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Powerful Stuff (public information film)

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Powerful Stuff
Directed byPatrick Veale
Produced bySue Tramontini
Written byPatrick Veale
Edited byMike Gilding
Distributed byIndependent Business Television Limited
Release date
Running time
15 min 45 secs.[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom

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Powerful Stuff is a 1988 Electrical safety film made by the Independent Business Television Limited for the Electricity Council. It was shown in schools and edited into stand-alone PIFs for television broadcast.

Plot summary[edit]

The film begins with Darren and his younger brother Tom meeting their friend Gary and his girlfriend on a motorcycle - with Darren asking Gary to let him ride it at the weekend as it's their last day at school before the half term. Heading to school, Darren and Tom meet up with their friend Andy and continue together - causing several shenanigans like setting off a gang of teenagers who chase them all the way to an Electrical substation. After losing them, Tom spots a football inside on the roof of one of the buildings, from which Darren tries to break in through some vandalized bars to get as he believes that the warning signs are just to frighten kids away and that you can't get hurt unless you actually touch something. However, a reluctant Andy talks him out of it; instead, they play football with other friends to school.

Once they enter their science class, their teacher introduces a visitor named Mr. Ken Jones to them. Mr. Jones explains to them that he works for the electricity board, and teaches them the dangers of electricity like touching overhead cables, messing around in disused buildings and climbing pylons; showing clips of what happened when people ignored or did not know the danger that could be present in the situation (the clips including footage from the earlier public information film "Play Safe"). However, Darren becomes bored during the lesson and begins to ignore all of this - including a warning from Mr. Jones that you don't have to touch electrical equipment to get hurt - by listening to his Walkman and daydreaming of going on a motorcycle that his friend was using earlier in the beginning.

On the way back from school, the boys see Gary and his girlfriend with his motorcycle having some electrical problems. As the group help Gary with the repairs, Darren sees his friend's ball is punctured and remembers the football in the substation - leaving the group and taking Tom with him to act as a lookout while he breaks into the substation. Meanwhile, Andy sees the deflated ball and suddenly realizes that Darren has taken Tom to the substation to retrieve the football - noticing too late as Darren climbs onto the building roof and throws the football but is electrocuted when it hits one of the cables, the electricity arcing to him as was warned by Mr. Jones. Tom runs in and climbs onto the building rooftop to try to help Darren as the group try to stop him, but are too late, as Tom touches a live bus bar which electrocutes him as well, much to the horror of Andy and his friends.

Later, the fire brigade, ambulance and the police arrive at the scene at night as Andy remembers Mr. Jones's lecture to the class about dangers of electricity and imagines how Darren and Tom's mother would react to what has happened, as the radio news report is heard, explaining the incident as Andy and his friends mourn for the deceased brothers.

Television broadcasts[edit]

Scenes from the films were made into public information films with their campaign: "Don't take a chance with electricity".

  1. Fishing Pole: Two boys are walking down a path next to the river, but when they move out of the way to let a moving vehicle pass by, one of the boys' long fishing poles, which the boy never bothered to take apart, hits a power line, leaving his face and hands permanently disfigured as a result.
  2. Badminton: Two girls are playing badminton outside while their mother answers the phone without knowing that builders left behind a ladder. The ball ends up in a tree next to some electrical wires, and the girl climbs up a ladder to get it, believing the wires are only for the telephone and are not dangerous, but hits a wire by accident and gets electrocuted, much to their mother's horror.
  3. Building: A gang of young boys are cycling into an abandoned building where they mess around, smashing up things. A boy grabs a pipe and whacks a socket, much to his mate's amusement. The boy hits it repeatedly and then whacks it hard, resulting in sparks exploding from the socket, killing the boy's friend, much to his horror.
  4. Kite: A teenage boy foolishly climbs up a pylon to rescue a girl's kite that was blown into the wires. The boy's friend tries to warn his mate about the dangers, but to no avail. The boy stupidly climbs to where the kite is. When he nears the kite, electricity arcs from the wire, through the kite, to the boy, killing him instantly.
  5. Football: Darren, Tom and Andy are outside the substation. Tom spots a football which Darren attempts to retrieve, but Andy tries to talk him out of it. But Darren ignores his friend's advice, breaks in and is fatally electrocuted whilst retrieving the ball. Tom goes in to help, but ends up being killed as well, all while a horrified Andy can do nothing but watch. This film features excerpts from the full version, but one of the scenes was altered to show Darren's ignorance and his consequence.


These are the two songs that were heard in this film.

  • The Heat Is On - Gloria Gaynor (Played at the beginning where Darren and Tom meet up with Andy and run in pursuit from a gang of teenagers.)
  • Yesterday's Men - Madness (Played when Andy and his friends mourn for Darren and Tom after the incident at the substation.)

In popular culture[edit]

In the Nostalgia Critic's 2016 video, Battle of the Commercials, the titular Critic watches the television broadcast version of the "Football" PSA, and gets frightened by the commercial, to the point where he finds British PSAs to be more frightening than the Canadian ones.

External links[edit]


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