Are you ready for Bonfire Night?

Or if you’re born and bred in Huddersfield, the question tends to be ‘Ast tha bin chumping?’

My colleague Denis Kilcommons mentioned staying safe on Bonfire Night in his column yesterday.

But what he didn’t mention was the TV advertisement.

Was it me or was there something that showed fireworks being kept in a sealed biscuit tin for safety?

I’m sure there was also a bit in it where a milk bottle was involved and an unfortunate teenager ended up with a horrific scar from not following ‘The Firework Code’.

Or as Examiner stalwart Mike O’Connell phrases it ‘Light the blue touch paper and retreat’.

 

Frankly that may have been him referencing any number of situations but it’s particularly pertinent in this one.

But whatever happened to the public information film - and were we more robust in those days or did we find them as terrifying as we would now?

In one notable example character Reginald Molehusband, named Mr Blunders in this particular short, ends up causing a crash in which a woman ends up crashing through her own windscreen.

Rather than shying away from the grizzly scene the film zoomed in - and then went into slow motion as the lady’s head smashed the glass and came through the windscreen.

So far, so unpleasant.

But there is one public information film that still strikes fear into the heart of some.

I talk of course of ‘The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water’ in which the Grim Reaper stalks small children.

No, really.

Can you imagine that today? You’d need an 18 certificate and it could only be shown after the watershed when all of the intended audience were already in bed.

In the short we see Death waiting by ponds and lake for children who go swimming there and get caught on objects under the water and end up drowning.

It’s like the latest Hollywood horror.

It also features the memorable line: “Sensible children ... I have no power over them.”

But it wasn’t just children who were given the Scarborough warning.

One of the most melodramatic movie opening lines can be found in a public information film called Fatal Floor.

If you don’t remember it, you may be wondering how the floor is fatal; is it made of nuclear waste, has dynamite been used instead of floor boards or has it been lightly polished?

It’s the latter that’s what the short is all about.

It opens with the memorable warning “Polished the floor? Put a rug on it? You might as well put down a mantrap.”

Er, are you sure about that? A mantrap v a polished floor.

It wasn’t just floors that worried us in the 1970s and 80s though as the films reveal.

Chip pans, electric blankets, playing on building sites and more seem to have been what kept us awake at night - granted if your electric blanket was on fire then it was slightly more relevant.

I can’t imagine the films being allowed to be made anymore, let alone be shown before the watershed for fear of scaring children half to death.

If you are going to a bonfire tonight, make sure you stay away from the milk bottles and linger near the biscuit tin.

If my ramblings about public information films has whetted your appetite then there are plenty of places on the web to find them.

You can find them on YouTube very easily but you can find what appears to the best selection on our very own National Archives website.

Just go to http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/films/ and you can see breakdowns by decades to find your favourite.

Just make sure you leave the lights on while watching them!