This is a wonderful story and all versions are worth seeing. I remember watching this black and white TV version in the 1960s and am amazed at how some parts of it came back to me so vividly including the very charming performance by Gillian Bailey as Phyllis (who for me shines in this version) as well as Gordon Gostelow who is a very good Perks. The first few minutes seemed a bit wooden but it picks up quite quickly and once I had adjusted to it, I found it most enjoyable. The 1970 and 2000 film versions are also must-sees and I find it difficult to say which I like better. Jenny Agutter, who has been in all versions either as Bobbie or in 2000 as her mother, has made this story her own and for me the 1970 film is her most touching performance. Like many, I cannot watch this story without crying at the end, no matter how many times I see it.
Three versions of the Railway Children based on the book by Edith Nesbit have been made: in 1968 starring Jenny Agutter as bobby, in 1970 also starring Jenny Agutter as Bobby and in 2000 starring Jemema Rooper as Bobby and Jenny Agutter as the Mother.
1968 This was a seven part series made by the BBC in black and white. It is very detailed and was made on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway shortly after having being taken over by private hands. Interestingly the first scene opens with Peter's birthday (not Christmas). For all the series detail and accuracy the series omits Perk's birthday and any scene involving the canal, which is rather strange considering the railway's proximity to the Leeds and Liverpool canal. The land slide is a bit of a damp squib with just a tree falling down. This was a good first attempt at dramatising this much loved book.
Comparison The 1968 version has its limitations, being in black and white, yet despite its omissions of Perk's birthday and the canal is the most faithful to the book.
The 1970 version omits the canal and some detail, but is a delightful and colourful production, much loved.
The 2000 version adds scenes and dialogue not in the book, whilst omitting scenes it had the opportunity to film (such as the barge fire). It moves quickly from scene to scene omitting much detail and views of children walking along.
None of these versions is exactly true to the book. All are deficient in different ways, yet all have their own endearing qualities.
If you can afford all three, then buy all three. If not then the 1970 version is probably the nicest and most widely and cheaply available. If you have little patience then buy the 2000 version. The 1968 version is a little pricey but good.
For all the family to enjoy, this is a magical rendering of this classic tale. The settings in the Worth Valley in West Yorkshire are beautiful and this was filmed on an embryonic private enthusiast preserved railway just at the time when steam trains had disappeared from our everyday lives. All the main characters are cast very well and who can resist Jenny Agutter in one of her early roles. You would have to be very cold-hearted not to hold back a tear or a big lump in your throat at the climax to the story, and the ending scene over the closing titles says it all. The cast and producers really did enjoy making this one and it stands the test of time. There are no shoot-outs, mass explosions or wild car chases, just honest loving relationships evolving around hard and troubled times. The recent ITV remake was good but doesn't capture the honest emotions and simple sincerity of life in less materialistic times. Go on get it for the family if you have never seen it and even better still, visit Haworth, Oakworth and the Worth Valley and you can still sample the set today!
I wanted to see this early adaptation and was not disappointed. The very young Jenny Agutter is so sweet and lovely and worth having the film for without anything else. The short episodes are a little annoying but it is what it is and I am very happy with it.