Friday January 5, 2018
The mode of delivery, the cars, the street scenes, the clothes and the cinematography may all inevitably seem dated - but the message of so many of these newsreels remains very relevant:
1936 – New Safety Device
For some strange reason, this roof-mounted “Do Not Overtake” sign never caught on…
1945 – Post-War Road Safety
This drama is more gripping than almost any edition of Casualty or EastEnders.
1954 - Children's Road Safety
The growth of private car ownership during the 1950s resulted in an increase in the accident rate and in this Eamonn Andrews narrated short, we see cyclists being tested ion a model roadway in Ruislip - complete with some wonderful pre-1964 road signs.
1956 - Driving Instructors
We open with an unfortunate Austin A50 Cambridge being piloted in the manner of someone auditioning for a role in Hell Drivers before learning how to become a driving instructor. And that 1955 Morris Minor at the conclusion is equally splendid.
1959 – On Your Way
Or a display by the London Metropolitan Police at a school on how to use the roads correctly featuring an Austin A95 Westminster and – of course – a Wolseley 6/80 squad car.
1961 - Don't Drive If You Drink
A statement that is a true today as it was 57 years ago.
1961 – Road to Safety
Any newsreel feature that opens with a Slough-built DS has to be a classic of the genre and this short that was shot at the Road Research Laboratory in Berkshire also stars a pair of ultra-rare Vauxhall Victor F-Type Estates and a Standard Vanguard Phase 1A station wagon. As for the ending, with the Citroen being driven in Carry On film style, all that we can say is ‘Do not try this at home’.
1962 - Safer in Car Belts
Yes, the opening shot of a seemingly crazed Humber Hawk driver steaming past Triumph Heralds and Ford Popular 103Es is a masterpiece of undercranked footage and the “crash” scene appears to have been allotted a vast 3/6d budget. But this newsreel did convey the seat belt message some 21 years before their wearing became mandatory in the UK.
1962 – Car Belts Save Lives
Enthusiasts of the Standard Vanguard Phase One, the Austin A40 Somerset and various Vauxhalls may wish to look away at this point, but this footage of the French stunt ace Gil Delamare (seen here sporting a proto-Arthur Daley hat) at Harringay is priceless. Among the spectator is Donald Campbell and M. Delamere’s warm-up includes some ‘interesting’ driving of a Wolseley 1500.
1970 - Crash Barriers
It comes as a genuine shock to realise that at the beginning of the 1970s, thousands of miles of motorway were still devoid of crash barriers; even the M1 had only 20 miles worth. Another notable aspect of this Movietone newsreel is just how vulnerable the workmen are, with BMC Landcrabs and Ford Cortina Mk. IIs speeding past the crews with only inches to spare.