LITTLE KIDNAPPERS, THE (KIDNAPPERS)
(director: Philip Leacock; screenwriter: Neil Paterson/based on Paterson’s short story “The Scotch Settlement”; cinematographer: Eric Cross; editor: John Trumper; music: Bruce Montgomery; cast: Duncan Macrae (Jim MacKenzie, Granddaddy), Adrienne Corri (Kirsty), Theodore Bikel (Dr. Willem Bloem), Jean Anderson (Grandma MacKenzie), Jon Whitely (Harry), Vincent Winter (Davy), Jack Stewart (Dominie, schoolmaster), Anthony Michael Heathcoat (Baby), Francis Dewolfe (Jan Hooft Sr); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sergei Nolbandov/Leslie Parkyn; United Artists; 1953-B/W-UK)
“Charming children’s story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Brit filmmaker Philip Leacock (“Angel City “/”Wild and Wooly”) directs this charming children’s story, which was a popular film during its day. It’s gamely written by Neil Paterson, who adapted it from his short story “The Scotch Settlement”. The two starring youngsters give heartwarming performances (it resulted in both receiving special Oscars).
It’s set in Nova Scotia, 1900.
At the turn of the century, two orphaned young boys, Harry (Jon Whitely) and the younger one, Davy (Vincent Winter), whose father is killed during the Boer War, are now transported from England to Canada to be raised by their stern Scottish grandfather, Jim MacKenzie (Duncan Macrae) and his wife (Jean Anderson), in his isolated primitive homestead. Jim hates the Dutch for killing his son.
Granddaddy forbids the boys to have a dog. When they find an abandoned baby in the woods, they secretly care for it in a lean-to-shack and pretend it’s a dog. The baby turns out to be the child of their granddaddy’s most bitter enemy, a neighbor Dutchman (Francis Dewolfe). The children are charged as kidnappers, and could face a possible death penalty.
Meanwhile the area’s kind local Dutch doctor, Willem Bloem (Theodore Bikel), is romantically involved with their aunt Kirsty (Adrienne Corri), but can’t openly court her because of her biased father.
It should work fine as a whimsical film for family audiences. Everything seems natural, and its story about blind hatred to immigrant ethnic groups still rings true today.
In 1990, Charlton Heston starred in a TV movie remake.
REVIEWED ON 4/27/2020 GRADE: B+