Booked for Safekeeping (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #229 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This early 60s police training film, made in New Orleans, was designed to educate officers in how to handle people who are mentally ill, a type of situation that is more common in police work than you might think. The film is quite well-made and realistic, showing us scenes of police officers handling a confused, senile old lady making a scene at a grocery store; a depressed man who tried to kill himself by jumping off a bridge; a frightened, paranoid psychotic armed with a knife; and a catatonic who doesn’t speak English who suddenly goes from a state of stupor to a violent attack. The main cop in the film keeps his cool in these very difficult and dangerous situations, trying to talk down the disturbed people, and when this fails, physically subdues them in the least painful and frightening ways possible. The film points out in a number of different scenes that there are often inadequate facilities and services to deal with such people, and that is why the job falls to the police. For example, the narrator repeats several times that jail is not a good place for such persons, yet in all cases shown, the disturbed person ends up being held in a bleak jail because there is no other safe place available to keep them until they can be seen by a doctor. The New Orleans setting of the film gives it a strange, otherworldly quality (unless you’re from there, I suppose). All in all, this is a fascinating film about a difficult social problem that I doubt is much different today.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.

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