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Go Kart Go (1963)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Go Kart Go (1963)
35mm, black and white, 55 mins
Directed byJan Darnley-Smith
Production CompanyFanfare Films
Produced byGeorge H. Brown
Script byMichael Barnes
Original storyFrank Wells
PhotographyJohn Coquillon
Music byRon Goodwin

Cast: Dennis Waterman (Jimpy), Frazer Hines (Harry Haggerty), Jimmy Capehorn ('Square Head' Hedley), John Moulder-Brown (Spuggy), Pauline Challoner (Patchy), Wilfrid Brambell (Old Fred)

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The Damson Street Gang race their home-made go kart in the local derby despite the unsporting tactics of their rivals, the Craven Gang.

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This Children's Film Foundation film was essentially a motorised update of Soapbox Derby (d. Darcy Conyers, 1958), one of the 'new style' films that began to replace the standard cops and robbers thriller format used by the CFF in the 1950s. The plot sees plucky, enthusiastic underdogs with a home-made go kart sabotaged by better resourced cheats. Rather than deal in moral ambiguity, the bad guys' come-uppance is clearly demonstrated by their losing the big race. This was a popular template for many years of CFF filmmaking: Michael Barnes would replicate his own Go Kart Go script with Hoverbug (d. Jan Darnley-Smith, 1967), in which homemade hovercraft substituted for go karts.

This film is a good example of the 'gang' in the CFF films - as well as engendering a sense of camaraderie, the ensemble of mixed ages of kids, boys and girls, allows most members of the CFF audience (aged between 5 and 12) to find a point of identification, even if this probably seems a mite unrealistic. For obvious reasons the eldest members of the gangs carry the film - Dennis Waterman and Frazer Hines were among Britain's most experienced child actors of the 1950s and would soon become adult TV stars.

Go Kart Go also serves as a good example of the way CFF films preferred actions to words, using relatively little dialogue. The well-edited, noisy race setpieces symbolise rather than verbalise simple conflict.

TV comedy fans should note the cameo appearances by Wilfrid Brambell as scrap dealer Old Fred - just a year after the debut of Steptoe and Son (BBC, 1962-74). Brambell appears heralded by a piece of incidental music that pastiches Ron Grainer's famous 'Old Ned' theme.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. Jimpy's test drive (4:35)
2. Lawnmower chase (3:49)
3. The final race (3:36)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Bloom, John
Brambell, Wilfrid (1912-1985)
Goodwin, Ron (1925-2003)
Robinson, Cardew (1917-1992)
Waterman, Dennis (1948-)
CFF: An Introduction