Tell Your Children


“The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you.
It would not have been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly-increasing numbers.

Marihuana is that drug – a violent narcotic – an unspeakable scourge – The Real Public Enemy Number One!

Its first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter; then come dangerous hallucinations – space expands – time slows down, almost stands still ….fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous extravagances – followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thoughts, the loss of all power to resist physical emotions… leading finally to acts of shocking violence… ending often in incurable insanity.

In picturing its soul-destroying effects no attempt was made to equivocate. The scenes and incidents, while fictionized for the purposes of this story, are based upon actual research into the results of Marihuana addiction.

If their stark reality will make you think, will make you aware that something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace, then the picture will not have failed in its purpose….
Because the dread Marihuana may be reaching forth next for your son or daughter….or yours….or YOURS!”

Everyone get out your pitchforks because my day-late blog post of the week is going to be “Tell Your Children,” a 1936 film better known under the title “Reefer Madness.” The film was allegedly funded by a church group who wanted to warn about the evils of marijuana.

Now, I personally can’t stand the smell of marijuana. Living in a college dorm it’s all around, and I just don’t like it. However, I do not believe the evils of marijuana include many of the attributes given it in the above introduction to the film. I’ve never heard of marijuana actually creating “monstrous extravagances – followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thoughts, the loss of all power to resist physical emotions… leading finally to acts of shocking violence… ending often in incurable insanity.”

Actually, the people that I’ve seen use high usually just sit in a dazed stupor or ravenously attack bags of chips.


So what we have on our hands is a pack of lies meant to shock Americans the same way that previous videos were meant to shock schoolchildren and teens. This is the age right before the Red Scare, right? Or is that what’s going on? The film begins with an “expert” on marijuana leading a PTA meeting on the evils of the drug.

The good doctor tells the parents how cleverly marijuana users have hidden their stashes. They hide them in the heels of shoes, especially women’s (heeled, this is the 30’s so the distinction is mone – not the movie’s). They also hide them in the hollow part of shaving brushes (my father is the only person in the universe that I know that still has those, although I promise he wasn’t around in 1936), books with false centers. Watch cases are also a good place to hide them.

Wait, what?


Is this video teaching parents about the evils of marijuana or teaching kids how to use the drug? Maybe I incorrectly assessed the educational value of the film. It would explain the film’s re-distribution title – Reefer Madness. It’s also been released under the titles “Dope Addict,” “Doped Youth,” “The Burning Question,” and “Love Madness.” I don’t get the last one at all but I do love the other puns.

Some tongue-in-cheek intentions on the part of the film producers (I assume it wasn’t the church group that was being facetious) would explain the plot of the film, which attributes a lot of fun crimes to marijuana, as well as this absolutely ridiculous exchange:

Bureau Official: “Here is an example: A fifteen-year-old lad apprehended in the act of staging a holdup – fifteen years old and a marijuana addict. Here is a most tragic case.”
Dr. Carroll: “Yes. I remember. Just a young boy… under the influence of drugs… who killed his entire family with an axe.”

WTF?


Because they were high, two kids in this film engaged in a hit and run…

Another one attempts to rape a girl…


And another one shoots a girl by accident and is sent a mental asylum…


These events make one woman feel so guilty that she dramatically breaks down and admits everything to police (because women are weak and prone to break down, don’t forget it’s the 30’s)…


In fact, this woman is of such a “womanly constitution” that she throws herself out of a window because of her grief…


So by all means see this movie. Where else are you going to get a scene like the one where, after Jack pours an ungenerously sized drink for Mae, she says “Hey, what am I? An orphan?” After that she asks him if he has a hollow leg. What?!? This is another one of my favorite exchanges:

Jack: Time to get up and give this place the goin’ over. It looks like the marines have landed.                                                                                                                                            Mae: Well, that bunch last night was high enough to take over the marines and the navy!

My dirty mind is taking this to amazing places.


