LEARNING FOR DUMMIES: “SHAKE HANDS WITH DANGER”

I’m kicking off this column with the granddaddy of all safety films. Brought to you from the boys at Caterpillar and supposedly directed by Herk “Carnival of Souls” Harvey, “Shake Hands With Danger” is the original America’s Funniest Home Video, except that it’s all performed by professional stuntmen. Produced to scare heavy machinery operators into paying attention to what the hell they’re doing so they don’t wind up getting anyone killed on the job, it’s hard to say how effective this film was on its intended audience. While it can be a little shocking at times in how much death and destruction it reveals, it inspires more laughs than anything else. But that’s just me. I enjoy watching guys in hard hats getting chopped into tender vittles. And there’s an oh so catchy country theme song as well. Sung by the narrator of the film (kinda sounds like the guy that sang the “Fall Guy” theme song), the “Shake Hands” theme is so infectious, you’ll find yourself humming it at the bus stop or wherever the it is you spend your time. It’s kind of like the “Who Let the Dogs Out” of educational theme music. Speaking of which…

CUE THEME SONG

Shake hands with danger
Meet a guy who oughta know
I used to laugh at safety, but now they call me
Three Finger Joe

Shake hands with danger
Find it anywhere you choose
Be careless for a moment
And spend a lifetime with the blues

The theme song guides us into a film packed with various hazardous scenarios, which our sing songy narrator warns could be avoided if proper care be taken. To drive his message home further, we’re shown the bloody possibilities of what may happen if that care isn’t taken. And that’s where the fun comes in. The film’s loaded with guys falling off of machines, catching on fire by smoking in areas they shouldn’t be, and just generally being clumsy dolts. But there are several key sequences here that we should take a look at. Pay attention! You’re learning!

In our first disaster, a pick-up truck is backed right up to a loader so a barrel can be easily tossed into the fork. When asked to drive the machine up over the hill to the worksite, the operator admits to his co-worker that he’s never handled this model of loader before. He then gets the old “Do you want me to do it for you?” to which he buckles under the peer pressure and decides to get behind the wheel of this death trap despite his lack of experience while his buddy gets back into the pick-up truck. It’s all supposed to go smoothly. All the operator needs to do is back the loader up nice and easy and then he’ll be on his way. Instead, when he starts the ignition, he ends up lifting the arms of the loader which scoop the back of the pick-up truck into the fork, raising it into the air before dropping to the ground with a thundering crash. I gotta say, the funniest part about this whole bit is watching the guy in the pick-up truck getting thrashed around inside his cab. It beats any fuckin’ Blockbuster night.

Our next point of business brings us to a guy climbing along the arm of a forklift to change an O ring. Without a good foothold or anything to keep him from falling, he first drops his wrench and then he too falls to the ground with a massive thud. We’re then shown the body of this machine operator lying lifeless on the ground, blood dribbling out of his mouth. Nothing incredibly funny here, but it certainly shows that the creators of this film meant business.

CUE THEME SONG AS WE CLOSE IN ON DEAD BODY

Shake hands with danger
Take a chance that you won’t fall
You may save a minute
But you may damn well lose it all

You ain’t shittin’, buddy.

Next, we visit Harry Sanders. Harry is busy thinking about his son’s football injury. So with his head up his ass, he gets behind the wheel of a machine and winds up completely taking out the porch and a good part of the living room of a rickety old house.

“Most people have days when they come to work with worries, hangovers, or distractions. Those are times for being doubly cautious,” says the narrator.

Actually, Harry, with all that damage you just caused, I think it’s time to start working on one of those hangovers.

Here’s a curious one. An operator asks one of his co-workers to pound a metal spike for him while he holds it. The spike is chipped and the co-worker knows the dangers of pounding chipped metal, but he does it anyway to avoid being called a pussy. Pounding away, he suddenly turns around with blood covering the front of his shirt and an unhappy look…no, that’s a look of pain…on his face. So, I’m guessing that a piece of metal flew off the spike upon impact and impaled this guy in the chest. I don’t know. It’s never really explained what exactly happened. Maybe they were trying to re-enact the chest burster scene from “Alien.” Or maybe a sharp piece of Captain Crunch was slicing its way out of his body. The Crunch can be cruel.

“Maybe his friend would’ve laughed if Glen decided to play it safe. But he sure as hell isn’t laughing now.”

CUE THEME SONG
(Perfect timing just as a guy grinds his finger into bloody moosh.)

Shake hands with danger
Step right up and say hello
Grinding wheels and metal are what made
Three Finger Joe

This next one wins in the comedy department as we have a guy working on a faulty loader brake chamber. Unaware of the amount of spring pressure inside this thing (about 715 pounds), he ratchets it open and shoots a spring through the rear window of his truck, which in turn smashes through his windshield. I don’t see how you could sit and watch this in a class without having a shit fit from laughing so hard.

This scenario involves Bill Myers and it’s always the major shocker of the film. I’m not sure what he and his buddies were trying to do, but it involved lubing a hole. I actually have a joke about a bunch of guys in hardhats lubing holes, but I’ll save that for another time. So instead of using a tool to lube this hole, Bill decides to grab a gob of grease and do it with his hand. A lever is accidentally hit at the wheel of the machine being lubed and a blade comes down, slicing Bill’s hand clean off. Good for yucks and gasps.

Like I said, this film is filled with a bunch of other thrills and spills and ends with another close-up of that dead body we saw earlier, before dissolving to a fire burning in front of a menacing looking loader while the theme song plays on.

Lesson Learned: That label on your prescription drug bottles warning you not to operate heavy machinery while dosed means business. Go out there on the worksite not all together and you could not only end up being disfigured for life, but your fellow co-workers will mock you with silly names like Three Figner Joe.

For all your educational film needs, visit A/V Geeks.

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Eric Campos takes us back to school for another look at those educational films that made going to class worth it. They rarely ever taught you anything you didn’t know already and were quite often geared to scare the crap out of you…with mixed results. Share his obsession with these cinematic curiosities and maybe you’ll learn something along the way…although we doubt it.

Today’s lesson is over. Head to Back Talk for some playtime>>>




Posted on February 16, 2004 in Features by
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