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No Short Cut (1964)


Main image of No Short Cut (1964)
16mm, colour, 17 mins
Director Anthony Simmons
Production Company Basic Films
Sponsors Central Office of Information
  Ministry of Transport
Producer Leon Clore
Script Anthony Simmons
Photography Louis Wolfers
Music James Harpham

The story of Jimmy, who conscientiously takes the National Cycling Proficiency Scheme test, and Leslie, who suffers a series of mishaps through his own negligence.

Show full synopsis

This cheerful cycling cautionary tale was directed by Anthony Simmons just before his feature breakthrough with Four in the Morning (1965). It was commissioned under the more prosaic title Child Cyclists, and intended to promote the work of the National Cycling Proficiency Scheme. Founded in 1958 by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), it established a minimum recommended standard for cycling on British roads, offering training through schools and local authorities, a process culminating in a badge and certificate.

Although the scheme was open to anyone, children aged 9-12 were especially encouraged to take it up, and they were identified as the film's target audience. The official synopsis states that it's "the story of two bicycles (told from the bicycles' point of view) and of their young owners: Jimmy, who conscientiously takes the lessons and test available under the National Cycling Proficiency Scheme, and his headstrong friend Leslie, who suffers a series of mishaps through his own negligence."

While this is factually accurate, it's hard to dispel the impression that Simmons felt much closer personal kinship with the rumpled, cheeky Les than with Jimmy, whose neatly-knotted tie and severe side parting establish him as an archetypal goody-two-shoes. After all, Simmons' own career had been built on the back of running before he could walk: his first film Bulgarian Village (1947) had been shot on location at a time when hardly any Westerners were visiting the country.

Accordingly, Les's ambition to become a first-rate cyclist without the necessary training is treated affectionately rather than critically. By adopting the anthropomorphic device of talking bicycle "twins", whose very different lifestyles were dictated by their owners' behaviour, Simmons was able to avoid the kind of overt shock tactics that would become the stock-in-trade of Central Office of Information road safety films in the 1970s. Although it was deemed dramatically necessary for Les to have an accident, the boy himself escapes without a scratch, despite the heap of mangled bars and twisted spokes that he leaves in his wake. We're even spared seeing him undergo the humiliation of taking the Cycling Proficiency test weeks after his peers: Simmons simply cuts to a final shot of both Jimmy and Les cycling calmly and safely along a country road.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'The COI Collection Volume 4: Stop! Look! Listen!'.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Jimmy and Les (5:12)
2. Road sense (4:25)
3. The short cut (2:42)
Complete film (16:43)
20 Times More Likely (1979)
Simmons, Anthony (1922- )