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  Adventure in the Hopfields Hop To It
Year: 1954
Director: John Guillermin
Stars: Mandy Miller, Hilda Fennemore, Russell Waters, Harold Lang, Melvyn Hayes, Leon Garcia, Mona Washbourne, June Rodney, Michael Maguire, Janice Field, Dandy Nichols, Molly Osborne, Barry Martin, Phyllis Morris, Leonard Sharp, Wallas Eaton, Jane Asher
Genre: AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jenny Quin (Mandy Miller) feels guilty about breaking her mother's prized China dog ornament, so is delighted when it is repaired and she is able to take it home for her. That day, most of the street is travelling down from London to Kent to pick hops for cash, and she would love to go with her friend, but her mother (Hilda Fennemore) has decided against it. She is, however, very pleased with the dog, and leaves for the shops that morning safe in the knowledge all is well with the world. What she does not know is that Jenny proceeds to knock the ornament off its stool again, and it breaks once more; wracked with guilt, she determines to travel down to the hopfield and make enough money to pay for its second repair - but leaving a note for her parents may not be enough.

Mandy Miller was a major star in British film of the nineteen-fifties, even going as far as having a film named after her where she played a little deaf girl, tearjerkers being her speciality. But for a change of pace, and something for her younger fans, she appeared in this Children's Film Foundation effort, and director John Guillermin (soon to be off to Hollywood) obviously thought she was capable of a higher state of drama than the usual kids who populated these works. Therefore Mandy was given plenty to do in a plot that starts perilous and geared to create anxiety in the audience, and only amps up the tension from that point, as her parents do not really know where she is, and she keeps missing the family she was supposed to be with, getting mixed up with a different one who believe she is meant to be visiting the hopfields with permission and has simply been unlucky.

Of course, none of this would have happened if Mum had not placed that China dog on the most precarious of pedestals, she might as well have drop kicked the bloody thing across the room for all the good it did being balanced there, but the CFF was not a blame culture, and it was the trigger for the various twists and turns of the film as they played out in increasing levels of danger. This was evidence of everyone involved being in awe of Mandy, or at least the box office takings she could generate, so while she didn't get to cry, her character proved herself brave and resourceful throughout, leading up to the grand finale where she is trapped in a burning windmill (!). Along the way there were some well-known faces to encounter, such as Dandy Nichols as her friend's mother, Mona Washbourne as a different mother who takes her under her wing, and Melvyn Hayes as one half of a near-feral pair of brothers in the area who prove her downfall and her saviours. It must have been tremendously exciting for the fifties audience of Saturday morning pictures kids and remains very entertaining now.

[This is available with eight other CFF films on the BFI's Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3, all on DVDs packed with extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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