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  Friend or Foe Who Wants A Game Of Gerries And Brits?
Year: 1982
Director: John Krish
Stars: John Bardon, Stacy Tendeter, John Holmes, Mark Luxford, Jennifer Piercey, Valerie Lush, Edward Burnham, Jasper Jacob, Robin Hayter, Phillip Manikum, Prentis Hancock, Ann Mitchell, Len Marten, David Cunningham, Stephen Bent
Genre: Drama, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1940, and the children of London are being evacuated to avoid the Blitz, including David (John Holmes) and Tucky (Mark Luxford), two friends who wave goodbye to their parents and head off on the train to northern climes, and a small village where they will be safe. However, they can tell something is up when they are lined up in the local hall and see their classmates paired off with most of the village residents, leaving them last and unclaimed. Just when all seems lost, a middle-aged gent appears, a farmer called Jerry Reynolds (John Bardon), who says he will not split them up, and they can both return with him to his house and his French wife Anne (Stacy Tendeter).

Friend or Foe was a little longer and more ambitious than most Children's Film Foundation works, for it arrived near the end of their productions when they were focusing on projects that would be fewer in number, but more prestigious and able to command a wider audience. Basically, they were trying to compete with television, and on the small screen there had been notable adaptations like The Machine Gunners, like this a wartime affair that caught the imaginations of children in a way that the lesser seen, more recent Foundation endeavours had not. Here they adapted a Michael Morpurgo novel to justify themselves, although really by the nineteen-eighties the writing was on the wall.

The result was a well-regarded film that was somewhat neglected anyway, and the whiff of tastefulness about the whole thing was enough to make kids suspicious they were being lectured to out of school. Had they given it a go, or if it had been shown to them in classes, they would have found it was nowhere near as bad as they had feared, more on the level of popular schools' programme How We Used to Live rather than anything more drily academic. The heart of the story was not so much the fact that these boys had been transplanted into an alien community, not even that David hated the Germans because his father had been killed when his ship was sunk by Nazi enemies.

It was a turn of events that went along with a blunt summation of war from Tucky at the very end of the story, no spoilers but Boy George would sympathise, where the pair of friends witness a German bomber going down in the nearby woods. Unfortunately for them, despite an extensive search nothing is found by the military, and they become pariahs in the village since they are thought to be liars, but they investigate themselves and thanks to an accident, find a pair of the bomber crew stranded in the woods. Incidentally, the sole reason they cross paths is because of that old C.F.F. staple, falling in the water: David takes the plunge into a river, only it's not for comedy, it's for peril as one of the German pilots saves him, thus teaching him the lesson not all Germans are bad. Other than that, we were given a dig at the hypocrisy patriotism can bring about by the way the plot was resolved, and it was all very educational. Holmes would go on to Grange Hill fame on TV as Gonch Gardener. No, he wasn't that John Holmes. Music by Robert Farnon.

[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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