Danny, the Champion of the World (film)
|Danny, the Champion of the World|
|Directed by||Gavin Millar|
|Distributed 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. The book is written in the style of a reflective memoir by an adult Danny, who the reader might presume grew up in 1950s or 1960s rural England: however, Chapter 6 of the book reveals that the period was in fact the 1970s, given that the 'Baby Austin' car that William and Danny were repairing was more than 40 years old, having been made in 1933. The film is set in 1955.
The land that the station and 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 them 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 up 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 cops 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 him out 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 he 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 him. 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 of 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, though several of the lords mistrust him. William and Danny decide to put a grand plan into action to poach all of Hazell's pheasants before the event, embarrassing him in front of the people he wanted to impress. Danny hits upon the idea of using sleeping pills, given to William by Doc 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 him run laps of the playground after school as a punishment. He 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, whilst the villagers look on in amazement. Suddenly, Hazell and his shooting party arrive there, just as most of the pheasants start to wake up, and Hazell threatens to have Danny and William arrested for poaching and trespassing. Sgt. Samways arrives and, after being rudely insulted by Hazell, informs him and the crowd that no crimes have been committed; the law states that game-birds belong to the owner of the land they are on, which in this case is William. Angry and frustrated, Hazell drives off, amid jests from the locals, and loses the respect of his shooting party due to the lack of pheasants to shoot. Afterwards, one lord reveals to everyone why Hazell had really invited them: so he could unveil his grand plan of building a new town on the land he owns, which would wipe out the village. Without owning the Smiths' land, his plan can't go ahead. William, Danny, and the rest of the villagers celebrate this news and Danny, as an act of kindness, releases the pheasants and lets them fly away to pastures new.
|Robbie Coltrane||Victor Hazell|
|Cyril Cusack||Dr. Spencer|
|Michael Hordern||Lord Claybury|
|Lionel Jeffries||Mr. Snoddy (Headmaster)|
|Jean Marsh||Miss Hunter (Social Worker)|
|Jimmy Nail||Rabbetts (Head Gamekeeper)|
|Ronald Pickup||Captain Lancaster|
A Region 2 DVD was released in 2005 by Warner Bros.. It includes a documentary feature called "Danny and the Dirty Dog" (referring to Victor Hazell, who is described as a "dirty dog" by Roald Dahl), which features interviews with Roald Dahl and Jeremy Irons, and with Robbie Coltrane, who appears in character as Hazell.
- Danny, the Champion of the World at the Internet Movie Database
- Danny, the Champion of the World at AllMovie
- Danny, the Champion of the World at Rotten Tomatoes
- Time Out review