Summary

Footage Information

Archive Films by Getty Images
Last Clear Chance, The
PA-2001 1 inch ; PA-0845 Digibeta
Color
Educational Industrial
1959
Safety education Union Pacific Railroad (sponsor) Railroads Accidents; Crossings (grade) Railroad crossings Automobiles (convertibles) Automobiles; (safety) Automobiles (accidents) Teenagers Teenagers (accidents) Driving; Gambling Chance Roulette wheels Sleeping (at wheel) Highways Roads Freeways; Idaho Police (state patrolmen) West (American) Tragedy Pathos Funerals; Fathers and sons Brothers and sisters Drive-ins Restaurants (drive-in); Railroads Trains (freight) Signs (traffic) Signs (railroad crossing) Workers; (railroad) Farms and farming Agriculture Picnic tables Families Licenses; (driving) Drivers' licenses
Last Clear Chance, The Produced by Wondsel, Carlisle and Dunphy (New York City) for Union Pacific Railroad, 1959, 26 minutes, Kodachrome, 16mm. Director: Robert Carlisle. Script: Leland Baxter. Cinematography: Bert Spielvogel. Editor: Mort Fallick. Produced under the supervision of Francis B. Lewis, Director of Safety and Courtesy, U.P.R.R. With Bill Boyett (Patrolman Jackson) Mr. Harold Agee (Frank Dixon, Sr.) Mrs. Harold Agee (Mrs. Frank Dixon) Bill Agee (Frank Dixon, Jr.) Tim Bosworth (Alan Dixon) Christine Lynch (Betty Hutchins). This engaging Kodachrome drama (formatted for television broadcast) from the Union Pacific ostensibly deals with safety at railroad grade crossings, but it's also about much more: youth's feeling of invulnerability the highway patrolman as an authority figure the look of the rural and urban West in the late 1950s the urge to speed through a sparsely populated agricultural landscape and the train's role as farmer's servant and potential killer. Is this overanalysis? Perhaps. But longer films aspire to higher goals, and one way to achieve these goals is to pack them with hints of meaning in many directions. This film was made just five years after The Days of Our Years but belongs to a different world. This is not the close environment of urban railroad workers, but the wide-open spaces of the agricultural West. The visual evidence of the film implies that it was shot in Idaho, and the highway patrolman who carries the film forward wears an Idaho State Patrol uniform. It's summertime and the kids are out of school. Although they are responsible for farm work, they are free to roam the countryside and do. Danger lurks in this mobile world, but not in dark, enclosed industrial spaces it lurks in broad daylight along a sunny railroad track. The deaths that form the film's climax happen right after lunch on what looks like a Saturday afternoon, and death takes the young rather than the old. It's hard not to think that the Union Pacific is here again trying to pass the buck on safety. It costs lots of money to protect railroad crossings with gates and even more to construct separations between railroad rights-of-way and highways. Construction projects of this type have always involved contention between railroads and local governments, and the differing interests of railroads and government fill our history books. Suffice it to say that there's a great deal of background that isn't practical to include in the movie. Interestingly enough, the victims drive through a crossing with gates, lights and bells, so no one can pin the responsibility for this accident on corporate greed. The most quotable line: as two railroad crewmen stand by the wrecked automobile, one says: "Why don't they look, Frank?" Frank responds: "I don't know. Why don't they look?" This short dialogue fragment, and in fact the whole movie, has become a big hit on the TV show Mystery Science theater 3000. Charged with a didactic agenda, The Last Clear Chance somehow always manages to look interesting even when it gets intensely instructional. It had the benefits of an excellent cinematographer, Bert Spielvogel, who also shot two other visually distinguished films presented in this series, Design for Dreaming and In the Suburbs and The Relaxed Wife (excerpted as part of the Ephemeral