A Blast From The Past: The Innocent Party (dir by Herk Harvey)


In this education film from 1959, two dim teenage boys decide to take a trip to the big city.  They pick up two girls, the engage in behavior “condemned by society,” and the next thing you know, everyone’s got Syphilis.

Yes, this is another educational film from the 50s, where the emphasis is less on practical advice (i.e., use a condom when having sex, especially with someone who you just met) and more on passing judgment on those who transgressed society’s norms.  I have to admit that one of the things that I like about these old films is just how bleak their worldview was.  If you screw up once, your life is over.  There’s nothing you can do to fix the problem.  There’s nothing you can do to redeem yourself.  You stepped out-of-line and now, you’ve got the same disease that killed Al Capone.  Take that, teenager!  The message of this particular film was considered to be so important that it was even filmed in color, which is quite a contrast to the harsh black-and-white aesthetic of most educational films of the period.  That, along with the smooth jazz on the soundtrack, is designed to let the target audience know that sex with random people is totally squaresville and not something that a responsible member of society does.  Why go to the city when you could join the student council or take part in any number of wholesome school activities?

This film was one of the many educational films to be directed by the great Herk Harvey.  In a career that spanned decades, Harvey directed hundreds of short, educational films that were designed to show “young people” how to properly behave.  Even if he wasn’t directing a film about VD, then he was probably doing a film about why gossip can be destructive to school spirit.

Harvey also directed one feature film and it’s one of the most important and influential horror films ever made, 1962’s Carnival of Souls.  We’ll be sharing that film here on the Lens later this month.  Until then, please enjoy The Innocent Party!