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Month: May 2011

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

“Because I loved him, I felt I had to restore her to him — make her what she had been before.”

Synopsis:
A young nurse (Frances Dee) sent to the West Indies to care for the mentally ill wife (Christine Gordon) of a plantation owner (Paul Holland) soon finds herself in love with Holland, and — for Holland’s sake — eager to help cure Gordon at any cost.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Doctors and Nurses
  • Frances Dee Films
  • Jacques Tourneur Films
  • Native Peoples
  • Plantations
  • Psychological Horror
  • Val Lewton Films
  • Voodoo and Black Magic
  • Zombies

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary labels this “follow up to Cat People” — produced for RKO by Val Lewton, and “beautifully directed” by Jacques Tourneur — the “most poetic of horror films”.

Directly inspired by Jane Eyre (and preceding Jean Rhys’ post-colonial follow-up novel Wide Sargasso Sea by more than 20 years), the richly layered film is “set up like a Greek tragedy”, in which “a house has been ripped asunder by infidelity, meddling in-laws, sibling rivalry, and calling on pagan gods to carry out selfish bidding”; it even includes a “one-man Greek chorus” in Sir Lancelot, a calypso singer who fills us (and Dee) in on the family’s past troubles through a cleverly written ditty. (“Ah, woe! Ah, me! Shame and sorrow for the family.”)

Peary notes that “the lyrical quality of the long silent passages” — most famously “Dee and Gordon’s nocturnal walk through the mysterious woods” —

contribute towards this film’s status as possibly “the most visually impressive of Lewton’s films”. Certainly, the “shadows, the lighting, the music, [and] the exotic settings contribute to make this one of the masterpieces of the genre” — a “beautiful nightmare” which lingers in one’s memory.

As in Cat People, the film’s horror elements here are left up to viewers’ imaginations: is Gordon insane, or “is her zombie-like state the result of a voodoo curse”? Other than a few highly suggestive scenes near the end, the answer is entirely unclear throughout, and “we never find out for sure”. What we “come to believe”, however, as Peary notes, is “that there is just as much validity in believing in the powers of voodoo as there is in believing God will answer prayers”.

To that end, Lewton noticeably “does not belittle the island blacks by mocking their beliefs, customs, and religious practices”, given that it’s the whites who “wallow in confusion and terror”. As Chris Dashiell of CineScene.com writes, “Although the film occupies the European stance towards the black ‘other’ that was always assumed in commercial films at that time, Tourneur is much more sensitive in this regard than one might expect.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Frances Dee as Betsy
  • Edith Barrett as Mrs. Rand
  • J. Roy Hunt’s cinematography

  • Good use of sound and music

Must See?
Yes, as an acknowledged classic by Tourneur. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies.

Categories

  • Genuine Classic
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Cat People (1942)

Cat People (1942)

“Cats don’t seem to like me.”

Synopsis:
A draftsman (Kent Smith) marries an enigmatic Serbian woman named Irena (Simone Simon) who fears that sexual intimacy with her new husband will turn her into a predatory panther. Smith sends her to a psychiatrist (Tom Conway) for help, and seeks advice from his beautiful co-worker (Jane Randolph) — but Irena’s neurosis and increasing jealousy of Randolph continue to wreak havoc on her unconsummated marriage.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Jacques Tourneur Films
  • Marital Problems
  • Newlyweds
  • Psychological Horror
  • Sexual Repression
  • Simone Simon Films
  • Val Lewton Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately notes that this “first of producer Val Lewton’s facinating ‘psychological’ horror films displays the subtlety, imagination, intelligence, and respect for audiences that would distinguish all his projects at RKO from 1942 to 1946” (including I Walked With a Zombie, The Leopard Man, The Seventh Victim, The Ghost Ship, The Curse of the Cat People, The Body Snatcher, and Bedlam, among others). He writes that “Simone Simon” — giving an “erotic, sympathetic performance” — is “perfectly cast” in her most iconic role as a “sweet, lonely” woman who has avoided intimate relationships her entire life out of fear that her sexual desires will cause “the evil inside her [to] be released” — and who (in a bold narrative move for a film of this era) informs her husband after their marriage that she’s not yet ready to sleep with him (“I want to be Mrs. Reed, really — I want to be everything that name means to me, and I can’t.”).

