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directed by Maddalena Fagandini (1971 serial), Pat Farrington, Jill Glindon Reed, and Paul Willey
UK 1980

 

While observing the stars from their hut with their handmade telescope, young siblings Helen (Sylvestra Le Touzel, THE IRON LADY)) and Dan (Stephen Garlick, THE DARK CRYSTAL)) spot what they believe to be a meteorite falling from the sky. The next day, their search for the meteorite leads them to a sand pit where their compass goes crazy, they hear strange metallic sounds, and a mysterious "thin man" (John Woodnutt, LIFEFORCE) - driving a car belonging to their astronomy student friend Tom (Loftus Burton, ROLLEBALL) and wearing his clothes - tries to chases them off. They discover that what the thin man has apparently been hunting is the titular "boy from space" (Colin Mayes, SCUM) who they christen "Peep-peep" because of his otherwise unintelligible way of speaking. Peep-peep does not seem to be responding well to the Earth's atmosphere so they take him to scientist Mr. Bunting (Anthony Woodruff, THIS SPORTING LIFE) at the local observatory. Bunting decides to take Peep-peep to the hospital - taking a less traveled shortcut along a rough road - not realizing that the thin man is following them. When they fail to show up at the hospital, it is up to Dan, Helen, and Tom to find rescue THE BOY FROM SPACE.

Starting in 1967, the LOOK AND READ series was part of a daytime educational television broadcast block to be viewed in the classroom (or at home during the holidays) aimed at "backwords readers" (the non-PC term for children whose reading comprehension was below normal) aged seven to nine with stories crafted to assist comprehension and encourage further reading. Pamphlets featuring the story text of the serials were available for schools to purchase and the serials were augmented with teaching segments hosted by typewriter-ball-shaped puppet Wordy as well as SESAME STREET-styled funky musical interludes on grammatical construction. Originally broadcast in 1971, THE BOY FROM SPACE - shot in color with the teaching segments shot on monochrome video - was the fourth serial and apparently one of the most memorable, being repeated the following year and receiving further requests for repeat broadcasts; however, the 1971 serial fell victim to the BBC's practice of wiping 2" master tapes for reuse (the earlier serials reportedly exist in incomplete form). Fortunately the film elements for the serial had been preserved due to plans to release it as a feature-length version that never came to fruition.

In 1979, the LOOK AND READ producers took the original film serial and recorded new color video teaching segments featuring Wordy and his human companion Cosmo (Phil Cheney), as well as a new filmed prologue with the now-grown Le Touzel and Garlick framing the story as a flashback (as well as new narration from Le Touzel and a synthesizer score by Paddy Kingsland that is very much in the vein of incidental cues for the eighties-era DOCTOR WHO episodes). Considering the intended audience (children under the age of ten, not necessary those with low reading comprehension), the story proper of THE BOY FROM SPACE is not a sterling example of British science fiction like the QUATERMASS TV serials and films, but it should entertain older audience members. The plot and execution is simplistic out of necessity since the serial itself comprises a third of the running time of each episode (and a third of the overall running time of the ten episodes). The teaching lessons for grammar and comprehension of the story may seem cheesy, although what they teach is still valid (and more and more applicable to older audiences given apparent dwindling writing and reading abilities). THE BOY FROM SPACE will appeal to the nostalgia factor of some of its audience while newcomers will discover a quaint piece of British educational television.

Eric Cotenas

Theatrical Release: 21 September 1971 (original serial)

 

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DVD Review: British Film Institute - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

British Film Institute

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 3:19:48
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles English HoH, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: British Film Institute

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• DISC ONE:
• The 1980 Serial (4:3; 3:19:48)

• DISC TWO:
• 1971 'Feature' Version (4:3; 1:09:15)
• BBC Records LP:
• - Original LP Audio (4:3; 54:24)
• - Newly-edited Film Version (4:3; 55:26)
• 'Wordy's Think-ups' (18:35)
• DVD-ROM: 1971 and 1979 Program Pamphlets (.pdf; 48 pages each)

• 20-page Liner Notes Booklet

DVD Release Date: 25 August 25th, 2012
Amaray

Chapters 40

 

 

 

Comments

This fully loaded BFI edition splits almost six hours of material between two discs. The ten-episode 1980 program - new video teaching segments and the 1971 film serial - is featured on the first disc and has been digitally cleaned up by BFI from a digital standard definition copy of the 1980 broadcast master tapes to minimize film and video artefacts (they are still present but its an overall consistently clean presentation). The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is free of any distracting artefacts as well. English HoH subtitles are included for the dialogue and songs.

 

Disc two includes a "feature" version of the 1971 serial which is newly created using the uninterrupted film segments aforementioned SD master with new opening and closing credits (the ~70 minute running time seems complete since the serial comprised only 6-7 minutes of each of the ten 20-minute 1980 episodes, roughly a third of the running time). You could get the same experience by watching the first and fourth chapters of each episode on the first disc, but it's a nice extra nonetheless. Also included is the original BBC records LP (in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono from a WAV file provided by BBC) over a black screen and a newly-created film version which combines the LP audio with film and video segments from the 1980 program including shots from the film serial synched to the audio as well as onscreen text from the teaching segments. Disc three also includes the musical "Wordy's Thinkup" segments from the series (which can be played all together or individually selectable).

Disc two also includes the 1971 and revised 1979 pamphlets (48 pages each) containing the text of the story by Richard Carpenter. The booklet includes contextual essays on the "Look and Read" series, the serial and its broadcast history, and an essay from the composer. Short of interviews with the surviving cast and creative personnel, this is an incredibly comprehensive edition.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

British Film Institute

Region 2 - PAL



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