84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2005
'The box of Delights' tells the story of Kay Harker, a young boy who, on his way home from school, meets a mysterious Punch-and-Judy man who entrusts him with an equally mysterious box which he calls the Box of Delights. Kay soon finds out that the box is magical, an it takes him on a wonderful journey as he tries to save the Punch-and-Judy man from the sinister Abner Brown.
I am too young to have seen this series when it was first shown on TV in 1984, but when I was about 11 I heard the story on audio cassette. I LOVED it!!!. Several years later, I saw an advert in the paper for classic children's DVDs, and, among other classic titles such as The Borrowers (not the film that was made several years ago, but the original series), Five children and It and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, was THE BOX OF DELIGHTS!!!!!!!! I bought it from Amazon immediately, and was not disappointed. Admittedley the special effects look quite old to me, but that doesn't matter, as they do not affect the story, which is as magical as I remember.
144 of 149 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2004
I was thrilled to discover this on DVD. The story is magical and mysterious and adds a wonderful dimension to anyone's Christmas. The cast is superb and Robert Stephens as Abner Brown will have you on the edge of your seat with his manic wickedness. The story is poised brilliantly between the atmosphere of a 1930's Christmas and the age-old fight between good and evil. There are enough twists and turns in the plot to keep children enthralled and adults gripped. The music is superb too and you'll be humming the theme tune. We always watch this at Christmas and it's so good to read of others who do the same. Buy it!!
81 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2006
I too watch the Box of Delights every year just before Christmas on video (yes the tape is wearing out) so I was delighted when the BBC released this production on DVD! The Box of Delights was first televised on BBC TV in 1984. At the time this production was considered outstanding due to the use of new special effects using chroma key and inventive animation techniques. Chroma key was a relatively new technique in the early 1980's so it was an exciting experience to see this magic appear on our screens in a remarkable production. Today the use of CGI makes these effects look somewhat old fashioned, but I feel that they still look impressive (especially the scene where Cole Hawlings uses the power of the box to magically open a picture at Seekings to evade Abner Brown's Agents).
The Box of Delights is based on John Masefield's classic children's book and is set in the 1920's / 30's period. Kay Harker has left boarding school and is coming home for the Christmas holidays by steam train. On the journey he meets two clergymen called "Foxy Faced Charles" and "Chubby Faced Joe" who are two agents working for the villain ringleader "Abner Brown". They challenge Kay to a game of card tricks and it is here that you discover that the two "clergymen" are not all that they seem.
At the next station, the conversation between Kay and the clergymen is interruped by the barking of the dog belonging to the travelling Punch and Judy man called "Cole Hawlings". Kay discovers that he has lost his railway ticket and it is here that the fantastic adventure begins when he meets the mysterious philosopher who harkens from the Middle Ages.
Kay now embarks on a series of adventures when he returns home to his house "Seekings" to stay with his guardian "Caroline Louisa". Gradually the plot thickens as Kay comes into the possession of the Box of Delights. The box is an ancient magical device that contains many wondrous properties including the power to send the user back in time. It also has the ability to reduce the owner to the size of a Tom Thumb and allow you to fly. However the box does have certain limits to its powers in that once you step into the past you must find your own way back! Also, the time line on which you can travel is limited only to the history of Europe.
Kay learns that Cole Hawklings is on a desperate mission to prevent the Box from falling into the hands of evil Abner Brown who is conspiring to use the power of the magical artefact for his own selfish purposes. Kay is drawn into the plot when Cole Hawlings entrusts the box to his safe keeping in an effort to foil the plans of Abner Brown. It follows that Cole Hawlings is abducted by Abner's men and it is now Kay's job to keep the box from falling into the hands of the enemy. Thus Kay embarks on a perilous quest in which he must outwit Abner Brown and return the box to its rightful owner.
The actual BBC dramatisation is brilliantly put together retaining the magnificence of John Masefield's classical book. The story is adhered too very well and brings to life the exciting adventures on which Kay embarks. A wonderful cast of actors which includes Patrick Troughton (former Doctor Who, incarnation number two) who plays Cole Hawlings and Robert Stephens who plays the role of Abner Brown to villainous perfection.
