The children’s Film Foundation produced these first ever live-action adaptations of enid Blyton’s work – Five On A Treasure Island and Five Have A Mystery To Solve – as serialisations to be shown in cinemas before a main feature.
Five On A Treasure Island (3 stars) is essentially an origin story for Blyton’s intrepid gang, as tomboy George (don’t call her Georgina!) adopts pooch Timmy and welcomes her cousins Julian, Dick and Ann to stay for the summer.
In a ripping tale full of coves and castles, they explore the family island with the promise of shipwreck treasure, but they’re up against unscrupulous antique dealers who also want to get their hands on it.
Each episode begins with a recap and ends with a cliff-hanger as we await answers to questions like “Can Timmy escape?” and “What dangers await behind the door in the well shaft?”
Most of the action consists of running and hiding from baddies and an inordinate amount of time is spent watching the gang walking along hilltops or chugging along in their boat.
Still, the bucolic charm, innocence and the allure of long summer days is enchanting, although God knows what today’s ASBO brigade would make of it.
Following on seven years later, Five Have A Mystery To Solve (4 stars) reboots the franchise with an all-new cast, and with the Five tasked with housesitting for a few days, they befriend a creepy boy called Wilfred who is a little too friendly with animals.
Island treasure is once again the lure, where two Whispering Islands nature reserve gamekeepers are up to no good. It’s still the same chases and escapes but the scenes of kids in peril are more convincing.
It’s not quite as jolly-hockey-sticks and there’s even a hint of character development, although the gang are never too busy to stop for a spiffing spot of tea.
Though both adventures have been polished up a treat picture-wise, a featurette on Blyton would have made for a worthy supplement. We’re left with a booklet that at least offers a wealth of information, trivia and history on both productions and author.
A strong moral code runs through both stories – parents who yearn for well-mannered children who respect adults should adopt this.