Escape from the Dark

Date: 1976
Director: Charles Jarrott
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions

Stars: Alastair Sim, Peter Barkworth, Maurice Colbourne, Susan Tebbs, Andrew Harrison, Chloe Franks
Location(s): North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire

Region(s):

Storyline:

When the lives of a team of pit ponies are threatened after they are replaced by machines, three children set out to rescue them.

Additional Information:

Screen captures by Phil Wilkinson

Also known as ‘The Littlest Horse Thieves’ (US Title)

Can you help:

If you have any information regarding this film, any of the stills, or even better, some NOW shots please contact us.


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Seen during the titles, Emsdale Colliery is played by the since demolished Thorpe Hesley Mine at Thorpe Hesley, North Yorkshire.

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Having completed their shift at the coalface, tired miners make their way home. The bridge over Arkle Beck in Langthwaite, North Yorkshire.

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Luke Armstrong (Maurice Colbourne) says goodbye to his mate Amos (Ken Kitson) who enters the shop to buy tobacco. The village of Langthwaite, around 15 miles west of Richmond.

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The weary collier arrives at the house where he is step-father to Dave and Tommy. Langthwaite in the Yorkshire Dales.

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At the mine, the new manager, Richard Sandman (Peter Barkworth), spots Dave (Andrew Harrison) and Tommy Sadler (Benjie Bolgar) as they run homeward. Thorpe Hesley Colliery.

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Foreman Sam Carter (Leslie Sands) explains that the boys help Bert Cawsden (Joe Gladwin) to tend the pit ponies. The former Thorpe Hesley Colliery was also seen in ‘The Price of Coal’, a BBC Play for Today drama.

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Following a long day, Mr. Sandman makes his way home as evening falls.

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Mr. Sandman opens the gate to find that his Wife, Daughter and the Maid have been busy unpacking after the move from London.

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Next morning, the whistle blows to signal the start of another day at the mine. The rather elaborate winding gear was constructed for the production.

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Men file towards the colliery gateway. Thorpe Hesley Colliery was in the Sheffield Coalfield and closed in May 1974.

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The camera pans to find the area around the pit head already busy. The former Thorpe Hesley Colliery on Wentworth Road to the east of Thorpe Hesley in the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

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Mindful of saving money, Mr. Sandman goes to see the colliery owner Lord Harrogate. Hollybank Lane in Ripley, North Yorkshire.

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Lord Harrogate’s manager explains that the pit could become profitable if the pit ponies were replaced by machinery. Ripley Castle in Ripley near Harrogate with Ripley Lake in the foreground.

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Whilst out walking, Dave and Tommy find Alice Sandman trying to retrieve her kite from a tree.

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When Alice tells the boys that machines were being brought in to replace the ponies down the mine, Dave and Tommy run home to tell their Mother. Langthwaite, North Yorkshire.

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Alice Sandman (Chloe Franks) runs to find the boys after learning that the pit ponies may be sent to the slaughterhouse. Thorpe Hesley Colliery, also known as Barley Hall or Thorpe Colliery, in Thorpe Hesley near Chapeltown.

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Deciding to rescue the ponies from their fate, the children search for a disused entrance to abandoned workings.

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Finding the old winding house, Dave, Alice and Tommy set about repairing the steam engine.

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The three youngsters come across an abandoned building where they can stable the ponies.

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Following their discovery in the disused barn, the ponies are sent to Emsdale station for dispatch to Barnsley. The railway station at Oakworth in West Yorkshire, which also features in ‘The Railway Children’.

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The camera moves to bring more of the station into view. Oakworth station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.

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Rising against the management in an effort to save the ponies, the miners go on strike.

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With no money to spend and nothing to do, the colliers stand idle in the village. Langthwaite in Arkengarthdale with the Red Lion Inn to the right.

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Luke and his pals exercise their whippets on the moors before being told that the strike is over.

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When an explosion occurs at the pit, Mrs. Sandman (Prunella Scales), Clara the maid and Miss Coutts (Geraldine McEwan) the governess run to the lane as the women of the village hurry toward the colliery.

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With the main shaft into the pit blocked, wives and children watch the rescue attempt at the old workings.

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Soon after all of the men are saved, celebrations are held and Lord Harrogate (Alastair Sim) presides over a miner’s picnic. Ripley Castle with Ripley Lake in the left background.

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Luke comforts his step-son as the two remember Flash, a pony that was killed during the rescue operation. Ripley Castle was seen in television’s ‘Gunpowder’ and ‘The Flaxton Boys’.

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To the joy of the miners and their families, Lord Harrogate announces that the pit ponies can live out their days in a field next to his house. The 14th century Ripley Castle in Yorkshire.

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