The story of several London kids relocated to coastal town life as a result of the ongoing WWII. The kids are raised on patriotic rhetoric and engage in ‘war games’ with other kids. They hope the war lasts long enough for them to be of active service age and do their duty for their country. Unfortunately, the fun and ‘boys own adventure’ becomes rather dangerous when Jewish Austrian refugee Oliver Grimm becomes a target of their ignorance and bullying. Martin Tomlinson, a member of this ‘gang’, is Grimm’s one and only friend, and they form a deep bond. Tomlinson is also the younger brother of a conscientious objector, which deeply upsets father Harry Andrews, a proud military captain who is bitter about being injured and inactive. Kay Walsh is Tomlinson’s mum, always getting on Andrews’ nerves, nagging and berating him.
Entertaining, interesting 1962 Philip Leacock (“The War Lover”, “The Little Kidnappers”, “13 West Street”) film not only gives us a view of WWII from the unique perspective of kids, but also drops hints of then-daring topics like homosexuality (it’s really subtle, but definitely there for anyone paying attention and still a bit shocking given the ages of the characters involved), not to mention dealing with anti-Semitism from a child’s perspective.
All the performances are perfectly fine from both young and old (the marital relations between Andrews and Walsh are surprisingly funny in an otherwise rather serious film), but it completely stops just as it was starting to actually go somewhere. I felt somewhat disappointed in the end. But up until then this was a really interesting and fairly unique war story which might even be viewed as anti-war in sentiment. Certainly it deals with the danger of indoctrinating jingoistic war sentiments on impressionable children.
Call it a “Lord of the Flies” variant, it might’ve been a real winner had it not conked out at the end, with several questions left hanging. Still, it’s worth a look if you can find it. Based on the novel “The Custard Boys” by John Rae, the screenplay is by Jud Kinberg, John Kohn (who both worked on “Vampire Circus” for Hammer Studios, and the minor “Siege of the Saxons”), and Rae himself.