Truly Bad Films

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Signal 30

Inspired by Red, I looked through my diary for 1976, even though I knew ahead of time it wasn't comparable to hers. When I was 15 I wasn't as expressive, descriptive or - let's be honset - as interesting. Most of my infrequent entries can be summed up this way:

"Went to see All the President's Men with (the future Mrs. Keysunset). It was good."

When I'm not moaning over a childhood friend upon whom I had a monster crush, I'm giving three word reviews of the popular films of the day. "It was good!" And sometimes I blessed the page with further elaboration: "Really good!" There's a future writer struggling to get out of that prose, fer sure!

Well, inspite of all the mooning, cow-eyed boy-crazyness, and terse film reviews, there are some moments of note in my Diary of 1976, and one of them is my Driver's Education. I wrote that they made us watch a gore-washed docu-drama called Signal 30.

What I said was this:
Today in Driver's Ed. we watched a movie called Signal 30, and boy, was it bloody! It showed people in all kinds of accidents: Dead ones and half dead ones and it had a recording of a hurt person yelling. It was really gross! Yesterday we had a test in there in which I made a 91.
Way to go lil Chai! No way will you be part of the carnage when you make a 91 on your Driver's Ed test!

I've heard that in some Driver's Ed classes a policeman came to class especially to show the film. To ramp up the theatrics, the policeman handed out barf bags before starting the projector. Our Coach, excuse me, Driver's Ed. teacher (who was also the football coach) didn't bother with all that. He just showed the movie to his roomfull of captive teens . . . right after explaining what to do if you felt faint.

"Put your head down on your desk if you begin to feel dizzy or faint from watching this movie!" Coach Younts bellowed. Then he went on to tell us about his students of yore who had gone green and fallen right out into the aisle after seeing what we were about to see.

I can't say I remember too much about Signal 30 all these years later. I learned from surfing around the net that "signal 30" is police radio code for "an accident with injuries." That explains the otherwise baffling title.

I'm so glad I documented the title of the film we watched in my diary that day. It led me to discover this movie, released in 2002, that I have GOT to see:

Hell's Highway - The True Story of Highway Safety Films

It covers the history of the Highway Safety Foundation, which was the oddly well-intentioned producer of the bloodiest of this genre's pictures. In the years since I saw Signal 30, I've wondered how the filmmakers ever got permission from the families of the deceased and injured to use such graphic footage in their Edu-Sploitation films. Maybe, back in those days, it wasn't something people thought to sue about. Or maybe permission was granted in a burst of "If this prevents somebody else's teen from becoming hamburger . . ." generosity.

However they came to be, I am fascinated by the Cold War era Scare-em Straight films that were made to solve all of society's ills. There were "your pecker's gonna fall off if you rub it on a French girl" films, and "you'll go crazy like a Mexican if you smoke dope" films, and "you already need glasses from touching yourself" films, and "the Home for Unwed Mothers has no malted shakes and no Prom Night, Missy!" films. All of this anxiety and admonition was delivered in hectoring style with a light dusting of fallout and I love them all. My film collection fingers are itching . . .


At 9:01 PM, Anonymous keysunset said...

"All The President's Men" - yeah, it was good.

I'm not sure when, but we went to see "The Shining" together, remember, it was scary!


At 12:44 PM, Blogger GG said...

I'd be freakin' scared to pull out my old diaries.


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