Thursday, 6 December 2012

Again ... a favourite book and TV film ... Danny the Champion of the World.

Danny, the Champion of the World is a 1975 children's book by Roald Dahl. The plot centers on a young English boy, Danny, and his father, William, who live in a Gypsy vardo fixing cars for a living and partake in poaching pheasants. The story is based on Dahl's adult short story "Champion of the World" which appears in Claud's Dog. The book was first published in 1975 in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and in the United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape. The book was adapted into a made-for-TV movie in 1989 by Thames Television.
Danny, the Champion of the World is a 1989 film starring British Oscar winning actor Jeremy Irons, with his son, Samuel Irons, in the title role. It is based on the 1975 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl, and tells of a father and son who conspire to thwart a local businessman's plans to buy their land by poaching his game pheasants. It was filmed on location in Oxfordshire, mostly at Stonor Park, Henley-on-Thames.
Although the book was set in the 1970s, the film is set in 1955.

Actor Role
Jeremy Irons William
Robbie Coltrane Victor Hazell
Samuel Irons Danny
Cyril Cusack Dr. Spencer
Michael Horden Lord Claybury
Lionel Jeffries Mr. Snoddy (Headmaster)
Jean Marsh Miss Hunter (Social Worker)
Jimmy Nail Rabbetts (Head Gamekeeper)
Ronald Pickup Captain Lancaster


In 1955, William Smith (Jeremy Irons), a widower, lives with his nine-year-old son Danny (Samuel Irons) in a Vardo behind the garage where he works in the English countryside.
The land that the garage is built upon is coveted by businessman Victor Hazell (Robbie Coltrane), who owns the surrounding land and lives in a large mansion several miles away. Hazell attempts to buy the Smiths' land, but William turns down his offers. Used to getting his own way, Hazell begins a campaign of harassment, trying to force them off their land. Several inspectors from the local council come and assess William's property, and it becomes obvious that Hazell has sent them there by alerting them with false stories.
William decides to poach Hazell's prized game pheasants in retribution, using raisins to lure the birds out, but comes home empty handed; Danny had detected his absence and was relieved to see him return. Afterwards, William reveals that he was out poaching.
A few nights later, he tries again, but falls into a pit and breaks his ankle. Danny wakes during the night, detects his father's absence and decides to go and look for him. He heads for the forest at the wheel of an Austin Seven that his father had been repairing, but on the way there he passes a police car, which turns round to pursue him. He manages to lose the police by darting through a gap in the roadside hedges and driving along a country lane until he reaches the forest. He then spots two gamekeepers and hides from them, but then he hears them talking to someone in a deep hole in the ground; when they walk off to tell Hazell, Danny goes over and finds that the man in the hole is his father. He manages to help his father out of the hole by using a rope tied to a tree, and they get away in the car just in time to avoid being caught by Hazell and his two armed gamekeepers, but Hazell sees them in the distance and is convinced that it is them.
The local policeman, Sergeant Enoch Samways, receives a complaint from Hazell that William has been poaching on his land and Samways goes over to question William. However, he deliberately falsifies the report in order to claim that William is innocent (his injury is due to "falling down the steps of his caravan"), owing to his dislike of Hazell and the fact that he himself is very much into poaching, despite his position of authority.
Meanwhile, Danny has started a new term at school, with a new schoolmaster: Captain Lancaster (Ronald Pickup), a strict disciplinarian who practices corporal punishment and detests lateness and cheating. When the headmaster, Mr Snoddy (Lionel Jeffries), who is secretly rather fond of gin even during school hours, catches him caning Danny, he gives Lancaster a severe reprimand and tells him he will personally see that he is out on his ear if there is ever a repetition if his action; as he had made it clear to him on his appointment that corporal punishment was not permitted in the school.
Hazell announces a shooting event and invites several lords and other wealthy businessmen to come and hunt his pheasants. William and Danny decide to put a grand plan into action to poach all of Hazell's pheasants before the event, embarrassing Hazell in front of the people he wanted to impress. Danny hits upon the idea of using sleeping pills, given to William by Dr. Spencer (Cyril Cusack) for his broken ankle, to put the pheasants to sleep. They fill hundreds of raisins with ground-up pills in preparation. The next day, Captain Lancaster catches Danny sleeping in class; he makes Danny run laps of the playground after school as a punishment. Danny escapes by climbing a wall, and Lancaster resigns out of sheer frustration, much to the delight of Mr Snoddy.
Danny's plan goes off without a hitch; soon, the garage is filled with sleeping pheasants. Hazell loses the respect of his peers as there are no pheasants to shoot, and one lord reveals that Hazell's real plan was to build a new town on the land he owns. Without the Smiths' land, his plan cannot go ahead, and Hazell storms off while the Smiths and the rest of the village celebrate.

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