In 1973, J.G. Ballard wrote what is probably his most famous novel, Crash, which brought together the dystopian, apocalyptic style of his earlier science fiction novels and distilled it into the personal – exploring the dark world of ultra-fetishism, in this case sexual arousal from car crashes. In 1971, Ballard explored the world of the car in a BBC documentary, mixing dramatised and eerily erotic sequences with actress Gabrielle Drake, test footage of car crashes and Ballard’s own views about how the car has taken such a central place in our lives.
Directed by Harley Cokeliss, who would go on to bigger if not better things like Battletruck, this 17-minute piece – originally titled Crash!, oddly retitled when BBC Four re-broadcast it – is clearly part of a larger whole – no doubt one of the arts shows that the BBC used to produce all the time and now never do. Based on writing in Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition, it’s a great and moody dramatic work in itself, and a fascinating look at Ballard exploring ideas that would later come together in his masterpiece novel Crash.