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20 Times More Likely (1979)


Main image of 20 Times More Likely (1979)
16mm, colour, 25 mins
DirectorRobert Young
Production CompaniesCorpro
 Central Office of Information
SponsorThe Department of Transport
Producers/ScriptNigel Shaw
 Robin Duval
PhotographyClive Tickner
MusicSqueeze, Sham 69, Klark Kent, Great British Heroes

Teenagers Sandy and Alan are keen motorcyclists, but while Sandy insists on getting proper training, Alan refuses, even though this makes him twenty times more likely to have an accident.

Show full synopsis

With its doomed teenage protagonist and starkly violent final shots, 20 Times More Likely is a hard-hitting motorcycle safety film which convincingly warns Britain's unruly youth of the dangers of riding a motorbike irresponsibly. Made by the COI for the Department of Transport, this isn't really a straight-up warning documentary at all, but rather a short character driven drama: a 25 minute tragic romance with an explicit road safety message.

The opening credits roll to the accompaniment of Sham 69 thrashing away on the soundtrack and stylish slow-motion shots (recalling Sam Peckinpah) of dirt bikes skidding through mud and careering up hills. The action then switches to a motorcycling tuition school where we are introduced to the protagonists Sandy (Gillian Taylforth) and Alan (Ray Burdis), two teenagers who knock about town together on their bikes. While Sandy is diligently studying to pass her motorcycle course, tearaway Alan scoffs at the very idea of lessons despite being told by the impeccably spoken instructor that he's "20 times more likely" to have an accident if he forsakes the training.

The second half of the film alternates between informative educational sequences and Sandy and Alan's blossoming relationship. Sandy displays a mastery of both vehicle and nerve when an absent-minded builder reverses into her path, whilst Alan soon passes his test with flying colours. However, the pair fall out when Alan enters some off-road motorcycling trials. A lengthy, almost dreamlike montage ensues with shots of Alan riding in the trials intercut with Sandy looking on forlorn and his early erratic biking manoeuvres. A loud screech on the soundtrack announces a temporal shift and the film suddenly cuts back to Alan's earlier crash for the final scene's shocking dénouement: he didn't really survive. He died that day. The second half has in fact been a bizarre projection of Sandy's imagination - her wish that he was still alive. The film ends with images of Ray's bloodied body under the front wheels of a car whilst Sandy stares blankly at his corpse in disbelief.

20 Times More Likely was well received and won the 1979 Best Specialised Film BAFTA Award; recognition that this skilfully produced and entertaining film is much more than just a conventional public information short.

James Blackford

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. I manage all right (3:47)
2. Braking and visibility (2:38)
3. Not good enough (5:30)
Complete film (25:12)
Mind How You Go (1973)
No Short Cut (1964)
Duval, Robin (1941-)