Mind the Gap: A compendium of disturbing British public information films

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What cinematic horrors compare to the schadenfreude of a British public service announcement? When it comes to illustrating our poor judgment and feeble bodies, knifecrime island has no peer. Imperious accents, marbled with black humor, dwell on the dangers that lurk everywhere. Foolish teens scream along to diskfuls of bone-crunching sound effects; tentacles assault the female ones with crude metaphors, and they never, ever forget. Life is an orgy of risk: escape it while you can!

Warning: disturbing British PSAs are disturbing.Let’s start with the all-time classic: The spirit of dark and lonely water

Julie knew her killer

30

Get out and stay out

The Natural Born Smoker

He also had a baby.

Electricity substation

Unbelted car passenger turns into elephant during crash

“And to think, he’d only just come from the hospital”

Escalators

Get out alive

Welcome to the Battery

Unlicensed cab drivers will rape you

The last place to leave a bottle

Do you know where your child is?

The second time this week

Behind the painted smile

Tentacle (Made in Britain for international use)

Want more? Maxie The Third uploaded a roundup that illustrates well the technique used in the olden days: establish the humanity of the subject with a story, then bring it down to earth suddenly in a blast of deadly bathos.

An adroit observer will note that even perfectly innocuous British advertisments aren’t an awful lot more uplifting. Perhaps you would like Hannibal Lecter to sell you a big bank account. Of course, no roundup of British folk panic is complete without some paedogeddon.

Some were just nasty and mean: we’ll destroy all the foxes if you let rabies in.

Bonus British horror of childhood: animated classic Watership Down.

Not all British PSAs are scary. Here’s some scare fail. And someone should remix this already?

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at besc...@gmail.com

 

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21 Responses to Mind the Gap: A compendium of disturbing British public information films

  1. Thad E Ginataom says:

    Julie knew her killer

    And I have been insisting that all my back-seat passengers wear their seatbelts ever since I saw this on TV.

  2. costeau says:

    I used to live in the UK for a while, many years ago, and I still have access to and watch some British TV stations. Public information films are a lot more common there than in my native Norway, or here in Ireland, where I currently live.

    That said, I think this one is a nice wake-up call that belongs in your nice compilation:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ65fQlmKBc

    Warning: It’s quite graphic, containing considerably more gore than the average of what’s been posted so far, so those who aren’t old enough to drive yet shouldn’t really be watching it.

  3. Rob Beschizza says:

    Thanks, Brandon!

    Greensteam, I’d ask the BFI for copies, but to be honest, I’d rather not!

  4. Rob Beschizza says:

    Added anonymous’ suggestion. Nasty!

  5. Anonymous says:

    “i didn’t know these types of things were so common in the UK” I didn’t either, and I live here.

  6. Liz W says:

    If you want to see really horrific safety films, try to find some of the Canadian produced farm safety films from the 70s and 80s, they gave all of us nightmares, holy crap.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Anyone know what kind of accent that kid in the “second time this week” ad has? As in the specific area.

  8. growf says:

    Oh god, some of the “safety” videos I was shown as a kid were horrific. One, which I think was called “Never Rest”, attempted to stop children playing on farms by showing kids drowning in grain silos and slurry, being crushed to death by farm equipment, etc.

    It got the nickname “Jaws” because it regularly freaked out its audience. They always had to have a community nurse to gather up the faint and hysterical.

  9. Anonymous says:

    When I lived in England, this one always gave me a cold shiver:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVBfMMMUsGs

  10. notasheep says:

    Please do remind me to never be reincarnated as a British child.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure but I think the accent is north Derbyshire

  12. Karlos says:

    Reminds me of all the drinking and road safety ads over the years here in New Zealand, there are heaps of them, some of the “lighter” ones creating catch phrases such as “Good After-ble Consta-noon”, “no YOU’RE a man-us,” repeated around the country.

    Here’s just a few of the not so light ones…

    http://tinyurl.com/drinkdriving

  13. Dotto says:

    Very powerful ads!

    For what it’s worth, “Children See Children Do” is Australian, and is filmed in Sydney

  14. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    Here’s a great one you missed, Rob:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GhUst7v2tY

    And here’s the Irish version (the original, I believe):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSK5BOTHNLE

  15. Rob Beschizza says:

    I wanted to post that one! But I couldn’t find it and deadline loomed.

  16. soundchaser says:

    wow, talk about sensationalism! i didn’t know these types of things were so common in the UK. the slippery floor one is especially funny.
    they remind me of WSIB commercials that came out a couple years ago here in canada.

  17. Brandon West says:

    Not a huge fan of the videos because, well, they’re kinda depressing, but I had to post because the intro paragraph was great. Good work, Rob.

  18. matt says:

    hahaha the fatal floor one is hillarious.

  19. greensteam says:

    I was in the UK merchant navy in the 1970s and safety films were spliced onto the front of all the feature films (actual reels of film, long before VHS etc). The safety films were made by the British Shipping Federation. I have not been able to find any online, but the British Film Institute apparently has one in its archive.
    These films were HORRIFIC and pulled absolutely no punches in their efforts to get us to be careful at work. Some particularly awful ones were where men got drawn into machinery by their clothing, cut off extremities with the electric bacon slicer, ripped to shreds by the steel hawsers etc etc. I’ve know hulking great deckhands cover their eyes to avoid watching these gorefests.

  20. jasongnc says:

    OK, I’m buckling up in the backseat from now on….

  21. Steve Robinson says:

    Hi,

    I remember in my childhood a series of extremely scary PIF’s around the title ‘ keep matches away from children ‘ which screened around 1974 – 75. From memory there were about 4 ads in the series.

    I currently have a situation with a step child who would benefit from watching these. I would be grateful for anyone being able to email me a link to these ads.

    My email is muggy_doo@hotmail.com.

    Many thanks in advance,

    Steve

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