Now to the actual DVD. The presentation is well thought out and shows that the team who designed the DVD understand the Box of Delights thoroughly. Anyone who has owned the video version will not be disappointed. The primary menu allows you to play either the whole drama or you may select individual episodes. Once through to the episode selection you are presented with six circles showing the opening sequences for each. This is brilliantly designed with a flickering old-film effect, which is accompanied by a crescendo of "Joy to the World".
Unlike the video version, when an episode is selected you are shown the entire episode as it was screened when it was originally transmitted in 1984. This means you get to see the episodes as they were meant to be enjoyed with the opening title music and the cliff-hanger with credits. Before the following episode begins you see the cliff-hanger from the previous episode and thus you enjoy the tension and excitement far more.
The DVD also contains an interview with Devin Stanfield who played Kay. This is very interesting as you learn some inside information about the creation of the dramatisation, including the casting and location filming. You also find out what happened to Devin's career after "Box". In addition to this, there is a section with archive clips from Blue Peter and Take Two and a quiz which tests your knowledge of the Box of Delights.
Finally, I would thoroughly recommend the Box of Delights DVD to anyone who has previously bought the video or those who have never seen this production. This is an ideal gift to any child (or adult) for Christmas and will provide a wonderful Yuletide atmosphere to anyone's house. It also shows today's children how children in the past celebrated Christmas with old traditions, games, music, and food (note the "Posset" and "buttered eggs").
In addition to the DVD I can also recommend the BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of the Box of Delights which is also great listening (also available from AMAZON) and the book itself which is great reading.
So to sum up, I give the Box of Delights DVD five stars (although it deserves 10). Buy it - this is a classical gem that surpasses anything else to date. You won't be disappointed, because like me you'll want to watch it every Christmas, year after year and never get tired of it!
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2005
Like many reviewers here, this series has been a firm favourite in my family since it's original broadcast. We, too, watch it every Christmas, and it's evocative and magical atmosphere is spellbinding. And then there's the music - just thrilling. I'm so glad it's now been released on DVD, as my VHS cassettes were beginning to get a little creaky.
I remember sitting on the sofa, wrapped in my school scarf, engrossed in the first episode, and being furious that I had to wait a whole week for the second one!
If you want a wonderful tale to set the mood for Christmas, buy The Box of Delights - your family will love you for it.
99 of 105 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2000
The Box of Delights is one of my favourite books, one of my favourite videos and one of my favourite radio plays. Every Christmas, as a tradition, my family and friends sit around on Christmas Eve to watch the entire series on video. Taking into account the time it was made, the effects are great, although they do look a little aged now!! That is part of the charm. Christmas would not be the same without this video. The acting is excellent, notably from Robert Stevens (Abner Brown) and Patrick Troughton (Cole Hawlings) and the music is beautifully written. I have grown up with this series, and although the BBC has produced some great Christmas series, none have or will ever surpass this. A gem.
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Like most people considering buying this item I suspect, I remember watching it as a child and loving it. So, all these years on, has the Box of Delights retained its magic?
Quite simply, the answer is yes. I remember bits and pieces of this 6 part series from when I was a kid, and how it scared me as a child ('The wolves! The wolves are running!') in that way we all quite enjoy. And once the theme tune started up, it all came flooding back at a rate of knots.
The story was exactly as I remembered it, with 'Fox Face Charlie', 'Ratty' and 'The Boy Under the Waterfall', and it would be great to watch with your kids if you have any (made me wish I had a couple of nippers to share the experience with), especially in the run up to Christmas, as a Yule Tide theme runs throughout the series.
I remembered it had scared me as a kid and made me snuggle up close to mum (hey, I was only 7 OK!) but I must admit I was quite surprised that it made me leap out my seat again not more than 10 minutes into the first episode (hey, I'm only 34 OK!). It's even more surprising when you take into account the dated effects.
Looking at it now, the visual effects are terrible, the story full of holes, and the child actors (bar one) just horrible - but none of these things seemed to matter to me when I was a child and oddly, thanks to nostalgia I guess, they didn't seem to matter to me all these years on either.
For those who haven't seen it the story is basically about a young boy who comes home from school for the holidays and a strange old man gives him a magic box to hide - The Box of Delights. So powerful is this box, that dark forces, twisted creatures, and evil men are out to try and wrestle it from him.
