Mum And Dad Are Getting Ready For The Party...
April 7, 2008 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Growing up in 70s and 80s Britain you were exposed to some rather disturbing Public Information Films on the television. But that was nothing...

Not compared to the times at school when couple of classes would be trooped into the hall to be shown special films that would either convince you that literally anyone could be get you as in Say No To Strangers (1,2) or simply end up traumatized for life after seeing something like The Finishing Line (sadly only the first 5 mins) or the truly horrific Apaches (1, 2, 3)
posted by fearfulsymmetry (33 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Watch out! Those wires are live!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:54 AM on April 7, 2008

When I was about 8 I had a tour of the local fire station and amongst other things they showed us a film about a house fire which was started by an ember jumping out of an open fire onto the hearth rug.

At the time my parents had an open fire and for years every night all I could think about was a rogue ember setting fire to us all. As a result I had the whole escape route planned out, including throwing the mattress out of the window and everything (which I suppose is a good thing).

Eventually my parents bricked the damn fireplace up and installed a gas fire, so I could sleep a little better, but images from that bloody film still haunt me nearly 30 years later.
posted by jontyjago at 7:54 AM on April 7, 2008

Jackass stunts are much more informative, imho. A la ZeFrank, we 'splode stuff on us so you don't have to.
posted by elpapacito at 7:58 AM on April 7, 2008

I watched Apaches recently thanks to my British coworkers telling me about how each and every one of them was equally traumatised by it. It's fucking brutal by any standards. I can kind of see where the paranoia for health and safety in the UK comes from now though...

The kids are kinda suicidal though, coming back day after day as their numbers keep thinning. Kids will be kids though.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:00 AM on April 7, 2008

All the Public Information Films, from 1945 to 2006, are now available right here.
posted by cog_nate at 8:00 AM on April 7, 2008

Absolutely love the car accident with motorcycle : he springs into actions like the beastie boys in Sabotage video and liquidates it all with a : nasty.

And now for something completely different.
posted by elpapacito at 8:02 AM on April 7, 2008

These I can barely even read the Wikipedia descriptions, let alone watch.
posted by DU at 8:04 AM on April 7, 2008

and installed a gas fire, so I could sleep a little better

Until you died of carbon monoxide poisoning... I think there was a film for that too.

There was one I saw at university that must have been made back in the 70s on workplace safety on building sites. I've never seen a video nasty that was as gory... Several people actually had to leave the room while it was on (and these were 18+ year old students). I managed to stick it through but, with the blistering hangover I had at the time, I didn't feel too well by the end of it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:12 AM on April 7, 2008

That Finishing Line film is like some kind of freaky lost episode of The Prisoner. The color, music, camera style... everything!
posted by ReiToei at 8:25 AM on April 7, 2008

Yes, I love the production values too -- the music, editing, pace. Lovely little dramas. Rather like Grimm's fairy tales.
posted by binturong at 8:35 AM on April 7, 2008

Canada recently released some rather horrifying PSAs.
posted by splatta at 8:43 AM on April 7, 2008

Apaches was written by Neville Smith, who was both an actor in some of the most radical television drama ever to grace the small screen, The Big Flame and The Lump (both of which were written by the wonderful Jim Allen, and who then went on to become a screenwriter himself, most notably on the excellent Gumshoe.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:46 AM on April 7, 2008

Wow. Apaches traumatized me. If this was really shown widely, I can't imagine the ways in which it has shaped a generation of British children.

The message is clear. Child's play kills. My kids will be forced to do something sensible like stay inside and play video games. Thank you for this important information.

And also, a farm would be a kick ass place to grow up. If you survived.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:58 AM on April 7, 2008

We too had to watch Apaches as kids, they even set up the projector in the school hall, something which typiclly came out once a year, was there some kind of missive handed down from cntral government behind this? We didn't even live anywhere near a farm, I come from a shit heap industrial town between Liverpool and Manchester, we where more likely to die from ICI venting something to air to save 0.5p on a bag of fertiliser.
posted by biffa at 9:12 AM on April 7, 2008

Yeah, as splatta says, these are in the vein of videos posted here a while back.
posted by Dasein at 10:11 AM on April 7, 2008

Am I the only one who thinks Apaches was cool and exciting? Just guessing which of the myriad onscreen hazards was gonna be the next winner? I'm sure there's the makings of a drinking game in there.

When I was about 8 I had to watch a don't-play-on-the-railroad-tracks film, I could swear it was called "Trespass!" or something similar. I seem to remember that being traumatic at the time, involving the loss of limbs, though I couldn't find it on YouTube or anywhere to see how it's held up after all these years.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 10:29 AM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sensible children! I have no power over them!

I was also traumatised at eight years old by a PIF shown to us at school as part of a 'project' on fire prevention. It was called 'The House That Jack Built' and it vigorously told of the dangers of leaving your doors open at night lest a fire should start and sweep unhindered through rooms and corridors, killing your newly born baby 'who didn't wake up the following morn'.

