Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Stop! Look! Listen!

Over several months I've been working my way through a terrifying 2xDVD collection of health, safety and welfare films. They were among hundreds of short public information films, publications and other campaigns produced by the Orwellian-sounding Central Office of Information, from 1946-2012. People of my age will remember Keep Britain Tidy, Watch Out! There's a Thief About and Clunk Click, Every Trip. There was even a presciently early piece of creative industries propaganda in the 60s called Mini Skirts Make Money
But back to the scary stuff. Paraphrasing the booklet notes, I expect there are quite a lot of people of a certain age who bear deep-rooted scars as a result of having been relentlessly subjected to footage of children of their own age being fried alive while playing frisbee near an electric pylon, maimed by a firework, or crushed by a tractor whilst larking about on a farmyard. Indeed Lonely Water (1973) plays like a mini horror film (with voiceover by Donald Pleasance), deploying the menacing tone and special effects normally the preserve of X-rated shockers. In Building Sites Bite we witness one boy being buried alive, electrocuted, run over, crushed by piles of bricks, drowned and his neck broken after falling from a pipe. Others are more psychological: Never Go With Strangers is the stuff of nightmares.
Appearances by Michael Palin, Reg Varney, Valerie Singleton, a young Keith Chegwin and others bring some light relief to the terror and carnage, and there's some great Sham 69, Squeeze and Klark Kent music in the motorcycle safety film, 20 Times More Likely
It's difficult to know whether they did any good. I like to think so.   

No comments:

Post a Comment