Pant-Wettingly Scary Public Information Films

Mighty_Emperor

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Water horror

STOP LOOK LISTEN
The Magazine's Public Information Film festival

Watch the film

Every day in February, the Magazine is featuring a classic public information film from the past 60 years, concluding with a vote to find the nation's favourite.

The Rolf Harris film featured in this series on Wednesday was notable for its straight treatment of the subject; in short "get your kids taught to swim because horrible things might happen if you don't".

Today's film is from completely the other end of the spectrum: it is, in fact, a mini-horror production. If you are of a sensitive disposition, please click away now.


STOP LOOK LISTEN
Stop Look Listen is the Magazine's festival of Public Information Films, with the National Archives and the COI
The film, from 1973, is called Lonely Water.
(The opening scene is a mysterious dark stretch of water. The voiceover, by Donald Pleasence, is ghoulish and threatening.)

VOICE: I am the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, ready to trap the unwary, the show-off, the fool, and this is the kind of place you'd expect to find me.

(Cut to children playing on tip)

VOICE: But no-one expects to find me here ... it seems too ordinary. But that pool is deep. The boy is showing off. The bank is slippery.

(Boy slips down bank into small deep pool - other children look on, terrified.
Then cut to scene of duck pond, with a boy hanging on branch over the water, trying to reach something)

VOICE: The show-offs are easy. But the unwary ones are easier still. This branch is weak, rotten, it'll never take his weight.

(Branch cracks, ducks quack, the Spirit is seen turning away through the reeds.
Cut to sign saying "DANGER - No swimming")

VOICE: Only a fool would ignore this. But there's one born every minute. Under the water there are traps. Old cars, bedsteads, weeds, hidden depths. It's the perfect place for an accident.

(Boy in pool shouts for help, Spirit appears by water side. But then other children's voices are heard. )

BOY : Oy look there's someone in the water. Get us that big stick to get him out.

(Spirit turns round, startled to see pesky kids interfering with his plan)

VOICE: Sensible children! I have no power over them!

BOY: Oy mate that's a stupid place to swim. Hey go over there and get that thing to wrap him in.

(Other child finds Spectre's cape on floor, like a fallen Obi-Wan Kenobi.)

BOY: You don't half feel cold mate. How long was you in there?

(GIRL picks up cape and is disgusted, throws it in water)

VOICE: I'll be back (heavy echo repeats)
As you'll know if you watch the video of this film, it's seriously scary. So scary, indeed, that one Magazine reader, Adam from Madrid, has vivid memories of it, more than 30 years after it was made.

"The spirit of Dark Lonely Water would make a great Japanese horror film," he says. "Talk about leaving a lasting impression, I'm nearly 40 and I can still remember how terrified I felt by the image of the dirty monk's habit being tossed into the water and the pre-Arnie 'I'll be back' line."

Another reader, John, London, wrote: "It scared the bejeezus out of me."

Yet another, Ralph Tonge of Nottingham, said: "It actually was scarier than the thing it was warning about... I wonder who directed it? William Friedkin? David Lynch?"

It really is sinister, the point being presumably to scare children witless whenever they are near water. No bad thing, perhaps, but a slightly different approach to Rolf's enthusiastic "if they get that confidence in the water, they love it".

The horror mask metaphorically slips in the line: "Sensible children. I have no power over them." One can almost imagine the director, having to satisfy competing interests of horror and public education, making a belated nod towards the latter.

Other observations modern readers might make include approval of the way the first child wears his anorak by the hood only, to achieve the full 1970s superhero cape effect. It might also occur to them that little piece of authenticity is marred slightly by the children's dialogue - they speak to each other in the way adults imagine children speak.

It's a curiosity that portrayals of children playing outside like this are not anywhere near as common as they once were. Might this be a reflection of how modern children spend their spare time?

Finally, anyone viewing this film might be put off when next they see a Marks and Spencer advert. There's an uncanny similarity between the way the Spirit relishes death and the way the firm's voiceover drools over a pile of "not just profiteroles".

--------------
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/m ... 690150.stm

Published: 2006/02/09 10:47:02 GMT

© BBC MMVI
Lots of comments on that Beeb page.
 

ElishevaBarsabe

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My husband recalls "Red Asphalt" where the driver's jaw drops off at the end of the film, and "Signal 30" -- both driver's education films, of course.

I recall a film shown on the Ed Sullivan Show (which came on when I was supposed to be in bed), but I don't recall the name. The film was animated and about nuclear war. In the film, people's eyes melted, and at the end only a moth was left circling around a candle which the moth finally dove into killing itself and putting the candle out -- total darkness, end of film. Eeeeeeee! Especially when you're a tike.

Anybody recall the name of that one? Anyone else ever see it?
 

rynner2

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Any info on the kids who acted in Apaches? What did they go on to do?

