For many genre fans, a love affair with horror and the grotesque began early on, sometimes fueled by unlikely sources. One of these was the classroom safety film, which for many kids was their first time seeing other children threatened by true danger, being confronted with a combination of gore effects and actual accident footage, and being offered a pictorial glimpse at things their parents didn’t want to talk about. Thousands of these films were made in North America from the 1940s through the 1980s, when companies like Centron, McGraw-Hill, Coronet, Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, Avis Films, Crawley Films, Bell Labs, the NFB and others thrived on the burgeoning market for classroom or workplace educational films.
Subjects ranged from safety in and around vehicles, to drug abuse and venereal disease, teaching children scary lessons about everything from dental hygiene to how to spot a pedophile. The most memorable of these films deliberately used horror visuals to entice and/or shock children into paying attention – such as those by prolific producer Sid Davis (1916-2006) – and some were even made by directors with genre film pedigrees, such as Carnival of Souls’ Herk Harvey, a key figure in the industrial film scene.
This lecture and screening by Kier-La Janisse, founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, will present some of the most notorious educational films of the 40-year golden age of social hygiene onscreen. We’ll also briefly look at educational television PSAs, from the British Public Information Films through the incredibly grisly Australian drunk driving commercials of the 1990s.
The classic era of classroom films may be over, but viewed from today’s perspective, some of these films offer up a fascinating survey of changing social mores and cultural preoccupations (not to mention fashions!). Being safe has never looked so grim.
WARNING: This program contains graphic imagery, including real accident and casualty footage.
About the instructor:
Kier-La Janisse is a film writer and programmer, the founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies and Owner/Editor-in-Chief of Spectacular Optical. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas, co-founded Montreal microcinema Blue Sunshine, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival in Vancouver (1999-2005) and was the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (2005). She has written for Filmmaker, Shindig!, Incite: Journal of Experimental Media, Rue Morgue and Fangoria magazines, has contributed to The Scarecrow Movie Guide (Sasquatch Books, 2004) and Destroy All Movies!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (Fantagraphics, 2011), and is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012). She co-edited Spectacular Optical Book One: KID POWER! with Paul Corupe, and is currently writing A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time, about children’s programming in the counterculture era.
The next course dates are 12 February, 12 March, 9 April, 14 May, 11 June. For the full details of the courses please check the Miskatonic website. For all enquiries, please email Miskatonic.firstname.lastname@example.org.