Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Swallows and Amazons (1974)

Arthur Ransome covered the Bolshevik revolution for the British press, married Trotsky's personal secretary, did a bit of spying for MI6, was suspected of spying for the Russians (he was exonerated, but evidence suggests his wife was smuggling diamonds for the Comintern), personally brokered peace between the Bolsheviks and Estonians ... and then in the late 1920s and the 1930s he wrote a series of wildly successful books for children.  As you do.

This film is based on the first of his novels, and details the activities of the four young Walker children, and the friends they make while holidaying in the Lake District.  There's lots of sailing, camping and 'exploring'.  The third of the children (who has a name that has not aged well over the intervening 80 years) is quite the story-teller and recasts all their escapades in dramatic form.  An encounter with a pike becomes an attack by a deadly shark; charcoal burners become Native Americans, and so forth.

I own all twelve of Ransome's books, and will make no pretense of being unbiased about this movie.  I had a great time with its wholesome, low key holiday fun.  It probably won't be to all tastes: there's no real danger here, no shipwrecks, no desert islands except in the children's make believe.  Of course, the same is true of Bridge to Terabithia, and I thought that was a darn fine film too (one I will get around to reviewing sometime).

Still, a lot of people might find this slow moving, and it's certainly terribly, terribly English, and more than a little 'olde worlde' in its outlook.  So I can't recommend it to everyone, though I am sure it will end up back in my DVD player some time.

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