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DVD Review: ‘CFF: Runaways’

★★★☆☆

The latest collection from the British Film Institute maintains their ongoing commitment to preserve Britain’s film heritage for generations to come. Accompanied by a fascinating and detailed collector’s booklet, Runaways includes three films from the Children’s Film Foundation featuring young boys who, in various ways, run away from home, only to find themselves in trouble with their elders in the form of their parents and the law. Johnny on the Run (1953), filmed on location in Scotland, Hide and Seek (1972) and Terry on the Fence (1985), both shot in London, are ideal examples of a moralistic form of entertainment popular with children in the past, though seldom seen in today’s ‘enlightened’ age.

In Johnny on the Run, Polish refugee Jan (Eugeniusz Chylek) runs away from his aunt with whom he has been sent to live in Edinburgh. After falling in with a couple of criminals, Jan finds himself in a rural village which is home to a host of refugees who befriend Jan and encourage him to stay. Whether he does, and whether or not he manages to escape the clutches of the thieves, may be pretty predictable, but the film and its depiction of rural life in Scotland has a charming air and nostalgia. Hide and Seek, meanwhile, sees Keith (Peter Newby) – or the Deptford Dodger – hiding out in a derelict house after running away in the hope of finding his father. Befriended by local kids Chris (a young Gary Kemp) and Beverley (Eileen Fletcher), Keith tracks his father down – though soon wishes he hadn’t.

In the final film, Terry on the Fence, the young Terry (Jack McNicholl) falls in with a gang of rough teenagers, after he runs away from home following a row with his mother and elder sister. Things work out for the best of course, but not before he has the statutory run in with the law and local powers that be. Apart from being a showcase for both young, aspiring talent as well as the better known older members of the casts – including Robin Askwith, Liz Fraser, John Laurie and Mona Washbourne – the three Runaways films share others memorable factors. Not only are the children in most cases more sensible and level headed than their elders, but they appear to have an underlying moral code. If parents now wanted to give their children a basic grounding in the difference between right and wrong and that crime, in the long run, doesn’t pay, they could do worse than to show them the films included here.

Cleaver Patterson