Lashings of Ginger Beer!
Arthur Ransome’s now legendary children's novel Swallows and Amazons was published in 1930 as the first part of what was to become a much-loved literary series. This 1974 filmed adaptation (although filmed in 1973), was adapted by renowned children’s playwright David Wood (his version of The Tiger That Came To Tea opened in July 2014 at the Lyric Theatre), depicts the adventures of four children and their sailing boat Swallow.
Set in the post-Great War Lake District of the 1920s, Swallows and Amazons follows some children (played by Simon West, Sophie Neville, Suzanna Hamilton and Stephen Grendon) whilst on summer holiday with their mother (Virginia McKenna - Born Free). During the trip the children are given permission to sail the boat Swallow to nearby Wild Cat island to set up camp. However what they don’t know is that two rival girls and their boat Amazon have already claimed the island as their own.
A “heartwarming and enduring tale that finds new fans in every generation”, Swallows and Amazons is set to have a brand new BBC adaptation, which starts shooting later this year, starring Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey).
Video + Audio
A 40 year old film, but it looks pretty good on Blu-ray in 2014. Having seen lots of cleaned up older transfers now, there’s probably some more that could have been done, but it’s pretty nice to look at and it all adds up to a good 1.66:1 transfer, accompanied by a mono soundtrack, played over left and right channels.
I wonder if some work could have been done to correct some of the fluctuating light levels during the night scenes. As that part of the story progresses, the light levels are fluctuating quite a lot. It’s a bit of a distraction, but could just be seen as part of the quaint charm of the film.
Lots of lovely scenery to look at too, and most of that hasn’t changed either. If you want to take your own boat to Wild Cat Island (Peel Island on Coniston Water), then you can still do that. Although the battery powered boats you can hire will get you there very slowly, and you can’t get right up to the island due to their keels. But you can if you get there under your own power…
(The images shown here are press material and were not captured from the Blu-ray)
The locations featurette, which takes a little tour of some of the key locations 40 years later, shows how little Peel Island and Bank Ground farm have changed over the years. It is by far the most interesting feature, and the kind of thing that should appear on all films like this.
There are also interviews with some cast members, who recall memories from filming in the Lakes 40 years ago, and a few other interesting stories. There’s also some behind the scenes footage from Sophie Neville’s dad’s own camera taken during filming, although it’s not all that exciting.
A good adaptation that I’d never seen until now. It’s pretty faithful to the book, and the gentle pace reflects the story. It’s very Famous Five-esque, with a distinct feel of “lashings of ginger beer”. It’s all about children having fun in an innocent time. There’s a little theft to contend with too (again very Famous Five with one of the children witnessing the act in the still of the night). It’s all good, clean, harmless fun, something there’s not so much of now.
I’d be interested to see how this film goes down with today’s generation of children. Hopefully it will inspire them to want to have adventures in the great outdoors. Maybe they’ll take a boat out on to Coniston Water to go to Peel Island and then check in to “Middle of Coniston Water” on Facebook. I’ve already done that. Maybe I’m just a big kid at heart…
A lovely fun film, nicely presented for its 40th anniversary. Recommended for a gentle rainy Sunday afternoon of nostalgia.