COI Collection: Volume 6 - Worth the Risk? DVD
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Directed by Various (Documentary)
Produced in 1948-81
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
The BFI unearths more audacious, amusing, shocking treasures from the archives of the COI with this selection of classic Public Information Films. Mind how you go, says Graeme Hobbs.
The very first film on Worth the Risk?, the BFI's latest collection of films drawn from the archives of the Central Office of Information – here on the subject of safety, risk, health and welfare – opens with the logo for The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; what follows over the next 3 1/2 hours is a catalogue of near-misses, dinks, scalds, crunches, shocks and bumps, along with such a diversity of fatalities that you are set to wondering just how you are going to get through the days ahead without succumbing to the many traps that await. Over-confident drivers, broken glass in sand, broken glass in the road, a butcher's dirty fingernails, strangers with bad intentions and car bombs all await if we take to the streets. Better to stay at home; but are you really sure of that corned beef?
Taking us from the un-seatbelted era of the 'one for the road' 1940s to the zebra crossings and Green Cross Code Man of the 1970s and beyond, these many and various exhortations to take care and be a responsible citizen feature popular cartoon characters such as Tufty and Charley (the latter in a 1948 Halas & Batchelor animation that outlines the case for paying National Insurance) as well as well-known faces and voices of more recent years to help get their various messages across. Sometimes these are subtle, mostly necessarily not, as with John Krish's short, sharp 'Peach and Hammer' shocker. Films range from the genuinely creepy (Say No to Strangers, 1980) and disturbingly inventive (Grain Drain, 1975, which sees a doll sucked in with the grain in a silo), to the amusing (decimilisation drama Granny Gets the Point, 1971). The latter also features the best line in the collection, which goes to the smartarse kid who, after his granny wakes from a nightmare in which she is assailed by fears about the new currency, saying: 'them decimals, comin' at me from all sides they was, decimals by the dozen,' responds with, 'by the ten grandma, decimals come in tens.'
Some of the films are surprisingly audacious for their time too; the 1948 film Worth the Risk, which follows two characters whose lives are fatally linked, features the attention-grabbing words, 'Mr. Williams, meet Miss Jones – you're going to kill her in exactly 20 minutes' time', before going on to show how Mr Williams does exactly that.
Signs of the times come with UDR recruitment shorts and the looming clouds of nuclear war, although anyone concerned about such conflict would have been little reassured by the 1962 film The Hole in the Ground, which looks at the the work of the control centres for the UK Warning and Monitoring Association, where nuclear fallout is mapped with chits of paper and chinagraph pencils and a sort of desperate calm reigns. (If your appetite is whetted for more on this subject, a more comprehensively dispiriting set of films on the theme comes in the shape of the collection, Nuclear War in Britain: Home Front Civil Defence Films.)
So, just who are these films for? The answer is in the aforementioned Worth the Risk: 'people just like you who know that they will never have an accident'. So, whether you are a mad skateboard dog, a deerstalkered scooterist or the careful driver of a butterscotch-coloured Austin Allegro, the message is the same: 'Keep looking, keep listening, keep living.'
Graeme Hobbs on 8th October 2011
Author of 285 reviews
This latest instalment in the BFI’s dedicated DVD series that celebrates the films made by the Central Office of Information examines the issue of ‘risk’ in our everyday lives. It features almost 50 films, from the 1940s to 2000, all peppered with the COI’s characteristic mix of horror, humour, famous faces and gentle persuasion.
Complimenting the safety messages in the earlier Volume Four, Stop! Look! Listen!, the films on The COI Collection Volume Six, Worth the Risk? offer advice on crossing the road, sensible drinking, playing with matches, the Welfare State, the complexities of decimalisation, surviving nuclear attack, and much more.
Among the many highlights are: Skateboard Safety (1978), (play safe ‘you mad skateboard dogs’), Charley’s March of Time (1948) - a pioneering animation that explains the workings of the new Welfare State, Green Cross Code (1973), with David Prowse on hand to admonish and advise, Say No to Strangers (1981), starring Bernard Hill, Brenda Blethyn and Timothy Spall and Peach and Hammer – Carol Hill, the unforgettable road safety film by director John Krish.
Skateboard Safety (1978), the pioneering animation Charley’s March of Time (1948), Say No to Strangers (1981) starring Timothy Spall, and the unnerving Cold War era film Hole in the Ground (1962) in which warning and defence measures against nuclear attack are depicted.
Special features include a 1967 seaside adventure with Tufty the squirrel, the character who, with his friends, taught children about personal safety, and an illustrated booklet with notes and essays from film historians and filmmakers.
Contents: Disc 1 - Mr Jones Takes the Air (1946), Child Cycling Proficiency/Cyclists Turning Right (1950s), Car Booty - Gnomes (mid-1970s), Look Back (early 1960s), Worth the Risk? (1948), Motorcycle Fashion Scene (1965), Your Turn (mid-1970s), Welephant (1986), Pop Goes the Weasel (1948), Family Income Supplement - Clothes (early 1970s), Motorcycle Love Affair (1975), Grain Drain (1975), Charley's March of Time (1948), Employment Service Agency - Moving (early 1970s), Another World (1980), Disco (1989), Another Case of Poisoning (1949), Skateboard Safety (1978), Green Cross Code - He's Great (1973), Clem and Lydia (2000), Answer to Emergency (1962), Pride in Driving (early 1960s), Hand (early 1970s), Zig Zag - Remember the Rules (early 1970s), Green Cross Code - Julie Saves a Life (early 1970s).
Disc 2: The Hole in the Ground (1962), Join the UDR (early 1970s), Peach and Hammer - Carol Hill (1973), UDR - Car Bomb (early 1970s), Look... Signal... Manoeuvre (1965), Wear Bright Gear (1971), Older Pedestrians - Time (1971), Green Cross Code - Blockhead Boy (1973), Granny Gets the Point (1971), Don't Just Be A Clunker (mid-1970s), Take an Adult (early 1970s), Dave (1990), The Motorway File (1975), Passing Places (1973), Laughing Matter (late 1970s), Under Your Feet (early 1970s), Say No to Strangers (1981), Green Cross Code - Blockhead Girl (1973), Fire is a Nightmare - Tom (mid-1970s), New Markings for Zebra Crossings (1971).
Length: 215 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 7th November 2011
Cat No: BFIVD935
- 2 discs
- Furry Folk on Holiday (1967): Tufty and his friends take a trip to the seaside, luckily Policeman Badger is on hand to save the day
- Play Safe (1979): in this long form version of the classic COI public information films, Bernard Cribbens and Brian Wilde warn against the dangers of playing near electricity
- Fully Illustrated Booklet