Not so long ago I did a Fool Britannia edition on what passed for children’s television when I was a kid and the results were frankly horrifying (Mike: THAT IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT.). However as nightmarish as the likes of Hartley Hare and Mr Noseybonk were, just think this is what British TV makers thought would actually entertain kiddies. What if the BBC and ITV decided to deliberately scare the shit out of the little brats?
But why would television makers do such a thing? Surely the BBC would never allow any of it’s television shows to do any real harm to children, right?
Well you see children are really, really stupid and I’m convinced the only reason they bother to learn to walk is so they have the means to run across a busy road in order to walk across a frozen river to get into a car with a creepy stranger to get a ride to an abandoned building site, so they can climb up a rickety tower of scaffolding with the whole purpose of shoving a metal rod into a live plug socket.
There are a thousand ways for kids to hurt themselves and these little diaper filling monstrosities will find every single one of them if not constantly supervised. Just ask any Gorilla.
So to keep children safe you can spend an enormous amount of time carefully explaining the bleeding obvious on why they shouldn’t put their hands in a fire or eat glass or you could just scare the shit out of the little fuckers in the hopes they’ll bloody behave themselves.
Hence when I was a kid every so often in between regular television shows a random little short film would spookily pop up with the announcement “The following is a Public Information Film,” and for the next minute I’d be subjected to bad acting, 70’s fashion and a short story where someone’s fun times were shattered by their own carelessness.
As I kid I wasn’t aware of the reasoning behind these short films, I just thought television was trying to fuck with me. Like with the most notorious of these shorts “Dark and Lonely Water” a film designed to caution children against the dangers of playing by a river bank featuring the incredible vocal talents of Donald Pleasance as the voice of Death.
Have to say this had the desired effect on me as the fear of running into a cloaked Donald Pleasance scared me away from riverbanks, as well as the entire countryside, put me off playing with other kids and generally made me refuse to participate in any activity that involved me leaving the house until the first comic shops started to open in the UK.
As creative as this short was that’s nothing compared to what British Transport Films came up with in 1977.
For many years I was baffled by a memory that always stuck with me from watching television when I was about four. It was some very weird film where children took part in a sports day that seemed based around events where points were scored for engaging in acts of vandalism around trains. One particular scene disturbed me enough to be etched forever in my head where the kids threw coloured bricks at a train (the colours identifying what team they belonged to). Afterwards a judge went down the train awarding points for rocks successfully breaking windows and bonus points for any that had hit passengers, the image of a blood soaked crying woman and the driver clutching his injured and bleeding face always haunted me.
For many years I wondered what this weird Hunger Games style film was all about and some thirty years later with the power of the internet I was able to determine that the film was called the Finishing Line shown a few times on television and in schools to teach kids the dangers of engaging in vandalism at railway lines. Watching it again it’s even more messed up than I remember with the finale being a race through a tunnel into the path of an oncoming train with hilarious results.
One film I never saw was Apaches, made the same year as Finishing Line and focused on the dangers of playing in farmyards. The kids all die one by one and frankly they’re all so loud and obnoxious I say good riddance to the little sods.
So riverbanks, railways and farms are all dangerous and should be avoided. So playing with a frisbee, that’s ok right?
Well no it seems, although another subtle lesson from this film “Play safe Frisbee” is never to trust a woman.
But what about kites? Flying kites are fun right? That’s ok right? Well not if there’s a woman around it’s not.
Christ you’ll be telling me fireworks are dangerous next.
Fuck it, I’ll take up exercise and go for a run.
Perhaps if I bought a dog.
Well that’s me voting “out” in a few weeks time.
Of course of all these threats none cause as much fear as that presented by strangers! As this film that I actually saw at school points out most people in the 70’s are “kind and good” (this is before Margaret Thatcher came to power and ruined everything) but a few may be “unhappy and lonely, peculiar or bad,” in many ways predicting the emergence of the internet wrestling fan community some twenty five years later.
The highlight of this film is how gormless the little girl called Janey is who got into a car with her pretend uncle at the 12:30 mark with the promise of seeing puppies. While Janey’s pretend uncle is presumably and rightfully getting the living shit kicked out of him by several police officers in his cell we see another girl Lucy scared and trapped as the shadow of a STRANGER approaches her. She too has been lured by the promise of seeing a puppy, which begs the question why are all kids so desperate to see sodding puppies? I mean don’t they realise they all have rabies?
Curiously the film never mentions the dangers of BBC children’s television hosts who may lure kids with the promise of granting their wishes.
Finally there was a cause that drove the makers of public information films to bring out the big guns. That being little kids insistence to walk into the path of large automobiles travelling at forty miles an hour thinking nothing bad could possibly happen.
For this fight the Public Information Films brought in 70’s music legend Alvin Stardust to promote the Green Cross Code.
Because all kids can trust a 70’s British Rock Icon with massive hair.
But even Alvin Stardust couldn’t stop kids from being splattered on our roads and so a new hero had to be found.
Now if the name David Prowse sounds familar to you, it should. Because David Prowse is none other than Darth Vader himself. That’s right none other than Darth Vader was teaching kids how to cross the road safely.
This in turn caused kids in cinemas up and down the UK in 1983 during the scene where Darth Vader took his helmet off in Return of The Jedi to scream out “That’s not the Green Cross Code Man!!!!”
So til next time, stay safe,
By the way, for those of you who think I’ve just used lots of youtube clips to pad this article out….you’re damn right it’s Euro 2016 starting this weekend, three matches a day. You’re lucky I even bothered at all.
(Mike, again: LOL England. You guys are Charlie Brown trying to kick the football held by Lucy.)