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Hitch in Time, A (1978)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Hitch in Time, A (1978)
35mm, colour, 57 mins
Directed byJan Darnley-Smith
Production CompanyEyeline Films
Produced byHarold Orton
PhotographyTommy Fletcher
MusicHarry Robinson

Cast: Michael McVey (Paul Gibson); Pheona McLellan (Fiona Hatton-Jones); Patrick Troughton (Professor Wagstaff); Jeff Rawle (Sniffy Kemp); Sorcha Cusack (Miss Campbell); Ronnie Brody (Grandpa Hatton-Jones)

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Two children meet an eccentric professor and help test drive his erratic time machine.

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The eccentric professor archetype - brilliant yet bungling - crops up repeatedly in the Children's Film Foundation canon and here no less than Patrick Troughton gives some kind of reprise of his second incarnation of Doctor Who (BBC, 1963-89; 2005- ), playing, rather appropriately, an inventor who devises a time travel machine.

While a lot of fun, it's all rather directionless as a story - the plot consists of little more than lots of flitting around various 'times', represented by men running around a field dressed up in a selection of outfits from theatrical costumiers. Often, time-travel fiction for children is used in a semi-educational manner, but the WWII segment here, for example, is far too short to be of such use and can be compared with the CFF's later, far more complex Friend or Foe (d. John Krish, 1982). Time-travel fiction often deals in paradoxes, but here the interference of Paul and Fiona in their ancestors' timelines seems not to matter a jot.

Probably more worrying for the CFF in 1978 is that A Hitch in Time seems a rather cheap production, suggesting that after the inflationary '70s, the annual budget was being stretched too thin - the director of such mid-60s CFF classics as Go Kart Go (1963) and Runaway Railway (1965) seems stymied here by cheap 16mm colour film stock, rudimentary lighting and a general lack of budget. Although it's possible that only badly worn copies are left to view today, the technical standards seem poor when viewed beside examples from the CFF's monochrome heyday.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. Testing time (4:34)
2. World War II (4:16)
3. Paul 'rescues' Fiona (2:58)
Clarke, T.E.B. (1907-1989)
Troughton, Patrick (1920-1987)
CFF: An Introduction