Review: The Amazing Mr. Blunden / Cert: U / Director: Lionel Jeffries / Screenplay: Lionel Jeffries / Starring: Lynne Frederick, Laurence Naismith, Diana Dors, Garry Miller / Release Date: March 11th
It's horror for all ages, although it's perhaps unlikely that you'll be able to get your kids to sit through this often slow, old-fashioned tale of ghosts and their dusty old country mansion. The age rating may be a U (something which will turn off most horror fans anyway), but the youth of today will have little patience for The Amazing Mr. Blunden.
Film fans of a certain age will feel some nostalgia towards Mister Blunden though, coming from a beloved director (Lionel Jeffries of The Railway Children fame) and being an adaptation of a popular children's book – The Ghosts by Antonia Barber. The Edwardian setting and funny names make it feel like a Dickens adaptation, complete with the really slow pacing. Modern kids (by which I'm ashamed to say myself) will be watching it thinking “this is like A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Shame on them (me). Look past your own impatience, and you may fall in love with The Amazing Mr. Blunden all over again. The film counts Extraordinary Gentleman Mark Gatiss amongst its fans, with him naming it a “neglected classic” on Radio Four's The Film Programme. And as Mr. Gatiss proved with the quite wonderful and engaging A History of Horror and Horror Europa, the man knows his stuff. With this DVD re-release, the film should be on its way to becoming slightly less neglected. Although that ghastly cover art certainly doesn't help its cause.
The titular Mister Blunden (Naismith) is an elderly solicitor who reaches out to the mother of two children, living in rotten old Camden Town. He offers her a job and the impoverished family a chance to escape their grotty lodgings. Their mother becomes the housekeeper at a decayed country house. There, young Jamie (Miller) and Lucy (Frederick) meet Sara and George, apparitions from the year 1818. Jamie and Lucy go back in time in order to prevent their new friends' deaths in a deliberately set house fire. Skipping between two timelines and with fantastic performances from all involved (particularly an almost unrecognisable Dors as evil matriarch Mrs. Wickens), The Amazing Mr. Blunden is a classy, intelligent affair, suitable for all the family. If you can get the kids to pay attention for long enough, that is. The multiple timelines and slow plotting make it very difficult to follow if you're not giving it your full attention.
Like a family friendly Hammer horror, The Amazing Mr. Blunden is atmospheric, interesting and well-made. This re-release should serve the film's fans well, and hopefully introduce it to a whole new audience. We suspect that it'll remain fairly obscure, but one should at least do their bit by giving The Amazing Mr. Blunden the time of day. We owe him that much.