CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On DVD
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Produced in 1957-78
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Three more films from the CFF - the much-loved Sammy's Super T-Shirt (1978), The Sky Bike (1967) and Soapbox Derby (1957). No rose tinted spectacles are required, writes James Oliver.
For those of us of a certain age, the merest mention of The Children's Film Foundation (CFF) is enough to provoke a nostalgic reverie. As for actually watching their films... why, these are cinematic madeleines, inspiring a Proustian rush that transports us back to the more innocent times when we first saw them.
The CFF is a world of gang-huts, playground rivalries and don't-try-this-at-home stunts, where cheats never prosper, where an eccentric inventor is to be found in every shed and – crucially – where villainous adults always fall into some water. Kids today don't know they're born &c.
This set, the second in the BFI's ongoing excavation of the CFF's vaults, is structured around one of the foundation's favourite plot devices, competitive races. If we extend that theme a little, then pride of place must go to Sammy's Super T-Shirt. Made in their 1970s golden-age, this is one of the CFF's finest moments, a sort-of junior version of The Man in the White Suit; after a scientific experiment (long story), young Sammy Smith finds his favourite T-Shirt gives him special powers.
It is massively enjoyable. Reggie Winch is one of the CFF's most likeable juvenile leads while Richard Vernon and Julian Holloway are a joy as the devious industrialist and clumsy scientist (respectively) who want to reclaim the T-Shirt. Only Holloway actually falls in the drink but a couple of bullies take a tumble into a muddy puddle, so honour is satisfied.
Runner up is The Sky Bike, from 1967 and directed by Ealing alumnus Charles Frend. Eccentric inventor Liam Redmond constructs a pedal-powered flying machine, ably assisted by Spencer Shires. Naturally, there are some rival aeronauts for them to compete with and, of course, these dishonest opponents end up plummeting into a pond.
Winning bronze is the earliest film here, Soapbox Derby (1957); featuring a very youthful Michael 'ooh Betty' Crawford in an early role, it's a tale of rivalry, betrayal, reconciliation and villains-falling-into-water, set amongst the cut-throat world of junior kart racing.
The CFF are only beginning to get some of the acclaim their best work deserves. No rose tinted spectacles are required: only the sort of churl who deserves to fall into some water will find nothing to enjoy here.
James Oliver on 24th January 2013
Author of 182 reviews
The BFI presents three more classic films from the Children’s Film Foundation. Cult favourite Sammy’s Super T-Shirt (Summers, 1978) - which has had a petition for its release - finally comes to DVD, accompanied by two other classics from the collection, Soapbox Derby (Darcy Conyers, 1957) and The Sky Bike (Frend, 1967).
Sammy’s Super T-Shirt: Sammy dreams of becoming a super athlete, despite his puny build. When his lucky training t-shirt is thrown into a scientist’s lab it becomes imbued with 'super strength' power. When Sammy manages to recover the t-shirt he uses his new-found strength to out-run baddies and bullies alike.
Soapbox Derby (1957) features a go-kart race between two gangs - the Battersea Bats and the Victoria Victors. A young Michael Crawford stars in this action-packed adventure which was filmed on location around Battersea, capturing a changing London.
In the imaginative air-borne tale The Sky-Bike (1967), a young would-be pilot convinces an eccentric inventor (Liam Redmond) to get a flying machine into the skies.
Length: 176 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 18th February 2013
Cat No: BFIVD949
- Hi-definition transfers of all films
- Illustrated booklet with essays by Andrew Roberts and Vic Pratt.