18 August 2012
THE RAILWAY CHILDREN [1970/2010] [40th Anniversary Edition] [Blu-ray] An Absolute Gem! One of The Best Children's Films Ever Made!
Starring Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins. Lionel Jeffries' adaption of E. Nesbits much-loved bestseller "The Railway Children" is a timeless and enduring affair. After their father is mysteriously taken away, three Edwardian children move to the country where the local railway becomes a source of hope and adventure. Sensitive without being sentimental, the film perfectly captures a magical moment in childhood, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest children's film of all time.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1971 24th British Academy Film Awards: Nominated: Best Supporting Actor for Bernard Cribbins. The entire cast break the fourth wall and perform a curtain call as the credits roll. The camera moves slowly along a railway track towards a train which is decked in flags, in front of which all of the cast are assembled, waving and cheering to the camera. At the start of the credit sequence, a voice can be heard shouting "Thank you, Mr Forbes" as an acknowledgement to Bryan Forbes, who put up a security for the film to be completed. Meanwhile, Jenny Agutter holds up a small slate on which "The End" is written in chalk and says "Goodbye" as the credits conclude.There were special events around the shooting location and even a live production took place at Waterloo Station [London].
Cast: Dinah Sheridan, Bernard Cribbins, William Mervyn, Iain Cuthbertson, Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett, Gary Warren, Peter Bromilow, Ann Lancaster, Gordon Whiting, Beatrix Mackey, Deddie Davies, David Lodge, Christopher Witty, Brenda Cowling, Paddy Ward, Erik Chitty, Sally James, Dominic Allan, Richard Leech (voice), Amelia Bayntun (uncredited), Ann Cryer (uncredited), Bob Cryer (uncredited), Paul Luty (uncredited), Graham Mitchell (uncredited) and Peter Russell (uncredited)
Director: Lionel Jeffries
Producer: Robert Lynn
Screenplay: Lionel Jeffries and E. Nesbit (celebrated novel)
Composer: Johnny Douglas
Cinematography: Arthur Ibbetson
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 104 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: STUDIOCANAL / OPTIMUM CLASSIC
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: The well to-do Waterbury family is turned upside down when their father is taken from their home under mysterious circumstances. Mother [Dinah Sheridan] explains nothing except that father has had to go away, and with her children moves to a humble house in the country. The three Waterbury children occupy their time by waving to trains, which leads to a number of adventures. Young Peter [Gary Warren] learns that stealing coal is wrong, even if mother is cold. Phyllis [Sally Thomsett] is a tag-along without much imagination of her own, but the oldest daughter Bobbie [Jenny Agutter] learns more about the disappearance of her father, and handles every problem as if it might help get him back.
The popular novel "The Railway Children" is one of those stories about plucky kids in Edwardian England, the kind of tale one expects to see handled in a more frivolous manner. If done by Disney, it would be a musical with adults who act like children and children who act like idiots. The leads would be big star personalities that would warp the original story all out of proportion.
Actor Lionel Jeffries was a familiar second-string buffoon in Peter Sellers films before he became better known in larger roles in ‘First Men In the Moon' and `Camelot.' ‘The Railway Children' was Lionel Jeffries' first film as a director, and his good taste in hewing closely to the modest lines of the book is matched only by his direction of actors. The performances here are all good, in a way that shows a delicate director's control. Every character is a surprise. Dinah Sheridan is the virtuous mother who tries to keep the tragedy from her children, and only becomes upset when she thinks they're out begging for charity. Bernard Cribbins is the proud railway porter with a house-full of kids, but he's never mindful for being a quaint character actor, or to make easy statements about class. William Mervyn is the rail tycoon who takes an interest in the kids; Jeffries handles this part of the story so well, we never resent the fact that our kid heroes have a millionaire on their side.
Nobody reaches for tears or easy emotional effects, so the story never becomes mawkish. Mum is caught crying once by herself, and is left to her privacy. Potential emotional scenes are subverted, as when the Russian refugee's family is found. We cut to a long shot of his happy exit by train, and the feeling of goodwill is sublimated back into the story, instead of being squandered in a tearful release.
At the centre of `The Railway Children' is Jenny Agutter, who is a marvel to watch and the real star of the show, even with 5th place billing. The quiet intelligence and positive attitude on her sensitive face make her the perfect heroine. She wears no makeup to suppress her beauty, and seems all the more beautiful for it. Most of the adventures are really hers, as her younger siblings are only helpers and cheerleaders. The enforced move to the cold countryside is a catalyst that forces her to think and act as an adult.
