Sometimes I get accused of being a little down in the dumps, a little morbid; some might even go as far to say miserable.
And for the most part they would be right.
I can be a right moody bastard sometimes, often seen in the pub on my own nursing a pint and staring off into the distance with that void look Vietnam veterans sometimes have; that ‘I’ve seen too much’ kind of look.
Shall I tell you why this is the case?
When I was a child we had these assemblies at school where they would gather all of the children together then fuck them up royally by showing reel after reel of public information films.
I‘m sure that we have all seen the one where the guy keeps seeing the ghost of the kid he ran over all over the place and said “that’s a bit freaky’. And yes, it is a little on the spooky side but that is nothing in comparison to some of the evil that was churned out in the 70’s and 80’s to frighten the shit out of children.
And I’m not talking about that fireman pouring water over a chip pan film either.
These mini shockers weren’t made to keep the good people of the British Isles safe in their home or when out and about, fuck no; these minute long horror master pieces were aimed directly at children.
The only time you saw adults in these was when a builder or electrician turned up seconds too late to save the hapless child from cracking its skull open falling off scaffolding or being cooked alive trying to retrieve a Frisbee from a pylon.
Once when I was around the age of seven we were shown a series of these films in an assembly involving children playing on building sites. One of the children fell down a hole while trying to retrieve a football and gashed his head open on a sheet of corrugated metal. I was sick over the back of the child sitting on the floor in front of me and my mother was called.
The film was graphic, they didn’t let up for a moment with the gore effects. I can almost taste the semolina rising in my gullet as I type. Even today when I was watching a few on YouTube I still got that little shudder of fear that was drummed into me as a small boy.
Fucking teachers were well sadistic when I was at primary school.
One of the standout films from this era of horror gems was the ‘Lonely Water’ short that was voiced by horror stalwart Donald Pleasence. It shows all manner of summer perils that finding a stagnate pool of water or cool, rippling river can hold for a group of young children who haven’t been told of the dangers. All the while a death like figure looms in the background as Mr Pleasence whispers his sinister message over the prog soundtrack.
This one stuck in the memory due to the eerie voice over from the menacing Pleasence and still manages to raise the hairs on the back of the neck even now. It really hasn’t lost any of its chill factor and as a result of seeing this as a child I am happy to say I haven’t yet drowned in a fishing spot by a junk yard.
There was one from 50’s America that I found disturbing but for all the wrong reasons.
It was concerning schoolboys being weary of homosexuals offering lifts after baseball practice. For some insane reason the makers of this ‘information’ film had confused gay men with paedophiles.
There was a large part of me that wanted it to be a spoof, a hoax. I waited with baited breath to see Ed Wood’s name in the credits. I was not only disappointed but also a little unnerved by what I had just watched.
And speaking of paedophilia, the amount of now shamed celebrities that made these films aimed at children is a little weird too.
Watching Jimmy Savile telling the viewers to ‘clunk, click, every trip’ or Rolf Harris in a pool surrounded by children telling us it’s important to teach them to swim makes the blood run cold.
Thank god for David Prowse as the Green Cross Code guy.
Motor bikes = certain death
But moving away from why recent events within the BBC have pretty much destroyed my childhood, let’s get back to what moulded me into the man I am today.
There was a series of advert promoting motorcycle awareness that had some of the most brutal stunt scenes I have seen since the Sweeney. I mean these guys were throwing the bikes (and themselves) under cars with brutal gusto, if no one got hurt for real while making these PIF’s then I would be really surprised.
In one you see a bloke pretty much gets snapped in half, something that I find more than amusing now but as a child I was wide eyed and scared stiff. Every time my mum or dad pulled up to a junction I was looking out for motorbikes just in case one decided to throw itself through the windscreen.
And please bear in mind that around this time I had a motorcycle pull back toy where the little guy riding it was attached so I thought that a real motorcyclist was part of the bike like my toy. Like you just put the bike on like some sort of crazy suit then hit the road.
I was an odd child.
There have been over the years many parodies of these gruesome little ditties on many sketch shows and comedies like Hale and Pace, Alas, Smith and Jones, Jasper Carrott, the Young Ones to name but a few.
But the one that really sticks out for me was on The League of Gentlemen.
They managed to not only parody the classic ‘don’t mess with pylons’ information films but also that downbeat Northern British classic ‘Kes’. If you get the chance to see the episode, check it out because I seriously pissed myself with laughter.
Anyhow, these little nuggets of retro horror goodness are easily viewable on YouTube and well worth a watch if anything just to laugh at the cloths that your mum made you wear… Plus the gore on some of them is pretty good too.
And on that note, I’m off to slip into my motorbike suit, wrap myself in tinfoil and stay away from building sites filled with electrical sub-stations and large pools of water.
Stay safe people and remember… Clunk, click every trip!
Here are a few of the scariest Public information films. Watch them if you dare!