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The Finishing Line (1977)

| Short | 1977 (UK)
This British government public-information film is aimed at children and shows them the dangers of playing on railroad tracks.

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Credited cast:
Anthony Carrick ...
(as Antony Carrick)
Kevin Flood
Don Henderson
Peter Hill
David Howe
David Millett
Yolande Palfrey
Jeremy Wilkin
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This British government public-information film is aimed at children and shows them the dangers of playing on railroad tracks.

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Short

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1977 (UK)  »

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At initial screenings in schools the film had a huge impact, with some children fainting and others stunned into silence. When it was shown on television, however, there was an outcry which led to the film being banned for more than 20 years. See more »

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Peckinpah meets Python meets Public Information Film
20 September 2009 | by (Belgium) – See all my reviews

This extraordinary short film was produced by BTF to warn children about the dangers of trespassing onto railway lines. The action consists of a serious of bizarre schools sports day events, set on and around a mainline railway track. The events were:

  • Breaking the railway fence




  • Last across the rail tracks in front of a train




  • Throwing stones at a passing train




  • The great tunnel walk.




Needless to say, these rather cavalier and ill-advised activities result in numerous deaths and injuries, all highlighted with lashings of bright red blood (it's hard to say whether this was deliberate or a result of the film stock used).

The message is clear, but what marks this film out as a work of near genius is the presentation of that message. The events themselves are portrayed as taking place in the daydream of a young boy, who plainly, as he is shown sitting astride the parapet of a railway bridge just a couple of metres from a high tension cable, is less than sensible when it comes to recognising danger.

What gives the film it's strange atmosphere is the way in which the adult organisers of the sports carry on with the events, regardless of the casualties which have already occurred. In fact the whole matter-of-fact callousness of the 'grownups' is a neat and effective way of underscoring the general message that the railway is an adult world and if you invade it, the usual rules of caring, sympathetic and responsible behaviour of adults towards children no longer apply.

The direction is very well executed, with a light touch and plenty of natural performances from the children involved, in fact the frenzy with which the teams of children attacked the wire fence in the first event looked quite dangerous in itself. Apparently about 300 children were involved during the 5 days of shooting.

Whether or not the black humour of the script went over the heads of the children is hard to say, particularly the surreal team scoring of passenger injuries after the 'Throwing stones at a passing train' event. I find it hard to wind my mindset back to how I would have viewed it as a child, but I think it is telling that at the time it was generally shown to an age group above that of the original target audience.


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