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  Sammy's Super T-Shirt Eye Of The Tiger
Year: 1978
Director: Jeremy Summers
Stars: Reggie Winch, Lawrie Mark, David Young, Keith Jayne, Richard Vernon, Julian Holloway, Patsy Rowlands, Jack May, Michael Ripper, Marianne Stone, Bella Emberg
Genre: Comedy, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Twelve year old Sammy Smith (Reggie Winch) is intent on building up his physical strength, and to that end uses a keep fit cassette to listen to as a guide when he's doing his exercises. Unfortunately his efforts don't do much good as he still feels as puny as he ever did, but there's a school race happening soon where he feels he can prove his worth and maybe even win if he puts his mind to it. Helping him along, he feels, is his lucky T-shirt, the one with the tiger print on it, and once he fetches it from the washing he's ready for anything...

Anything except actual superpowers, that is, in this, one of the most fondly recalled of the movies to be released under the Children's Film Foundation banner. For those who caught this on one of its television broadcasts, or perhaps more rarely in a cinema or at a showing for a school treat, it has been indelibly imprinted, a bit like the print of the tiger, on their memories, if only in half-recollected form. Typically for a children's fantasy story, it was a wish-fulfilment tale where the lead character could win his heart's desire, be it impressing the other kids or getting one over on the baddies, although this time there was a moral.

That moral being that you didn't need special powers to succeed in life, but a message like that could be easily dismissed by viewers who would prefer to imagine how cool it would be to own a T-shirt which bestowed incredible strength on the wearer. What happens is that Sammy loses his shirt, not at gambling, but when the local bullies throw it over the wall to a research laboratory, where it gets mixed up with other garments about to be experimented upon by scientist Mr Trotter (Julian Holloway, better known today as Sophie Dahl's dad). He is trying to create an indestructible material, and has invented a treatment to do just that.

The only shirt that this works on is Sammy's, thanks to a brief burst of electricity put in motion by the boy's efforts to reclaim his property. If there's one character in children's movies who is suffering from monomania it's this kid, whose days revolve around the clothing of the title: even more than his keep fit regime, it's the T-shirt that preoccupies him so when Trotter and his boss Mr Becket (Richard Vernon, better known as Slartibartfast from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) set out to get it back from him when he manages to get away with it, there grows a bond between boy and clothes that rivals that of the ones in such animal classics as Lassie Come Home or, er, Free Willy.

Not that the T-shirt is alive, but it does growl at appropriate moments, just to let us know the magic is in operation enabling Sammy to run at lightning speed or wrench a flagpole out of the ground, stand on one leg and toss it like a caber over the roof of a nearby building. Like you do. Or like you do when you have superstrength, something which the lad barely seems to register as occuring, as he apparently believes it's his exercises that are doing all the work. Ah, well maybe they are, only you have to wait to see the end to find out the real benefits of dedication to your cause. As with many C.F.F. comedies of this decade, Sammy's Super T-Shirt could have been transcribed straight from the pages of a contemporary comic; you can envisage it appearing weekly in The Beano or Buster. It's daft, but innocently so, and surprisingly enjoyable still, not only for nostalgists. Music by Harry Robinson.

[Sammy's Super T-Shirt is included on the C.F.F. DVD collection The Race is On from The B.F.I. along with Soapbox Derby and The Sky Bike. You get an informative booklet with it, too.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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