A Terrifying Holiday Warning From 1962

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Dec. 13 2013 2:00 PM

A Terrifying Holiday Warning From 1962

The holidays are a time for merriment, altruism, and, most of all, harrowing public safety announcements. The good people at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image have unearthed this classic safe-driving PSA from 1962, and it’s surely one of the best of its kind. It features one of Texas’ most beloved holiday figures, Maj. Hutchison, commander of the Northwest Region of the Texas Department of Public Safety, who comes bearing a valuable message about roadside tragedies. The whole thing concludes with that classic Christmas message: “Don’t let the names of your loved ones show up on our teletype network.” 'Tis the season!

There is much to praise about this film. Consider the mangled female doll at 0:38, which, on first viewing, is easy to mistake for an actual human corpse. There’s also the mysterious question-mark poster on the wall at the beginning, which is likely a souvenir of the time Maj. Hutchison tangled with the Riddler. But the best part is certainly the haunting teletype clatter that runs at low volume throughout the PSA, only to spike at the very end as the camera zooms in, as if to emphasize the dangers that await us all on our local roadways (and perhaps suggest that this teletype machine is itself evil). Much like the ominous hammer that concluded the Dragnet credits, the ear-splitting teletype noise forces you to contemplate your own inevitable doom. And isn’t a renewed sense of your own mortality the greatest Christmas gift of all?

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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