Studio: British Film Institute
Length: 162 mins
Region: Region 0
Released: 17 June 2013
Cat No: BFIVD970
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CFF Collection: Weird Adventures
Triple bill of British movies produced by the Children’s Film Foundation. In ’The Monster of Highgate Ponds’ (1961) some children... Read More
Church bells ring, 'a CFF Production' expands onto the screen, a flock of pigeons scatters from Trafalgar Square - and we're off, into three more unpredictable adventures from the Children's Film Foundation, filled with unexpected encounters, intrepid, unafraid children, inept adults, monsters, time-travellers, start-rite sandals and carefully-enunciating children who say 'gosh', 'buck up', 'glory' and - most importantly - 'wait, I've got an idea'.
Cavalcanti's The Monster of Highgate Ponds (1961) is exactly that and all comes about when David, Chris and Sophie help Uncle Dick unpack his specimens from Malaya at the museum and David gets to keep an unmarked egg which is awfully warm. However, when bringing up a dragon in his wardrobe proves unavoidably noisy, the children take it to Highgate Bathing Ponds, where it attracts the attention of two disillusioned fairground men, looking for a new attraction for their depleted menagerie. If the great Cavalcanti thought directing it a bit of a comedown from heading the GPO film Unit (writer Joy Batchelor's daughter Vivien, 15 at the time, recalls him with his head in his hands saying 'Gods gif me patience' quite a lot), the film - complete with Halas & Batchelor's animated inserts - clips along without condescension, but with plenty of humour and good old-fashioned enjoyment.
Now, take a boring old school lesson on electricity, a trip to the Tower of London, a missing white mouse called Alice and a camp man dressed in orange cape and boots, canary yellow tights and sporting skis and a rotating amber beacon on his head - and you have The Boy who Turned Yellow (1972), the wonderfully improbable final collaboration between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in which a boy who has suddenly and inexplicably done what the title says skis on electric waves through his TV set (best just to go with it). It's completely batty, great fun, and was voted best children's film by its intended audience - and who's to argue with them? Enjoyment of the story is enhanced by the trappings of the period - tasselled jackets, Hendrix and Joni Mitchell posters (in the classroom!), and David Vorhaus and Patrick Gowers' electronically squeaked version of 'Three Blind Mice' that accompanies the opening credits.
The final adventure, A Hitch in Time (1978), sees two schoolchildren sent off on an unpredictable journey through British history when they stumble upon a bewhiskered inventor (in the person of Doctor Who's second incarnation, Patrick Troughton) and his imperfect time-travelling machine OSKA (an acronym involving 'Oscillating', as these things do) in the dungeon of a nearby ruined castle. And no matter when they fetch up, be it in the civil war or the stone age, Sniffy Kemp is there to create as many problems in their lives as he does as their present-day history teacher.
All in all, a classic CFF collection for nostalgists and novices alike.