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on 8 August 2012
This DVD is a treat for lovers of children's adventure films and for anyone who enjoys seeing footage of old London streets. It has taken the BFI an age to realise that old children's films are for fans of all ages including those who remember seeing them at the cinema the first time round. There were a few video releases in the 1980s and later a set of four DVDs but this is the first outing for CFF feature films in over a decade. This DVD contains three feature films and a short documentary.

The Salvage Gang is a simple but beautifully filmed story of four children and their attempts to raise some cash. The cast includes Frazer Hines and Amanda Coxell (from the CFF Masters of Venus and Famous Five series). While making a rabbit hutch one of the children damage their dad's saw and they spend the rest of the film painting a barge, washing dogs, cleaning cars and collecting salvage to sell at the local scrap yard in order to get the money for a new saw. Made entirely on location there is lots of old lovely footage of the Capital's streets to drool over including various back sreets near Islington Geen (Devonia Street, Chantry Street, Colebrook Row and Union Square), Scrubs Lane in Willseden and an exciting chase on the number 78 bus from Shoreditch to Tower Bridge to rescue an old iron bedstead. The children then have to push the bedstead back though London streets including a wonderful scene by St Lukes Church in Old Street where they have to dismantle the bed and an encounter with a tramp (Wilfred Brambell) in Clerkenwell Green in Farringdon where he decides to take a kip on their bed. Lovers of old commercial vehicles will enjoy the glimpses of buses, mechanical horses, lorries and coaches which are in abundence on the main road while the back streets are almost empty.

Operation Third Form has similar elements but is a crime story about a gang of school children (led by a young John Moulder-Brown and Roberta Tovey) who thwart a villain's attempt to steal a valuable painting. Again made entirely on location we here see extensive footage of parts of Hampstead, Highgate, Swiss Cottage and Regents Park with more buses and lovely old vehicles including classic cars. Guest stars include Derrin Nesbit.

Night Ferry is another crime tale this time from 1976 in glorious colour about a villain called `Pyramid' (Bernard Cribbins) who plans to smuggle an ancient Egyptian mummy out of the country. A gang of children save the day ending in a dramatic chase via Victoria Station and Clapham Junction with two of the children on the train with the villans and the other in pursuit. Here we see loads of shots of South London's myriad of overground railways and viaducts in and around Clapham and scenes of Latchmere Road in Battersea plus shots of Arding and Hobbs department store and on board the night ferry train from London to Dover.

All in all three genuinely exciting films plus Topic - a short documentary made in 1959 looking at the concept of the specially funded Children's Film Foundation by two visting American journalists. This is interesting because it includes footage of The Salvage Gang being filmed and interviews with young fans of CFF films. The girls interviewed both say they like the adventure films more than the romantic stories.

The soundtracks of all three films are superb by the way. The Salavage Gang is composed by Jack Breaver who was a stalwart at Gainsborough films in the 1930s and the latter two are both by Harry Robinson who does a particularly good job with the memorable James Bond-style score for Operation Third Form.

By comparison the booklet that comes with the DVD is disappointing. Here is a missed opportunity to tell the story of The Children's Film Foundation and to supply some useful background information about the films and the cast members, the soundtracks, even details of the locations (this DVD is after all sold on the strength of the films' locale - London). Instead the booklet includes three rather dull 'essays' which are not really essays but one page reviews and not very good reviews at that. The writers waste a lot of time describing the plot (which you would already know if you have just watched the films) and include some rather obvious cliched comments.

The introduction by Andrew Roberts (who we learn is doing a PhD on 'Middle Class Identity' whatever that means) is little better where, for example, he tells us that The Salvage Gang includes scenes in cafes "filled with men in demob suits" - there are no such scenes in this film and anyway this was thirteen years after the war ended - why would anyone be wearing demob suits?! There is also a longer, more interesting piece about the CFF but this is reprinted from the two BFI Famous Five DVD sets. This seems very cheeky and lazy. Come on BFI, try harder next time.

Hopefully the BFI will release other films in this series - a mega box set would be nice - but preferably with more informative and accurate notes (If they're looking for volunteers I'm available).
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on 10 August 2012
I watched all three films on "London Tales" and also am delighted with the bonus material which was a first. Nice booklet, too!

BUT how much longer will fans have to wait for the great CFF masterpieces like "Mystery in the Mine", "Fourwinds Island", "Five Clues to Fortune", "Ambush at Devil's Gap", "The Young Jacobites" and "The Secret Cave"?
I wonder if I will be able to watch those once more in my life time? I'm waiting for these films since 1969...
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on 13 November 2014
hello, everybody,

i write to all cff lovers, because in germany are great thrilling six cff-movies with english language
for buying there in amazon.de.
Five on a Treasure Island (Die Sache mit der Schatzinsel)
Five Clues to Fortune (Geheimsache fünf)
Valley of the Kings (Im Tal der Könige)
Beware of the Dog (Achtung: Bissiger Hund)
The Carringford School Mystery (Die Halskette)
The Young Jacobites (Die jungen Jakobiter)
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on 14 August 2014
Very enjoyable set of Children's Film Foundation films. Why these are not tucked away on a TV channel or two I do not know. I saw them originally at the cheap Saturday pictures back in the 60s / 70s and later on Irish TV but they would make a fine addition to many a satellite channel. Lots of wonderful shots of London streets and shops as well as some wonderful performances from many well known (at the time actors and actresses).

Bought this mainly for a single sequence in a London Street showing the kids standing reading a whole load of comics on a comics spinner - Fantastic Four / Avengers etc as well as DC comics and more from the 60s. Perfect for any 60s comics fan. In fact, if they had had the whole film in front of that shop, I would have still watched it all !
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on 16 January 2016
Saturday cinema at its best, brings back many memories, it is good to see some of the children who grew up to be stars, yes I was an ABC Minors club member and I have the glow in the dark badge to prove it, great to watch them all again I wish many more were available
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on 6 September 2013
Again, these take me back. Im not from London, but there are Im sure many old memories of places long gone! Good stories and very young future stars. Many old actors appear as well, looking a lot younger of Course! Still you should recognise them. Good watching.
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on 30 December 2012
A real trip down memory lane! Gosh, how few cars were on the streets back then, is what we noticed first of all!

Three fun tales, filmed on location and with some names that were later to become very well known.

We really enjoyed this DVD and want another from the series, if there is one.
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on 12 September 2012
This trilogy of films from the Children's Film Foundation is a must have for people who were children in the 50's, 60's and 70's. They are all highly entertaining, but my own personal favourite is the superb 'The Salvage Gang' which was shot in 1958 and shows many great on location scenes from around London especially Islington. I can't praise it highly enough and the other two films are very watchable also.
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on 23 April 2013
Knowing London of the 50s and 60s, seeing these black & white short films of the era, takes me back to the days when I and other kids roamed the streets safely, with very few cars to watch out for, playing out our fantasy worlds.
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on 14 April 2014
Yes, the background scenery IS fascinating, even though it wasn't meant to be at the time. How London has changed in what is really only a short time. Not necessarily changes for the better. I remember seeing these films at the Odeon, Hobart, Tasmania. I never ever thought the children's accents were at all remarkable, so why would English children have been annoyed by 'posh accents', as claimed in some reviews? I suspect that is lefty adult-speak.Anyway, they're kids' films, they're innocent fun & they provide useful research material for historians. More than can be said for a lot of contemporary graphics-loaded media.
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