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Hemo the Magnificent

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Frank Capra wrote, directed, and produced this corny, offbeat, fascinating, educational, hard-to-categorize — and ultimately surprisingly inspiring — piece of docutainment about…blood. (Think of it as It’s a Wonderful Life Force.) Released in 1958 and funded by the Bell Telephone System as part of a science series for network TV (the series was later shown in schools) the color film skillfully blends animation, real-life actors, and microscopic photography as it painlessly provides enough information to galvanize the sleepiest of students. The setting is a laboratory run by Dr. Frank Baxter, who is assisted by Jim (Sterling Holloway), the technician in charge of showing animated cartoons created by a writer (Richard Carlson) on hand for the screening.

Carlson has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth in the opening scenes, and at one point refers pompously to the ”men of science.” Although such stuff is dated, the abundance of facts presented outweighs any shortcomings in the script. Topics covered include heart function, circulation, and blood makeup and distribution. We learn, too, of the hypothesis that blood is in some ways akin to saltwater and may be a link between humans and the primitive seaborne creatures from which complex animals evolved. In short, we find out that Hemo the Magnificent (Greek for blood) is magnificent. B+

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