Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The Home-Made Car ( 1963 ) - A BP Film Short

James Hill was a director of British films ( A Study in Terror, Born Free ) and television series of the 1960s and 1970s. He filmed numerous episodes of The Avengers, The Saint, and Worzel Gummidge, but he is best known as a director of family-oriented short films and documentaries. One of his most popular shorts was Guiseppina ( 1960 ), about a young girl who quietly observes the characters who pass by her father's petrol station. This little film earned him the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. It was produced by BP ( British Petroleum ) Films, a production company that James Hill made several films for... one of which was The Home-Made Car ( 1963 ). 

This 27-minute color silent short follows the trials of a young man as he builds his own car from spare parts which he finds at a junkyard. Observing his efforts is a little girl who, at first, looks on with curiosity but later lends him a helping hand. He also gets a hand from the local garage owner who, naturally, runs a BP station. Actress Caroline Mortimer has a brief uncredited role as a young woman who works at the garage. Our hero likes her but a man in a flashy Austin Healey takes her out most evenings, so he feels he doesn't have much of a chance of dating her, at least, not until he gets his own car built. 

The Home-Made Car is a lovely little short that is very entertaining to watch, even though the pace is slow and the film is silent. It is ideal for viewing on a rainy day or when you are stuck in bed with a cold. And for some reason, it is so charming that it is easy to watch multiple times. Ron Grainier provides the background music which seems a bit out of sync with the theme. It could have benefited from a spunkier score like Norrie Paramour penned for The Fast Lady. 

The film was shot in and around Farnborough and Cove in Hampshire and we get a glimpse of the beautiful English countryside as he test drives his finished car, which happens to be a Morris Oxford dating from the 1920s. With its bright blue paint job, it looks like Val Biro's Gumdrop come to life ( if only James Hill had made a CFF serial on the adventures of Gumdrop! )

The short was nominated for an Academy Award in 1963 but did not win. However, it became known in every household between 1967-1973 when it was shown almost on a daily basis on BBC2 as one of their afternoon trade test color films ( click here to read more about that interesting subject ).

The Home-Made Car is available as an extra feature - along with Guiseppina - on the DVD Lunch Hour ( also directed by James Hill )

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