Peary notes that, “as in several other Lewton films, evil and good fight for control of his characters” — and, “like Lewton’s other tragic heroines… Irena doesn’t have the willpower to reject her evil side”, especially when she begins experiencing (justifiable) jealousy towards her husband and his co-worker, Jane Randolph (waiting conveniently in the wings).

As so many have noted, Lewton’s RKO “horror” films were true masterpieces of suggested terror — and Cat People is a prime example of this. With the exception of a few highly contested shots of a giant cat later in the film (most likely inserted by the studio against Lewton’s will), Irena’s neuroses could be viewed as purely psychological. Each of the film’s justifiably “classic horror sequences” — “terrified Alice [Randolph] being followed through a dark park, jumping when a bus screeches to a halt next to her:

… Judd (Conway) trying to seduce Irena, only to be attacked by a giant cat:


… Alice swimming alone in an indoor pool when the lights go out, [as] cat shadows appear on the wall and growling can be heard”:

— succeeds largely because of what’s implied rather than what’s actually seen. To this end, as Peary notes, director Jacques Tourneur “does a wonderful job of creating tense atmosphere”, and he’s helped in no small part by d.p. Nicholas Musuraca, who “does wonders with light and shadows”.

Cat People is a rare breed of literate horror film that — even at just 73 minutes long — merits repeat viewings in order to allow for full appreciation of the nuanced plot. Much like with its sequel (The Curse of the Cat People, a masterful film in its own right), Cat People is rich enough to be viewed and debated on numerous levels; a quick glance at IMDb’s message boards provides evidence of this ongoing phenomenon. Peary suggests that this would make a good double bill with Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964), “because of strikingly similar sexual themes and plot elements”. Remade by Paul Schrader in 1982 in a much more literal fashion (a title included in Peary’s book as well).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Simone Simon as Irena
  • Numerous powerful, memorable sequences
  • Jacques Tourneur’s direction
  • Nicholas Musuraca’s hauntingly noir-ish cinematography

  • DeWitt Bodeen’s screenplay

Must See?
Yes, as one of Val Lewton’s true cult classics.

Categories

  • Genuine Classic

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Curse of the Cat People, The (1944)

Curse of the Cat People, The (1944)

“Amy isn’t lying to you. It’s an unseen companion; children love to dream things up.”

Synopsis:
A lonely, imaginative girl (Ann Carter) befriends a beautiful apparition (Simone Simon) who looks just like the deceased wife of her father (Kent Smith); meanwhile, she becomes acquainted with a dotty neighbor (Julia Dean) who refuses to acknowledge the existence of her own increasingly distraught daughter (Elizabeth Russell).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Childhood
  • Friendship
  • Psychological Horror
  • Robert Wise Films
  • Simone Simon Films
  • Val Lewton Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately labels this “truly imaginative, magical little sleeper” from “producer Val Lewton’s ‘B’ unit at RKO” a “gem”, noting that it bears “no resemblance” to “any other horror film ever made”. Essentially the story of a lonely, socially awkward only child who imagines herself a beautiful playmate (Lewton’s preferred title for the film was Amy and Her Friend):

it actually defies categorization, and should probably not be labeled a “horror” film at all. In classic Lewton fashion, its chills and frights are suggested rather than shown; indeed, the only monsters here are ones created through the tragedy of life — such as the nearly psychotic Russell, who is being slowly driven off the deep end by her mother’s maddening refusal to acknowledge her existence.

Screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen’s inclusion of this subplot in the storyline at first appears a bit odd — until one begins to recognize the parallels between Russell and Amy: both are lonely, misunderstood individuals who are alienated from their parents, but while one chooses fantastic escape, the other wallows in increasingly hostile and dangerous bitterness to soothe her emotional wounds.

