DIRECTOR: Richard C. Sarafian
May contain spoilers!
Based on the novel by David Rook, John Mills stars as a Moorman on Darmoor, who befriends a twelve year old boy, who has been mute since he was three years old. He attempts to relate to the boy through the nature of the moor, as young Philip, Mark Lester best known as Oliver Twist in Carol Reed’s Oliver! (1968), befriends a pony and is given a bird, one whcih he almost kills!
But, as you might expect from a bleak coming of age drama set in England of this time, it all kind of works out in the end, but tears are inevitable. The characters are reasonably well fleshed out and Mills centres the film as you might expect. This is also a re-pairing of Mills and Syliva Syms, who plays Philip’s mother, from their more famous outing in Ice Cold In Alex (1958).
This is one of those stories where your sympathies, well, mine at least, are tested by the grim nature of the characters and their bleak surroundings. Philip is clearly a troubled boy, his mother is at her wits end and his father, Gordon Jackson is trying to see the best in his troubled youth, but as Mills attempts to relate to the boy, damage is done.
The bird is almost killed by Philip and the pony, who he has also named Philip, is all but left to die in a marsh in the finale, all because of Philip’s bad choices. Just because all is well that ends well is not good enough. Everyone around this boy is expected to sacrifice something in his healing process and noble though that is, is it fair? Is it realistic?
Either way, it may be somewhat inspiring but I found it to be more
irritating than anything else. A bleak family movie for a generation of Brits who were told the cold harsh truth about life on a daily basis.
I had the privileged of watching this on 16mm, all three reels of it. Whist it is always great to see a film projected from, for want a of a better word, an “analogue” source, from an original film print, there are drawbacks. The most obvious example being that of the “Magenta fade” issue, especially from Eastman or Kodak film stocks of the time. This is where much of the colour and contrast has faded from the print, leaving little but Magenta behind.
And this print had suffered as many had. But if I had wanted to watch this in pristine condition, the DVD would have been and always will be my
primary choice, hat or Blu-ray of course, but there is more to watching films that seeing them at their best. This print was at worst, a 1970’s domestic print, at best a semi-professional copy, may be even from the film’s release year, 1969.
It is not easy to trace 16mm prints back to sources these days but presumably not impossible. Either way, whilst not perfect, this was a viewing choice which whilst not presenting the film at its best, it was presented with character and a kind of purity or authenticity.
Photography by ©nEoPOL 2016 All rights reserved