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  Wings of Mystery Pigeons In Flight
Year: 1963
Director: Gilbert Gunn
Stars: Judy Geeson, Hennie Scott, Patrick Jordan, Francesca Bertorelli, Graham Aza, Anthony Jacobs, John Gabriel, Richard Carpenter, Arnold Ridley
Genre: Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jane (Judy Geeson) and Don (Hennie Scott) are siblings with a real love of pigeon racing, which they do around the region of their Sheffield home with the assistance of their elderly mentor Mr Bell (Arnold Ridley), who they nickname "Ding Dong" on account of his name. But one day while out in the hills, they set their birds free to fly back home when one of the creatures injures itself, and when Bell rushes over to see to it, he falls to the ground having turned his ankle. Jane and Don help both bird and gent back to his home, unaware that their hobby will have serious consequences, for at the steelworks nearby a new alloy is being devised, and foreign agents would like to acquire it...

The Children's Film Foundation were well established by this stage, and had turned to a certain formula for their kid-friendly adventures, yet there were always variants to be employed: Wings of Mystery (there's a meaningless title) did not have any bad guy falling into water, for example, if anything it was more creative than that. It detailed the two young protagonists' endeavours to prevent the alloy sample from where their older brother works getting into the wrong hands, specifically an agent (Anthony Jacobs) who will go to great lengths to make sure he is able to smuggle a tiny rod of the stuff out of the country, leading to a substantial set of chases.

Judy Geeson would be the most famous face here, embarking on what would be a very good nineteen-sixties for her, with To Sir With Love in her future among other highlights, though Arnold Ridley was about to become almost as famous. The author of the theatrical warhorse The Ghost Train (not that he saw much money from it), he had returned to acting later in life and this decade would bring about his signature role of Private Godfrey in classic sitcom Dad's Army, where he was the oldest in the platoon, and indeed the cast. Though haunted by his experiences in World War One, he exuded a kindness that was evident here, even when he was playing a brusque Northerner.

"He looks like a foreigner!" says Jane of one character, which may lead you to expect something jingoistic, yet the film was careful not to tar every non-Brit with the same brush as the pair run away with their pigeon to the Continent (via plane) to get the agent before he is able to pass on the artefact. There they meet two foreign counterparts to open their minds about the decency of those across the Channel, who assist in what grows increasingly action-packed as it progresses, allowing it to be legitimately described as a sixties action flick for kids, and including a particularly well-handled sequence in a country house. The pigeon does its bit too, flying off with the alloy back to Sheffield, but the agent is in hot pursuit - fair enough, you don't doubt he will be stopped, but there is considerable invention in the way this unfolds. Incidentally, the older brother was played by Richard Carpenter, who gave up acting to write for television: Catweazle was one of his creations. Music by Derek New.

[This is one of nine films released by The BFI on DVD in the Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Volume 2.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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