Readers of a certain age will get a warm feeling of nostalgia – or perhaps the return of childhood traumas – at the mention of Public Information Films. Younger readers will probably be baffled by the very idea. But now everyone can return to a time when the government made short films that instructed the great unwashed in everything from social etiquette to surviving a nuclear war. Many of these were made by great documentary and drama filmmakers, and showed a surprising amount of imagination – especially those that sought to educate us to the dangers all around us – and these dangers were apparently everywhere – by putting the fear of God into us.
There are childhood favourites Charley the Cat attempting to warn his useless owner about matches, stranger danger and more, as well as apocalyptic affairs like the AIDS iceberg and Protect and Survive (the latter as useful as a chocolate teapot in any actual nuclear attack) and creepy efforts like Never Go With Strangers and Dark and Lonely Water.
Ranging from one minute long to a good half hour, these are fascinating, sometimes kitsch, sometimes still worryingly effective slices of social engineering.
Watch them here: http://player.bfi.org.uk/collections/public-information-films/