CFF Collection: Volume 2 -... View large image

Film Details

Directed by: Jeremy Summers Charles Frend Darcy Conyers

Produced: 1978

Countries & Regions: United Kingdom

DVD Details

Certificate: U

Studio: British Film Institute

Length: 176 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 0

Released: 18 February 2013

Cat No: BFIVD949

Languages(s): English
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CFF Collection: Volume 2 - The Race is On

Cast: Michael Crawford , Liam Redmond , William Lucas , Julian Holloway , Lawrie Mark , Ellen McIntosh , Reggie Winch , Keith Davis , Roy Townsend , Spencer Shires

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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




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Triple bill of British movies produced by the Children’s Film Foundation. In ’Sammy’s Super T-Shirt’ (1978), despite his small build, Sammy Smith (Reggie Winch) dreams of being a top athlete. While in training for a running competition, a couple of bullies hurl Sammy’s lucky t-shirt through a science lab window where an accident results in it gaining super strength. Sammy retrieves the t-shirt and tries to use it to win the race but things don’t go according to plan. In ’Soapbox Derby’ (1957), set in London, a teenaged Michael Crawford makes his movie debut. The Battersea Bats and the Victoria Victors, two rival gangs of children, are getting ready for an upcoming soapbox derby. When the Victors learn of a new car design created by the Bats they try to get their hands on it before the big race. In ’The Sky Bike’ (1967) a bumbling inventor hopes to win a contest with his new creation - a flying bicycle. With the help of his young friend can he win the prize?

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.

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