They Made Us Sit And Watch

I was talking to a friend about crappy B-movies the other day, and a flood of memories about being shown films at school came back. And as the memories became more detailed, I started to worry about what films they had showed us.

I don’t know why they got us to watch films at school, apart from the obvious ones about science and puberty and so on. Maybe there were teacher strikes (this was the early 80’s), and the best way to control a school full of 11 and 12-year-olds was to sit us in front of a flickering screen with coloured shapes and lights projected on it. I can see that would work.

Of course, in the main the films were Children’s Film Foundation flicks, with the distinctive opening sequence:

  1. Stock footage of Trafalgar Square, with pigeons (this being before the Massacre Of The Winged Rats)
  2. Music Fanfare
  3. CFF logo zooms in from centre!
  4. This has the effect of scaring the pigeons, who all fly away.
  5. ENTIRE SCHOOL GROANS as they realise they have to sit through another fecking Childrens Film Foundation tapeworm, perched on those weird gym benchs with rubber knobs on.

I remember being told we were going to watch Hoverbug, and being excited. Will it have lasers? No, it was made of plywood by some children for a race. Oh no! The secret glue only lasts for an hour! Christ, it’s exciting.

After a few goes at this, the school got a bit more adventurous. Once again we trooped into the assembly hall, to be shown a film. But what was this? Real Science Fiction? A weird uglified man being chased down and zapped by some bipedal chattering lizards? Yes, by god, it was Laserblast, complete with Roddy MacDowall as a cameo doctor. Let’s just recap the story, in case you don’t remember it.

  • Bullied teenager finds alien weapon and medallion in the desert. This was left by the weird uglified man we see in the pre-credits sequence.
  • Bullied teenager puts medallion on.
  • Alien medallion implants itself in his chest, causing mutation.
  • Bullied teenager goes on murderous rampage, killing everyone who ever wronged him, and blowing stuff up.
  • Aliens return and zap him too. THE END.

See the link above for sounds and pictures. Basically, I don’t really understand why they showed us this film (And it was a film, by the way, a film shown through a projector, not a video). While not really scary, it doesn’t seem the sort of thing to show to schoolchildren of 11. Then again, it did give me an important life lesson – DESTROY WITH SUPERIOR WEAPONS THOSE WHO WRONG YOU. Whatever, I’d got a taste for rubbish films.

This new-found pleasure of bad movies carried into the living room at home. Around the time of these film shows, my family got a VHS video recorder (SHARP! front loading! wired remote control!). And my elder brother (bless his ancient heart) immediately went to the local shop and got some inappropriate tapes. Starcrash, Mad Max 2 and let us not forget the wonderful Death Race 2000, a film by certified auteur Roger Corman, concerning a road race across America, with points scored for every person you run over. Yup. And there was a gratuitous female rival topless wrestling match as a bonus. Edifying stuff.

And what do I find on the above IMDB link? I find that Death Race 3000 has been announced. I can only assume the nourishing diet given to my peers and I has led to us wanting to push the taste envelope even further.

“To those who are about to die, we salute you!”