Keith (Peter Newby) climbs over the wall of the approved school he has been sent to and makes a run for it, hitching a lift with a lorry driver who takes him to London, the borough of Deptford to be precise, where he is on a mission. But first he must find something to eat, and embarks on a life of crime by stealing food such as bread or an orange or a pint of milk from local traders - they give chase, but Keith is simply too fast and wily to be caught by them, and he finds a hideout in an abandoned basement flat to stay in while he continues his search. However, when he nicks a loaf of bread from the back of a bike belonging to Chris (Gary Kemp), it might be a step too far...
This Children's Film Foundation effort is likely most famous for starring a young Gary Kemp who used the wages he made from it to buy an electric guitar and never looked back as the driving force behind eighties New Romantic band Spandau Ballet beckoned. In the following decade he would become world famous and a multi-millionaire into the bargain with his musical prowess; his songs are still heard today, but as for the acting he didn't stick with it quite as much as his early years might have indicated, the gangland biopic The Krays being his highest profile role which he took alongside brother Martin Kemp, who would stick with acting, as it turned out.
Gary's Lahndahn accent was ideal for Hide and Seek, way back when, as this was a try at something a shade more gritty for the foundation as it moved into the seventies, so for a change there was no finale with the baddies falling into some water, although they do get their comeuppance after a fashion. Yet that is in a sense a Pyrrhic victory for Keith (or Keef, as Chris insists on calling him), since it deprived him of the father figure he so wished for, as what he has escaped that special school to do is track down his sole remaining parent (Terence Morgan), who in a cruel twist of fate, and demonstrating a moral complexity you wouldn't expect from this stable, is the film's bad guy, planning a robbery from his soon-to-be redeveloped bomb site base of operations.
As ever with C.F.F. productions, this is on the children's side all the way, so while Keith is labelled a criminal by the press (they call him "The Deptford Dodger") we in the audience can tell he is behaving out of necessity rather than vindictiveness or greed, as can Chris after a while in his company. Seeing his new pal, however wary they may be of one another, is in a desperate situation, Chris opts to assist, becoming the runaway's go-between and allowing a bunch of well-known British faces to make an appearance, from Liz Fraser as Keith's nasty stepmother who is persuading his father away to Canada without him, to likely lads Alan Lake (Diana Dors' last husband) and Robin Askwith (who needs no introduction) as the fake coppers the criminals have hired to pull off the theft.
Chris's father is a policeman, a real one (Godfrey James), which it is implied offers him the sense of right and wrong the unfortunate Keith, through no fault of his own, has not been brought up with, and we can tell he's a decent sort since he and his sister Beverley (Eileen Fletcher) run errands for a local elderly gent (Roy Dotrice in old age makeup and the world's grubbiest cardigan), though she tolerates his grumpiness and neediness more than her brother does. His is a subplot forgotten about before the conclusion as the narrative gets tied up with Keith's father and his attempts to capture his son to prevent him ruining his chances at the robbery, and his gang accidentally grab Chris in a case of mistaken identity, leaving his new pal and sister to save the day. What was interesting was that we were well aware Keith's wish for a stable home life with his dad was entirely futile, a harsh life lesson for the usual audience of the C.F.F. never mind the character, so the happy ending was tempered with melancholy. Music by Harry Robertson.
[Hide and Seek is released by the B.F.I. in one of their Children's Film Foundation DVDs entitled Runaways. It's part of a triple bill with Johnny on the Run and Terry on the Fence and includes a booklet of informative essays.]