A short film about safety and kissing

'We inserted a scene where a passenger removes his oxygen mask, and his face comes off with it'
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Yesterday I brought you part of the current court case in which Mrs Nancy Garland is suing a well-known airline over its in-flight passenger safety film. She claims that while practising the recommended emergency landing position (head down, hands over head) she got stuck in that position for the entire flight because there isn't enough room in an aeroplane to adopt that position safely.

I have had many letters from readers who have been caught in the same predicament, wondering how the trial ended. Well, I can't tell you that, as it is still going on, but I am happy to bring you some more enlightening exchanges from this vital lawsuit...

Counsel: Your name is Daniel Maltover?

Witness: It is.

Counsel: You are a director of films?

Witness: I am.

Counsel: And would I have seen any of your films?

Witness: Almost certainly. I directed many of the films in the immensely popular series of shorts entitled An Indian Restaurant Somewhere Near to this Cinema. I also was responsible for The Dos and Don'ts of a Zebra Crossing, which was shown many times in every British cinema.

Counsel: So you tend to specialise in short educational films, rather than awarding winning movies?

Witness: Oh, but I am no stranger to awards. I have received many nominations in the In-Flight Oscars, and as for the Pearl and Dean Hall of Fame, I don't wish to boast but...

Counsel: Yes, well, perhaps some other time. But at the moment Mr Maltover, we are concerned specifically with one of your films – the one that was shown on an international flight from America to London on 15 July 2001...

Witness: Ah, Safety Drill. Or what we in the trade call passenger wallpaper.

Counsel: Passenger wallpaper?

Witness: This is a short film spelling out to passengers what will happen if the plane crashes. Of course, if the plane crashes, they will probably die. But we don't stress that. In fact, we don't even mention it. But we are required by law to go through the almost totally useless safety drill involving whistles and oxygen masks and sliding down chutes and inflatable jackets, even though we know that most people don't even watch these films.

Counsel: How do you know they don't? Have you done any market research?

Witness: Yes.

Counsel: You mean, you have crashed a plane shortly after take-off to see how many of the passengers remembered the drill?

Witness: Well, yes, once or twice, but only ever by accident, not on purpose. No, what we do is occasionally we introduce unexpected elements into the Safety Drill film and then we see if anyone notices.

Counsel: Give me an example.

Witness: Well, once we inserted a scene where a passenger in the film, played by an actor of course, removes his oxygen mask, and his face comes off with it, leaving a bloody skull behind! In another scene, when the stewardess is leaning over a passenger to check his seat belt is fastened, he reaches up and kisses her, whereupon she gives him an almighty slap.

Counsel: And did anyone notice this?

Witness: Not a soul. Which seemed to prove that audience concentration was minimal. Oh, there was one passenger who noticed, but he was a film critic for a New York paper and he watches everything compulsively. Actually, he was so impressed that he wrote a review of my version of the film, Safety Drill IV, and I must admit that he was very laudatory. May I quote from it? "Baroque moments... Gothic twists to a familiar tale... delicious comic touches... this talented newcomer will go far..." – those were some of the phrases he used. I have the review in my wallet...

Counsel: Some other time, perhaps.

Witness: "Mr Maltover brings to the hackneyed, formulaic routine of the in-flight safety film a refreshing eye capable of quirky observation, which reminds one of the young Luis Buñuel. One treasures the moment when the man pulling down the oxygen mask finds that the mask is on the end of a never-ending line which pours from the ceiling in a spaghetti nightmare..."

Counsel: Mr Maltover!

Witness: Yes?

Counsel: Stop! Cut! End action! Cease!

Witness: If you wish.


More of this some other time, I hope.