Mike (Adam Richens) and Harry (Michael McVey) are two brothers who long to have a radio controlled aeroplane to fly, but in the meantime they will have to make do with an elastic band-powered one, which they have taken to a local field to play with. However, also present are two criminals, Eddie (Reginald Marsh) and his son Sidney (Jamie Foreman) who wish to steal one of the planes for their own nefarious purposes, and have the equipment to do so. When Harry accidentally sets off their plane and it buzzes Sidney, a fight nearly ensues but the sensible ex-fighter pilot Charlie (Bill Maynard), there with his niece Maggie (Sylvia O'Donnell), steps in to break the scuffle up...
Sky Pirates was one of the more fondly remembered of the Children's Film Foundation outings, dealing with radio controlled aircraft as it did, a surefire way to get kids interested since those machines held an undeniable fascination back then, with enthusiasts often taking over local parks to perform aerial displays to delight the public. This was fairly common in the nineteen-seventies at least, and a film like this added a layer of thrills when you took into account the criminal element which turned this into a suspense piece, given that a drama purely on the subject of those planes alone would have been a little impoverished as far as plot points would have gone.
Fortunately here you had a tale of a diamond heist, where a French gemstone was stolen in Paris and transported across the Channel to England to be picked up by Eddie and company. How do they avoid customs? By using an equally pilfered model plane to fly it across the stretch of water, but Mike and Harry are well aware of what they are up to thanks to the assistance of Charlie and Maggie, Charlie being the friendly, protective counterpart to Eddie's corrupting influence on his son. This offered ample opportunities for scenes where the camera was pointed at the sky to record the aircraft soaring and diving, and if you had ever attended one of those displays, as many a seventies kid had, the same enjoyment could be had.
The cast had a few folks who enjoyed long careers: Maynard was a staple of rural police drama Heartbeat on Sunday night television for umpteen episodes, though his grounding was more in comedy, from sitcoms like Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggit to Confessions of a Window Cleaner and its sequels. Foreman, just starting out, would also become a regular in a specific genre as he performed in a run of geezer movies that appeared in the wake of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Marsh had a huge list of credits but may be best known to a generation as the stern, stuffy boss Sir Dennis on sitcom Terry and June - here he used both his posh accent and his Cockney one. The hero kids were less famous, but as was the case with the majority of C.F.F. were merely required to be generic, though it was a nice note that Mike gives Harry such a hard time until Harry redeems himself at the dart-propelling finale, whereupon he actually pays his younger brother a compliment. Music by Harry Robertson.
[This is one of nine films released by The BFI on DVD in the Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Volume 2.]