Interestingly, while Peary labels this a “so-called sequel” to Cat People, arguing that it “has no resemblance to its predecessor”, this isn’t technically accurate: Bodeen’s screenplay actually creatively imagines what might have happened to each of the central protagonists of Cat People a few years after that film’s tragic denouement. In this follow-up story, Smith is now (predictably) married to sympathetic Randolph, and they have a child:

— but Smith remains so haunted and guilt-ridden by his troubled past that he suspects Carter of somehow representing or channeling his late wife. Meanwhile — depending upon how literally one wishes to view Carter’s imaginative friendship — Simon’s character here could be viewed (as one contributor on IMDb’s message board posits) as finally having achieved some peace after her tortured life, and bringing her new-found happiness to the daughter who might have been her own. Despite a few creakingly dated elements (wait until you hear Carter’s teacher’s opinion about spankings!), this remains a true sleeper, one which all film fanatics are sure to want to check out.

Note: This was, as Peary notes, “probably the first horror film ever screened at child-psychology courses”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Ann Carter as Alice
  • Nicholas Musuraca’s cinematography
  • DeWitt Bodeen’s lovely, sensitive screenplay about childhood and loneliness

Must See?
Yes, as an acknowledged classic by Lewton.

Categories

  • Genuine Classic

Links:

Cinderella (1950)

Cinderella (1950)

“Why, it’s like a dream — a wonderful dream come true.”

Synopsis:
The cruel stepmother (Eleanor Audley) and stepsisters (Rhoda Williams and Lucille Bliss) of a young orphan named Cinderella (Ilene Woods) try to prevent her from attending a royal ball — but she is given assistance by both her animal friends and her Fairy Godmother (Verna Felton), and soon finds herself the object of the Prince’s desires.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Animated Features
  • Fantasy
  • Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Mythology
  • Musicals
  • Romance
  • Royalty and Nobility

Review:
Widely considered to be one of Disney’s “lesser” mid-century animated features, Cinderella nonetheless remains one of the studio’s most beloved fairy tale adaptations, with many of its characters and songs enjoying iconic status. Critics have labeled the film “disappointingly routine” and “dated”, noting that unlike its fabled predecessors of Disney’s Golden Age (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi), it doesn’t stand out as unique or groundbreaking in any particular way. They find particular fault with the extended cat-and-mouse sequence during the film’s first half hour, which establishes an ongoing rivalry between Cinderella’s clever mice friends and the evil house cat, Lucifer — and this does indeed smack a bit too much of Saturday-morning-T.V. antics, a la “Tom and Jerry”. However, given that these creatures play a pivotal part in the climactic finale, it’s relatively easy to forgive their early dominance. Meanwhile, I find it refreshing to see how much screen-time the title character is finally given in this film, with Cinderella (unlike Snow White or Sleeping Beauty) actually emerging as a real protagonist: we can’t help rooting for her as she faces seemingly countless hurdles on the road to happiness and freedom.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some fine animation
  • Numerous enjoyably memorable songs (including “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes”)

Must See?
Yes, simply as one of Disney’s most popular animated features. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Categories

  • Historically Relevant

Links:

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

“Before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, she shall prick her finger, on the spindle of a spinning wheel — and die!”

Synopsis:
An evil fairy named Maleficent (Eleanor Audley) — upset about not being invited to the birth celebration of Princess Aurora (Mary Costa) — curses her to die on her 16th birthday. In an attempt to keep the princess safe from harm, a trio of goodnatured fairies — Flora (Verna Felton), Fauna (Barbara Jo Allen), and Merryweather (Barbara Ludd) — raise her in the forest; but will she remain safe from Maleficent’s wrath?

