Are you old enough to remember a time long ago, back in the day when ALL life lessons were meant to be painful? Teachers hit children with rulers, no one wore helmets on their bikes much less on the ball-field, slingshots were considered a toy and broken bones were a rite of passage of growing into a
healthy adult? From this era of asbestos enlightenment comes yet another DVD of driver's education given the hard way with part three of Something Weird's Driver Ed videos. Another info-taining look at ancient school approved instructional videos that will instruct you about the “right of way” in the wrongest way possible. So buckle up, keep your eyes on the road and take a short journey with me to yet another glut of films which put the “car” in carnage.
Wheels Of Tragedy (1963)
Car 54 where are you? Apparently investigating a seemingly endless series of grisly road accidents followed by random dark commentary. Wheels of Tragedy is the story of a veteran Ohio State patrolman named Charlie teaching the ins and outs to patrolman Bradley; a fresh faced graduate from trooper school. As the two stand in the parking lot watching the traffic zoom by, Charlie waxes almost poetically to patrolman Bradley about the nature of Highway holiday fatalities “Most will make it, some of them won't” then the accidents start happening. Bad ones. The stories all play out, showing civilians driving their cars, some in a hurry, some with substandard equipment and some who just liked to drink a little too much all with the same results. Stock footage of real life Ohio State patrolmen pulling horribly mangled dead bodies off of roadways. Cut to a scene of Charlie and Bradley rolling onto the scene and dropping a cold rhetorical existential question such as “Why do things like this have to happen?” or perhaps even commentating about the sickening carnage with a hard, heartfelt “Damn...Damn!” This mixing of real life accident footage and live actors playing the drivers seems cheesy, perhaps even stupid but somehow they actually got the cars from the dramatizations to match up perfectly with the real crash scene footage both in make and model (Low budget films almost always screw this continuity up). Moreover, this use of dramatization switching between actual historical crime scene footage and life actor recreation for the parts no one actually wants to see reenacted, might have been the first use of this type of storytelling trick on film, that is now a staple of every known show about true crime. Also of course, it has brains popping out of heads, in case all this talk of film theory bores you.
The Throttle and The Bottle (1968)
What could have been the ULTIMATE title for a previously unreleased Gun's and Roses album is actually a primitive study on drinking and driving. Before I sound insensitive here, let me say now and forever more that drinking and driving is a sin, and a crime and a bad thing. But after watching this I became stuck on a bigger injustice; than intoxicated driving and that was apparently the legal limit in 1968 for intoxicated driving was .15% BAC. As someone who has grown up in an era where the .08 BAC level for drunk driving has been the law for most states ever since he could remember, let me talk to my elders for a moment, those who were actually teenagers at this time and say to them “See, what you have done, you lousy Beatniks? This is why we can't have nice things.” Moreover while this film was bloodless, there was a scene of a guy drinking and smoking in an indoor bar that (will surely offend many modern parent teacher groups/made me wish I was born twenty years earlier). Needless to say I found this to be dated, and more than a little infuriating. .15? Really????
Help Is (197?)
What will you do if you are faced with a life or death situation, such as happening upon a grisly car accident? Don't worry, because if you are in this short film, the answers will apparently be revealed to you thorough a the scary disembodied echoing voice of the unseen narrator. At first his advice is preventive: “A seat belt can provide you from serious injury!” Should that advice come too late, he will inform you that “To stop bleeding, apply direct pressure to the injury” with all the human concern (and exact voice) of an souless robot demon. Nowadays it isn't suggested that you pull over and perform sketchy medical tricks on strangers without licensed medical training, or at least watched better first aid movies than this one.
Short Stops (1954)
Either this is the most dry, textbook, tedious, exhaustive short feature on an automobiles brakes or this is what deranged mechanical engineers pleasured themselves to in the 1950's. It shows the functions of brakes right down to the flow of the hydraulic fluid in a working actual size cutaway model. It shows automobile tests which prove once and for all, how long it takes to stop a car at a certain speed. And please let us not forget the graph which shows clearly, succinctly once and for all how it is increasingly difficult to stop a car suddenly, the faster you are traveling. Hear that, lead-foots who think they can stop whenever they want to? Fuck off, all of you. The verdict is in.
