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|Directed by||John Mackenzie|
|Produced by||John Arnold
|Written by||Neville Smith|
|Distributed by||British Film Institute|
Apaches is a Public Information Film (PIF) made in the United Kingdom in 1977. Produced by the Central Office of Information (COI) for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it was shown extensively in the Southern, Westward and Anglia regions, before being shown either on film or videocassette in primary schools. It was shot on 16mm film at a Home Counties farm in February 1977, and child actors were selected from a school in Maidenhead, Berkshire. The 26-minute-long film deals with the subject of the dangers to children on farms, and has been seen in schools all over Britain, as well as Canada, Australia and the United States. The timeframe of the film is somewhat confusing, giving a surreal feeling to the events portrayed. The film was directed by John Mackenzie, written by Neville Smith and produced by John Arnold and Leon Clore. Apaches is now one of the most notorious public information films of all time.
The film, which dovetails the narrative conventions of the western with PIFs, follows the misadventures of a group of six young children (Kim, Sharon, Michael, Danny, Tom and Robert) in a rural British village, who enjoy playing on a nearby farm. Throughout the film the children play at being "Apache warriors", hence the film's title. All but one die in various shocking accidents, largely due to the children's carelessness, suggesting that the children would still be alive if they had known what dangers lay ahead. It is narrated in-character by Danny (Robbie Oubridge).
Several children play on a farm while a tea party is prepared. As the farmer drives his tractor through the field where the children are playing, While her friends follow behind, Kim jumps up onto the trailer, pretends the tractor is a train, and shoots at it. The tractor makes a turn, and she falls off and is run over, to the horror of the other children. At their school, the teacher removes Kim's name tag from a storage peg.
The children play in the fields again as their parents leave for the tea party. The boys want to play football, but the game changes to kick the can instead. While hiding from Danny, Tom decides to balance on the top of a fence overlooking a slurry pit and falls in. Nobody hears his cries for help, and he suffers a quick death by drowning. The village children are given a day off because of his death, and the class teacher removes the items from Tom's desk.
As their parents prepare the children's party, they play at being cavalry and later Apaches. When the game concludes, the children wander into an equipment shed and find a bottle that contains an unnamed chemical. Danny suggests they drink it to celebrate their victories. Michael points out that the can may contain a dangerous chemical, and they discuss whether it is poisonous. They agree to mime-drink the liquid, but Sharon accidentally swallows some of it. She seems fine once she spits it out, but later she becomes sick. In the middle of the night, she wakes up in excruciating pain, screaming and crying and calling for her mother. In the next scene, her mother is seen clearing out her now-dead daughter's bedroom with a close-up of her now empty bed. Danny comments that he does not understand why adults drink, and his parents pour whisky from a bottle identical to that of the poisonous chemical.
The remaining children play in the fields, and Michael narrowly avoids being run over by a tractor like Kim. As they pretend to be the stars of Starsky and Hutch, Michael accidentally dislodges a heavy iron gate that crushes Robert. The remaining two children stare the lifeless body shocked as more people arrive for the party. Danny sets off on his own to find more children, and finds farm workers on their break. Danny requests to sit on their tractor, and they agree as long as he is careful. As he pretends to drive a racing car, he accidentally releases the handbrake and crashes the tractor, presumably snapping his neck. His parents mourn his loss in his empty bedroom.
Danny's coffin is buried as the vicar commits him to the ground, and the mourners move on to the wake. Danny continues his narration after his death, and talks calmly about his family all arriving for the "party" being prepared earlier in the film. Michael, also present, is revealed to be Danny's cousin – the only child not to have been killed by his own reckless behavior, despite Danny having described Michael as "daft". Danny's voice fades into a ghostly echo as he sadly says he wishes he could have gone to the party.
Closing credits show a long list of real children who had died in actual farm accidents in the year before the film was made.
- Robbie Oubridge as Danny
- Ian Scrace as Michael
- Wayne Tapsfield as Robert
- Sharon Smart as Sharon
- Fion Smith as Tom
- Louise O'Hara as Kim
Home viewing availability
Apaches was made available for home viewing by the BFI in 2010, along with other such Public Information Films of the time such as Building Sites Bite, on the compilation DVD COI Collection Vol 4: Stop! Look! Listen!.