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Better Safe than Sorry

By NZ On Screen Team
10th December 2012

 Better Safe than Sorry

Better Safe than Sorry

 NZ On Screen Team

By NZ On Screen Team

 

Vintage Kiwi PSAs

Long before Ghost Chips, even before "don't use your back like a crane", life in Godzone was fraught with hazards. This collection shows public safety awareness films spanning from the 50s to the 70s. If there's kitsch enjoyment to be had in the looking back (chimps on bikes?!) the lessons remain timeless. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry.

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Accident-free Aotearoa

 Such a Stupid Way to Die

After a science lesson (via a bearded Ray Henwood) things get interesting as a trip into the bush turns into a Stubbies-clad 70s Kiwi version of the Blair Witch Project. The message is serious, but the doom-laden tone induced titters in classrooms and scout halls throughout NZ for generations.

 Monkey Tale

In this film Charlie the chimp channels Charlie Chaplin to impart safe cycling lessons to kids. This contribution to the tradition of the chimpanzee zoo tea party and PG tips ads – by pioneering woman filmmaker Kathleen O'Brien – is from another world to the brutality of modern road safety promos.

 How to Drown

In colonial times drowning was so rife it was known as 'the New Zealand death'. This jaunty 1951 educational film is an effort to rid our lakes, rivers and seas of the unfortunate tag through cunning reverse psychology, as swimmers, fishermen and skylarking lads learn "how to drown".

 The Elysian Bus

It's a Wonderful Life meets driver education in this film that aims to scare those who would be careless in bad weather conditions. The foggy Ghost Chips precursor sets up a mystery plot as five unfortunates find themselves at a purgatorial bus stop ... where a saucy angel is handing out harps.

 A List of Names

This hard-hitting film also uses spectral tactics and grim actual crash footage to show that the loss of the 300 New Zealanders who might die on the roads in the next year will be more than statistical. Spookily on “the list of names” under the reaper’s skeletal finger is one ‘Peter Jackson’.

 A Great Day to Go

Directed by Hugh Macdonald (This is New Zealand) for the NZ Water Safety Council this film uses shock to prompt water safety consideration. The sun’s shining and a fisherman, surfer and boatie all reckon it's “a great day for it”. But carelessness has tragic results. Grant Tilly plays a radio DJ.

 Pedestrians or Jaywalkers?

This 1952 public safety film asks the big question. Eschewing the hard-hitting impact of later LTSA ads, the instructional film uses comedy to show the dangers of: stepping off the footpath carelessly, of crossing the road at oblique angles, 'dithering', and over-confidence.

 Keep Them Waiting

Shot in black and white (by Terry King and future Harry Potter cinematographer Michael Seresin), this early Tony Williams directorial effort answers its road safety instructional mandate with style. Slick editing, a ticking clock and a hip jazz soundtrack score a literal 'lives collide' plot.

 Too Late to be Sorry

Made for the the Forest Service, this film dramatises what can happen when things go wrong handling guns, before a hunter imparts essential firearms safety rules. The rendering of the lesson might be hokey to modern eyes but the message is deadly serious, as ongoing hunting tragedy headlines attest.

 White for Safety

This isn’t an apartheid guide, but a 1952 road safety film. 'Mrs White' and 'Mrs Black' leave their respective homes for a bridge evening. Mrs White wears visible clothing and faces the traffic. Mrs Black dresses eponymously and walks with her back to the traffic. Predictable results ensue.

 Pictorial Parade No. 78

The salient public safety segment in this edition of the NFU’s long-running magazine series looks at 'prudence at home', and identifies the ways that stoves, jugs and fires can be dangerous to children. "Every year these three things bring pain and injury to hundreds of New Zealand children."

Safety first

Safety first

Unauthorised historian Paul Casserly reviews what made instructional films click in the age before OSH and ACC. Read more >

Made by the National Film Unit

Made by the National Film Unit

Most of these films were NFU productions. Archivist Clive Sowry looks at their screen history and context. Read more >

Careful with that axe

Careful with that axe

Jason Stutter’s award-winning cautionary short sees a boy gamely attempt to get to grips with axe use. View here >

Piri and the lollipop

Piri and the lollipop

Future All Black halfback Piri Weepu directs traffic across a zebra crossing as a young fella in this famous Heartland episode. View here >

Archives New Zealand

Archives New Zealand

This collection would not be possible without the support of Archives New Zealand, who are stewards of the NFU archive. More info >