Flourishing under Lionel Jeffries' delicate direction, Jenny Agutter dominates The Railway Children as the oldest daughter of a family thrown on hard times when their father is wrongly sent to prison. They avert a train disaster, save an imperilled steeple chaser and reunite an exiled Russian with his wife, all with equal enterprise. Happy endings prevail after every crisis. And no number of repeat viewings can ever diminish the impact of father's return. One of the most expert tear-duct work-outs in film history, it hits the spot every time.
Perhaps the lack of such a pivotal scene has kept Swallows and Amazons in the relative shade. But its gentle appeal survives with equal charm, not least in the resourcefulness of the eponymous children and the period detail. Together this pairing makes a double bill to treasure, and a piquant reminder that Disney doesn't have a complete monopoly on the rich heritage of children's cinema.
On the DVD: The Railway Children and Swallows and Amazons is presented in standard 4:3 picture format, from so-so prints, and with acceptable mono soundtracks. Both films envelope the viewer in a comforting Sunday-afternoon haze. There are no extras, apart from scene indexes. --Piers Ford
Of course, the film is dominated by the divine (then and now) Jenny Agutter who stole everyone's hearts as Bobbie and made the part as much hers as Judy Garland had with Dorothy for a previous generation.
There will not be a dry eye in the house as the film reaches its climax and Bobbie's immortal words echo down the station platform - even as I think of it, I can hear that voice like dripping honey and a lump comes into my throat.
The end of civilisation will be nigh if the time ever comes when this masterpiece is no longer available.
This is one of the best children's films around and you really get a sense that you know the family inside out by the end. You feel for them and follow them through their struggles, hardships and triumphs - from losing their father and having to move away from everything that they knew to a strange place (one certainly not as luxurious as the world they had been used to), to having their mother fall ill and the ways they help people in their new community! You can almost imagine you are with them as they run through fields, clamber up hillsides and sit on fences waving to people on the trains. You can feel your heart thumping at the moment a train thunders along the track they are standing on waving red petticoats in the air to stop it running into the landslide and your panic mounting as it gets closer and closer to Bobby as she stands her ground. You also share their immense joy at the close of the film - when everything is as it should be!
All this excitement plus another movie on the disc as well! Can you really believe your luck?
If you like a well-made film that makes you remember your childhood fondly, then this is the DVD for you!