The real magic of the Box of Delights though, is the charm and childhood innocence it contains and manages to conjure up and reawaken in all those who watched it as a kid. A trip down memory lane that was well worth the money I paid, and one I'd been wanting to take again since the first time I saw it. And now, thanks to this DVD I have.
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2004
We have watched The Box of Delights every Christmas for 20 years using a battered tape taped off the TV in 1984, so we were really pleased to find it had been released on DVD. We ordered it immediately.
The series continues to be a firm favourite in our house - a few of the special effects look a little creaky now, but it's surprisingly how well it has held up after 20 years. The acting remains of high quality - a personal favourite is Cole Hawlings played by Patrick Troughton.
The special features on the DVD were a real treat - a half hour interview with the director and the guy who played Kay Harker, recorded in 2004. Also, the BBC have managed to trawl through their archives and included Blue Peter, Pebble Mill at One and Take Two items from back in the day.
If you have the video, it's well worth upgrading to DVD for the picture quality and the special features. If you have never seen this series, I can strongly recommend it - especially good watched at Christmas with family!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2010
The Box of Delights was transmitted in six episodes on BBC in 1984, in the run up to Christmas. The final episode was on Christmas Eve, as the climax of the story is centred around Christmas Midnight Mass at the Cathedral.
If you are able I would highly recommend reading the book by John Masefield before watching, as it is wonderfully written and will help you get to know the character's in the plot. If you can't read the book though, it won't spoil your enjoyment of this classic drama.
The story centres around Kay Harker, a public schoolboy in the 1930's who is travelling home by train, for the Christmas holidays. At the station, Kay meets a Punch and Judy man, (wonderfully played by Patrick Troughton) who later gives Kay a magical 'Box Of Delights'. What follows is a magical adventure to defeat the evil Abner Brown who is determined to get his hands on the magical box.
The special effects are not bad for the time, when you consider that in 1984, computer technology was really only in it's infancy. Also after reading the book, I can imagine that it was quite difficult to adapt to screen visually. So all in all, I think Renny Rye did a great job in directing this adaptation.
The music is wonderful, and in case you are wondering - it is by Victor Hely-Hutchinson, A Carol Symphony: Andante quasi lento e contabile.
Kay Harker is superbly played by Devin Stanfield and he manages to get the balance just right, showing surprise and wonderment but never going over the top. Excellent acting.
There are some nice Extra Features, one being an interview from 2004 with Devin Stanfield and Renny Rye, the Director. They look back 20 years and reflect on the production, acting etc. It really is an interesting documentary. Also there are some fun clips of the publicity promos from 1984, where the actors, cast, crew were on Blue Peter and Pebble Mill. Also a quiz which would be good for children. And a documentary biography of the author, the poet John Masefield.
Personally I would say it is suitable for children of about eight or over, depending on the child. But young children might find some scenes a bit scary, for instance the wolves.
It's a great classic drama for both children and adults. It really captures childhood and Christmas. It will definitely get you in the mood for the festive season!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2003
After seeing this once as a child, I searched for years in the US to find a copy. Unfortunately, this has never been released in North America...they don't know what they're missing! The dialogue is sharp, the casting perfect, and the story timeless. I've taken to watching it at Christmas, but it's a great movie all year round. I hope the DVD is not too far around the corner--everyone should add this to their collection!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2002
I've lost count of the number of times I've seen this which can be nothing but a glowing reference to the fact that is simply very, very good.
Made in the early 1980's, the use of cartoon animation instead of CGI makes it it looks perhaps a little dated. However, if you grew up with BBC Sunday Dramas, you'll look beyond such aesthetics and enjoy the sheer Christmassy feel. Whether a streetwise child of the "noughties" could accept this Drama is up for debate, although if they've seen the BBC's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (1985?), they'll know what to expect. The music, direction and acting styles are very similar, but this production has the slight edge.
At 165 minutes, the video contains ALL SIX episodes edited together as one feature. Viewed in one whole, there are the inevitable plot holes and padded sequences, but it fails to dent a great piece of work.
It is unlikely that the BBC will ever repeat this version (a remake seems more likely), so this is a great purchase. Snap it up, put it on just before Christmas and relive the past as soon as Patrick Troughton utters the immortal words...
"The Wolves are running".
Childrens Television has never been so Christmassy. Or as good.