I thought 'Geronimo' looked like a young John Simms....
 

stu neville

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gncxx said:
I thought this was a bigger thread? Maybe they're discussed elsewhere?
Yeah, it was part of the "Scariest Programme when you were a Kid" thread, the bit about public info films, starting roughly on this page.
 

OneWingedBird

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"The spirit of Dark Lonely Water would make a great Japanese horror film," he says. "Talk about leaving a lasting impression, I'm nearly 40 and I can still remember how terrified I felt by the image of the dirty monk's habit being tossed into the water and the pre-Arnie 'I'll be back' line."
i second that :shock:

there was a short film we got showed at film that had a similar effect on me, about a boy who lost his foot on a railway line... not strictly an infomercial, but bloody horrid (esp. right before lunch) all the same...

there's a grim one doing the rounds at the cinemas atm too, with the generic superhero dude trying to rescue the balloon :shock:
 

escargot

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I remember seeing these on TV as a kid and thinking, poo, you don't scare me!
Mainly because, I think, the kids I saw being maimed were all boys and as a sister of two younger brothers I felt boys to be pretty stupid anyway.
 

mindalai

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Watching Apaches has given me a stomach ache. :(
 

GNC

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Oh Gawd, I want to see it out of misplaced nostalgia, but something tells me it'll be too disturbing. I don't think they use such scaremongering tactics on kids' PIFs these days, do they? Lucky them!

stuneville said:
gncxx said:
I thought this was a bigger thread? Maybe they're discussed elsewhere?
Yeah, it was part of the "Scariest Programme when you were a Kid" thread, the bit about public info films, starting roughly on this page.
Ah, there we go, thanks.
 

mindalai

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ElishevaBarsabe said:
My husband recalls "Red Asphalt" where the driver's jaw drops off at the end of the film...
Anyone got a decent link for this one? I can only find a really blurry copy of it on YouTube. I want to see the man's jaw fall off! :x
 

Bigphoot2

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I noticed that Apaches was directed by John MacKenzie - I wonder if this is the same John MacKenzie who directed The Long Good Friday.
 

GNC

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bigphoot1 said:
I noticed that Apaches was directed by John MacKenzie - I wonder if this is the same John MacKenzie who directed The Long Good Friday.
Yes, it's the same man, I saw him interviewed about it on TV once. According to him, the kids couldn't wait to film their demises!
 

GNC

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OK, like the guy in the David Wilkie learn to swim PIF "I just had to pluck courage up" and I watched Apaches. The deaths I remembered but I'd forgotten about the BBC children's drama business in between. I still felt that sickening feeling though. So much for nostalgia.
 

tonyghidorah

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And there's the ad about not running kids over; the one where the girl gets put back together and sort of drags along the road. It's horrible.
 

GNC

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GNC

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Sad news detailed in this article:
http://www.therockingvicar.co.uk/#/coi/4562561414

The Central Office of Information is to be closed at the end of the month! So no more public information films from them. A real shame, considering all the good they did (and all the entertainment) over the years.
 

sherbetbizarre

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This Bank Holiday Monday...

Britain Beware
ITV1


Adrian Edmondson delves into the archives of the Central Office of Information, the government department responsible for making public information films. To mark the closure of the COI, Ade takes viewers on a journey through the mini-movies and TV ads that for nearly 70 years warned the public about everything from road safety to nuclear fallout. The films include hidden treasures and nostalgic gems such as Jimmy Savile's Clunk Click Every Trip campaign, Tufty the Squirrel and Charley Says.

Monday 7th May on ITV1 from 10:15pm to 11:15pm
 

GNC

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Excellent! Hope it doesn't get too snidey, though.
 

sherbetbizarre

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Lol, I guess they didn't want to pay the BBC for the clip. Pity!
 

GNC

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Yeah, never mind. Interesting enough, and shows there's far more of these in the archives than have made it to DVD. Still waiting to see the hypothermia one after all these years, though. Snatch of the Day remains a classic (though not very scary for this thread).
 

Frideswide

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Tufty the Squirrel would flatten the Green Cross Man in a fair fight!
 

GNC

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OneWingedBird

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Does anyone have a link to that infomercial from (I think) the 90s where the boy is being ignored by everyone and then he walks into the road and the car goes through him?

I was an adult then and it still scared me!
 

stu neville

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gncxx said:
stuneville said:
Ah. but fear not! The National Office of Importance carries the flame now. Click and be enlightened!

One of my favourite sites, tbh.
What a great site, ingenious. Pity they seem to have given up some time last year, though.
No, they're just very sporadic. Nothing happens for ages then you get a little glut of new ones. And they're always worth it :).
 

escargot

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OneWingedBird said:
Does anyone have a link to that infomercial from (I think) the 90s where the boy is being ignored by everyone and then he walks into the road and the car goes through him?

I was an adult then and it still scared me!
Yup, I saw that one, possibly only once. Would like to see it again. :shock:
 
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