Teddy (1971)

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Institution: Internet Archive
Collection: Prelinger Archives

Running time: 16m 16s
Source film:  16mm; color; sound
Year: 1971
Director: Richard Wells
Production: Gary Schlosser; Peter Schniztler; University of California, Los Angeles – Extension Media Center;  National Institute of Mental Health
Photography/Camera: Robert Grant
Editor: Andrew Stein


The Social Seminar was a program sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and developed by the National Institute of Mental Health in the early 1970s that sought to provide a learning environment in which participants identified and established values and improved communication skills while participating in structured activities. From a cursory review of the resource manual provided to seminar facilitators (see: Related), it appears that much of the program was oriented around one of 19 short documentary films that were used as learning tools. They depicted all sorts of lives, from the acid-dropping California hippie to the television news reporter. At least six of the films were executive produced by Oscar-nominated short subject documentary filmmaker Gary Schlosser, so they had competent editing and camera-work that provided a coherent portrait of each film’s subject. Despite the program’s central aim of the prevention of drug abuse, not all of the films were strictly about drug consumption. 1971’s Teddy was one such film, focusing on a high school student in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

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Naturally, A Girl (1973)

Watch Now on Archive.org

Institution: Internet Archive
Collection: Prelinger Archives

Running time: 13m 18s
Source film:  color; sound
Year: 1973
Production: Cinemakers, Inc; Johnson & Johnson


If you were a Texas kid growing up in the 1990s, approaching sexual maturity probably meant having music class canceled so that you and twenty other 4th graders could sit cross-legged on the floor to enjoy a bewildering puberty education video featuring a woman pouring pancake batter in the shape of a uterus. Although I cannot now recall vividly if that video was otherwise helpful, Naturally, A Girl – an informational short produced almost two decades earlier – feels like a more straightforward and progressive alternative that circumvents the confusing co-mingling of reproductive organs and breakfast foods.

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Shake Hands with Danger (1980)

Watch on Archive.org

Institution: Internet Archive
Collection: Prelinger Archives

Running time: 23m 8s
Source film:  16mm; color; sound
Year: 1980
Director: Herk Harvey
Production: Centron Corporation; Arthur H. Wolf; Russell A. Mosser
Writer: John Clifford
Cinematography: Bob Rose
Narrator: Charles Oldfather
Editor: Chuck Lacey


While I can’t say with 100% certainty that we won’t stumble upon another safety film that features chest wounds, a man on fire, or a titular country song, chances are that 1980’s Shake Hands with Danger is the only one containing all three. Helmed by Carnival of Souls director Herk Harvey and sponsored by Caterpillar Tractor Company, this film is among the more prolific safety films ever produced (it was even given the Rifftrax treatment).

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