I am a boy

penn-s-cave

I think we all have things like this… here’s mine.

I was talking to students yesterday – and what a relief to be actually talking to students, maybe even TEACHING, as opposed to endless admin…

Anyway, I was talking to students and the conversation triggered a memory…

I think we all have things like this… but I don’t have many because I’ve solved most of mine. We all have memories of things we saw on TV where we didn’t know what they were, maybe because we tuned in late or we were too small. But an image stuck in our minds and haunts us. The mystery is part of it, though the thing would still have resonance anyway. I think mine were pretty mysterious and fantastical — one I recently solved was BLACK ANGEL, which I knew I saw as a supporting short in front of SOMETHING during my dim youth — it turned out to have been screened with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Though the short itself is flawed, it does have a lot of the style and atmosphere I remembered…

Anyway, the conversation triggered a memory… There used to be shows on BBC2 “For Schools and Colleges,” and occasionally we got to watch them in school. I think maybe a teacher was sick on this occasion but for some reason we as a class — this was primary school so I was between five and eleven… closer to the latter… so figure mid-to-late seventies. And we saw a short film…

I’d say it was British and probably BBC-made. A boy was wandering on a beach. He considered getting in a barrel or drum and the had a vision of himself drifting helplessly out to sea. Then, even scarier, he explored a sea cave. There was an echo, and he played games with it. At one point he shouted “I – am – a – boy!” and the echo came back: “I – am – a – aaaa!”

I think he ran away at that point and I’m surprised we didn’t also.

I have no idea why I was subjected to this alarming film in school at such an impressionable age. I’m kind of glad I was though. I’ve probably forgotten everything else that happened in school that year. But What Was It?

If you can’t help me, tell me your own mysteries.

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7 Responses to “I am a boy”

  1. I’m afraid I can’t help you with your misty recollection, though I do have one of my own. My guess is it was a few years later, around 1982-1983, and again involved a British-made production. In my memory, it was a one-off, possibly something like a Play for Today, about a family dealing with the loss of a young son (which is presumably why it made an impression). I particularly remember scenes depicting the boy’s mother dealing with the need to tidy up/remove items no longer needed in the aftermath of the loss, like a cub scout cap (or perhaps it was a public school cap?).

  2. Couldn’t be public school — the kid would never have been around long enough to miss.

    It reminds me of the grim public information film with the kids mucking about near a pylon, ending with a shot of the unclaimed school blazer hanging on the end of a banister…

    Don’t know what this is but perhaps there are some Play For Today afficianados reading?

  3. I can’t help you, and mine’s not a specific memory – but why, after close to fifty years, did I suddenly remember watching Tich and Quackers on the BBC? More importantly, why does the entire series of Tich and Quackers no longer seem to exist? You’d have thought an odd episode or two would have survived in Australia or New Zealand, but this doesn’t seem to be the case…

  4. Ray Alan (of Lord Charles fame). This sounds like the creepiest thing ever.

    Incidentally, I really want to see that strange tour of the UK thing Alan did with his puppets, directed by a pre-Get Carter Mike Hodges…

  5. Due to my own ineptitude plus a shambolic bus service I got to the cinema very late – about half way through The Empire Strikes Back. So I watched the second half, then the unexpected Black Angel, then the first half of Empire. Black Angel was quite haunting – before all the details came out a year or two ago I occasionally searched for info on it, finding nothing, possibly because I thought it was called Dark Angel.

    (I should mention – I’m afraid I can’t help with the “I am a boy!” public information film. I remember many of them, particularly the electricity pylons one, the “Be careful near the canal” one, and the “Don’t turn your tractor and trailer round on a hill because they’ll fall over” one – but not yours.)

    Things I remember seeing on TV but can’t find evidence of online:

    ‘80s: An animated version of Anne McCaffrey’s ‘Dragonflight’. Between the ages of (roughly) 12 and 14 I read all of McCaffrey’s ‘Dragonriders of Pern’ books. A few years later, on TV, I saw what was unmistakably a trailer for an animated adaptation of the first book in the series. For some reason there was no sound, or there was unrelated sound or music over it, and no text. Maybe it never got beyond a proof-of-concept trailer. Admittedly I haven’t looked very hard but I can’t find anything on Youtube.

    Those are terrible, terrible books.

    ‘90s: A Welsh short in which a couple of old ladies win a trip to California, and one of them ends up cutting a track as ‘Gangsta Granny’. I remember one of the ladies yelling down a bad phone line at her son, who doesn’t know what to do with himself in her absence, “Get drunk!”

    All searches now turn up a David Walliams musical, also called Gangsta Granny.

    ‘70s: This one I have searched for and asked about; it’s the one I have the least info on, because the memory’s so vague. I *think* it was a film, I *think* it was Russian or eastern European, and it involved a dragon (just a coincidence, I don’t have any particular interest in dragons). As far as I can remember, the creature was only shown once, in a forest, and it was so big that all we saw was its snake-like body, looped around the trees, like a bendy, scaly tube train. Such an arresting image, it’s stayed with me for nearly forty years.

    Apologies for the size of this reply, I got a bit carried away.

  6. The I am a Boy film wasn’t a public info movie, btw. I don’t know WHAT it was — just a short film, made for obscure reasons to scare kids at school, I guess.

    I remember reading there was going to be a Pern animation in the early eighties, and I may have even seen a picture in a magazine. Doesn’t mean it got made, but it may have. Vanished the way of this thing: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077687/combined

    The Russian dragon thing sounds terrific! No idea what it is, but there’s a lot of Eastern block fantasy out there…

  7. […] this mystery: A kid in a mid-70s BBC drama shouts into the void, “I am a boy!” What happens next? […]

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