Informational PSAs‘ were a natural part of traditional programming from the dawn of the boob tube up until the early 2000s’ where it became less common to have those in-between segments posing as commercials depressing you in the middle of your all-important Ninja Turtle program. While many may remember the 80s’ really got on the celebrity Just Say No bandwagon thanks to the likes of Nancy Regan, even with popular cartoons ending their show with a PSA of their own like He-Man and Jem which were informational, but light by nature most of the time, some were dark as hell. And in 1973, the most terrifying PSA debuted to British audiences everywhere that did its job; almost too well to the point, it made kids scared of water entirely.
That PSA was entitled ‘Lonely Water‘ or better known as ‘The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water‘, and veteran actor, Halloween‘s Donald Pleasence secured the ominous voice of the Grim Reaper in the film short.
Born out of the Central Office of Information, ‘Lonely Water’ features a pre-Doctor Loomis voicing the character of Death, preying on the foolish youngsters who play near potentially dangerous areas of water. As noted in the Youtube description: “Creepy hints of ‘The Seventh Seal’ and ‘Final Destination’ make this a terrifyingly persuasive public information film, with Death’s final, ominous “I’ll be back” pre-dating Arnold Schwarzenegger by over a decade.”
Death by drowning is terrifying enough and this PSA went balls to the wall killing kids left and right in this thing. The Grim Reaper gleefully rejoices in a subtle, malevolent way as each “fool born every minute” succumbs to one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful, yet deadly entities. Kind of like Nancy taking Freddy’s powers away with logic, the kids that bear some common sense weaken Death’s grip, reducing him to only his death shroud, and obviously, he isn’t a fan of those children.
In a poll carried out by the BBC on the 60th anniversary of the COI in 2006, Lonely Water was chosen as the UK’s fourth-favorite PIF of all time and the highest ranked one-off production. Dozens of comments attested to the film’s power and lasting impact on 1970s children. I mean, if THIS didn’t grab your attention as a kid to be weary of large bodies of water and to act responsibly, I don’t know whatever will.
Now Lonnie, get yo’ ass away from that lake!