The weirdest vintage commercials on YouTube

The weirdest vintage commercials on YouTube (photo)

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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.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.


It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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