Studio: British Film Institute
Length: 176 mins
Region: Region 0
Released: 18 February 2013
Cat No: BFIVD949
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CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On
Triple bill of British movies produced by the Children’s Film Foundation. In ’Sammy’s Super T-Shirt’ (1978), despite his small build,... Read More
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.