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “elaborate, charming animated feature by Walt Disney” — the second highest grossing film of the year (after Ben Hur) — has been “criticized for not being humorous enough or exciting enough (until the end) to please children”, but notes that he saw it in a “theater full of quiet kids who were absolutely spellbound”. He argues that while “the animation is not as flamboyant as in other Disney cartoons”, there is nonetheless “some fine detail work” (sadly, this was the last Disney film in which cels were inked by hand), and the Technicolor hues are truly gorgeous. Indeed, the animation style (inspired by European medieval painting and architecture — see stills below) is strategically different from that found in other Disney features, in part because — according to a bit of IMBd trivia — Disney’s “constant mantra to his animators” was that Sleeping Beauty could NOT be like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

While Peary refers to Aurora as “one of the sexiest and most beautiful of Disney’s animated heroines”, she unfortunately — much like Snow White — can’t really be considered the film’s central protagonist, given that she only appears on-screen for 18 minutes. Meanwhile, her romance with Prince Philip (Bill Shirley) is as slight and meaningless as Snow White’s with Prince Charming. Instead, it’s Aurora’s fairy godmothers — “who are like three lovable, squabbling, slightly daffy maiden aunts” — who drive the story forward, and are featured in some of the film’s most enjoyable scenes. The most justifiably celebrated sequence, however, is the “spectacular” “climactic battle on Forbidden Mountain”, between Prince Philip and the evil Maleficent — this scene, while far too scary for young viewers, is a truly thrilling, masterfully animated denouement.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A unique animation style
  • An eye-popping technicolor palette
  • Many enjoyable sequences

  • The exciting climax on Forbidden Mountain

Must See?
Yes, as one of Disney’s enduring classics.

Categories

Links:

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936)

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936)

“If I have to be an earl, I can try to be a good one.”

Synopsis:
The good-natured son (Freddie Bartholomew) of an American woman (Dolores Costello) and a deceased British father discovers he has become the new Lord of Fauntleroy, and moves to England to live with his crusty grandfather (C. Aubrey Smith) — but he finds his new status threatened by a woman (Helen Flint) claiming to be the mother of the rightful heir.

Genres:

Review:
John Cromwell’s adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved children’s novel is — like its source material — a bit too twee and precious for its own good, but remains a reasonably enjoyable cinematic adaptation, thanks in large part to the fine central performance by Freddie Bartholomew. While Bartholomew’s Cedric comes across as simply too kindhearted and naively optimistic to be true, Bartholomew is such an intrinsically charismatic child actor that one can’t help watching him with a certain degree of investment and interest. Nearly every plot development is telegraphed far ahead of time — will Cedric melt the heart of his crusty old grandfather? will he convince his grandfather to open his arms and finally embrace Cedric’s “commoner” mother? will he lose his noble title to a dastardly imposter? what do you think? (!) — but it’s finely presented and directed, and Charles Rosher’s cinematography is nicely atmospheric. Watch for Mickey Rooney in a small (but ultimately pivotal) part as Cedric’s shoe-shining friend back in America. An interesting bit of trivia: “Dearest” (Cedric’s mother) is played by Drew Barrymore’s grandmother, wife of John Barrymore.

Note: As a public domain title, this film is available for free viewing at http://www.archive.org.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Freddie Bartholomew as Lord Fauntleroy
  • Charles Rosher’s cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look.

Links:

Dumbo (1941)

Dumbo (1941)

“You all oughta be ashamed of yourselves — a bunch of big guys like you, pickin’ on a poor little orphan like him.”

Synopsis:
A baby elephant is ridiculed because of his enormous ears, and exiled to working as a clown — but with the help of his friend Timothy Q. Mouse (Edward Brophy), he soon discovers his true potential.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately labels this classic animated feature about a misfit/freak who is “laughed at and rejected by the ones [he tries] to befriend” a “Disney film with heart”, noting that while it was “made on the cheap, to help recoup heavy studio losses”, it nonetheless remains one of the studio’s “finest, sweetest, least pretentious films”. He points out that “the characters are a memorable lot and are drawn expertly”, that the “action animation is exceptional” (with “excellent use… made of quick cuts and extreme angles”), and that “the story… manages to be both frightening (like, say, Oliver Twist) and charming.” He calls out in particular the famed “Pink Elephants” dance sequence — representing a “nightmare the drunk Dumbo is having” — as “one of the greatest bits of animation in all of Disney”. At just an hour long, the heartwarming story literally flies by, from its inspired opening sequence (involving a stork — Sterling Holloway — delivering Dumbo to his eagerly awaiting mother), to the infamously distressing scene in which Dumbo attempts to communicate with his wrongly caged mother, to its triumphant finale (preceded by a pivotal scene involving a quartet of helpful jivin’ crows). Dumbo deserves its celebrated spot in animation history, and merits multiple enjoyable viewings by all film fanatics.

