The first of the recommendations from Kind Hearts and Coronets from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book, and as much as I enjoyed seeing Alec Guinness in multiple roles, meeting various forms of death, this one was a surprise and a delight. This is a film I had never even heard of, and was anxious about it, even after I read a small plot blurb, because if not done right, it could still be horrendous.
In fact, I sat with a smile plastered across my face for the entire run of the feature. The best way to describe this one is as a combination of The Little Rascals and The Goonies.
A group of boys, with three standouts, being Joe (Harry Fowler), Clarry (Joan Dowling) – the only girl allowed to hang out with the boys, and a little Scottish lad, Alec (Douglas Barr), find themselves embroiled in action, adventure and intrigue with the bombed-out shell of post war London as it’s backdrop.
Joe is caught up in reading a thriller of a comic book called Trump, featuring a hard-nosed detective who outwits and outfights the baddies. As Joe wanders the streets of London, he comes across a lorry unloading three crates, which amazingly matches up with a lorry, licence plate, crates and all, from one of the comic’s panels.
He begins to suspect that criminals are using the comic as a way to send codes to one another about locations and crimes that can be committed. The police don’t believe him, though the detective in charge helps him get a job in the market.
While Joe works, he stays atop the comic, and begins to see other crimes, and plans in them as well. When he confronts the comic’s writer (Alastair Sim), the writer is convinced his work is being changed, as there are pieces of dialogue, locations and information that he did not write popping up in the finished work.
Joe and the gang go on the offensive, chasing down leads, using their gumption and their slingshots to get in and out of trouble, until they come up with a plan to stop the baddies once and for all, become heroes and save the day.
The climax of the film calls out, seemingly, every lad in London, as they all converge on the villains and give them a proper socking.
If anything had been off in this film, it would have pushed me right out of the film, but everything worked, I laughed, smiled and applauded throughout.
This one ended up being a real joy to watch, and treated both the youngsters and the adults in the film with a level of intelligence. The villains weren’t stupid, and the kids weren’t overtly cute and fun, everything balanced, and as the climax drew closer you could tell the kids knew they were getting in deeper than they thought, and that there may actually be some danger.
It’s a lot of fun when you come across a title you’ve never heard of, and walk away thinking about how much you enjoyed it. This is definitely one of those.
And in addition to Alastair Sim, I was delighted to see another name I recognized in the credits, the Director of photography for the first three Indiana Jones movies, Douglas Slocombe, also served as DP on this film!
Have you seen it?
I can’t wait to see what the other recommendations for Kind Hearts and Coronets are!