If there's one thing that the whole world can agree on, it's that teaching children is the highest calling. But what's the best way to teach them? Through rote memorization? Through repeated quizzing? Through interactive puzzles and games? Or is it somehow simpler than that? Could it be as easy as, say, filming the most disturbing goddamn movies possible and showing them to the kids while simultaneously threatening to murder them and everybody they love if they ever step out of line again?
Well, according to these educational children's videos, that answer is a firm and resounding "Yes. Now shut up, Billy, or so help me God I will pull your tongue straight out of your head!"
#5. One Got Fat
What do you get when you throw a handful of serial killers into an empty room with nothing but a notepad, a bicycle and a pound and a half of mescaline? You get the script for One Got Fat, an educational film from the early '60s counterintuitively not about child obesity, but about bicycle safety.
The video introduces 10 adorable children who are planning an innocent bike ride to the park for a nice, pleasant picnic. Little do they know that death is waiting for them at every corner ...
And little do you know that that's a good thing, because they're actually all terrifying monkey monsters with black holes for eyes:
Wait, this isn't how children always look?
In downright biblical fashion, each of the monkey-children is stricken dead by fate (fate drives a garbage truck on the weekends to make ends meet).
Saturday night he hooks up with Destiny at the Lucky Pussycat Club.
So what were the children's sins, aside from being born monstrous abominations that should not live? Well, they're all guilty of such egregious crimes against God as forgetting to signal once, riding on the sidewalk and giving their friends a lift when they need it ...
Fedoras: Not. Even. Once.
As each of the Lil' Leatherfaces is whisked away by the cold hands of death, the unwaveringly jovial voice of the narrator makes sure that any children watching understand two things:
First: There are some basic rules of the road for cyclists that everybody should follow.
Second: You are naught but animals to adults, and they will not care if you die in terror and pain.
Like this guy, whom the narrator explicitly tells you is "a really nice boy," approximately two seconds before the movie flashes us his gruesome pre-death face and he gets mowed down by an automobile like an unlucky squirrel.
Show, not tell, Mr Narrator.
One by one, the monkey-kids are systematically destroyed for their mistakes until there is only a single survivor. This Bicycle Highlander's name is Orville, and it's revealed that not only is he the sole survivor of this harmless bike trip, but he's also the only human being. But instead of mourning his simian friends, he calmly sits down at the park all alone, to eat all of their lunches.
Understand the title now? No?
Here, we'll explain: The "one" refers to Orville, the winner of this interspecies death race, and he "got fat" by seizing the lunches of his fallen friends like trophies and callously devouring them. Or, to put it another way: "To the victor go the spoils."
See that? That's the thousand-yard stare of a boy who looked into the face of death and then ate its friggin' Lunchables.
Apaches is a surprisingly well-made children's educational video about farm safety. We say "surprisingly well-made," because Apaches actually bothers with real characters with personalities and names, instead of just casting "Generic Child 1" and "The Icy Claws of Death" and calling it a day, like most other British PSAs of the '70s. The film starts off with a roll call, relaying the biographies of all the characters to the viewers, except for the last two boys, Tom and Robert, whose entire back story is "Tom, Robert."
That's called foreshadowing, kids.
We're calling it right now: You're going to die in shit, Robert.
The makers of Apaches wanted to warn children of the dangers of farm life, and they did so in direct response to an unusual spike in farm-related child deaths back in 1976. The directors even claimed that the movie's death scenes were based on real fatal children's accidents ... which puts Apaches firmly out of the harmless PSA category and right into snuff film territory. Here, see what we mean:
That toy gun was only two days away from retirement.
That's death number one, and while it seems needlessly violent, it has a grim kind of logic. Little girl plays on a truck, little girls shouldn't play on trucks, ergo little girl gets brutally crushed to death by a truck. We're pretty sure that's the "circle of life" thing that Elton John guy keeps singing about.
But that's the last time Apaches follows any kind of reasonable path, because death number two is a peppy young boy drowning in a giant hole full of feces (what's the lesson there, "Watch out for the shit pit?").
Boom. Called it.
The third death is a spunky little girl who just up and drinks poison for fun (that is seriously her chief motivation). Now, it's one thing to sort of hint at the threat of injury lingering around everyday farm life, but this girl accidentally drank a tiny sip of a mystery liquid, and then we cut to 30 seconds of her horrifically screaming for help as she dies in the most intense pain imaginable, every second being relayed to the audience who, remember, are like 7 years old.
Here's another child, this one crushed to death by a falling gate, which we're not even sure he could have prevented. The gate was stacked there against the wall, presumably by adults who knew better, and it was even the other boy who knocked it over. We're not sure what the preventative message here is, aside from "Holy God, never step foot on an English farmstead."
Also, never become an English director, because it's either dead children or heroin overdoses.
Finally, we find out that even our lead character, the narrator, isn't immune to the Brits' strict death penalty imposed for all Chicanery-Related Offenses:
The tractor got a medal for "Chav Prevention."
He played on a tractor -- a tractor that the adults in the film specifically told him it was OK to play on -- and then he died screaming. There's your lesson, kids: The adults not only don't care if you die, they're actively trying to kill you. Which is especially disturbing when you remember what the makers of Apaches said up top: "based on actual children's deaths."
So apparently there was a period in 1976 where child murder via drunken negligence was just the en vogue thing to do in rural England.
"Remember Clive? He passed the salt like a motherfucker."
But wait, what happened to Tom? We all know Robert died how he lived -- in a giant pool of liquid crap -- but the movie seems to have plain forgotten about Tom. Jesus, if he escaped from this mess alive, we're going to make another official call: He's unbreakable.
Somebody call Sam Jackson and tell him to put his mentor-fro back on.
#3. Strong Kids Safe Kids
This 1984 child molestation prevention video starts out with a pretty strong premise: Get the Fonz to talk to kids about inappropriate boning. It seems like a match made in heaven. The Fonz is the absolute king of two things: being a 10-year-old's conception of a "cool guy," and boning things (inappropriately). But even with a solid setup like that, the movie almost immediately goes off the rails when the Fonz starts threatening to cripple children right in the intro:
"Sit there and enjoy, or I'm going to run over your knees with my bike." -- ACTUAL QUOTE.
That's going to be a recurring problem, going forward: Safe Kids has no idea what tone it should take. It's trying to tackle serious subject matter, but kids like silly things, right? So the needle swings wildly between "You're going to get raped" and "Let's sing fun songs!" Perhaps nothing is a better indicator of this issue than the host, a full-grown man who dresses in OshKosh B'Gosh and hangs around playgrounds singing songs about children's genitals while playing a ukulele.
And that is what we in the business call a "Get in the Van Face."
Somewhere around the time he sings "Vulva, is what girls have down below/Vulva, when she's naked it will show!" you have to wonder if you're even seeing the original film as it was shot, or if the guy who lives in your neighbor's basement recorded over portions of the tape.
Later, the movie has to broach the tricky subject of things adults might say to keep a child from telling on them. The best way to do this, of course, is to have a pair of puppets threaten to kill each other in increasingly violent ways with their silly little puppet voices.
"I can kill you, you know ..."
It's fine to want to tell children the blunt truth about some awful crap, Safe Kids, but you can't have it both ways: You don't hire a Nazi clown to teach your kids about the Holocaust, and you don't teach a kid about the dangers of child molestation by threatening to rape them with a crocodile puppet.