a cigarette company would advertise in family friendly entertainment, but back in the early 1960s, not only did Winston sponsor the classic cartoon series “The Flintstones,” they actually had the Flinstones characters appear in ads like this one, where Fred and Barney relax while their wives do the housework, marvel at the wondrous features of Winston cigarettes and recite the brand’s mantra-like catchphrase: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should!” I realize that the 1960s were a different time with different beliefs. But as far as I’m aware they were still basically the same cigarettes. Which makes this cutesy clip all the more insane.

Beer For Men, and Only Men
Falstaff Beer

Though the brand is all but extinct now, Falstaff was one of the country’s largest brewers in the 1960s, when they made their best and strangest commercials. Some of them are flat-out awesome, like this surreal James Bond pastiche. All the ones I’ve seen play up the product’s masculine appeal, with numerous reference to “man-sized pleasure” guaranteed to quench your “man-sized thirst.” I’m rusty on my American history, but didn’t women have the right to drink alcohol in the 1960s? Wouldn’t they enjoy a beer too? I guess not. Actually, now that I think about it, there’s plenty of phallic imagery in this thing — bows and arrows and foaming beer bottles — but not a single woman in sight to enjoy the, uh, man-sized pleasure. Curious.

Where’d That Hamburger Come From?

Here’s one of the earliest spots featuring McDonald’s signature clown, Ronald McDonald, played by future “Today Show” weatherman Willard Scott. While Ronald would eventually evolve into a cute and benevolent mascot, here he gives me the willies (or maybe the “willards”). When a skeptical little boy tells Ronald he’s not convinced he’s the real deal (I guess a lot of guys walk around this kid’s neighborhood in clown makeup with a pound of french fries on their heads), Mr. McDonald proves he’s the genuine article by making hamburgers appear out of thin air. This commercial teaches children never to talk to strangers, unless those strangers have magic ghost hamburgers. Then you do whatever they want.

Have a favorite weird vintage ad? Tell us about it in the comments below of on Facebook and Twitter.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

Posted by on

Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.