Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sid Davis Productions- Exploitative Educational Scare Films

       Sid Davis Productions created perhaps the greatest collection of short films aimed at the educational market which dealt almost exclusively in taboo or social engineering topics. In face some of his methods for dealing with his topics are, by today’s standards, so heavy handed that there is a case for labeling them as exploitation films- since a person can watch them (as I’m sure most people who view them nowadays do) with a sadistic glee as what will befall the protagonist, or to just laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
      Sid Davis productions got its foundation due to the infamous case of Linda Joyce Glucoft, a 6 year old girl who was raped and murdered in 1949. Davis often stated that the case bothered him so much because his own daughter was 6 at the time. What further concerned him was that, despite his warnings, the girl still did not seem to pay attention watching out for perverts. Davis often worked as a stand-in for John Wayne and was discussing his worries to him when Wayne suggested that Davis make a film about it and offered him $1,000 startup fund (roughly 10,000 in today’s economy).
      With this he produced The Dangerous Stranger- which coined the term “stranger danger” still in use today. It was a tremendous hit in police and educational circles and earned him enough to start his company, which eventually sported a catalogue of between 150-200 titles. The Dangerous Stranger was remade twice, once in 1963 and again in 1972.
     And while nominally many of the subjects of these film are important social matters and he took them seriously, his approach has always been criticized for being over the top, and employing scare tactics and misinformation to attempt to drive his point home emotionally. As can be seen in the a clip from Live and Learn, a short on home safety, where a little girl is making paper dolls with scissors when her father comes home, she leaps up to greet him, trips on the carpet and impales herself on the scissors.
      Now to be fair, Sid Davis was one of the foremost active vocalists against child abuse of his time, something that no one wanted to discuss then, and campaigned for tougher laws for child predators. I have already covered Sid Davis most notorious film "Boys Beware" (which confuses the idea of pederasty and homosexuality), so below I offer several more selections of the more outrageous Sid Davis “social guidance” films. Enjoy.

The Dangerous Stranger (1949)- Teaching kids to be fearful of the world

 Girls Beware (1951)- Teaching girls not to get into compromising situations. Nowadays feminists call this victim blaming.

The Bottle and the Throttle (1961). Film on drinking and driving. Fun fact one beer can cause you to drive out of control.

Marijuana and Heroin- The Terrible Truth (1961). The "gateway drug" myth is older than you think. Slurping on a J, will cause you to shoot up.

Live and Learn (1951). The first in a long line of trying to scare kids into being safe... without much success.

Gossip (1953). Look at the damage you girls can do with your incessant chattering!