The thing about children’s films is that they are usually rather bland (and that’s being polite). They’re designed to keep kids happy and this often leaves parents very bored. However, 1972’s The Amazing Mr. Blunden should capture the imagination of kids, but there’s plenty to keep the adults entertained too. In fact fifty years on, this Lionel Jeffries directed family fantasy film will probably captivate grown-ups much more than it will children. And that’s something I don’t have a problem with.
Adapted from Antonia Barber’s novel The Ghosts, the film sees solicitor Mr Blunden (Laurence Naismith) offering the destitute war widow Mrs. Allen (Dorothy Alison) and her children Lucy (Lynne Frederick), Jamie (Garry Miller) the opportunity to look after a derelict country home. However, the children get more than they bargained for when they encounter Sara (Rosalyn Landor) and Georgie (Marc Granger), a pair of young ghosts who ask for their help.
The Amazing Mr. Blunden works for a number of reasons. The first one is that the film’s young cast all give exceptionally good performances. Normally the weak link in a film like this is the child actors, but they all impress here, selling the fantastical elements and the emotional notes.
Secondly, there’s a lot for adults to enjoy too. Jeffries includes a lot of detail that will likely go over the heads of its target audience but there’s a nasty, Dickensian quality to the tale that will keep the adults entertained and chuckling.
Finally. the technical qualities of The Amazing Mr. Blunden are all exceptional. The production design is great (shot at Pinewood Studios) and the cinematography by Gerry Fisher and the score by Elmer Bernstein are both wonderful. It might be an intimate story, but it feels much grander in scope.
It’s rare for a children’s film to capture the heart and attention of a cinematic grouch like Movies In Focus, but The Amazing Mr. Blunden managed to achieve that – and then some.
This is yet another first-rate release from Second Sigh Fims. It’s got a fantastic new scan of the print, so the movie looks great. Extras wise you get a wonderful commentary with Madeline Smith, Rosalyn Landor and Stuart Lock which is moderated by the mighty Kim Newman. There’s also a brilliant 2014 BFI Q&A with Smith, Landor and Lock, As well as new interviews with Madeline Smith and Rosalyn Landor and a very passionate chat with Mark Gatiss, a huge fan of The Amazing Mr Blunden. Excellent.