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Film Data
The Railway Children  1970
Director:  Lionel Jeffries
Producer:
  Robert Lynn
Art Director:
  John Clark
Editor:
  Teddy Darvas
Music:
  Johnny Douglas
Screenplay:
  Lionel Jeffries, based upon the novel by E. Nesbit
Director of Photography:
  Arthur Ibbetson
image 1
Cast:
spacer1 Dinah Sheridan spacer1 Bernard Cribbins spacer1 William Mervyn spacer1 Iain Cuthbertson
spacer1 Jenny Agutter spacer1 Sally Thomsett spacer1 Gary F. Warren spacer1 Peter Bromilow
spacer1 Ann Lancaster spacer1 Gordon Whiting spacer1 Beatrix Mackey spacer1 Deddie Davies
spacer1 David Lodge spacer1 Christopher Witty spacer1 Brenda Cowling spacer1
spacer1 Dinah Sheridan spacer1 Bernard Cribbins spacer1 William Mervyn
spacer1 Iain Cuthbertson spacer1 Jenny Agutter spacer1 Sally Thomsett
spacer1 Gary F. Warren spacer1 Peter Bromilow spacer1 Ann Lancaster
spacer1 Gordon Whiting spacer1 Beatrix Mackey spacer1 Deddie Davies
spacer1 David Lodge spacer1 Christopher Witty spacer1 Brenda Cowling
spacer1 Dinah Sheridan spacer1 Bernard Cribbins
spacer1 William Mervyn spacer1 Iain Cuthbertson
spacer1 Jenny Agutter spacer1 Sally Thomsett
spacer1 Gary F. Warren spacer1 Peter Bromilow
spacer1 Ann Lancaster spacer1 Gordon Whiting
spacer1 Beatrix Mackey spacer1 Deddie Davies
spacer1 David Lodge spacer1 Christopher Witty
spacer1 Brenda Cowling spacer1

Synopsis:
The Waterbury children, sisters Roberta, known as Bobbie, and Phyllis and their brother Peter, seem to have a very happy life, living in a comfortable London house at the turn of the century with their loving father and mother, but life changes when their father is visited by two sinister men in the middle of the night, and after much arguing taken away by them, their distraught mother never explaining what has happened. Circumstances change for the Waterburys without their father and, falling on hard times, they are forced to leave the city and move to a secluded village, where they become fascinated by the local rural railway station, where a cheerful porter, Albert Perks, works, and they become friendly with him, standing on the verges and waving to passengers as the trains pass through, one of them being a distinguished elderly gentleman who seems to be a regular traveller. Although happy in their new home, and delighted at the responses they get from the passengers every day, all three still miss their father terribly, and realise the dreadful toll it is taking on their mother. When their vigilance and ingenuity manages to avert a disaster as they realise there is an obstruction on the line, managing to have the train stop in time, their actions cause the elderly gentleman to thank them personally, and when he hears of their plight, he uses his influence to look into the case of Mr. Waterbury and to investigate just why he vanished so mysteriously.
Review:
Now acclaimed as one of the finest children’s film ever made, and that overused phrase ‘a classic’ is genuinely deserved, this is the definitive version of E. Nesbit’s perfectly judged and genuinely moving story The Railway Children, but actually the fourth version of it to be made, the story already having been adapted as a serial three times by the BBC, in 1951, 1957 and 1968, and then as a TV movie by Carlton Television in 2000. Stranger yet, Jenny Agutter has a connection with a couple of these, playing the role of Bobbie, the same as she undertook in the film version, in 1968’s TV serial, and then as the children’s mother in the 2000 adaptation. Adapted by Jeffries, a very effective director who should have worked more behind the camera, the film never panders to the young audience, giving them a very tense and upsetting situation, the disappearance of their father in mysterious circumstances, darkly hinted at as spying or something equally treacherous, the hope they feel by visiting the railway station, which although quaint and charming is also a very real working location, and the drama of the potential disaster, which they manage to avert. Without reverting to obvious sentiment, Jeffries manages to make the eventual return of their father, stoutly played by the avuncular Iain Cuthbertson, incredibly moving and emotional, which you would need a soul of steel not to be touched by. The resulting film is a story of love and courage which very much avoids mawkishness or emotional manipulation, and is all the finer for it. Jeffries also has the nice touch of the cast on screen waving goodbye to the audience under the end credits, and the lone shout of ‘Thank you, Mr. Forbes’ is a reference to British producer and director Bryan Forbes, who put up a personal financial guarantee when producers EMI became hesitant over backing the film. Interestingly of the three young leads, all of which are excellent, a tribute to Jeffries’ casting skills, Gary F. Warren left acting shortly afterwards to eventually become very successful in the rag trade, while Sally Thomsett became a TV regular in the sit-com Man About The House before seeming to retire from acting in the late Seventies, leaving Jenny Agutter as the only one of the trio still on stage and screen. A truly brilliant family drama, impeccably made, and you will definitely need your handkerchiefs.

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