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Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
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Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD

  The Children's Film Foundation was a British institution from the nineteen-forties through to the mid-eighties and its productions are still kept in circulation by The British Film Institute through DVD box sets. Usually seen by the nation's kids at Saturday morning pictures alongside cartoons and short comedy subjects like The Three Stooges, they latterly turned up on television to amuse new generations. The third of these "Bumper Boxes" is released with these gems contained within...

Disc 1:

The Clue of the Missing Ape (1953)

The earliest film on the set is this Gibraltar-set entry where an English kid teams up with a local girl to foil insurgents intent on driving the British from the island by getting rid of the resident Barbary apes. It features George Cole as a somewhat unconvincing Spaniard.

Click here for a complete review.

Adventure in the Hopfields (1954)

Mandy Miller was a child superstar in Britain of the nineteen-fifties, so a natural for appearing in a CFF film, here a girl trying to retrieve an ornament for her mother that somehow sees her packing her trunk and marching off to the titular hopfields to raise cash in a rip-roaring yarn.

Click here for a complete review.

Tim Driscoll's Donkey (1955)

On the other hand, this is a comparatively more sedate piece where once Tim loses his pet donkey thanks to a devious frenemy, goes on the road in Ireland to get the beast back before it is sold on to a farm in England.

Click here for a complete review.

Disc 2:

Runaway Railway (1965)

One for the trainspotters, this recreates the then-topical Great Train Robbery with a vintage engine and a bunch of kids unwittingly assisting the bad guys. Once they realise they have been duped, they do their level (crossing) best to throw a spanner in the works, all at breakneck speed.

Click here for a complete review.

Calamity the Cow (1967)

Cattle rustling might seem more appropriate for John Wayne to be combatting, but here it's the requisite bunch of children, including a teenage Phil Collins (present under duress) who save the day, as well as Calamity who is their pet. The theme song is one for the ages.

Click here for a complete review.

Cry Wolf (1968)

We go from black and white to colour with this CFF equivalent of the spy movies popular in the sixties, as an overimaginative boy finds nobody believes him when he uncovers a plot to kidnap an international statesman from his seaside town.

Click here for a complete review.

Disc 3:

Big Wheels and Sailor (1979)

The CB radio craze came to the attention of the CFF around the same time of Convoy (song and film), so they incorporated it into this hijacking tale of truckers and gangsters, and the kids caught up in the middle, including UK TV personality Matthew Wright.

Click here for a complete review.

Breakout (1984)

The CFF was beginning to wind down productions when they tried to move with the times and create this kidnapping thriller as two boys are forced to accompany two criminals making a bid for freedom. Effectively a road movie shot largely outdoors.

Click here for a complete review.

Exploits at West Poley (1985)

One of the final CFF efforts, it barely had a cinema release but has been seen on television since, this was a Thomas Hardy adaptation that has two cousins setting themselves a project to divert a river through their village, with potentially disastrous, if unforeseen, consequences.

Click here for a complete review.

In addition to these films, there are extras, starting with an edition of the newsreel Our Magazine No. 2. Since the adults had their newsreels from Pathe, the children were catered for in their Saturday morning pictures in a similar manner. This effort has a percussion orchestra making quite the racket (though progressively with a female conductor, still a rarity even now), a craft tutorial in how to make a diorama out of various materials including plasticine, plus some figures for your trinket shelf, a visit to hot springs in New Zealand where Maori kids happily swim in warm waters among geysers, and a trip to a steam engine testing plant with much spinning of wheels and pumping of pistons.

Continuing the extras are three comedy shorts from future Carry On stalwart Peter Butterworth from 1953-4, the first when he was cultivating the character "Dickie Duffle", though he soon ditched that Chaplinesque moniker and opted to go with his real name instead, as seen in the following two. Initially, there is Watch Out, where he causes chaos in a film studio, not only cheap to shoot but a valuable insight into the workings of a minor company. Then there is That's an Order where he tries to eat a sandwich at the beach in peace, but somehow winds up as a shop assistant where most of the produce ends up on the floor or on Peter and his boss (check out the frozen dog for a grotesque gag). Thirdly there is Playground Express, where our hero tries to open the playpark in Brighton to a bunch of yelling kids, but has not reckoned with an officious killjoy he gets into a low-speed chase with, and somewhat hilariously, wins a swimming race too.

Finishing off the set is a short documentary on The Battle of Billy's Pond, which is on the first Bumper Box; the director had some footage he had not used for that release and edited it into these interviews with director Harley Cokeliss, an academic, and three modern kids who were impressed with the film's environmental message.

As if that were not enough, there is also an informative booklet featuring a Screen Test-style quiz you can try after watching these films. All in all, it's another high quality CFF DVD set.

Click here to buy from the BFI Shop.

Author: Graeme Clark.


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Last Updated: 31 March, 2018