The Magic Toyshop (1987)
Director: David Wheatley. Writer: Angela Carter
Stars: Caroline Milmoe, Tom Bell, Kilian McKenna
Note: this is not an officially released dvd as only released some years ago on video in the UK. This is a transfer/copy taken from the original video release.
After her parents are killed, a young girl is sent to London to live with her uncle and his family. Her uncle, who is a toymaker, secretly has the power to make his toys come to life, but he also maintains dictatorial control over his family and intends to exercise the same control over the new arrival.
The reason The Magic Toyshop has become (unfairly) obscure is simply because it was screened on British television before having any major theatrical release. Technically it's a TV movie, made by the Granada network (not the BBC), and it has suffered the same fate as many British television movies of the 70's and 80's. It has a video release in the UK but has never had an official dvd release.
Caroline Milmoe was not underage when the film was made - she was 23 years old, playing a 15 year old. It is true that the nude scenes present a minor (through a grown woman), and that is one of the central themes of the film - the sexual element itself is disturbingly grim.
The whole film has a unworldly sheen and inhabits magical realism long before it became fashionably known as such. Watch the camera track the parrot's gaze to get an idea of the sheer level of invention and ingenuity.
This is one of the best films of the 1980's, and certainly the best film I have ever seen about childhood's end. I don't mind it being obscure because that lends it cult status, but I feel unhappy for the cast, particularly Caroline Milmoe, as this film is the top of their art and that deserves a wider audience.