But enough of that. For those interested, there was a heavily tongue-in-cheek musical made out of the film that is also entitled “Reefer Madness.” It was made into a t.v. movie and it looks like it’s right up there with “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Here’s the link to the original film, http://www.archive.org/details/reefer_madness1938. See you next week!

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Driver’s Ed Videos of the 50’s and 60’s

I’ve been told by both my instructor and several classmates that so-called ridiculous old driver’s ed videos would be perfect to talk about on this blog. I found myself lucky that this website: http://romanoarchives.altervista.org provides a 1959 film entitled “Signal 30.” According to the website, this film is just one of many created by Highway Safety Films. Other films in the series include Carrier or Killer, Highways of Agony, Mechanized Death and Wheels of Tragedy. Like the film “Live and Learn,” these films carry lurid titles and are narrated by dry and unsympathetic (yet somewhat cheeky) narrators. Unlike “Live and Learn,” however, the accidents portrayed in the films are real, as evidenced by the disclaimer below.

That picture is the only one you’re going to get for this post, because the film is deeply disturbing. Although “Signal 30” is about a half hour long, I only made it through half the video. The film contains grisly pictures of dead and seriously injured victims of car accidents. I watched a clip from a 1969 film entitled “Highways of Agony,” and found its depiction of a woman with a broken jaw equal unsettling. While I can tell you not to watch these, I know that many people’s curiosities prevent them from heeding such warnings. Because of this I provide the links to both videos at the bottom of the post.

Although I went through driver’s ed about five years ago, my memory is good enough to tell me that I never watched anything close to what is seen in these driver’s ed videos. Sure we heard gruesome stories of accidents, and saw images of wrecks, but our videos were at best amusing and at worst boring. A specific video that I remember is one with a catchy jingle that told us “no zones, stay out of the no zones.” This is light-years away from trying to figure out if the victim on the screen is alive or dead. Without conducting more than superficial research, I can only guess that the increasing sensitivity of our society led to the lack of these videos from driver’s ed program curricula. Like disinfectant wipes and the emergence of “safer” plastic and rubber playgrounds, this likely has both positive and negative effects.

Because of the increasing number of drivers and changes made to vehicles it is hard to calculate whether such terrifying videos decreased the number of car accidents. But as Machiavelli (may or may not have) implied, fear is an effective form of control. While these driver’s ed videos took that concept to places much farther than the videos that I previously blogged about, one cannot deny that fear is a common theme in all the educational videos I’ve looked at from before the 1970’s. Such is not the case in the educational videos that I remember from my more recent childhood. This causes me to question if that is because educational messages now play to higher brain functions than fear, or if it is because they’ve found more subtle ways to influence viewers.

In any event, I apologize to my readers that this post totally lacked any humor. While I could have sought out a different video to post, I felt that these driver’s ed videos were too relevant to the topic of my blog to ignore. I promise to be more entertaining next week!

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Untitled Menstruation Video


Welcome to our video of the week, an untitled 1974 film on menstruation! As a male who will never have to worry about this process (and I mean never, for those smart asses who want to say “you will when your girlfriend is going through it,” jokes on you, I’m gay!), I was curious as to what this video could teach me. The video starts with some on-the-street interviews.


This guy thinks that menstruation is “the natural purification of the body.” Why we’re getting Charles Manson’s opinion on menstruation I’ll never know. I would counter his purification theory with a question about why men don’t need purification. To show that annoying hipsters aren’t anything new, this guy says about menstruation that he “would dig it, actually.”

“Even though I may look like Miss Universe…”

Woah, stop right there. Actually don’t, I have nothing nice to say here except that for your information this is our heroine, Judy.

“… up until today I had one big problem: I was 15 years old and I had never gotten my period.”

Personally I think that the bigger problem is that she’s 15 years old and drawing like this.


