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  Runaway Railway Dedicated Training
Year: 1965
Director: Jan Darnley-Smith
Stars: John Moulder-Brown, Kevin Bennett, Leonard Brockwell, Roberta Tovey, Sydney Tafler, Ronnie Barker, Graham Stark, Jon Pertwee, Hugh Lloyd, Roger Avon, Bruice Wightman, Jack Allen, Gerald Case, Katie Fitzroy
Genre: AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Charlie (John Moulder-Brown) and his three friends are a group of young railway enthusiasts, dedicated to the steam train named Mathilda that travels locally. However, something's up: the old engine has seen better days and is due to be decommissioned, and worse, broken up for scrap! The children are outraged, and so before the Disposals Man (Hugh Lloyd) arrives to take it away, they indulge in a spot of tinkering, some would say sabotage, to ensure he cannot allow the train to leave the station as he wishes. After mayhem erupts, it is decided to wait a week, which is just as well for a certain gang of crooks who plan to use Mathilda in their mail van robbery scheme - and will drag the kids along with them, to "help".

The Great Train Robbery was not long out of the headlines when this little item was devised by the Children's Film Foundation, which was plainly inspired by the ne'erdowells for a more child-friendly version of the infamous crime. Moulder-Brown, then at the start of a long career, was the nominal lead, though it was apparent the producers had noted the star potential of fellow child performer Roberta Tovey who is best known by Doctor Who fans for appearing in the two Dalek spin-off movies of the mid-sixties (and recording a cringetastic single for further cash-in potential around the same time). Indeed, poor old John was somewhat overshadowed in his own film, not least because it was seen fit to pack in a group of extended cameos from more established actors for comedy value.

Initially, with a spot of trouser-ripping, it seems like Runaway Railway will owe more to the raucous cartoons coming out of Hollywood that would still be accompanying these CFF films on the Saturday matinees, but once it was established that there was a nefarious scheme afoot that these innocents were unwittingly assisting with, the story wasted no more time in cutting to the chase. The locomotive duly repaired (well, sort of) the plan is set in motion and the trainspotters would be treated to many shots of the steam engines racing up and down the line, complete with various stunts as Mathilda lives up to the title and goes rogue. Thereafter perhaps the visuals owed less to the antics of Biggs and company and more to London to Brighton in Four Minutes, but it was nevertheless a lot of incident crammed into under an hour, with old reliables like Ronnie Barker (as a baddie for falling in the water business) and Jon Pertwee (another Who connection - wait for him...) popping up at regular intervals. All this and the kids are apparently adept at creating beat group sounds too.

[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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