Last Clear Chance (1959)

 |  Documentary, Short
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On the day young Alan receives his driver's license, Officer Hal Jackson visits the Dixon farm to sternly lecture the family on the dangers of carelessness at railroad crossings.



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Cast overview:
William Boyett ...
Patrolman Hal Jackson (as Bill Boyett)
Harold Agee ...
Frank Dixon Sr.
Mrs. Harold Agee ...
Mrs. Dixon
Tim Bosworth ...
Alan Dixon
Bill Agee ...
Frank Dixon Jr.
Christine Lynch ...
Betty Hutchins
Lou Spraker ...


On the day young Alan receives his driver's license, Officer Hal Jackson visits the Dixon farm to sternly lecture the family on the dangers of carelessness at railroad crossings.

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Documentary | Short





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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


During when the officer says "Don't let a double track double-cross you" the clouds in the sky change (shape and position) more than twice. See more »


Engineer: Why don't they look, Ralph. Tell me, why don't they look?
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Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Skydivers (1994) See more »


Big City Suite
Music by Philip Green
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User Reviews

Never look backward while driving forward.
24 March 2002 | by (Maine) – See all my reviews

`Last Clear Chance' is one of those short films you would forced to watch during Driver's Ed. More likely than not you wouldn't be paying it serious attention as you would be far more interested in watching the cute brunette in the next row playing with her hair. Therefore you would be oblivious to the moralistic message of this maze of mangled men and machines that inattention to the road, especially railroad crossings, is likely to get your insurance carrier to drop you the way you would drop a five pound cylinder of plutonium90.

After the credits roll off the tracks at a railroad crossing, the movie opens with a shot of vintage cars, made with more steel than the Golden Gate Bridge, slowly driving into a cemetery. One of these lovely greenhouse gas guzzlers belongs to a State Trooper known as Officer Hal (no relation to Officer Cal of the Happy Hollister book series set in the same time). Hal begins a dismal, self-pitying monologue of narration that sets the tone for this brief cinematic sermon.

It's appropriate the film opens in a cemetery because this is the only place where the viewer will see any kind of plot. And of course, the plot this short film centers on is that of young Frank Dixon.

Frank is a spontaneous, devil-may-care driver; a reckless member of an idle farm family enjoying a tornado-free day outside under the trees where Officer Hal shows up sporting a manila folder containing, among other things, a report detailing the grisly demise of a local youth who committed involuntary suicide by passing over a double line and getting diced in the grill of an oncoming car. Hal (who might look familiar to viewers of the vintage cop show, Adam-12) then delivers a prolonged sermon of safety to the Dixons, especially to young Alan Dixon, Frank's kid brother who just got his driver's license in the morning mail and is already in dire need of a blood transfusion judging by the whiteness of his skin. Young Alan is eager to make tracks from the family farm to explore the next town over which is 500 miles away. But first he must endure Hal's interminable lecture.

Illustrating the well-meaning counseling are examples of the sort of carelessness that leads to accidents, endless insurance wrangling, and funerals where they serve those little sandwiches without any crust. A roulette wheel doubles as a hubcap, demonstrating how you're gambling with your life and the lives of others when you bend the rules of the road. Were this film to be made today, a similar, useful visualization would show a mangled lottery ticket being ejected from the terminal in much the same way a driver would be ejected from his wreck. Either way, you're going to lose big time.

Passing over a double line is a sure method for your steering column and your spinal column to swap places. Falling asleep at the wheel is also a novel, if ineffective, way to audition for roles in Topper.

Powerful locomotives are the real stars of this film short, however, since Union Pacific put up the cash for the 16mm film to be processed at Walgreen's. Indeed, Officer Cal makes it clear that sooner or later we're all going to get killed at railroad crossings unless we slow down and pay attention. Large locomotives and little bitty cars just don't mix well, as young Frank Dixon discovers to his cost.

Trains and tractor-folk have formed an understanding where the automobile is not welcome, and any spawn of Detroit crossing over the tracks has a perfect right to be shredded to scrap by the blameless freight train highballing it to the city at warp nine.

Despite Hal's intentions, Frank ends up getting killed in such a scenario, as his attempt to escort his newly-licensed kid brother Alan to the county line (in a blatantly obvious attempt to escape Hal's boring speech) ends in disaster. Frank's peculiar style of looking backward while driving forward leads to his colliding with an oncoming Diesel of Death at the crossing.

The viewers don't see the actual collision, owing to the fact the director couldn't afford to have his mother's car totaled in the crash scene, so a sudden fade to black with a foley track of a passing train's warning whistle will have to do.

Following the wreck the director gets a bit artistic, as the two engineers responsible for smearing Frank Dixon across three counties, a wheat field, and the top of a grain silo, survey the wreckage and ask, `Why don't they look?' Obviously these two represent the Angels of Light and Reason, although their striped bib overalls cleverly conceal their wings.

Officer Hal's depressing commentary opened the film, and it closes it with an ominous tone as he goes postal and vows increased vigilance, coupled with ruthless resolve to crack down on all violators of traffic laws who come under his eagle eyes. Clearly he's the inspiration for Arthur C. Clarke's famous HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL also finds a way to do away with someone named Frank, and the little round sensor that is HAL's interface with the outside world is exactly like the light atop Officer Hal's squad car. And HAL wants desperately to bring order to his happy little universe.

And everyone thinks Kubrick was so visionary... ;-)

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