Judy is bowling with her hottie boyfriend pictured above. His name is Johnny. Why, you ask? Because, as we discovered in our first blog post, every generic boy’s name is Johnny. I just want to say that, for the record, I do not endorse people that look as old as he does dating 15 year olds, but apparently this movie does. The loving couple breaks into this conversation:

“Do you notice anything different about me? I got my first period today!”

“So what’s the big deal?”

“It means that BLOOD is flowing out of my UTERUS!”

“oh.”


What a misogynistic jerk! He doesn’t want to hear about blood flowing out of his girlfriend’s uterus? Actually, to be fair, there is some great material in this documentary about contraception allowing women to be sexually active whenever they choose. However, this blog is about riffing and so we’re less interested in that and more interested in the creepy guy listening to their conversation in the corner (circled above in red). I really want to know who thought he was a good idea. Really.


This man, whose credentials look a little suspicious to me, provides this information, “what Judy has just told Johnny… can be easily misunderstood, especially if you get your information off street corners.”

Wait, who get’s advice on menstruation from people on street corners? Oh wait, this video does! So I shouldn’t listen to the ten minutes of on-the-street interviews THAT ARE IN THIS DOCUMENTARY? Oh yea, Charles Manson isn’t the only interview you get, a few more golden nuggets of information are coming up.


Johnny and Judy decide to watch TV, which I think is where we best see their affection for each other. For some strange, unknown reason they decide to watch this beautifully drawn cartoon on (take a guess) menstruation!


Johnny switches the channel to a news special on (take a guess) menstruation! What a coincidence!

Old lady voice: “I get terrible belly-aches!”

That’s nice dear.

“It’d be kind of messy I’d imagine”

Aww…you’re not getting any, are you?


Wait, what is Judy doing on the TV program that she’s watching? Is this some deep post-modern message? Or just crappy editing? After reviewing the evidence, I’m going to go with the latter.


This woman is demonstrating the exercise that she discovered to ease her cramps.

No comment.

“I flow very heavily. And I can use two tampons at once.”

Anyone else reminded of that great “Mean Girls” quote? No? What if I help you:

Bethany Byrd: “Somebody wrote in that book that I’m lying about being a virgin because I use super jumbo tampons… but I can’t help it if I’ve got a heavy flow and a wide set vagina”

Mr. Duvall: “… yeah, I can’t do this.”

Oh look! We’ve made visual contact!

“And you don’t need to worry about losing the tampon because the cervix prevents it from going very far, and you should be able to find it with your fingers!”

The things you learn!

“I can’t understand it. The weather report said warm and sunny.”

You mean just like your personality? He has some other gems throughout the video:

“Do you think your period could have caused the rain?”

“Is it true that meat spoils in the presence of a menstruating woman?”

WTF?


Then we get this inexplicable scene. While Judy is at a drugstore, Johnny enters with“DUN DUN DUNNNNNN” music. This is followed by a shaky, killer-eye-view cam reminiscent of old slasher movies. Does Judy kiss him or say “hi honey!”? Nope, she gives him this look:


The look, by the way, is wholly undeserved; guy was just buying tampons for his mom! Sweet really, in a Norman Bates (“Psycho”) kind of way.


I’d like to take the opportunity here to comment on the wondrous 1970’s fashion seen above. I think he’s wearing a knitted jacket and she’s sporting some paisley polyester. Good times!

And if that wasn’t good enough, I leave you with the following image of a typical title-card from the movie. Seriously, it’s like they were trying to be gross.

Here’s a link to the video, see you next week!

http://www.archive.org/details/lindas_film_on_menstruation

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Duck and Cover

“Now we must be ready for a new danger – the atomic bomb!”


Welcome to the Cold War everyone! This week’s video is a classics cartoon paid for by our government with the main purpose of scaring the &$@% out of children! Yay!

