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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Must-have movies: Whistle Down the Wind (1961)

    (Filed: 14/10/2005)



    Paul Gent reviews a classic that every film-lover will want to own



    Whistle Down the Wind has a deserved reputation as one of the finest family films Britain has ever produced. But if by that is meant undemanding, tear-jerking entertainment, the description sells it woefully short.



    Whistle Down the Wind: both jaunty and melancholyFor Whistle is a small miracle of comedy and pathos. The central idea of the film - that three children find a murderer on the run in their barn and believe that he is Jesus Christ - sounds like the basis for a comic sketch. Yet it also has the potential - as Andrew Lloyd Webber showed when he made a musical of it - to turn into a parade of heart-tugging sentimentality. The beauty of the film is that it is neither, while having elements of both.



    The script by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall daringly brings humour into the most heightened moments of emotion, while introducing theology and spirituality with the lightest of touches.



    Malcolm Arnold's music is another balancing trick, managing the seemingly impossible feat of being both jaunty and melancholy (the man whistling the haunting theme tune, incidentally, is the film's producer, Richard Attenborough). And the glistening black and white images of the Lancashire countryside mark this as Bryan Forbes's finest film.



    The acting honours go to the children, though Alan Bates is masterfully understated as the murderer. Hayley Mills (daughter of Mary Hayley Bell, who wrote the book on which the film is based) was at the height of her fame as a child actress when the film was made, and produces a remarkably convincing Northern accent. But even she is upstaged by the unknown Alan Barnes in a performance as the young brother, Charlie, that is effortlessly hilarious.



    Though the film was made in 1961 and has a skill and daring that make it comparable to the great kitchen sink dramas of the '60s, it is in fact a late flowering of the 1950s. If you can believe in a time when households had neither telephones nor televisions and when teenagers were innocent enough to believe Jesus could come again among them, Whistle Down the Wind will prove sheer delight.

  2. #2
    Member Country: United States
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    One of my favorite British films. Too bad it's not available in the U.S. as I'd buy it a flash. I have a VHS copy that I recoreded off of TV about 20 years ago, but it really getting pretty sad. Maybe, one of these days I should get a multi-region player so I can enjoy all this and all the other great films not available in region one.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: Australia
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    I can still remember watching this film as a young child when it was first released to the cinemas in England.

    I thought it was magical. I think that's where my first crush on Hayley Mills started.

    The film was just recently reshown on Australian television in the early hours of the morning.

    I agree the children steal the film but everyone involved contributed to a real gem of a film whose qualities and innocence do not diminish with time.



    Dave.

  4. #4
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    Such a poignant film - the children's need to believe in magic and in Jesus. Everything appears to be so empty, until Jesus arrives in the barn and suddenly there is meaning to life. As a very unhappy child, I desperately believed Alan Bates was Jesus. My mother explained that Jesus was not actually the son of God and all that, but he was a sort of hippy who preached love... (well, it was the 70s.) Watching the film as an adult brings back the longing for the children to be right - of course, it is impossible. And even in the face of undeniable proof that Bates is really NOT Jesus, the children's faith remains. And whether one is religious or not, childlike faith in anything is pure and noble. The saddest thing is that the emptiness will return and the faith will diminish as the children grow up.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: England smiffy's Avatar
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    After reading your post on whistle down the wind,i feel sad that you feel the way you do. I watched this film as a young child , and have read many reviews in later life ,by people who have obviously read the novella written by Hayley Mills mum, and made an artistic criticism ,which may be accurate but misses the point.

    I watched the film through the eyes of a child the first time and still do every time i watch it.As children we consider things with an open mind and an open heart,and the one thing that is still there is hope.At the end we all know it's not jesus,but as alan bates is making his way to prison,I wonder how many children like myself were wondering,"well if he's not jesus who is?"

    This is not a religeous party political broadcast,but watch the film again as you did the first time ,and don't take any notice of what any grown up may have told you ( even your own parent) and let the nostalgia wash away your feeling of emptiness.This film shows an innocence that is difficult to portray in this day and age,so we are so lucky to have it as a point of reference as to how we still can be if we want to be.

  6. #6
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smiffy
    At the end we all know it's not jesus,but as alan bates is making his way to prison,I wonder how many children like myself were wondering,"well if he's not jesus who is?"
    Or you might wonder "Well he wasn't Jesus. Is anyone?"



    Steve

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    a sheer classic......alan barnes was perfect.as you all say a combination of so many things in this film...

    ........................".and no following".......".you rotten cow your nothing else"........"its not jesus, its just a fella"......

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Country: Scotland
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    My favourite Alan barnes line, "He doesn't know does 'e"

  9. #9
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    My favourite Alan Barnes line. 'You rotton cows'. Pity Alan Barnes didn't continue with acting but as he has said. 'I'm not bothered'.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook
    Or you might wonder "Well he wasn't Jesus. Is anyone?"



    Steve


    The Man who called himself Jesus by the Strawbs is a good track.

  11. #11
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevie boy
    The Man who called himself Jesus by the Strawbs is a good track.
    The Strawbs - fantastic!



    Bats.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: Wales David Challinor's Avatar
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    no question - Bryan Forbes' finest hour

  13. #13
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    I,like many of you, saw this at the cinema when it came out in the early sisxties. I loved it and so did my Mother. I still have the 45 record of the sound track which was very haunting. It started for me a great love of Hayley Mills films( I was seven at the time) so from a childs view it was simply wonderful. Whether you watch it with your inner child present or as a big grown up, it still stands the test of time.



    Maralyn

  14. #14
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Challinor
    no question - Bryan Forbes' finest hour
    but is it?? great film but I thought his Seance on a Wet Afternoon was equally if not finer

  15. #15
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevie boy
    but is it?? great film but I thought his Seance on a Wet Afternoon was equally if not finer


    I'd go with David here .... WDTW, despite the dour ending, is such an uplifting film.



    Bats.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    Quote Originally Posted by batman
    I'd go with David here .... WDTW, despite the dour ending, is such an uplifting film.



    Bats.


    Forbes did make some great films and was involved with many others. The Whisperers was fantastic also.

  17. #17
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    hi folks, watched "whistle down the wind" recently,great film had'nt seen it in ages,know haley milles ,started to think ,how many of the other children in the film went on to become established actors/actresses, know one was in the film "if"(one of malcom mcdowels pals) missed the final credits due to burning smell from kitchen,a pizza in the oven,acording to instructions,15-20mins, mines was in 55mins,o ended up having cheese sandwiches,nice all the same

  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: England
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    I think that Roy Holder was the only one of the children who went on to an acting career. Most famously as Ronnie Corbett's best friend in the sitcom "Sorry". More recently he played the family servant in the BBC's latest version of "Sense and Sensibility"

  19. #19
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    cheers hugo,thought that there would be more of them

  20. #20
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    The youngest brother, played by Alan Barnes, made just one other film.



    He was in the superb film "The Victors" in 1963 and then seems to have chucked it all in at the ripe old age of about 12.

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