Top positive review
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British classic from 1953 on DVD at last.
on 12 June 2012
THE FILM: "The Kidnappers" is a superb film set in a Scotch settlement in Nova Scotia in 1904, but actually filmed in Scotland (exteriors) and at Rank's Pinewood Studios in England (interiors). Two recently orphaned young brothers, eight years old Harry (Jon Whiteley) and five years old Davy (Vincent Winter) go to live with their stern and puritanical grandfather (Duncan MacRea); their grandmother (Jean Anderson) and their auntie (Adrienne Corri) on a remote rural farm. The grandfather shows the boys no love and will not let them have a pet dog. So, when the boys find a seemingly abandoned baby in the woods, they 'adopt' it as their pet and and take it in turns to look after it on a daily and nightly basis in their woodland den. However, the baby has not been abandoned, just mislaid by a careless babysitter and, unknown to the boys, the entire neighbourhood is out searching for it...! That's all there is to the story, really, save for a subplot involving the auntie and a local Dutch doctor (Theodore Bikel), but it's so beautifully done that it holds your attention from beginning to end. Both Jon Whiteley and Vincent Winter deservedly won juvenile Oscars for their amazing performances at the 1955 Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood...and rightly so (the film was not released in the United States until 1954, where the title was changed to "The Little Kidnappers", presumably so that audiences wouldn't think it was a gangster picture!) The film was also nominated for a BAFTA award as Best British Film of 1953. The uncredited baby, supposedly a girl, was, in fact, a boy named Anthony Michael Heathcoat, who, if still alive, would be over sixty years of age by now.
THE SPIRIT ENTERTAINMENT DVD: The image is lot clearer on this DVD than the rather soft-focused version shown on Channel 4 and Film 4 in the UK, but the sound is very distorted for the first couple of minutes or so, making the theme music sound terrible, but it does get better after the opening titles. There is a scene selection on the DVD, but no extras and it's the usual bare bones release we've come to expect from this company. Jon Whiteley is still alive aged 67 and it would have been nice for him to have done a commentary on the disc or an interview. But no such luck. Vincent Winter died of a heart attack aged 50 in 1998. All the adult members of the cast and crew, with the possible exceptions of Adrienne Corri and Theodore Bikel, are no longer with us.