The year is 1918 and Mrs Allen (Dorothy Alison) has been recently widowed in the Great War which has ended a short time before, leaving her with a couple of teenage children and a baby to look after, and very little money to support her - only a widow's pension, in fact. Then one night as Christmas approaches their small basement home is visited by a man calling himself Mr. Blunden (Laurence Naismith), who claims to represent a lawyers office in the vicinity. He has good news for Mrs Allen should she decide to take up his offer of housekeeper at a remote country mansion, so how can she turn him down?
The Amazing Mr. Blunden was director Lionel Jeffries' follow-up to his masterpiece The Railway Children, an attempt to create a family film that would show great delicacy and care in every frame, one which succeeded impeccably. But how to carry on from there, with so much to live up to? This was the answer, and of course it never did find the same audience as his first effort in the director's chair, but since went on to be a minor cult favourite with those who caught it in their formative years. One point against it finding wider recognition was its perceived complexity: one man's over-convoluted plotline is another man's refusal to talk down the audience, it should be observed.
So what you had was a story which took quite some degree of explanation therefore would be far easier to experience than start going into even the lightest of detail about what happened in it, as even the premise was something that rejected simple summarisation. There's this ghost, you see, and the two kids become ghosts when they meet two other ghosts but they're not really ghosts because they drank this potion to travel through time to find someone who will stop them being murdered by the in-laws of their uncle so they can grasp the inheritance of one of the kids from a hundred years before and... You get the idea, or perhaps you don't: this was really one of those films best watched to see what it was about.
Though it begins at Christmas, it doesn't stay there, as for some reason it's springtime shortly after the Allens move into the mansion, but the fact that Jeffries alluded to Yuletide establishes it as ideal for that season when the telling of spooky tales seems to suit the climate all the better. Not that this was especially scary, though it does grow tense in places, making for far more of a fantasy picture than a horror movie for kids, assuming they could follow it and didn't need to keep asking an adult what was happening, though the interesting thing was once you'd started watching, it did make perfect sense no matter how far it would take to encapsulate its various relationships and goings-on.
Containing a tone of heritage cinema which was not so offputting as that might sound to a certain quarter of the potential audience thanks to Jeffries' skill with his material, The Amazing Mr. Blunden saw a fine cast bringing its supernatural shenanigans to life, though perhaps the presence of Lynne Frederick tended to overshadow the rest of her fellow performers thanks to the depressing manner in which her life ended up just over twenty years later. If you could put that to the back of your mind, there was Diana Dors in one of her character roles to relish, piling on the ham as the wicked mother-in-law, and Madeline Smith having fun as her dim bulb daughter; in his final film, Laurence Naismith embodied both the regret of Blunden and his genial hope that he would be able to set right what looked impossible to correct. The action centered on the kids (though Frederick was obviously too old for her role), but under Jeffries' guiding hand an excellent ensemble delivered an offbeat, rewarding yarn. Nice to see everyone waving goodbye at the end, too. Music by Elmer Bernstein.