The 6 Most Unintentionally Hilarious Old School PSAs
If you want to know why your parents are the way they are, it's because they were likely raised on a series of deeply disturbing educational films.
Back before kids were raised by TV, these productions got shown in classrooms across the country, each one heavy on fear, but light on facts. As a public service, we've edited together highlights from some of the most hilariously bad lessons ever put on film. Take careful notes, or you might not learn that ...
Pornography Will Literally Destroy Civilization
As Learned From:
Perversion for Profit a 1965 film commissioned by The Citizens for Decent Literature, presumably as porn for people with a self-hatred fetish.
The film kicks off with host George Putnam introducing a series of firmly! exclamatory! facts! angrily shouted into the camera, then transitions right to twenty solid minutes of pornographic pictures.
"This'll teach 'em not to look at porn."
The "shocking" images are accompanied by helpful tips on where to find such filth, as ol' George breathlessly explains that, "They can be bought openly by anyone in drug stores, groceries, delicatessens, terminals, malt shops, cigar stores, news stands ... all over the country!"
Putnam points out that, "This same kind of rot ... and decay caused sixteen! of the nineteen! major civilizations to vanish from the earth!"
That's right, kids, the Roman Empire wasn't brought down by economic decline or Germanic expansion. The culprit was two-dimensional renderings of titties. And yet, Japan survives.
The film also implies that the sickos who buy Playboy will suddenly rape you and your children, and gives helpful advice on what to do if you come into contact with the stuff ...
Short of involving the police, George generously invites you to join his local chapter of The Citizens for Decent Literature. That may not sound like fun, but keep in mind that the man thinks anti-porn tirades should be accompanied by lots of pornography. Probably not ideal circumstances for boob-gazing, but before the internet, we'd imagine you took what you could get.
Homosexual Men are Bloodthirsty Predators
As Learned From:
"Boys Beware", a chronicle of the various ways gay men of 1961 stalked their young prey, courtesy of Sid Davis. The narrator warns that "the homosexual" can be anywhere, and he just isn't happy unless he's sodomizing a naive teenager.
This film helps those young, tender, blond boys recognize the dangers of the mentally ill homosexual, and points out some warning signs. Is the man being a little too friendly? Offering gifts? Playing basketball with you? Then he's almost definitely planning to dump your corpse on the pile of dead teenage rape victims in his back yard.
The film was commissioned by the Inglewood Police Department--which says a lot about Southern California cops of the early 60s--and shown to pubescent boys in classrooms across the country.
Strangely, in addition to all of the scenes of homosexuals snatching innocent young boys off the corner, our narrator implies that simply being the victim of "the homosexual" can get you in legal trouble yourself:
"Finally, Jimmy told his parents, and they reported it to the juvenile authorities. Ralph was arrested. And Jimmy was released on probation in the custody of his parents."
Sure, he got off with probation. But if Jimmy continues getting molested against his will, some hard jail time will apparently be the only recourse. What better way to break a young boy of his getting-mollested habit than sending him to prison?
Teens Only Learn Via Snide Criticism
As Learned From:
"Habit Patterns" (1954) and 'Body Care and Grooming" (1948), two delightful films that teach young ladies nothing brings out the best in a person faster than snarky criticism and sneering observations about their appearance.
Habit Patterns tells the story of "Barbara," who is helped along by the fairy Godmother-like narrator who admonishes her for sleeping in, eating quickly, drumming her fingers on a desk and, most unforgivable of all, being an awkward teenager at social functions.
In the most nagging tone imaginable, our narrator compares habitually late and disgusting Barbara to her OCD-riddled neighbor Helen. Of course, telling teenage girls to exaggerate their perfectly average flaws doesn't work in real life. But in a bizarre choice for an educational film, it doesn't even work in the story, which ends with Barbara dissolving into hysterics while the narrator sneers, "It's a little late for tears, isn't it Barbara?"
We're surprised it doesn't follow up with instructions on how to make a noose out of her belt.
Body Care and Grooming, meanwhile, is another film with helpful tips about appearance. Just witness the young man's reaction to the hideously disheveled coed who dares to stand next to him.
