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  Seventy Deadly Pills Jagged Little Pills
Year: 1964
Director: Pat Jackson
Stars: Gareth Robinson, Len Jones, Robert Ferguson, Sally Thomsett, Linda Hansen, Ronnie Johnson, Barbara Ashcroft, Basil Beale, Timothy Bateson, Newton Blick, Ian Fleming, Kenneth Colley, Leslie Dwyer, Harry Fowler, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Warren Mitchell
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The police are in pursuit of a stolen car across London, and the criminals inside of it are desperate to escape, which they manage to do - for a while. In the interim, they park the car in the garage of an abandoned house that is home to a self-styled gang of young children calling themselves the Rockets, and though they are not about, young Dickie (Ronnie Johnson), is, and keen to join their throng. What he doesn't know is that car belongs to a doctor, and the robbers have gone through his effects, including a tin of sweets and a separate bottle of strychnine pills which get mixed up with one another. When the police realise this, the race is on to find out who has the pills and to get them to safety before any children eat them believing the danger to be harmless sweets...

Seventy Deadly Pills was another "race against time" item from the Children's Film Foundation, something they did with some skill as evinced here, with a plot that began at some speed, slackened a little while introducing the notes of tension, then picked up again for the grand finale, in this instance set at a fairground, Battersea Park Fun Fair, to be precise. As well as choosing a location the kids attending the studio's output would appreciate, it offered director Pat Jackson ample opportunity for visual interest: the animals in the cages of the zoo, the water splashing the glass screens around the rollercoaster, and plenty of space to run about in. Before that there were some of those chances to pick out familiar faces from the cast who would go on to bigger things.

Warren Mitchell was not quite Alf Garnett of television sitcom infamy yet, but he was not far off, and in this was one of the crooks, though only in the first ten minutes or so as they are caught early and the focus is not really on that pair. Sally Thomsett was one of the Rockets, about to forge a career in grown-up roles as in another hit sitcom, Man About the House, but not before she appeared as one of the children of the title in classic The Railway Children. Less famous, but still recognisable, were Leslie Dwyer of Hi-De-Hi! (more sitcommery) as a policeman, Timothy Bateson as one of the kids' fathers, a bookseller, Kenneth Colley of Pennies from Heaven the following decade as a porter, and TV regular Ronald Leigh-Hunt as a different policeman, part of the amusement of these being those well-kent faces.

As for the director, he was an erstwhile documentarian who tried to break into fiction projects for the big screen, his most celebrated effort was comedy horror What a Carve Up! But the business could have been kinder to him, hence a mere three years later he was doing his best in reduced creative circumstances helming Seventy Deadly Pills - television beckoned, as it did for many talents whose ambitions in the cinema were thwarted by the opportunities drying up in the nineteen-sixties and seventies. In effect, this was the equivalent of a public information film to instruct the children watching to be careful around sweets they had not bought from a shop, since they may not be sweets at all, they could as in this case be medicinal and therefore fraught with peril should a little kid take them. You might think this was a longwinded endeavour for that message, but entertainment was important to deliver it. Music by Leon Young.

[This is one of nine films released by The BFI on DVD in the Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Volume 2.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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