Shake Hands with Danger (1980)

“Shake hands with danger/ Any guy oughta know/ I used to laugh at safety/ But now they call me… Three Finger Joe.”

Shake Hands with Danger is perhaps the best industrial training movie about Caterpillar equipment that I have ever seen, twenty transcendent minutes.

“Glenn knows the risk of striking hard against badly chipped metal, but he’s wearing safety glasses and there’s a macho thing involved here. Glenn doesn’t want his friend to sneer at him for being overly cautious. So, Glenn shakes hands with danger.”

What makes it even more amazing was that this is directed by Herk Harvey, the same man whose 1962 Carnival of Souls influenced so much of the horror that would follow, most importantly Night of the Living Dead. Harvey spent most of his career making movies just like this, films with titles like Pork: The Meal with a Squeal and Case History of a Sales Meeting.

This movie has real practical effects in that big machines are really crashing and breaking and destroying bodies in their wake. Sure, the song — written by Jim Stringer, John Clifford and Charles Oldfather Jr.* — is silly, but the film is effective.

It’s written by John Clifford, who also wrote — you guessed it — Carnival of Souls .

“Shake hands with danger/ Take the chance that you won’t fall/ You’ll save yourself a minute/ But you may damn well lose it all!”

Herk Harvey had a great perspective on the movies that he made. He said, “I took a vacation and shot Carnival of Souls in two weeks. I’ve been to festivals and people always ask, “How come you made only one film?”, and I say, “Hell, I’ve made over 400″.”

*Charles Oldfather was the son of a high administrator at the University of Nebraska who has a building named after himself on campus. He taught every course at the University of Kansas School of Law and was the University Attorney. He also is in this movie acting, which he did in local productions, and one assumes that he met Harvey in that capacity, as the director also taught at Kansas University.

You can watch this on YouTube.

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