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CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On DVD

Jeremy Summers, Charles Frend, 1957-78

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Film Details

Directed by Jeremy Summers, Charles Frend

Produced in 1957-78

Main Language - English

Countries & Regions - British Film

MovieMail's Review

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 184 reviews

CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On

Film Description

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.

DVD Details

Certificate: PG

Publisher: BFI

Length: 176 mins

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Format: DVD B&W

Region: 2

Released: 18th February 2013

Cat No: BFIVD949

DVD Extras

  • Hi-definition transfers of all films
  • Illustrated booklet with essays by Andrew Roberts and Vic Pratt.

Film Stills

CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On

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