For many years, Britain exercised an entertainment tax on its citizens which was charged when anyone indulged in sitting in the dark comfort of a motion picture theater. Proceeds from this tax ( known as the Eady Levy ) went towards British-based film producers for the production of.... more films, of course!
The Children's Film Foundation was a non-profit film production organization formed in 1951 and was primarily subsided by this levy. It provided youngsters with a steady stream of relatively innocent fare that they could enjoy in the theater or on television on a rainy day ( which occurred quite often ) or when their parents happened to desire them out of the house.
Over the course of thirty-five years ( 1951-1985 ) the "CFF" released nearly 180 films ranging in subject matter from traditional cops-and-robbers adventures to elaborate sci-fi stories and dramas dealing with runaways.
When the Eady Levy was abolished in 1985, the CFF ceased producing new films and entertainment for the little tykes was once again left in the hands of independent filmmakers.
In recent years, gems from the CFF archives ( now curated by the British Film Institute ) have been released on DVD in appropriately themed sets and, since I have a weakness for juvenile entertainment - being of that mind - I have slowly been indulging in these films. Hence, a new series of reviews will be born - The Children's Film Foundation series - and Hunted in Holland is the subject of the first of these reviews.
This film follows the adventures of an English lad who gets tangled up with diamond smugglers during his visit to Holland. Like most of the CFF productions, Hunted in Holland runs a mere 60 minutes ( childrens' attention spans are rather short ), and features beautiful locales, a jolly good script, but alas, lame acting that carries on at a snail's pace. All of the films could have used the magical "Disney touch" but since they are British productions, we'll just assume that speed wasn't a trait that they were anxious to foster in their youngsters.
Sean Scully, who would later appear in Walt Disney's Almost Angels ( 1962 ), stars as Tim, the English boy, who is spending a week-long holiday in Holland with his penpal Piet, portrayed by Jacques Verbrugge. Verbrugge is an engaging young lad, not unlike the Quebecois child-star Gilles Payant. Along with his sister Aanike ( Sandra Spurr ), the two boys head into Holland's countryside via bicycle to meet up with Piet's parents who operate a channel boat...but their journey turns into an adventure when they discover that a diamond smuggler is tailing them to retrieve a bracelet that they inadvertently picked up.
Hunted in Holland manages to pack in quite a bit of adventure in its short run-time but, due to the amateur acting talent and simple direction ( by Derek Williams ), it lacks that punch that could have made it a children's classic. Nevertheless, there are some great scenes involving the Dutch thugs: the introductory theft of the bracelet by a man in drag, the stuffing of the hot jewels in a hollow cheese wheel, and a chase through a greenhouse....which includes a scene that pays tribute to Louis Lumière's 1895 short silent film L'Arroseur Arrosé.
Currently, Hunted in Holland is not available on DVD in the United States or abroad, but since an existing print is available it is probably only a matter of time before it appears on a BFI issued CFF collection.