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Mental Hygiene:
Better Living Through Classroom Films 1945-1970

by Ken Smith

ISBN 0922233217 / 9780922233212 / 0-922233-21-7
Publisher Blast Books
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

In Mental Hygiene, Ken Smith takes a look at the endearingly gooney safety and "social guidance" films produced for classroom use between World War II and the early 1970s. Everything from dating to drugs to auto safety is covered in this lovingly compiled book. Smith even takes the time to discuss the stylistic differences of the various studios and analyze the peculiar obsessions of their auteurs. Though its subjects are bizarre ("Healthy Feet"), corny ("Teen Togs"), and often ineptly made ("Red Nightmare"), Mental Hygiene is no mere excuse to mock these films. Smith is careful to note bursts of good (or at least interesting) filmmaking and makes a convincing case that in their day these classroom movies were considered the new wave of liberal education. The films, catalogued at the end of the book, teeter between unintentionally hilarious ("More Dates for Kay") and just flat-out disturbing ("Boys Beware"). Most take the stance that teens who drive too fast or don't mind their manners deserve their horrific fates. For example, the auto safety films tend toward subtly titled epics like "Mechanized Death" and "Wheels of Tragedy," while the "image building" shorts mercilessly taunt their misfit protagonists. ("It's a little late for tears, isn't it, Barbara?") A thoroughly enjoyable read, Mental Hygiene is both funny and informative, but not so informative that it will put you to sleep in class. --Ali Davis [via]