I’m currently pretty much stuck at home due to a not especially fun medical condition, but it means I have a lot of time on my hands, so I thought I’d review some of the latest films from the Prelinger Archives. The first is a 20 minute color gem from Golden State Film Productions full of vintage clothing and appliances that weren’t vintage then but would cost a lot of money to sit in a hipster’s apartment today. It doesn’t appear to have a date on it, but I would guess early 1960s. It is a film about shoplifting called...
It has a terrific Foreword at the beginning:
The shoplifting techniques portrayed in this film are those most generally used- described in authentic police reports.
Persons demonstrating criminals’ methods are NOT thieves- professional or amateur.
And boy does it show, because most of the not-thieves’ thefts involve just waiting until the clerk’s back is turned and shoving whatever junk is sitting on the counter (and a lot of it is incredibly junky stuff) into their overcoats. In fact, almost every thief in the movie has a big overcoat or at least a large jacket to put things in, so the main lesson seems to be to put a coat rack at the front of the store.
• The biggest highlight is the terrific music, especially at the beginning where it reminds me of a Bernard Herrmann Hitchcock score. There’s no credit for the music, so I’m guessing it was stock, but it’s really good.
• A lady who shoplifts a purse by pulling the tag off of it, putting a couple of items from her pockets in it and walks out the store with it.
• A bunch of women picking through a bargain table of cheap clothes, but one of them is wearing a fur stole. Slumming it, I guess.
• The stupidest woman in the world hangs her purse on a hook outside the changing room, then leaves it there and wanders off to find a mirror in the store. Then a random hand comes and grabs the purse. Which is exactly what she deserved.
• A lady at a purse display just starts shoving them down her skirt, then there’s a jump-cut to show she’s also shoving them in her underwear and then back to the skirt. And she’s shoved like 20 purses down there.
• A “gimmick” that would fool “all but the sharpest eyes” involving a large purse with a hole in the bottom to pick up things from counters.
• A “pregnant” lady whose baby bump is actually clothes she stole tied around her waist. Apparently no one was supposed to notice she didn’t come in pregnant.
• A lady who steals a skirt by pinning it to the front of the skirt she’s already wearing.
• My absolute favorite- an old lady who just annoys the salespeople into leaving and then just starts grabbing everything on the very full counter and putting it in her large bag. She picks up a bottle of something, starts to put it in the bag, looks down at it, and puts it back! Whatever was in the bottle was not even worth stealing!
• Fencing a TV involves meeting a guy in a dark alley and driving him somewhere.
• A guy who just walks into a typewriter store, grabs a display from the window and walks off.
It’s all-narration, but here are some of the narrator’s best bits.
• “The female of the species has the distinctive coloring of a typical woman shopper.”
• “Teenaged amateurs are a special problem. Usually in groups, they move in quickly on displays of small, attractive items.”
• “And as the purse goes, so goes the sale.”
• “This is fact, not fiction. It has happened many times.”
• “And here come the creeps.”
But the best is the ending narration, which I have typed out in full. The movie essentially says that shoplifters will always shoplift because jail sentences are too short, so they will always be stealing stuff from you:
In most cases he will be unimpressed by the purpose of his jail sentence. Officially, he has paid a debt to society. He’ll be back in one city or another, looking for a chance to make a score. To steal wherever he has the opportunity… boosting is his business.
Every one of those stores has a camera in them now. Too bad for you, recidivist shoplifter!
Next time: A Tree of God’s Planting, an animated episode of the Nature’s Wonderland series from The Scriptures Visualized Institute. I can’t wait.