THE BOOTLEG FILES: “BUSCH ADVERTISING 1967″

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the good folks at Anheuser-Busch decided to oomph up their industrial films with Hollywood star talent. Jack Benny, Johnny Carson and even Bette Davis were brought in to star in promotional films designed exclusively for the Anheuser-Busch distributors. The films were never meant to be seen by the general public and, for the most part, they never were.

Perhaps the most unusual Anheuser-Busch industrial film was “Busch Advertising 1967,” a 23-minute offering designed to cue the distributors of Busch Beer on the television and radio ad campaigns being planned for 1967. The beer giant and its advertising agency tapped into the Hanna-Barbera fun factory and licensed a special movie starring the characters from “The Flintstones” animated TV show.

Fred and Barney were not exactly strangers to shilling adult products – they previously hawked Winston Cigarettes, Alka-Seltzer and One-a-Day Vitamins in commercials that aired throughout the early 1960s. But these were brief advertisements, not running more than 60 seconds. “Busch Advertising 1967″ was a fairly long commercial and Fred and Barney spend much of the film’s running time happily drinking mug after mug of Busch Beer. Actually, the notion of cartoon cavemen downing beer is among the least problematic aspects of this weird film.

“Busch Advertising 1967″ finds Fred and Barney at work in Mr. Slate’s quarry and, needless to say, they are making a mess of things. At one point, Barney drops a huge boulder directly on Mr. Slate’s bald head. When the boss is ready to fire them, Fred finds his moral outrage and announces that he and Barney will not be fired – they are quitting! The duo then drive to a local bar where they drown their frustrations with Busch Beer. As Fred drinks his beer, a cloud magically appears over his head and a feminine hand emerges, patting Fred’s noggin while a sexy voice soothes him. Obviously it only takes a few sips of Busch Beer and, presto, life turns into a Salvador Dali dream.

Fred and Barney drive home, though surprisingly they don’t get pulled over for drunk driving. Immediately, Wilma and Betty know that their husbands are out of work. Fred lies that they actually got raises. Fred and Barney run into Fred’s kitchen and start drinking more Busch Beer. Their children, Pebbles and Bam-Bam, are playing outside but the men never acknowledge them.

The next day, after failing to find new work, Fred and Barney go back to their favorite bar. Claude, the bar’s owner, asks the pair to mind the establishment while he runs errands. Fred parts his hair in the middle and begins to do a hideous imitation of Jackie Gleason’s character of Joe the Bartender. Fred then plugs in the bar’s television and, inexplicably, a closed-circuit broadcast designed for Busch Beer distributors is playing on NBC – the Neanderthal Broadcasting Channel.

From here, all logic goes out the window as Fred and Barney watch a promotional film highlighting Busch Beer’s advertising campaign for 1967. Several television commercials are broadcast and most have a strangely misogynistic theme (men who are harassed by women at work relax at day’s end with a glass of Busch). There is also a radio advertisement which is played while the screen fills with circles emanating from a radio broadcast tower. Throughout the presentation, Fred and Barney sit around drinking mug after mug of Busch Beer and comment on how the clever advertising campaign they are watching.

And they are watching a 1967 ad campaign, yes? And Fred and Barney lived in 1967? No, Fred and Barney lived in the Stone Age. For a brief and beer-soaked moment, Fred and Barney conquered the space-time continuum by becoming audience for a marketing preview designed to take place millions of years into their future. Perhaps Fred and Barney were too drunk on Busch Beer to notice what was happening.

By the time the closed-circuit broadcast is over, the bar is crowded with working men newly liberated from their jobs. It seems the bar only stocks Busch Beer, as Fred and Barney serve nothing but this brand. Then Mr. Slate comes in. Fred and Barney disguise themselves (Fred wears a wig, Barney a turban) and Mr. Slate orders a Busch. The magical cloud with the female hand reappears over Mr. Slate’s head as he is drinking, caressing his hair-free noggin and whispering that he should rehire Fred and Barney. Needless to say, the boys get their jobs back – thanks to Busch Beer!

There is no record of how Busch distributors responded to this film, but the fact no further Hanna-Barbera promotional movies were made would suggest it was not the best idea. Sadly, Hanna-Barbera missed its chance to license more of its characters into adult product advertising. One can easily imagine Jane and Judy Jetson having a mother-daughter talk about Platyex tampons, or Yogi Bear teaching Boo Boo how to use Trojan Condoms, or Sheriff “Bing-Bing-Bing” Ricochet Rabbit hunting down escaped convicts with the latest Smith-Wesson weapons.

“Busch Advertising 1967″ was distributed for viewing on 16mm prints (this was back in the pre-video era). Some of the prints found their way out of the beer warehouses and into bootleg channels. Videos of this title come directly from the original prints and the quality is generally good (although the colors are a bit faded on some videos). The film is very easy to find, either as a standalone offering or as part of an anthology of funky advertising movies.

Some films deserve to be seen while drinking. But, strangely, this film demands to be seen stone cold sober. And maybe in the long-overdue sequel, Fred and Barney can begin attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material is not widely appreciated by the entertainment industry, and on occasion law enforcement personnel help boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and sell bootleg videos, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. The purchase and ownership of bootleg videos, however, is perfectly legal and we think that’s just peachy! This column was brought to you by Phil Hall, a contributing editor at Film Threat and the man who knows where to get the good stuff…on video, that is.

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Posted on August 27, 2004 in Features by
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