Hell's Highway: The True Story of the Highway Safety Films [2 Discs] [DVD] [2002]

Kino on Video presents an engaging look at the Highway Safety Foundation with their packed release of Hell's Highway: The True Story of Highway Safety Films. Packaged here in a special double-disc edition, this set dives into the vast history of Ohio's grassroots company that changed the face of educational safety forever. The film is presented in a 1.33:1 full-screen image for the well-maintained archival footage, with the new interviews being filmed in a 1.85:1 widescreen picture. Extras on the first disc include two trailers and almost 15 minutes of additional outtakes that flesh out more of the human stories from some of the participants. On disc two, the bulk of the extras begin with three of the Foundation's complete driver's ed shorts, including Signal 30, Highways of Agony, and Options to Live. Fourteen excerpts from the Highway Safety Foundation are also provided, along with a clip from Death on the Highway -- a notorious safety film from their main competing company, The Suicide Club (most commonly known for doctoring up traffic accident photos with red paint for a more jarring effect). In the last section, the entire pressbook for the film can be browsed through four segments covering everything from production notes, a historical timeline of the Foundation, a 55-page image gallery, and an interview with the director. By the end, you should probably have had your fill of extreme vintage safety for quite a while. Still, it's a fantastic release whose exhaustiveness on the subject can't be beat (also documented on Fantoma's Educational Archives Vol. 3: Driver's Ed disc), and with people like Something Weird's Mike Vraney and the remaining Foundation members lending a hand, one should expect nothing less.
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Special Features

  • Three complete driver's ed shorts: Signal 30 (1959), Highways of Agony (1969), & Options to Live (1979)
  • Excerpts from 15 shocking classroom films, including Mechanized Death (1961), Wheels of Tragedy (1963), Carrier or Killer (1965), Death on the Highway (1965), The Third Killer (1966), & more
  • 14 minutes of deleted scenes
  • Two theatrical trailers
  • Gallery of images and documents
  • Hell's Highway pressbook


Hell's Highway: The True Story of Highway Safety Films
As the 1950s drew to a close, high school hygiene films and VD cautionary tales gave birth to another, far more graphic sort of fear-inducing curriculum: the driver's-ed movie. Bearing such titles as Signal 30, The Third Killer, Wheels of Tragedy, and Highways of Agony, these films -- usually produced by the Highway Safety Foundation -- intercut staged, fictional tales of impudent hot-rodders and drunk-driving, non-safety-belt-wearing teens with actual accident footage. Director Bret Wood chronicles the history of this grisly subgenre with Hell's Highway, a documentary that details the growing need for teen-cautionary films in the late-'50s/early-'60s and the man who fulfilled it, Richard Wayman. Wayman, Wood learns, was an armchair policeman who liked to drop in on the scenes of various crimes, taking snapshots and other amateur-forensics data. He turned his hobby into a profession, however, when he hooked up with another accident-obsessive, Phyllis Vaughn, her sister, and a newspaper photographer. Pitching their idea to the Ohio Highway Patrol, the foursome went around to give lectures and slideshows to high schools; as their revenues and budgets grew, they began pre-packaging their worst-case driver scenarios in short films that were distributed nationwide throughout the '60s and '70s. ~ Michael Hastings, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Sammy Davis Jr.
    Sammy Davis Jr.
  • Ronald Reagan
    Ronald Reagan
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