Signal 30, the latest episode of Mad Men, was incredible. An all-timer. Hilarious but also nuanced in the way it explored the characters of Pete and Lane. I loved it.
At the heart - and title - of the episode is a grim, infamous highway safety movie shown to a decade's worth of high school students (and, in this episode, new driver Pete Campbell). From 1959 all the way through the 70s it was a familiar rite of passage. In some towns policemen came to speak after the movie, while in others barf bags were dramatically handed out beforehand. Signal 30, featuring bodies burnt beyond recognition, bloody flesh trapped in twisted metal and the haunting howling of critically injured accident victims, darkened the nightmares of your parents and grandparents (and even a couple of you, if Google Analytics' demographics are to be believed). Before rotten.com, before Faces of Death, there was Signal 30.
Watching the film now what sticks out is how automobiles used to be fucking death traps. Half the people killed in this movie were thrown from their cars because mandatory seat belt laws didn't exist yet (seat belts were OPTIONAL in cars when the film was made. Ford only started offering them in 1955, and the modern three-point belt the same year, although it wasn't put into cars until 1959, when Volvo led the way). And these huge tanks that Detroit put out simply ripped through each other.
Can you stomach the whole thing? Come on - that girl in Pete's class could, and she got fingered while watching.
Thanks to Phil Nobile for the initial link. I knew about the legacy of highway safety films, but didn't realize that Signal 30 was the one in the show. And Signal 30, by the way, was cop jargon for car accident with possible injuries.