We needed a stimulus for some independent writing at school this week. We wanted to show the children the beginning of a story and then let them continue it in any direction they chose. I’d done this before using The Polar Express movie, but, because most of them had seen that, I just ended up with 28 identical stories that were all the plot of the film! I racked my brains and something made me think of The Box of Delights, a story by John Masefield, that was beautifully dramatised by the BBC in the mid eighties.
I looked up the transmission dates and I was only 4 (nearly 5) years old when it was shown and yet I remember parts of it so clearly. It captured me completely and one of my work colleagues – who is the same age as me – felt exactly the same. When we looked it up on youtube, just the opening titles gave me a strange excited butterflies-in-my-tummy feeling!
The book was first published in 1935 and the evocation of the period is lovely, as you might imagine from the BBC. My students noticed clothes, steam trains and old fashioned luggage to name but a few things.
The story centres on Kay Harker who is just home from boarding school for the Christmas holidays and runs into a few eccentric characters on his journey. He becomes embroiled in a plot to steal a magic box. Patrick Troughton gives a memorable and perfectly pitched performance as Cole Hawlings. I love the theme tune which sounds like it’s played on a music box. The series is creepy in parts and quite odd, I remember finding certain scenes and characters quite frightening when I first saw it, but there is something beautiful and warm about it at the same time. The children loved the first 20 minutes that we watched today and I have promised them more in the next few weeks… It definitely stands the test of time and when I get my DVDs out of storage (or Tat’s Mum’s garage to give it it’s proper name!) I will definitely be rewatching it.
It’s a little vintage treat to tickle your fancy in the run up to Christmas – give it a go!
It is with a sense of deep nostalgia I say:
It’s only vintage but I like it!