OK... going through Volume 3 and skipping some titles that I have seen more than enough times.
Here is my critical review... lol!
What all of yee Traveltalk buffs will notice right away with Volume 3 is a noticeable decline in pictorial quality. This is not the fault of the DVD, although some of us were willing to wait another year or two for some digital improvement. It is just that the films themselves are fuzzier and all of the dirt (hair, dust) is more noticeable than before.
Why? Well... there is a reason. By the time of Jimmy's 1944 Central American tour (and films from this period are found on all three sets), 16mm pretty much replaced replaced 35mm as the preferred format for most travel film-makers including Jimmy. This was also the format usually used by the combat cameramen documenting World War II in color, along with most nature documentaries of the forties and fifties (including Walt Disney's True Life Adventures) and virtually every school film you saw in the classroom between the 1930s and 1980s. All the Technicolor labs did was blow up Kodachrome's smaller size for the theater screen. The 1950-51 trips to SPRINGTIME IN HOLLAND and SEEING CEYLON will likely not impress you as much as 1930s HOLLAND IN TULIP TIME and GLIMPSES OF JAVA AND CEYLON in the earlier volumes and may, in fact, look like older films. On the plus side, however, 16mm Kodachrome still retains its original colors rather well (especially after Technicolor reprocessed it), in contrast to 35mm Eastmancolor (used a lot in the 1950s and '60s) which deteriorated into a sea of Valentine pink.
My guess is that the Royal Family touring OVER THE SEAS TO BELFAST and the handicapped fisherman and artist in ON THE SHORES OF NOVA SCOTIA didn't look impressive even to Jimmy himself in the economized format. Therefore, we see a dramatic increase in the number of buildings, statues and landscapes and a decrease in people and critter shots. Sadly this makes the Traveltalks post-war a bit duller than pre-war. The two titles covering Virginia are especially boring since so many landmarks like Mt. Vernon are little different than picture postcards transmitted to film. Fortunately the Chicago and Canadian reels have more life in them and are as equally entertaining as anything we expect from Jimmy.
And there are some amusing critter shots. We once again get our elephants in SEEING CEYLON along with some talented German Shepherds in IN THE LAND OF DIAMONDS. Of course, Jimmy loves his bears and deer more than any other non-human mammalian group, so ROAMING THROUGH MICHIGAN gives us both black bears and white tailed fawns to add the Volume 1 and 2 selection of grizzlies (and more black bears) featured in the earlier National Park reels (and this volume's JASPER NATIONAL PARK), the Grand Canyon Mule Deer, the Japanese Sika in ORIENTAL PARADISE, the Swedish zoo bears and (although they are technically related to raccoons and not bears) St. Louis pandas. MEMORIES OF AUSTRALIA (1943) lifts footage from the two 1938 trips there that features the cute “bear-like” marsupial koalas. Sadly, the Hamburg Zoo in GLIMPSES OF WESTERN GERMANY has no bears, but it does have lions, elephants and one especially photogenic Indian Rhino who literally gives the cameraman Hone M. Glendining a great big kiss. (Yup, Jimmy ended his MGM contract with one of his all-time best offerings.)
Oh... I have to add that IN THE LAND OF DIAMONDS also has a half lion, half tiger. Oh yeah, I like the South African group here. Better than average cinematography, with great aerials in CALLING ON CAPE TOWN. Also lots of fun in their political "in-correctness" relating to the native men and their multiple wives.
The United Kingdom does get loads of attention. Planning a trip there? Here you go! Practically every statue and castle gets documented even if the only movement you sometimes see on screen are tourists and the clouds in the sky. The original plan was to just make an overall tour in August 1945 as the country was rebuilding after the war (with LOOKING AT LONDON showcasing much rubble near St. Paul's), but their popularity prompted Jimmy's team to return twice in addition to covering more of Scotland and Ireland. According to the Film Daily articles, there was also a Jimmy-backed TV show broadcast on the BBC during the fall of '49 and my guess is that some of the same material winds up in a few titles here (in color, of course). Overall, these are among the best looking of the later films, particularly LIFE ON THE THAMES which can hold its own with anything done in the thirties in terms of Technicolor beauty.
My guess is that there must have been some complaints that Jimmy's stuff was looking too “economized” during this later period. Thus, we have the brief “People on Parade” face-lift for the 1950-51 season with added sound-bytes a.k.a. EGYPT SPEAKS and VOICES OF VENICE (narrated by various Italians instead of Jimmy for a change). Apparently only two titles sport the snappy new title cards, although vintage BoxOffice magazine lists more under that umbrella than there may have been in reality. Too bad the camerawork is lackluster in these (with the Venice one looking like somebody's home movie with one little girl struggling with her outfit shown twice) because they could have potentially ranked among his best.
In addition to the 2-reel Traveltalk Special on MIGHTY MANHATTAN (which is probably my favorite here, along with the South African reels), we also get a tour of Rome with a some lovely ladies who also get a backstage pass to see Cinecittà and the production of MGM's QUO VADIS. This is called ROME THE ETERNAL CITY and is directed by Morgan Hudgins instead of Jimmy, but blends rather nicely with Jimmy's films. It reminds me of the contemporary JUNGLE SAFARI that was also one half African scenics and one half behind-the-scenes with the KING SOLOMON'S MINES crew.