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  Clue of the Missing Ape, The Cole's To Gibraltar
Year: 1953
Director: James Hill
Stars: Nati Banda, Roy Savage, George Cole, Patrick Boxill, William Patrick, Marcus Simpson, Peter Copley
Genre: AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sea cadet Jimmy Sutton (Roy Savage) is walking home through a field when he realises a small plane overhead is in trouble and rushes over as it crashes, dragging the pilot out to safety. But the pilot implores him to rescue something else: a folder carrying top secret documents, which Jimmy obliges with, getting a little burned in the process. What he does not know is that nearby there are enemy agents who have arranged the crash, and wanted to get their hands on the folder, so foiled, they are forced to retreat to Gibraltar for plan B. As coincidence would have it, this is precisely where the boy is taken as a reward for his bravery, uncovering that very plot with the help of local girl Pilar (Nati Banda)...

This fairly early Children's Film Foundation feature, just a couple of minutes shy of an hour, demonstrated in those early days at least, the Rank Organisation that arranged the productions were willing to throw a bit of cash their way as the young cast here had a chance to visit the Rock in the Mediterranean and interact with the famed Barbary apes there. It was those apes that lent the film its title, as the villains are trying to poison the animals to prove to the locals that the time of British rule has come to an end and the legend that once the last of the apes leaves, so do the Brits, has finally come true. Setting aside whether that idea had a hope in hell of working out, it provided an excuse for one of the more exciting CFF movies from this early era, packed with action in an exotic location the young audience would not be able to visit at the time.

Though it may have been shown to kids on the island, for the novelty of seeing their home on the screen, but mainly it was British children who would have appreciated this, and put themselves in Jimmy's place. Pilar was a degree more exotic, sporting as she did a pair of earrings to demonstrate her foreignness, but fooling nobody was George Cole as a Spaniard under some fake tan and a dodgy accent, the sidekick to the main bad guy Patrick Boxill, but billed above him in the credits since Cole had been a star for a while, and if the Foundation had been around when he was a boy, he surely would have appeared in one of their efforts. There was a pleasing mix of making do (check out the bicycle-powered radio!) and more ambitious, not to say rather perilous, adventures for the young duo to get up to, where it appeared the kids really did perform their own stunts. According to some online sources, Savage graduated to nudist movies when he grew up, though that may be just a name-a-like causing confusion. Let that not detain you watching this pacey runaround, from the future director of Born Free, James Hill.

[This is available with eight other CFF films on the BFI's Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3, all on DVDs packed with extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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