This film covers the early history of post World War II educational films, especially those involving traffic safety by the Highway Safety Foundation under direction of Richard Wayman. In the name of promoting safe driving in teenagers, these films became notorious for their gory depiction of accidents to shock their audiences to make their point. The film also covers the role of safety films of this era, their effect on North American teenage culture, the struggle between idealism and lurid exploitation and how they reflected the larger society concerns of the time that adults projected onto their youth. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
Overlong look at the legendary Driver's Ed crash films
This is a 90 minute documentary about the Highway Safety Institutes Driver's Ed shock films. Its a graphic trip down memory lane to a time and place that many of us never experienced and only heard about.
Hell's Highway is the story of the company that produced educational films for schools and institutions from the late 1950's until the 1980's. The Highway Safety Institute was borne of the idea that if people saw the horrors of traffic accidents they would drive more carefully. The film makers went out and filmed the aftermath of terrible accidents where the broke bodies were removed from the wreck cars for years. The film they shot ended up in dozens of films that grossed out generations of school kids.
This documentary is an interesting look at the people who went out and filmed the carnage. We get interviews with the film makers, police, and people who saw the films in addition to clips from the films themselves. Its a visceral experience that leaves you feeling a bit uneasy. Several clips are more shocking in the documentary than they probably are in the source films because you get the stories behind the footage which makes them more heartbreaking and gruesome.
The film however suffers from over length. Running some 90 minutes the film begins to feel pointless about half way in, as the film makers seem intent of telling you everything about the company that made these films (including rumors of porn films). Its not bad, its simply that after a while the interest begins to wane as the film goes into all of the other films that the company made. While not fatal I did find that I was stopping the film to do other things simply because I was losing interest.
If you are interested in seeing a rapidly disappearing slice of Americana I recommend you take the time and see this film. Its an informative (if gory) look into the past. Also if you saw any of these films as a teenager this is the perfect way of re-seeing the movies that probably haunted your nightmares for weeks afterward.
(And if you're really interested get your hands on the DVD which comes with a second disc with four or five complete films and clips from probably two dozen more)
8 of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?