Danny, The Champion Of The World (1989 – DVD)

“Trouble is, no one could poach six or seven hundred Pheasants… it’s impossible”

Somehow a lot of my most cherished childhood Film, TV and Radio memories seem to have involved the voice of Sir Michael Hordern.  He was (And still is) the definitive Gandalf for BBC Radio, the voice of god in ‘Watership Down’, Badger in ‘The Wind In The Willows’ and a little later “Danny Boy” in ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and the narrator in Kubrick’s ‘Barry Lyndon’.  To me his gravelly voice somehow evokes late summer evenings, dusty old libraries and leather armchairs.  Indeed he has a small part in 1989’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s ‘Danny, The Champion Of The World’ a film that I taped off TV in back in ’89 and re-watched it so many times that every frame was etched on my brain.

However I’ve not seen it in nigh on 20 years, so I was giddy with excitement when I spotted it second-hand the other day.  The central father and son performances by Jeremy Irons and his actual son Samuel Irons are wonderfully warm and natural.  This family atmosphere is further enhanced by the inclusion of Cyril Cusack who is Jeremy’s father-in-law and of course Samuel’s grandpa.  The cast is rounded out by Robbie Coltrane (Clearly having enormous fun) as the wicked landowner Victor Hazell and Ronald Pickup as Captain Lancaster, the evil Schoolmaster incarnate.  The scenes involving plucky little Danny coming to the rescue in his Dad’s car, sneaking about at night, confounding his teachers and conspiring in a mass Pheasant drugging while still being an ace Car Mechanic is one glorious big boys adventure.  For me it’s still got the magic after all these years.

You can watch the whole film on YouTube here (In less than perfect quality):

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