Children’s Film Foundation: Bumper Box Vol 5 – DVD Review

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Childrens Film Foundation

By Roger Crow

For a certain generation of film fans, it’s impossible to talk about the Children’s Film Foundation without turning into The Fast Show’s Ron Manager.

‘Saturday morning cinema? Sweets for a penny. Supporting features like Danny the Dragon. Main features like Robin Hood Junior? Isn’t it? Marvellous.’

And the latter, which starred a pre-Swap Shop Keith Chegwin, is just one of the many vintage delights on the latest collection of Children’s Film Foundation discs from years gone by.

Childrens Film Foundation

“All sorts of adventures”

We start with The Secret Tunnel from 1947, in which the young protagonists wear suits and get involved in all sorts of adventures involving art thieves at a stately home. Picture and sound quality is pretty good for its age, though the story itself is pretty humdrum.

Disc one also features Carol White (who later featured in Hawaii Five-O and died far from young) and some cut-price clowns in Circus Friends (from Carry On Legends Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers). Then there’s a bunch of Napoleonic soldiers and Roberta ‘Dr Who and the Daleks’ Tovey in anti-war period drama The Piper’s Tune.

The second disc features young heroes trying to retrieve a toy aeroplane from an ancient tower helped by a donkey in The Rescue Squad. Carry On star Peter Butterworth, as ever, steals the show.

Childrens Film FoundationDaylight Robbery, and All at Sea should also float your boat.

The final disc features a fresh-faced Robin Askwith (inbetween Confessions assignments) as an escaped convict terrorising home-alone kids at a farmhouse in The Hostages. Future Star Wars legend Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) also features, with Stephen Garlick, who later added his voice to The Dark Crystal.

“Misty-eyed with nostalgia”

Then Cheggers almost slaps his thigh in the aforementioned, panto-worthy Robin Hood Junior. That’s fun enough, but may leave some yearning for the peerless Michael Praed/Jaspn Connery series Robin of Sherwood from a few years later.

Political-assassination thriller The Boy Who Never Was, from 1980, ensures some viewers will also be misty-eyed with nostalgia.

The plot involves a young African VIP (Gordon Hagen) who arrives at Heathrow and is taken to a country pile, but en-route a couple of kids on bikes are run off the country lane by the dodgy driver. One lad, Nobby (Christian Bullock), looks like one of The Goonies about five years before that film debuted, but sounds like one of the cast of Grange Hill.

After awakening from some drugged lemonade, the young protagonist does a runner and luckily gets taken to a hospital by a kindly couple.

Childrens Film Foundation

“Ends with a bang”

Nice to see some diversity in the long-running selection of movies, though the script could have done with a polish. There are some unintentionally hilarious scenes, especially during the finale. Oh and Bergerac’s Terence Alexander adds plenty of stiff upper lip as the thriller screeches to its awkward climax.

The film starts and ends with a bang, but the minute young Charlie (Paul Atantis) hurls a bomb out of the window, and it explodes, it’s a case of handshakes all round, and closing credits. No epilogue. Originally a case of grab your coat and catch the bus home. Or in this case, have a cuppa.

There’s added extras to keep fans happy, including ‘Danger at the CFF’, a documentary about kids doing stunts. Full marks if you manage to watch it without saying “That would never be allowed these days,” or “Health and safety should have shut the production down immediately!”

Also nice to see Frazer Hines in the years before he even joined the cast of Dr Who, let alone Emmerdale Farm.

Do yourself a favour and get some penny chews, fizzy pop, and settle in for the duration.

Marvellous.

Children’s Film Foundation – Bumper Box Vol 5 is available from 22nd April from bfi.org.uk – RRP: £26.99

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