TV Cream

Films: W is for...

Wombling Free

In cahoots with the sainted Dame Wimbledon, Elizabeth Beresford, Lionel Jeffries cooks up an overblown eco-disaster plot, drafts in the agreeable pairing of David Tomlinson and Frances de la Tour as middle class human foils, then saddles them with Bonnie Langford in regulation St Trinian’s gear as daughter, and a ‘comedy’ Japanese couple living next door. The live action Womble suits are just poor, despite the best efforts of Kenny ‘R2D2’ Baker inside them, with annoying expressionless faces over which David Jason, Jon P’Twee and Janet Brown are uneasily dubbed. It’s all about as charming as the coniferous terrain of the ubiquitous Black Park, the default, Borehamwood-handy countryside location for many a cheapo fantasy (Supergirl, Krull, Island of Terror, er, Carry On Cowboy). And Mike Batt fails to work his usual queasy magic with songs ranging from the breathtakingly limp (Madame Cholet) to the monocle-swallowingly infuriating (Exercise is Good for You, Laziness is Not).



  1. Lee James Turnock

    September 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Now this IS a weird one. Shown precisely ONCE on Anglia, to my knowledge, and promptly buried. There’s a DVD available, but every time I’m tempted to shell out for it, I remember the presence of Bonnie Langford and come to my senses again.

  2. Richard16378

    April 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I’m surprised this hasn’t resufaced in any of the periodic 1970’s revivals.

    Black Park was also much used by the BBC, with Doctor Who & Blakes 7 using it for alienisque landscapes.

  3. Tom Ronson

    May 23, 2022 at 12:02 am

    Wombling Free isn’t brilliant, but it’s very evocative of its time and place, melancholic and uplifting in all the right places, with some good performances (and some unfortunate – but very seventies – racial stereotyping), a couple of stretches of utter tedium, at least one mind-bogglingly brilliant musical number, and a surprisingly clever and subtle screenplay. The production design, basically mimicking that of the old Bernard Cribbins-narrated FilmFair stop-motion series, is also surprisingly good, and Network’s DVD release looks great. I also find it really hard to be cynical about the finale, where a load of kids appear out of nowhere and start picking up the rubbish to the strains of ‘Underground, over ground, Wombling Free…’

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