Five Have a Mystery to Solve

August 1, 2009 at 8:12 am | Posted in Anne, Dick, Eating and Drinking, Fun and Games, George, Learning Stuff, Timmy | 3 Comments
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Five Have a Mystery to Solve BFI

The Children’s Film Foundation serial, Five Have a Mystery to Solve, was screened at BFI Southbank today. The Five are asked to stay with an orphan called Wilfred who has a mysterious power over animals. Wilfred doesn’t really want the Five’s company, preferring mice and badgers, and is soon attempting to frighten poor Anne with toads, slow worms (“it’s a viper!”) and spiders. He even tells a decidedly feminine George that Timmy prefers him, Wilfred, to his mistress (this doesn’t go down well, as you can imagine). When nature-loving Wilfred hears of animal-trapping taking place on the spookily named Whispering Island, he and Timmy set off to the rescue. Boy and dog are soon joined by Julian et al and an adventure involving a lost Crusader’s treasure and giant stripy bunny rabbits ensues…

Blyton’s Five Have a Mystery to Solve was published in 1962, with the CFF serial released two years later, in 1964. The Foundation had filmed Five on a Treasure Island even earlier, in 1957, again as a serial. Unfortunately the Foundation’s back catalogue is not yet available on DVD so this was a rare opportunity to see the film. Before the screening we stocked up on ginger beer from A. Gold, purveyor of traditional English foodstuffs, and chewy homemade macaroons from Spitalfield’s Market Coffee House. The Five go hungry for much of the film, however. Wilfred’ antics interrupt the Five’s tea of sandwiches and buns (although the ever-hungry Dick has the foresight to wrap a few buns in newspaper and stuff them under his jumper). Luckily, the children are imprisoned in a kitchen at one point so they are able to make doorstop slices of bread and jam, which they wash down with cocoa (made by the girls, of course!).

Cinema doesn’t rate particularly highly on the Five’s list of cultural pursuits (Dick does kills some time in the cinema in Five Fall into Adventure, however) but  a survey of the out of school activities of children undertaken in the 1940s revealed that the cinema was one of the most popular leisure activities for young people. It was partly with these statistics in mind that the British flour miller turned screen mogul, J. Arthur Rank, helped set up the CFF in 1951, in a bid to provide wholesome entertainment for the nation’s youth. Initially led by pioneering educational filmmaker Mary Field, early CFF films owed much to the Blytonian ethos and concentrated on ‘clean, healthy, intelligent adventure’. A later executive officer, Henry Geddes, noted that the CFF was often accused of making middle-class films for middle-class children but from the later 1960s films were more representative of their intended audiences. Stories were often urban-set and featured socially and environmentally-conscious plots as in The Battle of Billy’s Pond which pits its heroes against a heartless chemical company.

The BFI’s screenonline provides an excellent introduction to the Children’s Film Foundation and more detailed reviews of several of its films.



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  1. Please please please campaign for this to be released on DVD.

  2. A DVD release would be fantastic. The rights for the CFF films are now owned by Granada International, although the Foundation’s archive has been donated to the British Film Institute. If the BFI was given permission by Granada, I’m sure it could do some wonderful things with the CFF back catalogue…

  3. Excellent news! Five Have a Mystery to Solve and the earlier CFF serial, Five on a Treasure Island (different cast and a better George), are going to be released on DVD by the BFI on 13th September 2010, £17.99. Hurrah!

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