7 Awesome Moments in the Greatest Police Training Video Ever
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Surviving Edged Weapons is a police training video that was originally shot in Wisconsin in 1988 with the goal of preparing officers of the law for encounters with knives, machetes, meat cleavers, and other bladed weapons. As you might expect, there are plenty of scenes with cops talking about injuries they sustained and more than enough graphic crime scene photos to ruin dinner for everybody, but director Dennis Anderson wasn't content to just present the facts. Instead, he decided to make an 85-minute spectacular featuring re-enactments performed by heavily accented Canadians, Satanic sacrifice, and an emphasis on how the police can deal with broadswords and razor-bladed trucker caps.
Surviving Edged Weapons, succinctly summed up in a single nutsack-gouging image.
It is my favorite movie. Here's why.
It Opens With Caveman Murders
Unlike lesser films that just advise you on how to not get stabbed (which, to be fair, is still a pretty useful skill), Surviving Edged Weapons attempts to explain the entirety of "knife culture." For the most part, that takes the form of alerting policemen that people from other countries (mostly Canada, from the sound of things) sure do like to stab people a whole hell of a lot, but occasionally they try to get a little deeper into the psychology, starting with a three-minute caveman murder mystery. Two things make this amazing:
Well, three things, if you count Oog's magnificent mane.
First, this is a police training video, so the fact that it takes the time to show how to deal with knife-wielding cavemen means that someone thought this was an important thing to show rookies. Clearly, SEW is secretly training cops for time travel, something that I am glad my tax dollars are supporting.
Second, this is how the movie opens, by going all the way back to "the dawn of man." The next thing that happens is that a guy gets run through by a sweaty meth addict with a longsword. And it only gets crazier from here.
The sweaty, mustachioed face of knife culture.
Assassin's Creed: 1988
A lot of time is spent getting officers familiar with objects that may not look like knives, but are in fact knives: the butterfly, a tube of lipstick with a hidden blade that's "popular with prostitutes" (a line that's just begging to be sampled on the next Ghostface Killah track), a pocketknife that looks like a key, driver's licenses with razorblades taped to the back, the ballistic knife that can launch a blade from its handle (which I honestly thought had been made up in '80s Punisher comics), and of course, "the Mexican sacatripe, used for gutting sheep ... and other warm-blooded mammals." It goes on like this for about 10 minutes, with the message being that anything can be a knife, so watch out for ... things. Good advice we can all use.
Not shown: knife-corgis and bacon-bayonets.
But how to make sure this lesson sticks? For Surviving Edged Weapons, the solution was to film a couple of vignettes that illustrate the problems that can arise if you're not aware of what's going on. The first, in which a policeman called to a noise complaint gets a meat cleaver to the head, has a nice horror movie touch, but my favorite is the second, where a man in a powder-blue suit is stopped going into a courthouse, whips out a knife disguised as a ballpoint pen, and starts slashing throats. I think what I like most is that the security guard seems completely disinterested in actually checking the pen for a blade, which means that this dude just decided that going on a stabbing spree was a better option than taking a second walk through a metal detector.
"Calm the fuck down; TSA hasn't even been invented yet."
As an added bonus, the breathless narrator informs us that "sometimes, it's the unlikely individual that has the best chance of harming you," which basically translates to "white people."
Stay vigilant. Literally everything you love is out to shank you.
Many Civilians Live on the Fringe of the Knife Culture
Cracked Quiz: Find all five date rapey things in this image.
Like most people, I spend a lot of time thinking about my own imminent death, and thanks to Surviving Edged Weapons, I have finally decided what's going on my tombstone:
"Many civilians do live on the fringe of the knife culture. They're influenced by movies that glorify the blade, heroes who build confidence in fighting back against the bad guy" -Surviving Edged Weapons
You certainly wouldn't know anything about gratuitous violence or knife glorification, would you, Surviving Edged Weapons?
I love every single thing about that quote, not the least of which being the conscious effort made to not describe it as being on the "edge" of the knife culture. It's almost, almost better than hearing a sleepy Canadian say "fuhck yoo." Getting that dulcet swearing anywhere outside a hockey arena is like seeing a unicorn.
A Canadian pictured in his traditional puffy blouse and pleated khakis battle armor.
Knife Expert Leo Gaje Jr.
Leo Gaje Jr., the most dangerous H&R Block tax specialist on the planet.
Speaking of glorifying the blade, this is knife expert and Grand Tuhon of the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali fighting style Leo Gaje Jr. He's the movie's go-to man for showing what someone skilled with a blade can do, which mostly seems to boil down to stabbing someone in the crotch. He is the most awesome guy ever, and this is how he fights with a knife:
Excited knife fighting has nothing to do with blade size, speed, or even strength; it's all in the hips, baby. All hips. All day.
Recognizing Intent Through Body Language
With the movie's assertion that most victims of edged weapons are caught by surprise, it goes without saying that there's an emphasis on trying to read clues to what a suspect is going to do through body language. This is the picture they use to illustrate this lesson: a man charging down an alley with a machete while screaming.
Let's play this out and see where it goes ...
If you look closely, you'll see that his body language betrays him: Eagle-eyed knife-fight enthusiasts will note his subtle shrieking, and the well-trained police officer would be able to detect just a hint of manic charging, or the sneaky way the assailant swings his machete in the air. Had you not gone through special training, you never would have been able to catch these classic tells.
Full-On Human Sacrifice
"Hmm, satanic altar. Yeah, whatever. Wait, she's using that knife improperly! Shoot her! Shoot her!"
After you get about an hour into Surviving Edged Weapons, you may think that there are no surprises left. That's when it drops a re-enactment on you that opens with an apartment manager claiming that "there's a woman getting raped in Apartment 24 -- I don't want to get involved," which defies all expectations with the reveal that the woman is actually worshiping the devil and planning on sacrificing the police to the Author of All Lies. It's pretty easy to see why that dude didn't want to get involved, but really: Once someone has painted "HAIL SATAN" on their walls in the blood of the innocent, you're going to have a tough time getting your next tenant to drop a security deposit.
NATAS? Ugh, damn Satanists and their arcane codes.
Once again, I have to assume that this wouldn't be in here if Satanic sacrifice was not a genuine and pervasive threat to the Wisconsin police department. That might seem unlikely, but you have to remember that this is 1988, a year that saw the release of a Slayer album and an Iron Maiden album. It was a pretty good time to be really into the devil.
It Ends With This Dude
This is James Phillips, a former SWAT team commander who may actually be a Highlander, ending the video with one of the most inspirational quotes of all time:
The Casio keyboard soundtrack just makes it better.