The Most Macabre Classroom Safety Film Ever

Friday A/V Club: The strange horror of The Finishing Line


I've seen some morbid safety movies in my time, but none is as gruesome as The Finishing Line, a 1977 picture produced by British Transport Films. To demonstrate that it is unsafe to play at the railroad tracks, director John Krish presents a series of formally organized games held at a railroad track, complete with announcers and a band. In other words, it's basically 20 minutes of kids getting killed and mutilated:

As bloody as the film is, the most striking thing about it isn't the violence. It's the rote, matter-of-fact way the adults organize the violence and then calmly tally its results. Most safety films have a paternalist flavor, but this one feels like an absurdist satire of every destructive social institution that the old inflict on the young. It's especially easy to read it as a Metaphor For War, which makes this a particularly good week to watch it.

In addition to being shown in schools, this was broadcast on television, a decision that provoked furious protests. British Transport then withdrew it from circulation; it would be two decades before it had another officially sanctioned screening.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here. If you're especially interested in installments featuring classroom safety films, go here and here.)