“First you have to know what happens when an atomic bomb explodes: you’ll know when it comes (we hope it never comes, but we must get ready) …first there is a bright flash…”

So… hope it never comes, but you should expect it to, basically. From what I’ve gathered from those that remember the Cold War era (like my Dad), people basically lived every day with the assumption that we wouldn’t make it to the end of the millennium. Every day could be our last, because Russia is evil and might attack us with that evil bomb that we actually used first, and second (Hiroshima and Nagasaki).


“If you are not ready and did not know what to do it could hurt you in different ways. It could knock you down hard or throw you against a tree or a wall. It is such a big explosion it could smash buildings and knock signboards over and break windows all around town.”


Yes, it was all those knocked over signboards and broken windows that made Japan surrender. A ten-minute video that’s meant to educate children on what happens during an atomic bomb attack fails to even mention the bomb’s lethal effects and side effects. Or the fact that a real nuclear explosion looks like this:


“But if you duck and cover like Bert you’ll be much safer!”

Does that phrase sound idiotic coming after the above image? Because it should!


Nuclear explosion? No need to fret, just duck and cover!

“Dum dum deedle dum dum
There was a turtle by the name of Bert
and Bert the turtle was very alert
when danger threatened him he never got hurt
he knew just what to do
he ducked and cover
duck and cover”


This children’s cereal commercial jingle was meant to educate the millions of school-age Americans on the country’s best plan for a nuclear attack. This deep metaphor turns a nuclear weapon into a stick of dynamite, Russians into a suicidal monkey (notice how he’s missing from the second shot), and Americans into a turtle who can duck into his shell. U.S. government, I have a question: WHAT ARE THE REST OF US WHO DON’T HAVE SHELLS SUPPOSED TO DO???

“Sometimes, and this is very, very important, sometimes the bomb might explode without any warning”

While I criticize this video for not educating children on the real grisly affects of an atom bomb, and the utter ineffectualness of the methods it preaches, don’t think that fear isn’t a major component of the video. This pretty little piece of propaganda made sure that everyone was in constant fear of the Russians. Notice how the above quote uses the phrase “sometimes,” as if many nuclear attacks were expected! Of course, no such attack ever happened (although we did come close during the Cuban Missile Crisis), but nothing keeps a country obeying their government like fear of outsiders!

“Here they are on their way to school on a beautiful sunny day but no matter where they go or what they do they always try to remember what to do if the atom bomb explodes right then.”

They could even attack on beautiful spring days? Is there no decency left in the world? I guess will just have to have nuclear attack on our minds at all times! This video was made in 1951, and would have been shown to the generation that became hippies. It’s no wonder, if I was taught to constantly expect sudden death, I’d give way to free love and self-destructive behavior too! Anyway here’s duck and cover shown by the children seen above, sure looks protective:


And here’s a man jumping off his tractor to duck and cover under said tractor:


The video tells him to stop whatever he’s doing an immediately duck. He takes this so literally that he doesn’t put on breaks or TURN OFF THE TRACTOR before hiding UNDER THE WHEEL OF SAID TRACTOR. I seriously feel like I missed out on something special by not being part of this generation. Anyway, till next week!


http://www.archive.org/details/gov.ntis.ava11109vnb1 (the link to the full video!)

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Live and Learn Part Deux

Welcome back to my blog, Live and Learn, about some hilariously terrifying educational videos from the good ole days. My first post was about the video for which this blog is named, Live and Learn. Unfortunately, the video had too much to make fun of for one post, so this post will finish off my commentary on this awful video. Enjoy!!!

The first segment I’ll be discussing on this post starts off with what we now realize is the formula for a Sid Davis lesson. We see an idyllic scene (in this case, two kids playing baseball in a sickly suburban neighborhood), the narrator makes the “what could possibly go wrong?” comment, and then everything goes predictably wrong. Here, if you couldn’t tell, that’s a car coming towards the soon-to-be-victim in the image below.

Obvious narrator: “If he keeps his eye on the ball, he can’t look out for traffic too.”

“Neither a friends warning…”

“…or a car’s brakes…”

“…prevented an accident…”

“…or saved this boy.”

