Sammy’s Super T-Shirt (1978)
Film review #413
Director: Jeffrey Summers
SYNOPSIS: Young Sammy Smith is training hard to enter a local race. After he enters, a pair of bullies throw his lucky shirt up into the window of a factory. Sammy and his friend Marv sneak in to get it back, unsuspecting that the factory is a top secret laboratory, where Sammy’s shirt has been subjected to an experiment that has made it indestructible, and gives Sammy extraordinary strength when he wears it. The owner of the laboratory and his scientist find that Sammy has the shirt, and give chase before he can reveal the shirt’s secret…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Sammy’s Super T-Shirt is a 1978 British children’s film. At the start, we see twelve year old Sammy Smith exercising in his room trying to get stronger so he can compete in the local race. He goes to sign up for the race with his friend (and self-proclaimed manager) Marv, where the two are accosted by two bullies, who steal Sammy’s lucky T-shirt and throw it through an open window. It just so happens that the building the shirt lands in is a top secret laboratory where experiments on making an indestructible material are being carried out, and it also happens that Sammy’s shirt is used for the experiment that is successful. The lab’s owner, Mr. Becket and the scientist, Mr. Trotter, want to keep it a secret and exploit their discovery, but after Sammy and Marv sneak in to get the T-shirt back, they must find a way to get it back before the young boy ruins their discovery. The plot of the film is a very simple one, which mainly involves Sammy and Marv being chased by the two adults, and the various tricks they use. Not too much to say about it, but it’s easy enough to follow, and provides a few humourous moments through it’s slapstick comedy. Being only just under an hour long, everything is neatly wrapped up and there’s no real lull in activity, so it will keep it’s younger target audience entertained.
There’s something very nostalgic about this film: all of the locations are straight from their time. There’s no fancy sets or designs, just real locations that are a snapshot of the time. I imagine this would have been great for a young kid of the time, as these locations would have been just like the working-class streets they were growing up and played in, meaning their imaginations could run wild with the idea of running through their neighbourhoods with super powers. The child actors are also fairly good, and it would be easy to identify with young Sammy. His friend Marv being black and having a prominent role is something less than ordinary, as you certainly didn’t see many young black actors in these types of films, much less as just as much of an ordinary kid as the white lead. They do remark once how unusual their being seen together is (”one black and one white”), but other than that it just feels like two kids being kids without stereotypes, which is pretty cool.
While kids of the time of it’s release would have probably enjoyed the down-to-earth nature of the film, it is definitely dated today, and kids that may watch it now certainly wouldn’t get the same mileage out of it’s setting. Setups such as Sammy taking the clothing to the launderette to be washed just wouldn’t resonate, alongside the housing and manners of speech just wouldn’t reflect what we would recognise as “ordinary” today. Nevertheless, Sammy’s Super T-Shirt is a bit of short, harmless fun without too much merit. It feels like a time capsule of decades gone by, and if you grew up around this time, you would certainly get a wave of nostalgia through the locations and language used by the ordinary, working-class cast of the late seventies. Kids today won’t get anything out of it, but an interesting snapshot of times gone by.