Public Information Films: Death, Horror and Blood

Fridges, thin ice, dangerous ponds, ‘strangers’, pylons, railway lines and massive vats of industrial shit. How on earth did we make it out of the 70s and 80s? Our childhoods seem to have been filled with an absolute universe of terrors; waiting for the unwitting or foolish child as proscribed by public information films.

There’s always an element of comeuppance to these public information films aimed at kids. The boastful child, the show-off or simply the idiot – they always end up coming to a sticky end. Rather like the rules of a teen horror slasher film – don’t have sex and the like – you should keep your nose clean and your head down if you find yourself in a public information film.

Let’s be straight here – these films are often very disturbing. Violent death is one thing, but the often-eerie animation and music, juxtaposed with familiar, cuddly voices from television and radio has an oddly sinister effect – akin to Father Christmas sitting at the end of your bed and telling you that your parents will die one day.

Sadly, our current, awful government has decided that we don’t need public information films anymore, no doubt because everyone is using the internet and smart phones all the time (apart from pretty much anyone over the age of 50, of course). From where I’m standing we’ve never needed them more.

See the way people drive on our roads in difficult conditions for proof of the need of short, sharp doses of common sense beamed into the living rooms of the Great Unwashed. Witness a steady erosion in civil society because of a population ignorant or uncaring of the greater good or simple common sense.

If everyone cleared the path outside their house when it snowed a lot less people would break their hips. Do we clear our paths? Hell, no.

If people stopped revving their engines and accelerating towards red lights we’d burn a lot less precious fuel and reduce CO2 emissions; the same goes for turning off lights and heating when not needed. If people obeyed speed limits in urban areas a lot less kids would be killed.

public information films

Public information films have moved towards cars, roads and transport in recent years, with a slew of hideous mini horror films revolving around speeding or drink-driving. They’re shocking and seem to be effective – by and large road deaths, drink-drive prosecutions and the like have fallen over the last decade or so, despite more cars on the roads. But we don’t need them any more apparently.

Bollocks, I say. We should be ramping up our use of public information films to counter the stupid, ignorant and downright egregious behaviour we see every day.

We need public information films warning that kids blasting out Black Eyed Peas on their tiny handset at the back of a bus that they might fall under said bus and be squished like a balloon full of liver.

public information films

We need to show people that don’t acknowledge when other people open doors for them that a large anvil may cave in their skull next time.

And, perhaps most important of all, we need to remind people who vote Conservative of the very real and hideous ramifications of their actions.

So, goodbye Charlie, goodbye Apaches, goodbye Death (lurking around abandoned mines and quarries), goodbye to Horse Sense, goodbye Jon Pertwee and the Green Cross Code, goodbye paedophiles in Cortinas and goodbye to that gigantic tombstone with AIDS written on it.

Goodbye public information films and the Central Office of Information. We’re so clever now we don’t need you.

Here’s some greatest hits:

Apaches – small child: has skull crushed by tractor; drowns in vat of farmyard slurry; crushed by steel fence; drives tractor off cliff. A kind of rural 70s version of Final Destination.

The Finishing Line – Children are slaughtered in a variety of methods as part of a sports day played out on train lines. See if you can make it to the end, when hundreds of bloody children’s corpses are laid out on the railway lines. Genuinely horrifying – and immediately banned when the appalled civil servants saw what they’d commissioned.

Fridges – Because at least five children a day were killed in old fridges in the 70s.

Robbie – Meet Robbie. He’s got no legs

Charlie – Charlie, the wise old cat with the strangest vocalisations ever

Lonely Water – Death, voiced by Donald Pleasance, stalks unwary children. Utterly terrifying

Stay safe, stay out – or get barbecued

Grain silo

A child’s doll, doubling for an actual youngster, gets sucked down into a grain silo. “It’s a way to drown without water,” intones Keith Barron.

Fishing and camping; Kites

Power lines equal deaths, as anyone born between 1960 and 1990 will tell you. How any child in the 70s and 80s managed to go near a kite – so entrenched was the idea of them with horrible death – is beyond me.

In both Brian Wilde’s lovely voice warns against the danger of 50,000 volts running through your charred carcass.

Say no to strangers

‘Sick and dangerous’ British character actors (including Timothy Spall) wielding sweets, Rubik’s Cubes and kittens entice girls into blue Ford Cortinas, for reasons that are left mercifully unspecific but darkly ominous.

Never Go With Strangers

This is perhaps as noteworthy for the array of playground rides that would blow the minds of today’s kids as it is the key message, but I urge you to watch the parade of potential paedos at 6.55 and 1970s child-molester Stephen Merchant turning into a monster at 8.30.

Odds and sods