(director: Bryan Forbes; screenwriters: novel by Mary Hayley Bell /Keith Waterhouse/Willis Hall; cinematographer: Arthur Ibbetson; editor: Max Benedict; music: Malcolm Arnold; cast: Hayley Mills (Kathy Bostock), Alan Barnes (Charlie Bostock), Diane Holgate (Nan), Alan Bates (Arthur Blakey), Bernard Lee (Mr. Bostock), Norman Bird (Eddie), Elsie Wagstaff (Auntie Dorothy), Diane Clare (Miss Lodge), John Arnatt (Teesdale); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richard Attenborough; New Line Home Cinema; 1961-UK)

My only amazement is that the melodrama didn’t turn mawkish.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the first directorial effort by Bryan Forbes(“Seance on a Wet Afternoon”/“The Stepford Wives”/”The Madwoman of Chaillot). Writers Forbes, Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall base it on the novel by Mary Hayley Bell. The author is the mother of Hayley Mills. It has a simple but ridiculous plot, that tries to get by on charm and New Testament allegory smartness. It poses as a study on childhood innocence and how they can be manipulated by adults. But even if an old-fashioned and outdated children’s pic, it’s entertaining, well-made and deftly sidesteps sentimentality.

On an English farm, up north in Lancashire County, a widowed father (Bernard Lee) lives with his three young children: Kathy (Hayley Mills), Nan (Diane Holgate) and Charlie (Alan Barnes). Kathy is the oldest at about 13, while the scene-stealing Charlie is 6. Eddie (Norman Bird) works there as a farmhand. One day the children awaken a disheveled stranger sleeping in their barn, where they just placed kittens they rescued from drowning. They do not realize that they have woken up an escaped convicted killer, Arthur Blakey (Alan Bates, his film debut). When the surprised vagrant blurts out Jesus to their question of who he is, the sweet children take him literally and mistake him for Jesus Christ. What happens in the ensuing story is predictable, as it tosses in a few New Testament references and tries its best to protect the innocence of the children with the adult need to get justice for the escapee.

My only amazement is that the melodrama didn’t turn mawkish.

Whistle Down the Wind Poster

REVIEWED ON 10/28/2015 GRADE: B-