Search - Hell's Highway - The True Story of Highway Safety Films on DVD

Hell's Highway - The True Story of Highway Safety Films
Hell's Highway - The True Story of Highway Safety Films
Actors: Karl Mackey, Richard Anderson, Sonny Bono, John F. Butler, Hans Conried
Directors: Bret Wood, Richard Wayman
Genres: Sports, Documentary
NR     2003     1hr 31min

Studio: Kino International Release Date: 10/28/2003 Run time: 91 minutes Rating: Nr


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Movie Details

Actors: Karl Mackey, Richard Anderson, Sonny Bono, John F. Butler, Hans Conried
Directors: Bret Wood, Richard Wayman
Creators: Earle Deems, Bret Wood, Richard Wayman, Felicia Feaster, Tommy Gibbons
Genres: Sports, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Documentary, History
Studio: Kino Video
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color
DVD Release Date: 11/28/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 31min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Prepare to blow chunks!
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 07/31/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Oh, the days of driver's education! What a fun experience that was, eh? A bunch of kids packed into a classroom to study the ins and outs of stop signs, speed limits, and turn signals. Those were the days. For many of us, the most memorable part of the class was the day Officer Friendly came into the classroom, set up the film/slide projector, and proceeded to show twenty or thirty minutes of good old fashioned highway carnage. Long before I sat down to enjoy such gorefests as George Romero's Dead Trilogy or any of the Friday the 13th films, I saw scenes of stomach churning violence in driver's education class. It's sort of sad to say that my class didn't watch any of the films on display in the documentary "Hell's Highway." What we did see was a state trooper come into class with a series of slides far worse than anything witnessed in this two disc DVD set dedicated to the history of safety films. Moreover, the cop in our class stood at the front of the room and fairly screamed at all of us about how we'd end up ground into pudding in a car wreck if we ever broke a traffic law. What a guy!

When I learned about Bret Wood's documentary, I knew I had to see it if only to discover the same scenes of human misery I witnessed back then made an appearance here. No such luck. We never watched "Signal 30," "Mechanized Death," or any of the other atrocities released by the Highway Safety Foundation (HSF) of Mansfield, Ohio. That's the organization behind the vast majority of traffic safety films and the focus of "Hell's Highway." According to the film, an accountant with an obsession for police work, Richard Wayman, started down the path to forming the organization way back in the 1950s. A fan of photography, Wayman arrived on the scene of a particularly destructive crash one night and offered to take pictures of the accident in order to help the police. The officer on the scene agreed, and it wasn't too long before Wayman began compiling a photographic record of horrific car wrecks. He convinced a couple of other people to help him, one of them a journalist by the name of John Dohmer, and the media picked up on their preoccupation. It was only a hop, skip, and a screech of metal on metal to throwing a film camera into the mix. Their first film, "Signal 30," came out in a few years later. Soon, the newly formed Highway Safety Foundation began sending out the film to schools across the country.

The organization grew by leaps and bounds into the 1970s with a number of new car crash films: "Mechanized Death," "Carrier or Killer," "Highways of Agony"--you get the idea. Maybe you've seen a few of these films. Death sells, and business was good in the 1950s and 1960s. To capitalize on their success, Wayman's organization began branching out into other avenues of human misery. They started making films for training police officers; films like "The Shoplifter," a really sick one about a pair of killings in Mansfield involving children, and "A Great and Honorable Duty." They also started encountering serious problems. When the Mansfield police department discovered that highly objectionable behavior was occurring in a local public restroom, the authorities brought in the HSF to capture the shenanigans with a hidden camera. Unfortunately, we see some of that footage in the documentary. More problems occurred, some of them sinister enough to catch the attention of a journalist named Martin Yant. He wrote a series of stories about financial irregularities at the Highway Safety Foundation, their failed attempt to earn money through a national telethon, and other behaviors best left unmentioned here. The organization eventually folded in the 1970s but was briefly resurrected by Earle J. Deems for a few years before disappearing forever.

An interesting and intriguing documentary, this "Hell's Highway." While I agree with the myriad claims that the structure of the presentation is a bit on the slipshod side, I don't think that takes anything away from the underlying intrigue of the whole thing. After living through the experience of watching absolutely soul shattering car wrecks, in school no less, several questions should have went through all those impressionable minds. Who the heck made these things? Why? And who thought trying to scare the living daylights out of new drivers was a good idea? "Hell's Highway" adequately addresses all of those questions. The men behind the Highway Safety Foundation genuinely seemed to care about their fellow human beings, and they cared about stopping the massive numbers of individuals dying each day on the nation's roads. It soon becomes apparent that these are not gorehounds out engaging in cheap thrills by filming bloody disasters. They believe, and that belief comes through crystal clear in the documentary, that the "scared straight" approach to traffic safety prevented deaths. And perhaps it did. We'll never know because there isn't a way to measure lives saved due to the films' influence.

Extras on the disc are well worth watching, if you can stomach them. We get outtakes and trailers on disc number one, but number two contains the real goods. "Signal 30," "Highways of Agony," and "Options to Live" appear here in their full color, I mean glory. Also included are many excerpts--most running a minute or two in length--of the other Highway Safety Foundation's films. We also get a text interview with director Bret Wood and a text history of the HSF. Many of the things you'll see on this disc are mind blasting in their brutality, but you'll gaze on this mayhem with fascination if you've sat through something similar in a driver's education class. I wonder if they're still showing this stuff today?

Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 10/24/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"If you're a certain age, remember those gory films in "Driver's Ed" classes? HELL'S HIGHWAY (Kino International) is the true story of highway safety films. Two discs document the filmmakers and their grisly anecdotes, with clips from numerous flicks. Includes three uncut classics with lots of mangled teen bodies. Campy, informative and authentically horrifying."
Everybody Should Experience This
J. D Hill | 11/01/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I have been waiting for this release for over a year now.I must say that I am a little disapointed.The idea behind this film is sound,and its good to see the people behind these old films,but the clips shown are in no particular order,scattered all over with very little thought behind their placement.I would have started with Signal 30 clips and then gone in chronological order with the additional scenes.It was "good" to see clips of the rare "drive and survive" and "death on the highway" though as these I have never seen before.Overall though,everyone should see this..its good information for drivers even today.Once you see some of the "reality" you will never want to be a Signal 30 yourself.Much thanks to all those behind the Highway Safety Films,and the makers of this release."
Sick and twisted - the way car wrecks are
susan katz | Chicago | 04/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I found the narration on this to be the best part. Very creepy. It is too bad most 16 year olds are too busy drinking and driving to stop and take the time to be horrified by this."