Written by: George Pacheco on May 11th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1977
Director: Lionel Jeffries
Writers: Elisabeth Beresford, Lionel Jeffries
Cast: David Tomlinson, Frances de la Tour, Bonnie Langford
DVD released: May 21st, 2013
Approximate running time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamoprhic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Scorpion Releasing
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $16.95
Wombling Free is an absolutely adorable family film from late seventies England, detailing the adventures of a group called The Wombles, an ancient race of short, fuzzy and unbelievably cute little creatures who serve as the world’s oldest rubbish collectors, dating back to the earliest days of Eden.
If this sounds like a unique and slightly highbrow idea for a children’s family film, it’s because Wombling Free truly is one of a kind; a live action film which brings to life the characters created by author Elisabeth Beresford in an endearing and enduring fashion. The film works nicely with the Wombles stop-motion television show which was quite popular in the UK during the mid-1970s, bringing the smart and kind-hearted creatures to the big screen in a manner which makes the film smartly suitable for both children and their parents.
Indeed, Wombling Free has aged surprisingly well over the past thirty-plus years, combining live action, costumed charm with smart dialog and a briskly moving plot. The film is slightly episodic, in that Wombling Free mixes in random, unassociated musical numbers in between the various plot points of pollution, co-existence and the harrowing close call between the Wombles hole-home and a fearsome bulldozer. These musical numbers usually single out one particular womble as the lead, offering a momentary spotlight to such hopelessly heart-melting characters as Tobermory, Orinoco, Bungo, Tomsk, Wellington, Madame Cholet or Great Uncle Bulgaria.
It is indeed a bit odd that Scorpion Releasing—which is known primarily for their catalog of horror and exploitation titles—would add this nice little family film to their catalog, but it really makes sense when taking into account the other films produced by The Rank Organization which have been recently issued by Scorpion, such as the Monty Python associated British comedy Rentadick. There’s also a certain level of twisted charm to how the Wombles themselves look, echoing ever-so-slightly the off-kilter appearance of Peter Jackson’s depraved masterpiece Meet the Feebles…only with a straight faced sweetness which never reaches any depths lower than what would constitute a “G” rating here in the States.
Wombling Free is simply a delight to watch; a late seventies throwback which can be enjoyed by modern families, or exploitation/fantasy film fanatics with a soft spot for their childhood. Kudos to Scorpion for taking a chance on Wombling Free!
Scorpion Releasing presents Wombling Free with an exquisite anamorphic widescreen print, which preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. The soft colors are nicely rendered, with little to no sign of the film’s thirty-six year age apparent making its presence known. The sound is equally balanced, with no decipherable audio drops. Extras are limited only to the theatrical trailer, with Wombling Free receiving a decent presentation overall from Scorpion Releasing.