THE AMAZING MR BLUNDEN LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY Arrives 9 December 2019
Lionel Jeffries was one of our best loved characters actors, with a career stretching over 50 years ranging from comedies (The Wrong Arm Of The Law) and musicals (Camelot, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) to guest appearances in later life in TV series such as Minder and Inspector Morse.
He first ventured into the director’s chair with The Railway Children (1970) which the nation immediately took to its heart and which is still regarded as a family classic. It was a hard act to follow and his second film came two years later with The Amazing Mr Blunden (1972). While not as celebrated as its predecessor, it’s still regarded with much affection and, after over 40 years, will be available on DVD from 11 March.
In Edwardian London, the widowed Mrs Allen and her children are visited by Mr Blunden, a kindly but rather mysterious elderly solicitor, who offers her the job of housekeeper at a remote country mansion. She cannot afford to say no, so the family move home, with her son and daughter having already been told by Mr Blunden that the house is haunted. They soon meet the ghosts – and find they have a crucial part to play in righting a wrong that took place exactly 100 years ago.
This is essentially a feel-good film, complete with tidy, optimistic ending – and it’s also something of a period piece. A 21st century remake would, no doubt, be choc-full of CGI and other assorted special effects. But, as a product of the 70s, it’s a much simpler affair and it’s all the better for it - proof positive that a director can achieve just as much by the combination of simple effects and not showing the audience everything, so that they have to use their imagination. And it’s that simplicity that gives the film its charm and enduring quality.
The title is something of a curiosity as it doesn’t really fit. You expect magic, wizardry and even spectacle, but it’s not that type of film. Instead, you have a ghost story, laced with time travel, for intelligent children and adults, which contains echoes of both Dickens and Alice In Wonderland. It’s debateable whether today’s children would take to it, but adults won’t be able to resist its warm nostalgia and sense of period.
The main roles give young British acting talent from the 70s a chance to shine: there’s Lynne Frederick, fresh from Nicholas and Alexandra, Rosalyn Landor and Madeline Smith. Among the adults, Diana Dors is almost unrecognisable – and truly vile – as the housekeeper in the mansion’s earlier days. Graham Crowden (to be seen on TV in Waiting For God during the 90s) plays a slightly dotty solicitor with a light touch and Dorothy Alison (Nurse Brace from Reach For The Sky) is an ideal mother, protective and tolerant. In what turned out to be his last film, Laurence Naismith is suitably twinkly yet mysterious in the title role.
A word of caution. The credits at the end are dreadfully cheesy, showing all the characters – yes, even the monstrous housekeeper – cheerily waving good bye to the audience. They’re to be avoided.
Having languished in the shadow of The Railway Children for so, the return of The Amazing Mr Blunden on DVD should allow it to cast its spell on a whole new generation. And those that loved it first time round will be more than happy to be entranced all over again.
THE AMAZING MR BLUNDEN LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY Arrives 9th December 2019.