Encouraging children to drink strange drinks offered to them by other strange children…could it be a problem? Nah never mind it’ll be fine.

THE AMAZING MR BLUNDEN

Directed by: Lionel Jefferies

Written by: Lionel Jeffries, based on the novel The Ghosts by Antonia Barber

Featuring: Laurence Naismith, Graham Crowden, Dorothy Alison, Deddie Davies, David Lodge, Madeline Smith, Diana Dors, James Villiers, Rosalyn Landor, Lynne Frederick, Garry Miller, Marc Granger

Mrs. Allen and three young children have fallen on hard times after the death of her husband during World War One, moving to a small flat, things seem to be getting worse day-by-day when they are unexpectedly visited by a strange old man Mr. Blunden. He turns out to be a solicitor who oversees the fate of derelict old mansion in the country which needs a housekeeper to keep an eye on it and Mrs. Allen is his firms choice. Once settled into their small cottage in the grounds the older children set about exploring and one day the encounter the ‘spirits’ of two children that used to live in the house. Unfazed the spirits helped them concoct a potion that takes them back to the time of the spirit children. Will the four children be able to sort out the tangle and tragedy of the past so that present is altered for everyone and what part does the mysterious Mr. Blunden have in the whole thing?

Made in 1972 two years after the successful and highly enjoyable The Railway Children, Lionel Jefferies, director of both films, and perhaps better known for his comedic acting, clearly did not like to alter a tried and tested formula. The story is fun and intriguing, made for children but with enough meat on the bones to appeal to the least jaded parents that trouped along (my dad for instance) The Amazing Mr. Blunden in many ways could be said to be the same film. The topic is entirely different, but the skeleton is there.

Everyone is frightfully posh, the children are resourceful, and the father-figure is missing so we get a surrogate father – so far you could not tell which film is which. Whilst one deals with hinted at spies and subterfuge and a father that will come back, the other is more ‘adult’, for want of a better word, as it deals with actual death, from which the father-figure will never come back and let us be honest murdered small children. Things change and the story ends on a sweet note, for the children at least, but in this film death is death, even if it is with a small d.

The children are prim and proper, like Jenny Agutter and her ‘siblings’ were and although Lynne Fredrick, a beautiful young woman, was clearly too old to be the age she was playing, much like Agutter and Thomsett, and like those two young ladies had a lovely cut-glass accent, somehow Jefferies manages to not make them annoying. Even today, although I laughed at the ‘mummies’ and public-school voices, it still was not enough to grind my gears.

The story is very interesting and although it is mainly about ghosts it sort of is not, it is a mix of time-travelling, regrets, and getting the chance to put the wrongs of the past right. All wishful thinking but let us be honest, have we not all daydreamed about things in the past we could change from time-to-time?

Despite this the film is not overly complex and we have the traditional ‘goodie versus baddie’ overall driving force. Diana Dors and the long gone, but never forgotten, David Lodge have enormous fun eating all the scenery available but again they are somehow fun and not annoying. It must be said that perhaps aspects of the ‘funny’ side of Lodge is probably not something that would be found as funny in today’s modern society, but it was 1972 and all for purely comic effect.

It is great to see all those old time British actors that in this modern age (well if you are me) you’ve forgotten about, the stalwart silly arse James Villiers is at his chinless wonder best and Hammer Horror favourite Madeline Smith, who I last saw popping up as a contestant on Bargain Hunt, is great as the sweet but stupid Bella, Diana Dors’ lovely daughter, who really causes all the problems by catching Villiers eye.

There’s a touch of Dickens about what you see but the story and film are good for this. Basically, it is good silly fun where you can laugh out loud and boo at the baddies.

If Jefferies would have liked to have been remembered for The Railway Children, and so he should, even with the odd treatment of the fully grown women Sally Thomsett, then The Amazing Mr. Blunden would be a close second. I can vouch for this as I can still remember this film and the story nearly 50 years after I last saw it. In fact, the lovely memory of this film stuck in my ancient brain so strongly that I bought the DVD on Amazon for £7.99 and watched it immediately.

Not quite half a century old it is obvious the film will not stand up to strong scrutiny from modern day audiences but in my mind, I have to say, I wanted to watch this, I remembered it and I purchased it to watch it again as a 59-year-old man. Will the latest ‘Four Kids and It’ be looked on in the same way by today’s children when they are my age? With two of the most horrible, spoilt brats who I was dearly hoping would drown in the first ten minutes I think not.

I much prefer the cool beauty of Jenny Agutter or the tragic Lynne Fredrick myself, even if as a child they were nothing like anyone I ever knew.

The Amazing Mr. Blunden is dated and nonsensical, but it is fun and unless you are completely made of stone you should enjoy it. If you loved The Railway Children from 1970 and have never seen this then I strongly recommend it.

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