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A very young Jenny Agutter is featured in this BBC serial; she would play the same role in the film version of Edith Nesbit's classic children's novel two years later. The IMDb lists it as a TV series, but it is actually closer to a miniseries, with a continuing story arc and well-defined beginning and end. It's in black-and-white, and the picture quality is poor; also, it was obviously filmed live, and some of the line readings are a bit awkward. None of this really matters, though, since the performances are so warm and the story is so good. The Faraday children (the IMDb gives the family name as "Waterbury," but that is a mistake) go off to live with their mother in the country after their father is unjustly imprisoned; they have a series of adventures, and all ends happily. I enjoyed this thoroughly even though I'm a cynical college student - I'm sure kids will absolutely love it. Considering that the novel was written in 1906, and this series dates from 1968, it's aged remarkably well. I haven't seen the 1970 version (or the 1957 or 2000), so I can't compare, but this version set the bar pretty high.
'The Railway Children' is probably much better known now from the film
version made in 1970, which also featured Jenny Agutter as Bobbie
Faraday, the eldest of the children transported by circumstances to the
Three Chimneys cottage near the old steam railway.
This version has some differences in the storyline and, with seven episodes of 25 minutes each, can spend a reasonable amount of time exploring the story lines of E. Nesbit's novel. Most of the other parts were recast for the later film (although I think the actor playing Jim, who gets injured on the paper chase, is the same) so it is interesting to compare the two.
Ann Castle is a more realistic and grittier mother than Dinah Sheridan was later, while Neil MacDermott and Gillian Bailey are closer to the real ages of their characters than Sally Thomsett in particular was in the film. All four principals bring strong characterisation to their parts - you care about what happens to them and hope their story has a happy ending.
Despite Joseph O'Conor being a rather sentimental old gentleman (as William Mervyn and later, Richard Attenborough would be in the same role), this version of 'The Railway Children' doesn't have the same saccharine feel that the film had (although the scene where Bobbie sees her father on the station platform feels a bit flat here without all the smoke effects!).
This series is well worth seeing, not only because it is a fine adaptation, but also because it is a good showcase for live television and a strong role for a young Agutter. It has had a DVD release and although the picture quality isn't fantastic, it is perfectly watchable.
A shame this was deleted so quickly, and also that it was not properly
restored in the same way that they do with Doctor Who and other archive
Although when you watch this you mentally picture the equivalent in the 1970 movie, the story here has more time to happen. It's a bonus that the kids are closer to the right ages that they ought to be - Sally Thomsett was way too old in the 1970 movie. The acting seems to get better as the series progresses, and all in all it's worth viewing for another "take" on the book, less dramatic and more thoughtful than the "proper" movie that was to follow.
This is the best of all the dramatisations. The children were the right age, and the format allowed more of the story to be covered. Jenny Agutter was enchanting, the boy was excellent and Gillian Bailey is one of the best child actors I've ever seen. I remember watching some of the series when I was sitting A levels and falling for Jenny Agutter, whom I later saw in "Star", playing Julie Andrews daughter. All the adults were excellent too, including the actor playing Perks - Gordon Costelow - who died recently. The Grieg music helps of course! The BBC ought to computer colour the series and digitally remaster it! The Lionel Jeffries film was good, but not as good as this version. The later TV film was good also, even though some critics were not so kind to it. Jemima Rooper was a good Bobbie. I saw a review of a stage version which had a black girl as Bobbie, an Asian boy as Peter and a white girl as Phyllis! Apparently it worked, due largely to the strength of Edith Nesbit's original story.
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