Jenny Agutter is marvellous, whether flagging down a train headed for trouble or carefully mending misunderstandings with the neighbours. Her interactions with the rich gentleman on the train bring back the nostalgic notion that perhaps there once was a time when people communicated with such direct sincerity. The Railway Children has no outrageously exaggerated story points, and the kids remain kids and not superheroes. But in the bright and hopeful 1905 world presented by Lionel Jeffries, all things seem possible. The scene I remembered all these years is a simple birthday party for Bobbie, the only time Jeffries uses camera tricks to get an effect. Bobbie opens the door to find her family and friends greeting her with a cake and gifts, and a flush of barely contained delight comes across her face. She glides from one guest to another, speechless and grateful, and the camera helps express her boundless happiness. It's one of the most beautiful scenes of its kind, ever.
The underplaying of the obvious also gives power to a late episode where the Waterburys nurse a prep school boy with a broken leg. No special attention is given to romantic sparks between him and Bobbie, but the beginnings are there in their farewell. That, and in the gleam in Bobbie's eye at the end of the hilariously feeble puppet show they put on for their guest. Helping enormously are Arthur Ibbetson's camera and Johnny Douglas' musical score. Both are pretty but never precious. Douglas' tunes only become predictable when they try to hype the light comedy moments - his adventure and dramatic themes are terrific. The whole movie has the slightly rosy feel of old events softened and sweetened by memory. It's even better than I remembered it, something that doesn't often happen when rediscovering old pictures.
Still considered a national treasure in England, `The Railway Children' is on the British Film Institute's list of 100 Best British films. The warmth and good will Jeffries creates is so strong, he can afford to have a Valentine-like last shot, with his cast breaking character to say farewell to the film audience. As family films go, The Railway Children is just about as good as you get. The casting is pitch perfect from the three children, Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett and Gary Warren, to Bernard Cribbins as Mr Perks and the kindly, well-educated mother, Dinah Sheridan. The child actors are utterly convincing in their roles and the quality of their acting is, for me, epitomised by Jenny Agutter who was two years younger than Sally Thomsett (who played her younger sister) and is really the focus of the film is the story is a coming-of-age tale for Bobbie. This is one of those films that works for viewers of all ages and the ending is one of those that, like `It's a Wonderful Life,' really brings a lump to the throat.
As I hadn't seen this film for well over two decades, I suspected that it would have lost its effect over the years and I wouldn't appreciate it as I did as a child. I was glad to find that it was probably more effective now as I'm now in a position to see the quality of the filmmaking, writing and acting. The period setting, in the early Edwardian era, is important is it means `The Railway Children' doesn't age or become in anyway dated. The Waterburys, especially Bobbie and the Mother, are incredibly posh and Jenny Agutter can probably outdo most members of the Royal Family for correct enunciation!
Blu-ray Video Quality – As to mark the 40th anniversary of the film’s release, not only was the film digitally restored. The picture is absolutely stunning and shows what can be done when time and effort is put into restoring a film to its former glory. Detail level is high and the contrast and tone are exceptional. The colours are vibrant and showcase the beautiful scenery of the Yorkshire Dales from the bright blue sky to the rolling fields where almost every buttercup can be picked out. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – It's not only the picture that has been restored, but the sound has undergone restoration treatment and is presented here in a beautifully clear 2.0 LPCM Stereo soundtrack. The dialogue and small ambient sounds are crisp, with the trains giving a reassuringly loud noise as they steam past, whistle and break.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Now and Then: A Retrospective Documentary on The Railway Children [20:00] The first extra feature is a retrospective comprising interviews with many of the locals who were involved as extras such as Ann Cryer MP and they all talk about the locations, what it was like having a feature film come to their small town and how they reacted when they saw themselves on screen. You don't often hear about the people who live in and around an area where a film was made so this gives a nice insight into how the film was made, the locations used and what the locals thought, and still think, about the film.
Special Feature: Interview with Acclaimed Children's Author Jacqueline Wilson: Jacqueline Wilson gives her perspective on the book and the film as a children's writer.
Special Feature: Interview with Jenny Agutter: Jenny Agutter talk about how they became involved, what it was like working with the other cast members and what they got up to when they weren't filming?
Special Feature: Interview with Bernard Cribbins: Bernard Cribbins also talks about how they became involved in this classic children's magical film. It's quite amusing to hear Bernard Cribbins talking about his night-time fishing.
Special Feature: Interview with Sally Thomsett: Sally Thomsett also gives an informative interview on all aspect of her involvement with the film. There is also a very funny anecdote that Sally Thomsett informs us about Jenny Agutter and that Sally Thomsett was caught out by Lionel Jeffries when they snuck out for a night on the town!
Finally, `The Railway Children` is one of the finest family films ever made in Britain and sits alongside films like ‘Mary Poppins’ as examples of what you can do with a great cast, great subject material and grey settings. It really doesn't matter how old you are, ‘The Railway Children’ is a film to be loved and cherished and this Blu-ray is the perfect way to do this. It is a splendid new release and, although there is no commentary track, it is a wonderful release for all the family. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller –Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom