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A mixture of a psychological study of a ten-year-old boy, an English domestic comedy and a satire on psychologists finds young Johnny Brent, the only child of a pair of psychologists, trading an "invisible watch" to a much-younger child for a large magnet. His nurse/nanny accuses him of stealing and scolds him and he runs away. He soon convinces himself that the police are after him and following several unsuccessful attempts to get rid of the magnet, he presents it to an organizer of a fund-raising campaign for acquiring an iron-lung for the local hospital. The magnet is one of the auction items and finally is mounted on the iron-lung as a tribute to the unknown donor. Meanwhile, the father makes a completely inaccurate diagnosis for the mother of the boy's worries. In the end the boy meets the child he thought had died as a result of losing the magnet, and trades the boy back for the return of his "invisible watch" the gold medal the town mayor had given him for his part in the ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At the time of the film's release, James Robertson Justice was standing for Parliament as a Labour candidate in Angus and Kincardine. This is was the reason for his choice of a pseudonym when appearing in this film. See more »
Near the start of the film, Johnny chalks a diamond shape on a gatepost. When a tramp appears moments later, the diamond is lower down and the corners are much sharper. See more »
Though The Magnet oozes middle-class wholesome 1950's family values, which can be seen these days as starchy and very straight-laced, this unusual offering from the Ealing Studios works well on many levels.
With his father a child psychologist, ten year old Johnny Brent (James Fox) has a very colourful imagination and loves inventing things and questioning everything. Johnny keeps getting under his mother's feet and so he is sent off out to play at the local beach to explore.
There, he trades rather dishonestly a magic (non-existent) watch for a giant magnet from a younger lad. The lad's nanny tells him off and so Johnny scarpers and starts imagining that he's in trouble with the police. Then, through completely contrived, but affectionately drawn events, the giant magnet comes up for auction and raises money for a hospital appeal. Johnny becomes hero.
Yes, this is whimsical nonsense and is rather Disney, before Disney did such things. But it's also the locations and snapshot of British life back then. It'll certainly appeal to the older generation and undoubtedly, to us boys of all ages, more, as it harks back to our own childhoods.
Generally, the acting is quite average and the direction from Ealing regular Charles Friend is about passable, though there are some fantasy sequences which are OK. However, the young James is a tonic, eschewing youthful zest and intrigue. He's completely natural and believable, little wonder that he went on to become the mega star he did.
The DVD transfer is OK but is a bit soft.
All in all, if you're expecting a comedy caper, as in the best Ealing tradition, you may be disappointed. But if you love your Ealing's and want to explore beyond the box-set classics, then this does quite nicely.
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