Yup, there Sid Davis (the director) goes again, killing another kid. For a guy making videos meant to protect children, he sure enjoys murdering them. It’s like Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies. Gashlycrumb Tinies is a faux-Edwardian alphabet book/cautionary tale of children dying in rhyme (A is for Amy who fell down the stairs/B is for Basil assaulted by bears…). Sid Davis’ problem (ok, one of his many problems) is that he doesn’t kill the right kids! Just look at the kid’s acting skills two pictures above; clearly he deserves to be hit by a car.

“Guns cause some of the worst accidents and the most tragic: blindness.”

Somehow I think that advocates for the blind would have a problem with blindness being considered worse than…oh say, DEATH? As if that wasn’t politically incorrect enough, the gun being held by the moron aiming at his friend is referred to as “a possible crippler.” Good stuff, right?

“It’s very easy to put out an eye with a bee bee gun.”

Yes!!! I was waiting for the “You’ll shoot your eye out Ralphy” line!!! As in “A Christmas Story,” moron #1 shoots out the eye of moron #2. Then comes the so-bad-its good image/accompanying narration below.

“Is it worth this boys and girls? Supposing this were you, just getting a half look at the world because someone didn’t know how to use a gun safely.”

“When she heard her father at the door she got excited, she just had time to hide behind the door and surprise him, like she did every night. She jumped to her feet, this time it was different…”

From the above picture/narration, one might get the impression that she-of-the-vomit-inducing-curls plans to use those scissors on her father. But that would make for a far too interesting film on Sid Davis’ part. Would he really do something that sick? Well, yes and no…

“…she tripped and fell on the scissors”

Ok, so she doesn’t go after her father with the scissors, she impales herself on them. Now, I wouldn’t go as far as to say those curls deserved it, but…

“Nick learned what fences are for the hard way”

Now we come to the final children-in-peril segment. No, there are no dead kids here – just a really awkward rescue scene. Ok, and there’s Nick’s awesome fall off of a cliff – which starts with the above image…

…and ends with the above image. Please watch the actual video to get the full effect (link at the bottom of this post), it’s a beautiful shot of a dummy tumbling down a cliff in a manner that would realistically break 1,000 bones.

Above we see another example of a Sid Davis trope that I pointed out in the previous post, self-contradiction. While Nick’s friends were praised earlier for not hopping over the white picket fence (love the fifties) and going to the edge of the cliff, they are here seen doing exactly that. Why they didn’t dramatically fall down the cliff (like Nick) is anyone’s guess.

“One of his friends goes for help, and comes back with the best friend a kid could have when trouble occurs…”

“…a policeman”

It was apparently part of this policeman’s training that, when a kid falls down a cliff and breaks his wrist, it is best to tie a rope around a white picket fence and rappel down said cliff to fetch the kid. No joke, that’s what happens. No gloves. No equipment other than a rope. Yup, I’m sure that’s exactly how emergency responders are trained.

Disclaimer: in case you’re Canadian or someone else who doesn’t get sarcasm, I’m kidding. Pleassse don’t respond to any emergency this way!

“See how the officer questions Nick to make sure he’s not hurt anywhere but his wrist, before he carries him up the rope.”

This guy is just full of good ideas and decides it’s best to THROW the kid with the broken wrist over his shoulder, hold onto the kid by THE WRIST, and climb back up the cliff (again, with only a rope for equipment) with the kid ON HIS BACK. I have nothing more to say. Nothing.

Annnnnd we end with the obligatory American flag. Yay propaganda for kids! The link to the entire video is right here if you’d like to watch it for yourself: http://www.archive.org/details/live_and_learn.

Come to my blog next week for a new post on a new video. Thanks for reading!

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Live and Learn Part 1

Welcome to my new/first blog, Live and Learn! It is a blog of hilarious and horrible educational films from the so-called good ole days. After watching these, it’s a wonder that my parents survived them! Anyway, the first video we’ll be looking at is the one for which my blog is named, “Live and Learn”.

