The Railway Children (1970)

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Daddy my daddy! When Charles Waterbury (Iain Cuthbertson) is imprisoned on false charges of selling state secrets from his place of work at the Foreign Office, his wife (Dinah Sheridan) must move from London to a small house near a railway station in rural Yorkshire. The Waterbury children – Bobbie (Jenny Agutter), Phyllis (Sally Thomsett) and Peter (Gary Warren) – occupy themselves watching the trains,  making friends with the porter Albert Perks (Bernard Cribbins) and even befriending a gentleman (William Mervyn) who frequents the station. When the children discover what has happened to their father, their new friend provides key assistance. In the meantime they act kindly towards all those they know – even taking in a Russian dissident writer (Gordon Whiting), save the train from crashing and rescuing a boy (Christopher Witty) who gets hit in the railway tunnel while running on a paper chase … Actor Lionel Jeffries adapted and directed this and cast Jenny Agutter a year after the BBC had dramatised the E. Nesbit novel. It’s beautifully shot on locations that include the Brontë parsonage at Haworth. It’s sheerly delightful from beginning to end, a thoroughly charming story which nonetheless is grounded in the harsh reality of some adult experiences. Wonderful.

The Riddle of the Sands (1979)

The Riddel of the Sands poster

What a treat it is to see this in widescreen and Panavision – a delightful slow-burn of a romantic adventure spy film, adapted from the classic by Erskine Childers. Written by director Tony Maylam and John Bailey, it tells the tale of Arthur Davies (Simon MacCorkindale) an amateur yachtsman charting the sandbanks of the area around the Frisian Islands off the North German coast in 1903. He is discovered by the sinister Dollmann (Alan Badel) a salvage merchant whose daughter (Jenny Agutter) he befriends. When Dollman runs him aground en route to duck shooting in the Baltic, he contacts his university friend, Charles Carruthers (Michael York) now working in the Foreign Office with an invitation to join him on vacation. The suspicion that England is about to be invaded by the Kaiser using a flotilla of barges is proven correct. Quietly thrilling, incredibly shot (by the great Christopher Challis, whose son, Drummond, produced) this has some nice directorial touches – concealing Carruthers long after we first hear York’s unmistakeable throaty voice, hiding Badel’s real identity behind an impressive hipster beard, retaining a sense of real tension and implacable difference between these very British buddies – not to mention the fabulous sweaters. I really dig the cut of this jib.