It gave me the absolute heart-stopping screaming abdabs and for about three months I couldn't go to bed unless all the doors in the house had been shut, all the appliances unplugged, a draught excluder left in my room so I could block out any smoke that would seep under my bedroom door and my mother promised faithfully to me that she wouldn't leave any clothes airing next to an oil heater, even though we didn't have an oil heater.

I'm a bit of a PIF aficionado now, oddly - something about being perversely attracted to the things that scare you, I'm sure - but even though I've now got a collection of hundreds and hundreds of public information films I still can't watch that one.

The Charley Says 1&2 DVDs have got a great selection of 1970s and 80s golden age PIFs and a couple of years ago the BBC had a mini PIFfest looking back at some of the more famous ones over the years.

I am still none the wiser as to why exactly I shouldn't mix cross-ply and radial tyres, however.
posted by Acarpous at 10:32 AM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Note that 'Apaches' was directed by John MacKenzie, who later directed 'The Fourth Protocol' (1987). Stylistically, I'd have to say tht the deaths here remind me of Joanna Cassidy's death in the film -- she dies because she's out in the countryside, playing a game of Cat-and-Mouse with an unsavory Pierce Brosnan.

One thing I don't understand, though -- the girl was the only one who didn't drink whatever crap it was that the boys were passing around -- why did she die? Was that ripple or whatever they drinking supposed to be some snti-venom or something?
posted by vhsiv at 11:33 AM on April 7, 2008

I am amused how little British kids love to play cowboys and injuns. Do little American kids play James Bond?
posted by binturong at 11:35 AM on April 7, 2008

The thing I remember most clearly from psa films as a child was how often and regularly we were told outright, bald-faced lies. (In the mid-90s, mind you).

Like the guy who said that one in ten of my 8th-grade compatriots had a viral std.
Like the guy who told us that it takes a passenger train 10 miles of braking to come to a complete stop.
Like the guy who said that his drug use began when he learned he could get high while holding his breath in church.

Completely ridiculous horseshit. Someone gets paid to go around schools, showing this nonsense to impressionable kids while giving a thinly-veiled religio-speak lecture on "acting right." Frustrating.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:36 AM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

I am still none the wiser as to why exactly I shouldn't mix cross-ply and radial tyres, however.

That one's simple... you'll crash and die.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:56 AM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

In the "kill them off one-by-one" PSA genre, slightly less disturbing than Apaches (though disturbing in an altogether different way), is the horrorshow One Got Fat (which seems to have first appeared on Metafilter back in 2002 and several times since then).
posted by rafter at 12:17 PM on April 7, 2008

Apache is also pretty traumatizing.
posted by martinrebas at 12:34 PM on April 7, 2008

One I've just remembered was an amusing film (well amusing to a point) where this mechanic type guy was going round to various characters (a leary salesman, a pompous manager etc) with car problems pointing out the faults in their driving... but you knew it was slowly building up to someone being killed in a crash at the end. And who was it...? Yup, the mechanic / driving expert... No is safe! NO ONE!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:42 PM on April 7, 2008

I remember watching one in elementary school about School Bus accidents, where the driver doesn't see the kid in front of the bus or on the side of the bus and then the kids get run over.

That was traumatizing as well.

I am not clicking on any of the links above. I'm too much of a chicken.
posted by bitteroldman at 2:33 PM on April 7, 2008

the paranoia for health and safety in the UK

Health & Safety Gone Mad (Self-link)
posted by alasdair at 4:45 PM on April 7, 2008

I come from a shit heap industrial town between Liverpool and Manchester

posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:19 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I come from a shit heap industrial town between Liverpool and Manchester



I do remember one film that traumatised me quite badly at primary school - this would have been mid-to-late eighties.

It was another "Don't play on the railway tracks" one, involving games of dare running across the lines in front of trains. The poor sucker of a character who was to be our object lesson is on his way home from his beloved footie practice when his friends goad him into following them across the tracks. He trips and has both feet chopped off by a train the first time he tries to emulate his friends. He's seen at the end of the film looking dejected and pushing his wheelchair around.

And you know what traumatised me the most? The poor little bugger's evil parents had hung his beloved football boots on the back of his wheelchair! Evil bastards! :-)
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 8:36 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sorry Nice Guy Mike, Peter McDermott got there first. Have you both had the pleasure of a trip there then?
posted by biffa at 5:31 AM on April 8, 2008

The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water caused me to run out of the room and, perversely, may have contributed to a childhood spent getting into perilous scrapes outdoors, avoiding the possibility of being scared by spooky things on the telly.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:23 AM on April 8, 2008

Have you both had the pleasure of a trip there then?

I drove through today as a matter of fact -- my wife works in the town. Her partner, who is Widnes born and bred, suffers from chronic and debilitating asthma which locals believe is precisely due to the phenomena that you were referring to.

But don't despair too much, things could always be worse. You might have grown up in St. Helens, the incest capital of the UK.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:32 AM on April 8, 2008

But on the upside, their glass does have the class.
posted by biffa at 6:43 AM on April 10, 2008

Apaches did more than any other film to foster shitpit awareness.
posted by dgaicun at 11:22 AM on April 14, 2008

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