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CFF Collection: Weird Adventures DVD

Michael Powell, Alberto Cavalcanti, Emeric Pressburger, Jan Darnley-Smith, 1961-78

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Film Details

Directed by Michael Powell, Alberto Cavalcanti, Emeric Pressburger, Jan Darnley-Smith

Produced in 1961-78

Main Language - English

Countries & Regions - British Film

MovieMail's Review

Contains The Boy who Turned Yellow (Powell & Pressburger, 1972), The Monster of Highgate Ponds (Cavalcanti, 1961), A Hitch in Time (Darnley-Smith, 1978). A fine volume, writes Graeme Hobbs.

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.

Graeme Hobbs on 20th May 2013
Author of 294 reviews

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Film Description

The splendidly eccentric final collaboration from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is one of three films featured on this third volume of Children’s Film Foundation tales - Weird Adventures, which contains The Boy who Turned Yellow (Powell & Pressburger, 1972), The Monster of Highgate Ponds (1961, Alberto Calvalcanti) and A Hitch in Time (Darnley-Smith, 1978).

In The Boy Who Turned Yellow, London schoolboy John Saunders turns bright yellow after losing his pet mouse on a school trip. Is the mysterious colour change the result of an alien invasion or does the answer lie closer to home?

In Cavalcanti's The Monster of Highgate Ponds young David promises to guard a mysterious egg which his uncle brings back from Malaysia. But, when a baby monster hatches, mayhem ensues. This enchanting story features brilliant animated sequences by the legendary Halas & Batchelor and was directed by celebrated Ealing director Alberto Cavalcanti (Went the Day Well?).

Patrick Troughton (Doctor Who's second incarnation of the Time Lord) plays time-hopping inventor Professor Adam Wagstaff in A Hitch in Time. Discovered working on his time machine by two curious kids, Wagstaff decides to send them back through the ages. But, with malfunctions a-plenty, will they be able to make it back?

DVD Details

Certificate: U

Publisher: BFI

Length: 162 mins

Format: DVD Colour

Region: 0

Released: 17th June 2013

Cat No: BFIVD970

DVD Extras

  • Illustrated Booklet.

Film Stills

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