Films disc). KEN SMITH SEZ: This presentation of the Union Pacific Railroad opens with a funeral. Highway Safety Patrol Officer "Hal" tells us that the dead person was a member of the Dickson family, and then we go back in time to see which one bit the dust. Could it be Frank, Jr., with his snazzy red sports car? Allen, who's an atrocious actor? Gramps, who's even worse than Allen? Officer Hal is a real Mr. Gloom and Doom as he shows us some of accidents he's seen (though no grim aftermaths). But the final accident in this film (the one that knocks off the careless Dickson) involves -- what else? -- a car and a Union Pacific freight train. This film is too long and somber to be much fun, but it does have a fine color sequence of a '59 Edsel. Gramps has the best lines. 23:27:29:01 LS Car heading toward camera, goes through flashing red signal at railroad crossing locomotive follows immediately 23:28:04:00 LS Cars in procession, including hearse, drive under stone arch which reads "Kohler Lake" 23:28:20:00 LS Cars drive past cemetery headstones 23:28:24:00 LS Idaho state police car drives up 23:28:27:00 MS State trooper gets out of his car and takes off hat 23:28:42:00 CU State trooper looks concerned pensive 23:28:46:00 CU Face of man looking serious concerned 23:28:57:00 CU State trooper with furrowed brow 23:29:20:00 LS Little red convertible sports car driving 23:29:23:00 LS Man driving convertible waves as he pulls in driveway Cows in pasture in background 23:29:30:00 MS Two men in field greet each other warmly shaking hands throw arms around each other and walk off. 23:29:35:00 CU Men's shoes walking in field seen from behind 23:29:38:00 MS Men walking with arms around each other's waists walking away from camera in field 23:29:40:00 MS Outdoor fast-food drive-in restaurant [sign reads BURGER], teenage couple sits in car man passes shake to woman 23:29:48:00 MS Man and woman (older teenagers) sit in red convertible she drinks shake he eats ice cream 23:29:50:00 LS Man fills tractor with fuel from gas can. People stand and watch 23:29:59:00 MS Man climbs up onto seat of red tractor smiles and steers wheel 23:30:07:00 CU Older man's face smiling, shakes head "no" 23:30:19:00 MS Man replaces younger man at wheel of tractor then gestures to woman to join him 23:30:21:00 MS Woman points to herself says "Me?" then "Okay" 23:30:25:00 MS Woman jumps aboard tractor to join man 23:30:31:00 LS Couple drives tractor 23:30:36:00 LS Tractor appears on town street drives to railroad crossing stops and continues driving across 23:30:50:00 LS Police car comes into frame drives down street 23:30:56:00 MS Young man approaches old-fashioned outdoor mailbox reaches in and grabs mail 23:31:05:00 MS Young man reads envelope gets excited and runs off holding letter in air exclaiming 23:31:14:00 LS Young man, clutching letter, runs to family grouping at picnic table under tree 23:31:35:00 LS Police car drives up officer leaves car comes over to group greets everyone and sits down at picnic table. 23:31:55:00 CU Smiling fresh-faced American boy 23:31:10:00 CU Police officer scolds boy for driving without a license 23:32:24:00 CU Teenage boy says "I'm sorry." 23:33:05:00 LS Tow truck hauling car driving toward camera 23:33:13:00 LS Car goes through STOP sign 23:33:19:00 LS Police car pursues driver 23:33:21:00 MS Police car pulls over driver of small red convertible 23:33:33:00 CU Car wheel with fancy chrome spokes fades to 23:33:35:00 CU Roulette wheel seen from above hand sets wheel in motion ball is thrown 23:33:47:00 LS Car passes another illegally 23:33:51:00 CU Face of irritated driver 23:34:06:00 LS Car drives on wrong side of road 23:34:11:00 Head-on collision driver's POV 23:34:16:00 CU Roulette ball falls on number on wheel 23:34:42:00 MS Police officer hands teenager driver safety brochure 23:34:44:00 CU Driver safety brochure "Signs of Life" shows road signs 23:34:55:00 MS Series of traffic signs seen from driver's POV: "Speed Limit 50 " Keep Right of Island " a curve warning a "Yield " "Narrow Bridge " "Signals Ahead " "Do Not Enter " "Keep Right " "Railroad Crossing " "Cross Walk " "School Zone " "Drive Slow " 23:35:14:00 CU Flashing red railroad crossing lights 23:35:15:00 CU "Stop" sign 23:35:18:00 LS Empty intersection "Stop" sign visible 23:35:20:00 LS Intersection, cars crossing 23:35:26:00 CU "School crossing" sign 23:35:29:00 LS Woman leads school children across intersection 23:35:35:00 CU "Railroad Crossing" sign 23:35:39:00 LS Empty railroad crossing 23:35:42:00 LS Yellow locomotive moves across railroad crossing 23:36:02:00 CU Railroad crossing sign seen at night caught in headlights 23:36:06:00 LS Nighttime, car's headlights approaching camera 23:36:13:00 CU Railroad crossing sign seen at night caught in headlights 23:36:23:00 LS Railroad train passing through crossing at night. "Union Pacific" imprinted on side 23:36:32:00 LS Main commercial street, small town fade to same scene at twilight neon signs visible same scene nighttime, moon visible 23:37:14:00 Night railroad train crosses signals flash 23:37:52:00 CU Vehicle accident report stamped "FATAL" in red 23:37:55:00 CU Teenage boy holds his head, rubs his eyes, looks upset 23:38:29:00 LS Sports car dragster handles curve in road 23:38:33:00 LS Police car begins pursuit lights flashing, siren wailing 23:38:40:00 CU Red light on top of police car 23:38:42:00 LS Sports cars speeds around curve 23:38:42:00 CU Man driving convertible turns around to look at police following him 23:38:46:00 CU Foot (wearing boot) depresses gas pedal 23:38:49:00 CU Police officer driving, seen from the side 23:38:52:00 LS Police chase 23:39:32:00 LS Speeding car loses control 23:39:35:00 CU Foot presses brake 23:39:49:00 LS Police car drives to side of road officer jumps out stands silhouetted looking down embankment 23:39:53:00 LS Police officer runs down dirt embankment to site of traffic accident smoking overturned car 23:40:04:00 MS Police officer looks in overturned car he looks up with a sickened expression on his face 23:40:11:00 LS Police officer turns to look at daisies in the scrub. ZI to daisies 23:40:55:00 CU Bicycle built for two legs only shown 23:40:57:00 LS Tandem bicycle, couple in period costume on dirt road 23:41:03:00 LS Couple riding in horse and buggy 23:41:12:00 LS Early automobile 23:41:17:00 LS Contemporary highway, seen from above 23:41:31:00 LS Early car approaches railroad crossing 23:41:34:00 LS Railroad train going through underpass then overpass 23:42:19:00 LS Lone car drives on quiet highway 23:42:27:00 CU Driver starts to doze off car weaves over road 23:43:20:00 LS Convertible driving along road couple points at sights 23:43:27:00 MS Car with flat tire slows to a halt pulls over 23:43:40:00 MS Man fixing car tire looks up when another car approaches 23:43:41:00 MS Car narrowly misses man fixing flat 23:43:45:00 CU Driver looks back, shakes his head, rubs his brow 23:43:52:00 CU Woman looks at road map while driving when she looks up, another car is front of her her face looks startled 23:44:07:00 CU Camera inside car, woman leans in to say goodbye to driver 23:44:12:00 MS View of woman's rear end as she walks away from car 23:44:17:00 MS Series of narrowly averted car accidents 23:45:11:00 LS Locomotive approaching 23:45:37:00 CU Railroad tracks stretching into distance 23:45:57:00 MS Car drives up to railroad crossing signal flashes 23:46:04:00 MS Locomotive approaches 23:46:07:00 MS Man and woman sit in car looking impatient man looks at his watch and sighs 23:46:11:00 MS Train crosses in front of stopped vehicle 23:46:32:00 MS Man and woman driving in convertible sports car 23:47:03:00 MS Station wagon pulls up to railroad crossing 23:47:05:00 CU Front end of car stops abruptly 23:47:17:00 LS Locomotive in the distance two trains going in opposite directions on adjoining tracks 23:48:45:00 MS Couple waves goodbye 23:48:55:00 LS Pickup truck pulls out of driveway 23:49:00:00 LS Convertible pulls out of driveway 23:49:04:00 CU Smiling couple driving down road in convertible 23:49:16:00 MS People wave at each other from one car to another cars drive parallel 23:49:28:00 CU Woman and man in car