Blyton-mania

September 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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September is a good month for Blyton fans. Monday sees the BFI DVD release of the Children’s Film Foundation adaptations of Five on a Treasure Island (1957) and Five Have a Mystery to Solve (1964), complete with new film transfers, gorgeously illustrated booklets and specially commissioned essays by Blyton expert Norman Wright. Box sets with heritage editions of the stories are exclusive to HMV (currently available to pre-order for £11.99).

The BFI must be chock full of Enid admirers because this month also heralds the launch of a Blyton-themed Mediatheque programme called Toyland Tales and Happy Endings: The Legacy of Enid Blyton. As well as teaser episodes of both of the CFF serials, there are a host of other exciting and often hard-to-see films and television programmes including the first episode of the 1990 Castle of Adventure; the recent biopic, Enid (2009); First Reaction (1992), a schoolgirl’s thoughts on the editorially tweaked new versions of Blyton’s books (with toned down sexism); the classic parody, Five Go Mad in Dorset (1982); and bonkbuster author Jackie Collins, interviewed in 1996, on what is a somewhat surprising choice for her favourite book…

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The Birds and the Bees

April 13, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Posted in Learning Stuff | Leave a comment
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This year the British Silent Film Festival is taking films about science, nature and exploration as its focus. Particular highlights for those interested in a Famous Five style education and nature-loving lifestyle include ‘Birdman, Beeman, Hunter, Spy‘, an illustrated look at some of the pioneers of wildlife cinematography – J C Bee-Mason, Oliver Pike, Joe Corbett and Colonel F M Bailey; Coast, a journey around the British coastline using early archive film; and the spirit of adventure and vintage outdoorwear seen in Climb Any Mountain, a programme of early climbing films. Scarves and bobble hats all round!

All of these films would have been in circulation around the time Enid Blyton was writing for Teachers’ World, and while her own method was perhaps more ‘get out and look around’, how could she not have been enchanted by films like Nature’s Hidden Beauties – Pond Life (1908), The Life of the Honey Bee (1911), and the slightly disturbing The Cuckoo’s Secret (1922), which would appear to support her assertion in Round the Year with Enid Blyton: Springtime: ‘He is a strange bird, with strange habits, a bird “gone wrong” […] some time, far away in the past, there was a time when he could choose between goodness and badness, and alas! he chose the wrong path’.

The British Silent Film Festival runs from Thursday 15th through to Sunday 18th April at Leicester’s Phoenix Square Cinema.

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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