Thursday, November 01, 2007

too much information

Aaah, Public Information Films. Who can forget Rolf Harris trying to persuade us to learn to swim? Or Jimmy Hill urging us to look out for bikes? Or some weird Dali-esque symbolism featuring a hammer and a ripe peach that was undoubtedly the inspiration for the famous Young Ones parody:
With Christmas only four months away, imagine that this desktop is a crowded shopping street on a busy Saturday morning. Say, for instance, that this huge meringue filled with whipped cream is a young mother, loaded down with groceries. And perhaps this enormous, soggy, over-ripe tomato is a tiny little girl who doesn't realise what a dangerous place her exciting new world is. And let's assume that this cling-film wrapped parcel of mashed banana and jam is a deaf senior citizen, who's in a wheelchair.....and is blind. And this cricket bat, with a breeze block nailed to it, is your car. Now what happens when your car mounts the pavement?
These films were, in a majority of cases, designed to shock. But my overriding memory of this genre of films was of a film that wasn't strictly a Public Information Film, but which was shown on Nationwide in 1977: The Finishing Line. I have the most vivid memories of sitting on the carpet in our house in Newbury watching this on the normally fairly cuddly Nationwide slot and having the absolute fucking screaming bejesus scared out of me; I've seen some horrific things on a television screen in the subsequent 30 years, but nothing that's traumatised me quite so much.

The clip available on YouTube, grim though it is, doesn't convey the full horror - it omits, for instance, the bit where the kids hurl bricks through the windows of a moving train and into the faces of the driver and passengers with much gleeful firing of jets of ketchup into the camera. Even by modern standards it was shockingly graphic, but, to be fair, it cured me of any desire I might have had to play on railway lines. Or indeed to do anything except sit in my darkened bedroom staring wide-eyed into space, rocking back and forth and moaning quietly yet insistently to myself. They really don't make 'em like this any more.


Emma said...

Ah yes, the railway film. Hmm. Still remember that.

electrichalibut said...

The funny thing is I searched for it years ago but couldn't think of anything more specific than "trains", "bricks" etc. to put into Google. It was only when somebody sent me the link to the unconnected Rolf Harris films page that I thought of putting "public information film" at the front of the search, and there it was, clear as day. I was starting to wonder if I'd dreamt the whole thing. It still has a slightly surreal air even now I know it's real.

Emma said...

Actually the clip on YouTube, with the girl on the track, is the bit I remember. I obviously blanked the subsequent horrors from my mind. Or fled the room screaming before that point.