Directors: S G Fergusson (Supersonic Saucer); Ian Shand (Kadoyng);
Harley Cokeliss (The Glitterball)
Screenplay: Dallas Bower (Supersonic Saucer); Leo Maguire (Kadoyng);
Howard Thompson (The Glitterball)
Starring: Marcia Monolescue, Gillian Harrison, Fella Edmonds (Supersonic Saucer):
Bill Owen, Teresa Codling, Adrian Hall, Jean Dallas, Jack Haig (Kadoyng);
Year: 1956 (Supersonic Saucer); 1972 (Kadoyng); 1977 (The Glitterball)
Running Time: 47 mins (S’ sonic Saucer); 58 mins (Kadoyng); 54 mins (Glitterball)
BBFC Classification: U
For over thirty years the Children’s Film Foundation produced entertainment for young audiences, primarily for matinee screenings at cinema chains and later for television. The British Film Institute has recently transferred a number of these films, from the best elements available in their extensive archive, and has rereleased them in a digital format. In this particular compilation three science fiction stories have been combined, these being Supersonic Saucer, Kadoyng and The Glitterball.
Supersonic Saucer is a black and white film from the fifties, which sees two girls who are staying at a boarding school having to remain there over the holiday period due to their internationally-based parents not being able to pick them up. They’re made to feel welcome by the school head and his family who live there, but things take a turn for the more interesting with the arrival of Meba, a weird Mr Blobby style of alien who is visiting Earth. The alien wants to please his new friends so keeps stealing them food (which they tell him off for in their extremely posh voices) and it gets them into all sorts of hijinks when some local criminals become interested in robbing the school’s safe when the parents go off for the day.
This is all good-natured, and very dated stuff, with the plummy-mouthed kids all being so very ‘nice’ and the alien meaning well, and even the bad guys turning out to be more like the two inept goons from out of Home Alone! People say: ‘Oh Golly, Oh Dear’ a lot and scenes that are supposedly being played out at night are all clearly shot day-for-night, thus reducing any sense of menace there might have been to the equivalent of a slightly stale biscuit.
In the end the girls get picked up by their folks, the bad guys are all arrested and Meba heads back to Venus, since it can’t eat our food!
In Kadoyng a spaceship, shaped like a rugby ball, lands in Byway, England and is quickly spotted by two boys and a girl – Billy, Barney and Lucy. They encounter the alien who gets out of the ship and become friends with him, even though he’s rather odd, in a 70s children’s TV presenter kind of way. They name him Kadoyng, on account of the noise he makes when he teleports either himself or objects around, and he helps them to stop a motorway being built through their village. He does this by causing the pro-road MP and local businessman to talk gibberish so that no one votes for the work to go ahead at a public meeting.
Kadoyng is a fun film peopled by quirky characters, some cool old cars, an alien who snores and has an antennae coming out of his head, and parents who don’t seem to mind their children hanging out with (very) strange men/aliens. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore!
Finally there’s The Glitterball, which seems to be the most highly-regarded of the trio by film critics and fans of quirky sci-fi. It’s definitely got the best production values, with some half-decent Aardman Animation–like effects involving a silver ball – that is also an alien – whose football-shaped spaceship is in need of repairing. The alien quickly befriends two boys, Max and Pete, who quickly realise it needs food and soon have it feeling more chipper by feeding it a couple of tins of custard! Apparently the alien needs the food for energy so that it can summon the mother ship to pick it, and its own ship, up. Things are complicated still further when a local thief, and general bad guy, Filthy Potter, takes an interest in the alien because it has the power to open any door or lock with ease.
I have to say that I enjoyed all three films, even though they haven’t really dated very well. But the Children’s Film Foundation have to be commended for producing three enjoyable, if rather silly, yarns, that will appeal to the inner child in most affable adults.
The BFI should also be congratulated in unearthing these films and doing such a bang-up job of polishing them up so they no longer really show their age, visually at least. I also have to say I quite enjoyed the music in the films, which I felt really complemented the science fiction themes of the stories.
Outer Space has out now on DVD and is being distributed by the BFI as part of their Children’s Film Foundation collection. There were no special features on the disc, but it does come with a booklet with quite extensive notes about the three films in this collection, by the likes of Harley Cokeliss, Alex Davidson, Vic Pratt and Robert Shail; All very readable and informative.