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  Apaches No Comfort Farm
Year: 1977
Director: John Mackenzie
Stars: Various
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: This group of six children are playing in the British countryside, caught up in the notion that they are members of the Apache nation, but when they spot a farm they get the idea that it would be an ideal location to continue their games, after all, there are plenty of places to hide and explore there. Once they reach it they start conspiring to act out their game of Indians and pretending to shoot the farm workers, but when one of them climbs aboard one of their moving tractor trailers, there is a mishap...

And more mishaps continue throughout this example of that much obsessed over medium, the British public information film. These were made by such bodies as the Central Office of Information and the Health and Safety Executive, and were designed to tell the public, or tell off the public might be more appropriate, to take more care in their daily lives. Often they would impart such messages with a humorous tone, but just as often another approach would be implemented: fear. Not for nothing were there generations of Brits who would be slightly traumatised by certain shorts, some just thirty seconds long, depicting worst case scenarios.

And all with the sense that this could happen to you if you were not careful. Usually they were not too explicit, so no gore for a start, but when it came to selected longer form warning films such as Apaches, the gloves were off: this was too important a subject to softpedal to the kids who were the target audience. The point here was that too many children had been killed or injured in farmyard accidents recently, and this was intended to illustrate to them how such tragedies occurred and rather advise on how to avoid them, blatantly tell the kids to stay away on pain of death. The script, written by Neville Smith, an actor whose most famous scripting was probably the sleuth spoof Gumshoe, set about bumping off its cast with disturbing zeal.

On the set of this, director John Mackenzie observed later that his young cast were very enthusiastic about their work here, and could not wait to shoot the scenes where they were bumped off, but for the children watching this at home or in schools it was no laughing matter. The characters, all while playing, die in a variety of ways that would shame a Friday the 13th instalment, from drowning in silage to drinking poison (the little girl's nighttime screams are burned into many memories), from being crushed under a gate to crashing a runaway tractor. Time and again the boy narrating takes us back to a "party" the grown-ups are having that is obviously the funeral, and chilling scenes of the deceased's belongings being packed away from school or their bedrooms hammer the point home. Ending with a list the names of actual children who had died in farm accidents, Apaches remains sobering stuff even today, incredibly bleak though you had to say it must have had the correct impression: that children were as much responsible for their own safety as adults.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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