Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Public Information Films

Do these still get shown in schools I wonder? They were short scary little films designed to scare junior school children rigid just after registration. According to Public Information Films, everything is dangerous! Beware your coffee!

Even though seeing a teacher roll the wheeled cabinet hiding a heavy television into the classroom was rather exciting when I was at junior school, all laughter would soon stop as you watched children being electrified on pylons, drowned in murky ponds, hit by cars or being blinded by fireworks. We’d end up starting the first lesson in shocked silence… and some of these films were so Hammer Horror-esque, that you’d have nightmares about them. Certainly The Lonely Water was rather terrifying…

Just as bad were the ones with celebrities of the day. In one clip, called Teach Your Children to Swim or They’ll Drown! (or some such cheery title), we are treated to a nearly naked Rolf Harris in a swimming pool waving his bare foot at the viewer. At least Sir Jimmy Saville’s ‘Clunk Click’ campaign was fully clothed…

This website here has the collection of Public Information films online, available for your viewing pleasure, or should you wish to torture yourself all over again in your spare time. However, it doesn’t have some of the ones I remember, but this is because British Transport Films put out some gory little messages of their own – The Finishing Line was apparently pretty notorious. I have just watched it now and yes, it does pack a punch – sort of a Grange Hill goes to Hi-De-Hi and meets Stephen King. And Apaches is awful! Don't go to the farm, children! In fact, don't go anywhere... and beware rugs.

And to think I wasn’t allowed to watch Sapphire and Steel when I was younger! Little did my parents know I was being treated to a little slice of horror at school. Still, I never did go near pylons, lonely ponds or play on train tracks, and to this day I’m not even that keen on holding a sparkler. So they certainly worked for me...

2 comments:

musicobsessive said...

I've heard a lot about these films over the years, but I never saw any of them when I was at school. Are they a 70s/80s thing? (careful about predicting your age here!)
Trouble is these days they just look like an episode of Grange Hill so whether kids would take any notice I'm not sure.
Interesting thing is - I don't like sparklers either...

Jayne Ferst said...

Nicely done! Well, there were public information films from the 1940s, but these were mainly for adults to understand things like road safety, and the importance of using a hanky, bizarrely. I think they were aimed at children, like a weapon, from the 70s and 80s, and yes, all the kids sounded like they were from Grange Hill. 'Flippin' eck miss, Tucker's just fell into the combine harvester!'

Not sure if they have such an impact on kids today, although there was that road safety one of a teen dreaming they were on MTV cribs... and then they got hit by a car. That stayed in my mind at least, I learnt my lesson, MTV cribs is dangerous!