"The Finishing Line", one of the most notorious and disturbing public information films ever.
The Finishing Line is a short film produced in 1977 by British Transport Films, warning about the dangers children face on railway lines. Although it is not strictly a public information film,
it is often considered to be so by fans of the genre. It was broadcast
in its entirety several times on television, but was so controversial
that it was replaced less than two years later by the slightly less
It won at least two creative awards: Certificate of Appreciation (Top
Category) and Oberhausen Mention at the Festival of Youth Paris. The
film was also shown in several schools by invitation. It was directed by
John Krish and filmed in the vicinity of the then-closed Watton-at-Stone railway station, Hertfordshire.
The film begins with a headmaster's voice telling a large group of
children he knows they have been playing on the railway with a young boy
sitting on a railway bridge wall. As he ponders on his thoughts, he
considers the idea of holding an Olympic Games-style sports event on the railway line.
The rest of the film shows his imagined idea of what would happen, with
children being split into four competitive teams to take part in
different activities often carried out by young people trespassing on
the railway. Three "games" are held, in which the children are
challenged to break through the fence surrounding the railway line, play
"chicken" with the trains and throw things at passing trains. Each time
we see the tragic consequences of these activities, such as one scene
where a driver's face is shredded by broken glass after a child throws a
brick through the train
window. The final task is for the children to run through a tunnel, but
after they enter, we see a train approaching. Only four children cross
the end of the tunnel, each of them injured terribly. One boy who
crosses the finish line collapses as the overhead speaker announces the
final results. The film finishes as a group of adults appear and go into
the tunnel to carry out the bodies of the dead and injured children,
which are then laid out in a long line along the railway track. The
camera pans out to show all the dead and bloodied children along the
track before returning to the boy sitting on the railway bridge wall,
who seems to be reconsidering the idea.
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