This 1951 film was directed and produced by a man named Sid Davis, who seems to have specialized in educational films based on the anecdotes of policemen (no, not police officers, this is the 50’s) rather than the knowledge of experts.

The video begins with the above creepy statue of a baby, and this lovely piece of narration, “Here some facts not many people know, more children are crippled or killed in accidents in their home or neighborhood than all the diseases – like polio, TB, and heart trouble – put together. Tell that to your mom or dad tonight, they’ll really be surprised…” If one is able to direct their attention away from the bad grammar, the fact that “heart trouble” is referred to as a disease, or the narrator’s way-too-happy tone, one realizes that they’re in the “scare the hell out of the kids” school for safety. The first scene is at a pool.


“Uh oh, looks like that girl wants to have some fun” says our cheerful narrator. I bet you didn’t know it was bad for girls to have fun, did you? I bet you also didn’t know that this was how people laughed in 1951…at least in Sid Davis’ version of 1951. This mischievous girl is in fact laughing because she successfully manipulated a boy into jumping on top of poor Johnny while he was swimming in the pool. This may in fact make the girl the smartest character in the entire film. Although it was her idea to jump on Johnny, she is not legally responsible for whatever may happen to Johnny. And what happens to Johnny is bad.


“Wait-a-minute, something’s wrong with Johnny” says Captain Obvious. Sorry, I meant to say “the narrator.” Although most people might say “Let’s not show a drowning child, it might give our target audience (small children) absolutely terrifying nightmares,” Sid Davis seems to say “that’s the point!” But don’t worry, this isn’t entirely inappropriate, it is implied that Johnny (why is generic kid always named Johnny?) survived.

“Had they waited until they got to the hospital to do [“artificial respiration”], like this poor boy, it would have been too late.” See everyone? Everything is ok, Johnny survived. But children, still be really scared because it’s too late for this boy that you are seeing in the above picture! WTF?!?! It’s also worth mentioning that this video contains a disclaimer saying that it was made in cooperation (whatever that means) with a real children’s hospital. I’m assuming that this video isn’t demonstrating a real attempt at artificial respiration, but I honestly can’t be sure. As a disclaimer, this picture does NOT AT ALL DEMONSTRATE HOW TO REVIVE A DROWNING VICTIM!!! In fact, the image is just kind of weird. Seriously, things are wayyy different right now. Please go to the Red Cross website for information on the latest accepted methods, I can’t even handle how wrong this is now. But hey, simpler times…simpler people…


The above vignette features a boy who was tired of trying to light his back-yard-in-the-middle-of-the-day-campfire the old fashioned way, and decided to pour gasoline on the pile of wood. The narrator offers this clever gem of wisdom, “With know-how, you can burn fires, with carelessness, fires will burn you.”

The last vignette to be featured this week is not notable for its bad acting or low-budget locations (each vignette is abound with such qualities), but for what one can see in the above image. The boys in the video actually JUMP FROM THE ROOF OF THE BUILDING to actual SOLID GROUND. Now, one could accuse me of being harsh for criticizing out-dated information and the overall low-budget quality of this production, or weird for posting about this video at all, but one cannot fault me for being horrified by this vignette. The director actually has two real kids demonstrate the EXACT activity that he is telling children not to do. This is done without any safety precautions whatsoever. An impressionable child who is able to understand that both children are clearly fine is fully capable of going out and imitating the actually dangerous stunt. Sid Davis not only put his actors (a term I use loosely) in danger, but gave a dangerous idea to every member of his target audience. This vignette ends with the painfully moral and self-satisfied “His friend is very sorry, but being sorry won’t mend a broken leg.”

Visit this blog next week to see the last of the “let’s scare the hell out of kids” vignettes of “Live and Learn.” You can view the entire video, without my snarky commentary, by following this link to the internet archive: http://www.archive.org/details/live_and_learn

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