wave happily behind them 23:49:32:00 CU Railroad signal lights flashing 23:49:36:00 CU Speeding oncoming locomotive 23:49:45:00 CU Horrified teenage boy's face 23:49:46:00 MS Car with couple drives past flashing railroad signal 23:49:47:00 CU Speeding locomotive 23:49:57:00 LS Police officer covers body on ground at site of car accident with blanket 23:50:08:00 LS Ambulance attendants carry stretcher with woman on it to ambulance 23:50:10:00 CU Woman lying on stretcher 23:50:15:00 MS Stretcher is placed in ambulance by attendants 23:50:20:00 CU Teenage boy leans against pickup truck crying police officer tries to comfort him. 23:50:30:00 LS Two railroad engineers walk toward accident scene 23:50:32:00 MS Railroad engineers talking and shaking their heads, saying "Why don't they look?" 23:50:51:00 LS Funeral procession arrives at gravesite 23:50:57:00 MS Police officer gets into car drives off 23:51:18:00 MS Police car pursues someone siren flashes 23:51:30:00 MS State highway patrol officers saluting: Series of shots from different states: Idaho Wyoming Arizona California Utah represented 23:52:17:09 [END OF FILM] 23:36:27:05- 23:36:55:20 Excellent shot of small town with broad streets during the day with cars moving in and out of an intersection. This dissolves to images of the town at twilight there are neon lights, and the sky is a soft blue. There is another dissolve to the town at night the neon and headlights are extremely bright. 23:43:12:28- 23:43:26:11 Young couple in a convertible drive down a single lane highway pointing at the mountainous scenery around them. 23:45:50:11- 23:46:27:24 Perhaps too many cuts in this sequence, but nice shots of railroad crossing with silos in the distance. A young couple comes to the crossing and stops, and we then see them moving across the tracks. 23:47:11:25- 23:47:41:25 Long shot of a train approaching from the distance beautiful image of the tracks, flat land, telephone polls, and dry fields. It looks like an establishing shot. DEATH & MORALIZING: Cars slowly enter a cemetery. Somber music plays. State trooper pulls up outside of the cemetery. His VO begins the sad story of Frank Jr. ECU of his face as he reflects. His VO begins the sad story of a teen lost to an accident. He explains that he cannot go into the funeral for many reasons: ..."Besides, I could do more good out on the road. I could prevent other people from killing themselves." FAMILY INTRODUCTION: Frank Junior pulls up to the family farm in his red sportscar. He's coming home for the summer from college. He waves to his father, jumps out of the car, and they walk off together arm in arm. stock shot: Nice, crisp image of teenagers (Betty and Frank Jr.) sitting at the drive-in together. Good image of Betty and Jr. sitting on a red tractor. The younger brother stands by them. DRIVER'S LICENSE: Great image of younger brother going to rural mailbox. His driver's license has arrived. He's ecstatic. He shows it to his mother, father, and grandfather who drink iced tea outside at a picnic table. SAFETY MORALIZING: State trooper joins family at picnic table. The teen with new license expresses his excitement, but the cop says he saw him driving the day before. The grandfather blames himself. This leads into much moralizing on the part of the cop. He states, "I thought this would be a good time to tell you some of the facts of life about driving." He pulls out the accident report of a teenager who was killed in an accident... stock shots: tow truck pulls totaled car, red sports car goes through stop sign. GAMBLING WITH DEATH: A car wheel turns into a roulette wheel. The cop states: "That's where you start to play with your life...You're taking a big gamble with your life when you violate a no passing [rule] on the road." Cut to car carelessly passing car on the right. stock shots: CU of "Signs of Life" (various traffic signs). Teacher leads a group of children across street (visible safety signs behind them). Nighttime driving. TRANSITIONS: A town's Main Street switches from day to twilight to nighttime. Beautiful neon. YOUTH