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Sammy's Super T-Shirt (1978)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Sammy's Super T-Shirt (1978)
35mm 58 minutes, colour
DirectorJeremy Summers
Production CompanyMonument Films
SponsorChildren's Film Foundation
ProducerFrank Godwin
ScriptFrank Godwin
Original storyH. MacLeod Robertson
PhotographyNorman Jones

Cast: Reggie Winch (Sammy Smith), Lawrie Mark (Marvin), Richard Vernon (Becket), Julian Holloway (B. A. Trotter), Patsy Rowlands (Mum), David Young (Big Sid), Keith Jayne (Chalky)

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Little Sammy Smith's favourite tiger T-shirt is bombarded with special rays, imbuing its wearer with super powers.

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Sammy's Super T-Shirt is a comic treatment of bullying that sees a little boy find the confidence to stand up to his tormentors via the device of a magical T-shirt. Sammy initially believes that the magic T-shirt is what will give him the ability to win the challenge race, but what really leads him to victory is confidence in his own training and skills and the moral reminder that cheating of any kind is no way to win.

The film is a clear example of the growing influence of successful television series of the day on Children's Film Foundation (CFF) output in the 1970s. The central premise of Sammy's super strength - the ability to leap high walls, run super fast and lift heavy objects - is a steal from the American TV drama The Six Million Dollar Man, hugely popular with UK children since 1975, and the scenes in which Sammy displays his powers are nothing more or less than pastiche of its hero Steve Austin's bionic antics. A poster of Austin is prominently displayed on Sammy's bedroom wall.

Teenage West Indian actor Lawrie Mark, then a very well-known face on television as Benjamin in The Fosters (ITV, 1976-77), was cast as Sammy's best friend Marvin, the result of a conscious decision by producer Frank Godwin to employ racially mixed casts that would reflect the changing CFF audience - in inner city cinema clubs up to 50 per cent of audiences were of an ethnic make-up. To Godwin's surprise this earned his "amusing little picture" an award from the Strasbourg Film Festival for the Promotion of Understanding Between Ethnic Groups.

Popular in the latter days of CFF filmgoing, Sammy's Super T-Shirt found renewed popularity with a new generation when shown on BBC1 in 1987 and once again in 1988, and is one of the best remembered of all the CFF films.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. Zapped (3:14)
2. Super-powered (2:19)
3. The race (3:55)
Man in the White Suit, The (1951)
Fosters, The (1976-77)
CFF: An Introduction
Children on Film