Category Archives: Moral

Cipher in the Snow (1973)

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Running time: 21m 20s
Source film:  16mm; color; sound
Year: 1973 (copyright); 1974 (release)
Director: Keith J. Atkinson
Production: Wetzel Whitaker, Brigham Young University
Writer: Carol Lynn Pearson
Cinematography: Reed Smoot, Ted Van Horn
Story: Jean Mizer Todhunter
Editor: Peter G. Czerny
Music Editor: Dennis Lisonbee

Cast: Robert Bridges, Bruce Kimball, Jacqueline Mayo, Roberta Shore, Walter Stocker, Mary Cox, Larry Watts, Martha Henstrom, Kirk Hutchings, Ronald Jenkins, Court LeRoy


During a school bus trip one morning, a sullen boy named Cliff Evans asks to be let off. The driver obliges and Cliff stumbles a few steps before face-planting in the snow (complete with a freeze-frame and title text). The driver of the car behind the bus —  a math teacher named Frank Carter — rushes to the boy’s aid as the oafish driver pleads disbelief. A crowd of kids exits the bus and assembles around their fallen peer, who is confirmed dead at the scene by EMTs. What could have caused this? Dehydration? A seizure? A drug overdose?

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The Occult: An Echo from Darkness (1972)

Distribution: A/V Geeks
Featured on: O is for Occult

Running time: 48m 00s
Source film:  16mm; color; sound
Year: 1972
Director: Tom Doades
Production: Pyramid Films, ECRF Production, Mal Couch
Writer: Tom Doades, Marshall Riggan
Photography/Camera: Jerry Callaway
Narration: Martin Brooks
Editor: Jim Ferguson

Cast: Hal Lindsey


Years before it was a hotbed of technological innovation and unaffordable housing, the San Francisco Bay Area was the “headquarters of occult and metaphysical activity in the United States.” This was a startling history lesson to me, but just one of many assertions by the creators of the 1972 religious short film, The Occult: An Echo from Darkness. If you like your anonymous talking head documentaries with ominous music and a hearty side of hard-line Satanic panic propaganda, this is the film of your factually dubious dreams.

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Face Value (1981)

Distribution: A/V Geeks
Featured on: Temptations of a Christian Teenager

Running time: 09m 32s
Source film:  16mm; color; sound
Year: 1981
Director: Fred Carpenter
Production: Mars Hill Productions; Campus Life; Sterling Educational Films
Writer: Fred Carpenter
Photography/Camera: John Snavely
Location Sound: Lloyd Poe
Post Production Mix: Tim Himes
Editor: Fred Carpenter

Cast: Greg Guy, Steve Herrington, Nancy Houston, Brent Johnson, et al.


A cursory reading of the 1979 song, “Head Games,” by the rock band Foreigner, reveals vague relationship troubles between its narrator and a lover, expressed through the sort of tedious lyrics favored by the commercial rock radio of the era. The “answer” to these problems, the song states, is “nowhere in sight,” and the narrator’s daydreams are “haunting” and possibly “warning” him. Perhaps these specific allusions convinced director Fred Carpenter to use the song as a musical refrain in his 1981 moral behavior short, Face Value, but it’s an odd fit for a film that attempts to lecture teenagers about the futility of unscrupulous social behaviors. Did Carpenter have any idea about how many teenagers in the 1970s and 80s made out (and more) while ballads by Foreigner played in the background?

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