“Danger!!! Health Films”: The Village People’s Randy Jones revisits educational “scare” films

By on February 8, 2019

Danger!!! Health Films — a fun, four-episode retrospective humorously hosted by Randy Jones, the original ’70s porn-stached “Cowboy” from the Village People — revisits the unintended “hidden messages” in those classic educational “scare” films they showed us in school during the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

This series — exploring the dangers of underage drinking, reckless sex and equally-reckless teenage dating and driving — is streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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Here at Night Flight HQ, we’re big fans of educational films, “mental hygiene,” social guidance, and anti-drug propaganda (we’ve previously posted about them here, here, here and here).

The Danger!!! Health Films series — each 20-minute episode was written and directed by reality TV show veteran Joe Corey, author of The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters — takes another look at these short films initially shown to a captive audience of elementary, junior high and high school students.

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All these decades later, the overtly melodramatic tone in each film just cries out to be made fun of, mocked with snide, snarky comments and clever asides.

During interstitial cutaways, Jones — whose Village People group’s biggest disco hits were “Y.M.C.A.” and “In the Navy” — provides colorful commentary on the vintage film footage we’re watching.

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“Back in the 20th Century,” our amiable host says during the introductory sequence provided in each episode, “a 16mm projector in the classroom made for a fun movie day instead of a boring lecture.”

“The films told students the correct ways to do things. But what if the kids learned a different cinematic lesson? Were these health films educating students about good and bad behavior, or was it really teaching them a good way to be bad? Was there a dark and dangerous side to health films?”

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Back in the 1950s through the ’80s, then as now, parents were ones responsible for their children’s grooming, manners, and citizenship.

They should have also talked to their teenage kids about how behaving like an asshole on dates could lead to getting a venereal disease or, even worse, death.

Unfortunately, they often left it up to school educators to supplement the life lessons their children weren’t getting at home.

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In “Danger Drunk Drivers,” we’re shown the dangers of drunk driving in the short film Alcohol is Dynamite, where we learn “alcohol is a violent narcotic.”

The black & white short was actually financed by cowboy movie actor John Wayne, which prompts Jones to ask: “Was the Duke really warning teens, or just giving ‘mixed messages’?”

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Jones also tells us that The Bottle and the Throttle and Five Drinking Drivers (calling it Five Drunk Drivers) offer up advice about drinking “beach beers” and driving as a “spectator sport.”

Around 5:40, there’s a sound effect of screeching car tires and a weird throat chortle which sounds exactly like the SFX heard in the Dr. Demento novelty hit “Transfusion” by Nervous Norvus.

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Read more about Danger!!! Health Films below.

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In “Danger Courtesy,” we’re told why kids, as a common classroom courtesy, should always keep their hands clean (not to mention their dirty minds), especially when they’re visiting the school cafeteria.

One of our all time favorite educational films, Coronet Instructional Films’ Beginning Responsibility: Lunchroom Manners, is featured here, reminding us about having good manners and being polite, unlike the film’s nemesis, “Mr. Bungle.”

Our favorite part, however, is when Jones tells us that the educational film’s real message is not to be a “cake bigot.”

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In “Danger Kids Doing It,” Jones remarks how films meant to teach parents how to talk to their teenage kids about sex and sexually transmitted diseases actually seemed to have very creepy incest overtones.

We’re also kinda confused as to why these films were shown to the kids in health class and not to their parents.

“Parents don’t talk freely about sexual matters with their children, they can’t” one suit-clad authority figure says. “They’ve been reared in such a way that it’s a bug-a-boo.”

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There’s a great ’80s-era film here called Condoms: A Responsible Option, essentially a commercial promoting products made in a rubber factory meant to inform teens — one wearing a David Lee Roth t-shirt! — how to prevent AIDS.

During the short ’70s-era film Talking To Your Teenager About VD, Jones even jokes that some of these kids might catch a venereal disease at a Doobie Brothers concert!

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In the fourth of the four original first season episodes,  titled “Danger Teen Drivers” — which kinda redundantly continues the same heavy messaging we’ve already heard in the “Danger Drunk Drivers” episode — Jones tells us about the black & white dating film from 1950 called Last Date, which he says features “Bewitched” actor “Dick Sargeant.”

Actually, hate to break it to you, Cowboy, but that’s Dick York… the first actor who played “Darrin Stephens” on the popular ’60s TV sitcom (circa 1964-1969).

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The real point here seems to be that if you date a reckless speed freak like Dick York’s character, you could end up with a face that’s hideously disfigured from a car crash and then no one will ask you to go on another date!

What Jones doesn’t mention, however, is that the award-winning Last Date was actually sponsored by Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company and its parent company, Kemper Insurance, who were promoting driving safety to avoid traffic accidents (doesn’t actually make much sense that a car insurance company would sponsor a film like this, though, does it?).

Watch Danger!!! Health Films on Night Flight Plus, and don’t forget to wash your hands!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.