The Race is On: on DVD Featured

Sunday, 17 February 2013 21:22
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The Race is On - A Trio of CFF films on DVDCatch a young Michael Crawford (Frank Spencer of Some Mothers do 'Ave 'Em fame) in “Soapbox Derby” from 1957, the most senior entry in a trio of Children’s Film Foundation (CFF) movies collected together under the banner “The Race is On”. Crawford plays Peter Toms, the club-leader of The Battersea Bats who, are determined to win a soapbox derby – home-made go-karts, basically. As always seems to be the case, they face betrayal when local rivals, The Victoria Victors, enter the competition too.

Also in contention on this release is “The Sky-Bike” from 1967, which features Liam Redmond (Henry in You’re Only Young Twice) as Mr Lovejoy, the down-on-his-luck mastermind behind a flying bike. Completing the line-up is “Sammy’s Super T-Shirt”, a 1978 parody of The Six Million Dollar Man (Sammy even has an illustrated poster of Steve Austin on his bedroom wall) with an irradiated Tiger T-shirt seemingly the key to the unlocking of super-human powers. Once again, the care put into CFF releases like this is clear for all to see, and rightly these titles power through extreme levels of nostalgia. And you could have won one of three copies of the DVD, plus a Tiger T-Shirt for the person first out of the electronic hat, in our prize competition.

“Soapbox Derby” (62 mins) was filmed in and around south London's dockyards. Described as an action-packed thriller, amongst the adults involved we find an excellent slapstick performance from Denis Shaw (who featured in a couple of episodes of The Prisoner as a Shopkeeper). Filmed in monochrome, the child accents are all very ‘plummy’, something insisted on by CFF chiefs at the time.

“The Sky-Bike” (59 mins) sees Tom Smith (Spencer Shires) accidentally stumble across a prototype man-powered flying machine. He convinces its eccentric inventor, Mr Lovejoy, to let help get it off the ground. William Lucas (The Adventures of Black Beauty) shaves off his beard to play Tom’s father, while David Lodge (“Cockleshell Heroes”) and Harold Bennett (‘Young’ Mr Grace in Are You Being Served?) get in on the act as an Airfield Guard and an Old Man respectively.

“Sammy’s Super T-Shirt” (55 mins) sees fun-sized Sammy (Reggie Winich) set his heart on winning the Junior Superstar Challenge Cup track race. His secret weapon, a lucky Tiger T-shirt, takes on a life of its own when it accidentally becomes part of a Top-Secret scientific experiment.

Featuring a comic double-act by the legendary Richard Vernon (as Mr Becket) and Julian Holloway (as Mr Trotter), this is one of the best-remembered CFF productions. Patsy Rowlands is a pleasure to behold as Sammy’s Mum, and Michael Ripper gets in on the action as a Gateman. Best friend Marvin is played by Lawrie Mark, well-known already for his regular role as Benjamin in ITV sit-com The Fosters (1976-77).

Released following an enthusiastic petition to see it be made available, the BFI have made available a limited edition replica of Sammy’s lucky Tiger T-shirt via the BFI Shop (one will even be winging its way to the first prize winner in our competition, along with a copy of the DVD).

Special Features on the DVD include:

  • Brand new High Definition transfers of all films.
  • A fully illustrated booklet - with essays by Andrew Roberts and Vic Pratt, plus a note by Michael Crawford.


“The Race is On” is out now from BFI, with a bemusingly ‘PG’ certificate, a run time of 176 mins approx, and a RRP of £14.99, or get it for less at

Thanks to BFI and Cult TV,you had an opportunity to get one of three copies of “The Race is On” which we had up-for-grabs.  And that’s not all, the First Prize Winner will ALSO receives a replica of Sammy’s lucky Tiger T-Shirt.  To be in with a chance of winning one of these prizes, all you had to do was answer the following question: Who features on a poster on Sammy’s bedroom wall in “Sammy’s Super T-Shirt”?

The answer was STEVE AUSTIN (The Six Million Dollar Man), and the winner of the DVD plus T-Shirt was Stewart Miller of Darlington.  The two winners of the DVD were Leslie Evans of Calne and Christine OPrey of Co Down, Northern Ireland. Well done all!

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 09:57

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