Volume 4 of a Drivers Ed series and I am running out of introductions. What little trivial snippet to add to this review that I haven’t said before to underlie my usual ability to know enough as either a film or car nut to lend credibility to my review of this series? Aside from the fact that the abstract car on the cover is a nice example of a 1967 GTO in factory Linden Green…But I assume you all knew that already….
Highways of Agony (1969)
Another car crash showcase choreographed to sad, brooding instrumental themes brought to you by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. While footage like this really requires no narration, this one has an MC; an imposing looking senior patrolman sitting behind a desk, telling us that while the depictions to follow are disturbing that it is something that we might want to take heed, as the following footage is real. Though many of these educational drivers’ education films include constant dramatizations, actors playing drivers to emphasize their humanity before that fateful turn of the wheel, Highways of Agony is primarily concerned with displaying endless footage of recent crashes while the narrator reads off the statistics and the ages of the victim. As always, the first film of these compilations is extremely grim if not always graphic. The dazed look of the crying survivors being tended by ambulance personnel as their entire family was just torn in half (perhaps literally) is all the authenticity I never wanted. It ends with the single bizarre dramatization of a troubled man drinking before shooting two people with a pistol and then shows the symmetry of careless intention by showing a line of sixty eight bodies strewn down the center line of a highway as the first person camera angle ”runs them down” while funerary inspired organ music plays in the background. So disjointed, sensational and baseless are its direct comparisons of shooting deaths to roadway fatalities, it elevates “senseless violence” to a whole new echelon.
What’ll you do if? (195?)
This is the story of J Edgar Mitty, a young kid sitting in a convertible who fancies himself some sort of auto racer/ law enforcement official. The narrator (perhaps the voice of J Edgar’s most innermost personal demon?) talks about how young Mr Mitty is the youngest police chief in history, meanwhile we hear the sounds of sirens and tire squealing, knowing that it simply must be true or That J Edgar must be so completely insane that the sound effects of his car crash fantasies are so loud that we hear them too. Of course we soon find out that J Edgar is no police chief but is actually playing a game called “What’ll you do if”, where he sits in his father’s car with a drivers education book in his lap while plotting what he will do when he does learn to drive someday, some many years from now. This film teaches you to anticipate every bad situation on the road by paying attention to your surroundings and to behave proactively, sensing tragedy before it occurs. A true Driver’s Ed gem for either die hard pessimists or those who believe leaving your kid unattended in the family car is a form of cheap babysitting.
Don’t be a Sitting Duck (195?)
This one teaches the prospective driver not how to be rear ended by other drivers, even though it admits freely and openly that in most cases that it will be the guy in the rear who will pay for the damages. The emphasis on slow careful braking is the tale here. How utterly unnecessary!. Cars have bumpers for the same reason pencils have erasers. This one should have been titled “Don’t be a raving Douche”.
Winter Driving (195?)
This one is a litany of winter driving tips. It first starts with a checklist of preparing your car for winter driving then segues into some basic “cold weather” driving sense tidbits before finally deconstructing into a boring scientific comparison between the stopping rates for cars with various kinds of tires. There are countless driving demonstrations featuring a 1959 “Christine” looking Plymouth Fury skidding around on icy roads which only goes to show that even a magic car possessed by the devil is no match for glare ice. Seriously, as any other Minnesotan if I wanted to watch cars slide around this time of year I would just look out a window.
The Golden Rule of Driving (195?)
What is the Golden rule of driving? Drive onto others as they would drive onto you? I wish, it would have been a better film. No, the Golden rule of driving is to maintain one car length between you and the car ahead of you for every ten miles an hour. Then right after establishing this as some cardinal rule, this film says that sometimes one car length for every ten miles an hours just isn’t enough as say in the case of inclement weather. Lay off the mind games, man.
Matter of Judgment (1968)
Chock full of actual drivers education knowledge this film would actually teach your kids how to be better drivers. Here basic driver’s competency ideas are taught along with a completely ponderous, needless dissertation on hydroplaning. I am not saying that I need to see grisly car crashes to be amused by a driver’s education film from forty years ago, but by the same token I don’t like to watch educational films that most penny pinching public schools would have retired thirty years ago for being “too stale” looking. A real blowout, and by that I mean it provided me with step by step directions on how to repair one of those new-fangled tubeless tires. Ah, how relevant.
Ride to Live, Live to Ride (1971)
I wasn’t expecting this one. As every other previous volume in this series thus far, I was expecting one grisly Drivers Ed video, followed by a few lame, tame shorts which yammer on incessantly about the importance of seat belts for example. Even though it is based largely on photographs, “Ride to Live” is one of the most grisly Drivers Ed videos I have seen on any video, brought to you by an educational organization known as the “The Suicide Club” this one does nothing but provide a screen show of grisly accident footage aftermaths while a joyless narrator reads dispassionately about the need for defensive driving through showing of the most offensive footage possible; twisted metal, shattered dreams and deceased children. Classic Driver’s Ed, it closed (as so many do) with the death of a child, because seriously could anything be more senseless? That’s right. The final shot of this one was of a couple small children who lay lifeless in a morgue. Why??? (Seriously, Why do I watch this stuff?)
Even though these things are wearing me down psychologically to the point where I am half afraid to get behind the wheel of my own car anymore, I must concede that Volume 4 is the best one of the set thus far if you buy these things solely based on the cover art and the presumption that it will shock and sicken you, Volume 4 delivers. As mentioned before, this one has two grisly features where all previous installments feature only one, so it truly puts the “car” in carnage.
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