You Can't Stop on a Dime (1954)
With various experiments, control groups and a base scientific method. This one apparently sets out to dis-prove that proverb once and for all. With the aid of a policemen, a boy and girl on bicycles and a ten penny whistle. we the audience, find out the difference between thinking distance and stopping distance. But wait, you might say, I bet I could stop on a dime if I were running? Guess again Sneakers Mgee, both male and female children are recorded at at full gait and they couldn't stop either. A weird, ponderous droning educational flick that mentions the phrase “stop on a dime” countless times but doesn't have the good sense (or budget) to show an actual dime even once. I wish there was a whole series of these films with titles like “You can't fight City hall” or “You can't have your cake and eat it too” each one filled with needlessly exhaustive dramatizations that teach me the limitations of the human spirit and force feed me safety lessons even as it makes me want to run into traffic at once.
What's Right of Way (195?)
Right of way is a tricky thing. What with cars approaching at angles, tiny models of roadways where tiny wooden arrows simulate full size cars and a strangely obsessed narrator who acts like at some point in his life that “right of way” was taken from him and he has made his life a personal quest to get it back. This one actually taught me some things about how to gauge if the person in the opposite intersection is likely to not honor right of way by their behavior at the light, but aside from this one brief glimpse of motorist psychology there was no real joy except for the part where the narrator had various signs on which were written sample “Famous last words” that motorists might say while not adhering to proper motorist safety, little things like “I Had the right of way” or “I thought he was going to stop”.
And now for a personal aside. Well one of those such sayings was “Gangway, Here I come!”. This little saying tickled me so much that ever since I watched that movie, I have been peppering my speech whenever possible with the catchphrase “Gangway here I come” during various activities, no matter how inappropriate. And let me tell you folks, I have suffered greatly for it. I've already alienated my girlfriend onto the couch, enraged the people at the office coffee machine where stale rumors of “You know how he drinks” regarding your humble reviewer have started to resurface, somehow stronger than before. But there is a little Bakery down the block from me where the other locals who had long ignored me, have now started to give me wide berth, offer me “cutsies” in line where before they had never acknowledged me. Could it be I have finally achieved....right of way? Thank you ancient drivers instructional video.
The Perfect Crime (1955)
This one was bizarre and coming from a guy such as myself with a wall of free German fetish porn, really means something. It starts with a dramatization of a mom and pop grocery store being robbed by an armed bandit, during which three people are shot and killed, including a little girl. The thief is soon apprehended because of the public outcry. But what of crimes with no public outcry? What of crimes that take human lives, but no one has to answer to? Apparently we are all murderers. That's right, murderers! For every-time we have driven on a substandard road surface, crowded highway or uneven grade and not immediately contacted our state representative and demanded a gas tax increase to support better road maintenance we are actively contributing to the untimely death of others. And then just to underline his point our narrator lets us know that he is not just a spokesman but a survivor, that his wife and daughter were killed on a bad road.. “I killed them,” He admits...”You helped.”
This inflammatory call to arms was designed by Caterpillar, none other than the company that makes large earth moving equipment commonly used to....(you guessed it).....construct new roads. I bet they made a killing off of this one....
Look, I have reviewed these before twice and it seems they are establishing a kind of theme here. The first one of the set is always grisly and lives up to everything you have ever heard about drivers ed videos shown to crying high school kids in the sixties. Yet all the other titles of the set (as usual) are meant for much younger audiences to learn about basic traffic safety. This stuff was always designed to be hard to watch, because of gore factor alone, not because it was supposed to be boring; geared for small children.
Yet while I accuse Something Weird of padding this series and giving us one good short subject per set, I have to admit that if you are a sarcastic bastard and you and your friends like to gather round the TV and make fun of it, rather than enjoy a DVD honestly, these moldy oldies provide much fodder for your knockery. Besides, there are four more of these and if they continue to send them, I will continue to review them. Am I looking forward to it?
Four words my friend...
“Gangway, Here I come”.
To witness the carnage for yourself, visit somethingweird.com!
To witness the carnage for yourself, visit somethingweird.com!