ENCOUNTERS DEATH: State cop tells younger brother about another teenager (the boy's classmate) who was killed in a car accident. Cop hands boy the accident report. Next there's a MCU of the report which is embossed with the big red FATAL stamp. The teen looks at this with tears in his eyes. CHASE SEQUENCE: (23:39:57:16) After the cop shows the boy the accident report, we view the chase which led to his friend's fatal crash. The doomed teen drives a vintage convertible sports car too fast and carelessly along rural roads. The cop tries to pull him over, but the teen wants to escape the cop. He looks over his shoulder and increases speed. He goes across a bridge (there's a train in the background) and turns off onto Lone Tree Road. He loses control. Next we view the sports car turned over. The cop's VO tells us, "He never had a chance." The cop looks down at the totaled car and presumably the dead body inside of it (though we never see that). He looks back up, and there is a symbolic cut to yellow wild flowers. Cut back to the family sitting around the picnic table. The father states, "I can't understand it why do they do it?" The cop replies, "You tell me. That's one thing the report doesn't show." LOSING CONTROL ON THE ROAD: An older man nods off as he drives his red car along a rural highway (his wife sits next to him). He swerves into the other lane (he's on a single lane highway) as a car approaches him. They then swerve entirely off the road (at a bridge abutment). We don't see the crash, but the climax of the music makes it clear that they have indeed crashed. INATTENTION NEAR MISS: A young couple in a convertible drive carelessly along a single-lane highway. The driver, a young dapper man, points out scenery too his wife. Another driver has pulled over and is changing his tire. The couple almost hit him they swerve out just in time. DISTRACTION NEAR MISS: A woman reads a map as she drives along the highway. She must slam on her brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of her. DISTRACTION CAUSED BY BUTT FETISH NEAR MISS: A man drops his girlfriend off at home. He watches her butt (she wears a tight skirt) as she walks towards the front door. He then pulls out suddenly and almost causes an accident with a car driving by. NEAR MISSES: There are a series of near misses. Several are excellent shots of near misses at railroad crossings. CARS VS. TRAINS: This is an important theme, particularly throughout the last half of the film. DEATH DRIVES: (23:48:30:00) Frank sits on his father's tractor, and Betty drives up in her convertible. Cut to Mom who sits at picnic table. She says to Dad, "Please speak to Frank about his driving it worries me." Allen (younger brother) then indicates that he wants to drive the truck. What follows is the drive which leads to Frank's death and Betty's hospitalization. All the teens take a drive Frank and Betty in the convertible ahead of Allen who drives his father's truck. They drive along the rural road waving back and forth to one another. Frank and Betty wave too long, and they come upon the railroad crossing without looking. The result is a major crash. The car is turned on its side. Betty is taken away on a stretcher. Frank is dead. Allen leans against the truck and cries. MORALIZING: Two railroad operators in caps stand by the scene of the crash. They shake their heads. One says to the other, "Why don't they look, Bob. Why don't they look?" DEATH MORALIZING: Zoom out from grave site where there is a row of empty chairs. The cop states, "My place was out on the road. Out on the road I could at least try to keep people from killing themselves in their cars...So if the next car I stop happens to be yours, don't tell me you're speeding only a little, breaking the law just a little, only doing something a little bit wrong, save that for somebody else brother, because I see too many little follies that end up with somebody a little bit dead." The cop then drives away in his state trooper car. POLICE AUTHORITY: Western state policemen montage.
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