He marches off while the helpful narrator berates the woman for not making the man "behave like a human being."
Trust us, young lady. Nothing will make Joe College angrier than the sight of rumpled bobby socks. And you wouldn't like Joe College when he's angry.
Well, look on the bright side--at least you're not a pothead. Because as we'll soon find out, that can lead to only one thing ...
Marijuana Leads to Heroin Abuse, Pretty Much Immediately
As Learned From:
The old school anti-drug educational films didn't change much from the time they were introduced in the 50s, right through the Reagan 80s. You always had the message that marijuana would lead straight to heroin, and you always got the impression the film makers knew almost nothing about the actual effects:
For those of you keeping score at home, marijuana will make you think you're a hilarious Godzilla ...
...and forget the concept of a three-inch curb.
Adding to the horror is the film's devious dealer.
Far from content to let the drugs sell themselves, his hard-sell tactics include orchestrating a swinging party to entrap young football stars into his lair.
Take a close look at the face of the naive victim. Recognize him? It's John Locke's dad on Lost!
Holy shit, what an amazingly convenient screenshot from Lost.
"Narcotics: Pit of Despair" makes up for all this with probably the greatest narrator in the history of educational films. In a tone that is supposed to highlight the fallacy of counter-culture thinking, the narrator uses words common to hippie slang, but says it in a dry tone that makes it clear he disapproves. "It's just their supplier, Pete. And his number one chick. And a new guy looking for kicks. Forget it, man and get with the countdown. Shake this square world and blast off for kicksville."
When you watched this, you knew you were hearing the soothing tones of what had to be the whitest voice in history.
Evacuating After a Nuclear Attack Makes You a Pussy and a Traitor
As Learned From:
"Our Cities Must Fight" (1951) In this classic Cold War scare tactic film, two ponderous newsmen wax philosophical about how much people are needed in the aftermath of an atomic attack, even going as far as to suggest that self-preservation is for commie cowards. Why, someone has to pick up debris and feed the masses! And it sure as shit won't be the U.S. government, you unpatriotic assholes!
"Our Cities Must Fight" was made by Archer Studios was aimed at disillusioned city folk who were just coming off a World War and weren't all that excited about another one. So, Civil Defense commissioned this short film to inform the population that their fear of becoming a radioactive flesh-eating mutant meant the commies had already won.
As a mustachioed man puffs on his pipe and thinks deeply about what the punishment should be for civilians wishing to get their families to safety (an act he equates with treason) the editor of the paper reassures us that, "After an atomic air-burst the danger of radiation and falling debris is over in about a minute and a half."
So, strap on those boots, Americans! We've got fallout to clean! Don't bother with the gloves, either, because the radiation magically disappears after about 90 seconds!
Seriously, what piece of advice could possibly be worse than that?
"Duck and Cover" Will Save You From an Atomic Blast
As Learned From:
"Duck and Cover" (1952), probably the most famous of the Red Scare educational films. "Duck and Cover" taught young school children the basics of nuclear bomb survival. Particularly, "Duck! And cover!" That's about it.
Also they used a cartoon turtle to illustrate their point.
Of course that won't do shit for you besides assuring your charred corpse will be found curled into the fetal position, cowering under a desk. The film goes on to suggest that covering yourself with a thin blanket can ward off the dangers of falling debris, shock waves and deadly levels of radiation. Even wrapping your fool head with dry, flammable newspaper can help! Hey, why not?
Watching this film, you can almost see the conception of the 60s counter-culture.
"Fuck it," these kids probably thought, "if our government is going to lie to us on this grand of a scale, we might as well get really high."
The film was made by Archer Studios (The same studio behind "Our Cities Must Fight") and was commissioned by the Federal Civil Defense Administration. It came under fire at the time for both instilling a culture of fear and giving incredibly retarded advice.
To be fair, we're not sure what kind of instruction could have been given to children in the 1950s. Though some emergency marijuana and porn rations would have probably done more to help morale.
For bizarre PSAs not produced by the US Government check out The 10 Most Disturbing PSAs From Around the World. Or find out about some action stars whose careers had a less than happy ending in The 5 Most Ineffective Anti-Drug PSAs of All Time.