P.S. Other than the “traumatic” mother-child separation scene cited above, Dumbo is probably the film most suitable for young children out of all of Disney’s early features.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A truly heartwarming (and at times heartbreaking) screenplay
  • Creative animation
  • The memorably infamous “pink elephants” sequence

Must See?
Yes, as one of Disney’s most justifiably acclaimed classics.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Heaven Can Wait (1943)

Heaven Can Wait (1943)

“I can safely say that my whole life was one continuous misdemeanor.”

Synopsis:
A recently deceased man (Don Ameche) reflects on his womanizing past and troubled marriage to a beautiful midwestern girl (Gene Tierney), as he tries to convince the Devil (Laird Cregar) that he belongs in Hell.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Critics remain divided about this late-career outing by Ernst Lubitsch, a film which Peary refers to as “an immensely enjoyable comedy of manners”. He notes that, “with the exception of one early scene”, it’s a “rare Lubitsch film in which the characters don’t take turns successfully deceiving one another into believing they’re someone they’re not” — yet, ironically, it’s about a “self-deluded man” trying (unsuccessfully) to convince the Devil (a perfectly cast yet underused Cregar) that he’s “sinned so much in his life playing Casanova that he qualifie[s] for entrance into Hades”. Peary argues that while the “film is a bit too long”, “its rewards are plenty”: in addition to its “superb” acting, he calls out the “consistently splendid dialogue by Samson Raphaelson”, noting out that “every time anyone says anything, you’ll think that’s exactly what should have been said”. He cites a number of “wonderfully written, beautifully played two-character scenes”, and notes that, “this being Lubitsch’s first color film, much attention was paid to period detail and art design”.

Interestingly, the film’s flashback structure — beginning and ending in a remarkably tasteful Art Deco Hell — wasn’t part of the original play upon which the film is based (Birthday, by Leslie Bush-Fekete); yet it firmly grounds this episodic story as the reflective tale of a man who feels deeply guilty for not being more faithful to his gorgeous, loyal wife (Tierney, truly stunning in Technicolor turn-of-the-century outfits). Ironically, it’s this very premise (Ameche’s enduring playboy lifestyle) that’s somewhat lacking in the film’s screenplay — perhaps to strategic effect. One’s first reaction while watching this film is, “Hey! When are we going to see some evidence of Ameche’s supposed Casanova ways?”, given that other than his nicely handled wooing of Tierney — and a later seduction scene with a young chorus girl (in which all is not what it seems) — we really don’t see adult Ameche playing the field at all. Instead, we’re a witness to his extreme devotion to Tierney over several decades — a devotion which belies his own belief that he’s somehow sullied their marriage enough to merit a permanent spot in Hell. And perhaps — as Peary suggests — that’s the film’s essential point.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Don Ameche as Henry Van Cleve
  • Fine supporting performances
  • Vibrant technicolor cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as one of Lubitsch’s (contested) classics. Nominated as one of the best films of the year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars book.

Categories

Links:

It’s a Gift (1934)

It’s a Gift (1934)

“You have absolutely no consideration for anybody but yourself.”

Synopsis:
A henpecked store owner (W.C. Fields) receives an inheritance and dreams of moving to California, against the wishes of his overbearing wife (Kathleen Howard).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Comedy
  • Family Problems
  • Henpecked Husbands
  • Inheritance
  • W.C. Fields Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “side-splitting W.C. Fields comedy” — essentially “a series of set-pieces strung together” — is “the best showcase for the comedian’s unique brand of humor, which is based on characters annoying one another.” He notes that “it is these annoyances, piled one on top of the other, that in Fields’s eyes summed up the life of a married man in America”; indeed, It’s a Gift probably remains the most iconic representation of henpecked-dom in cinematic history. Peary points out, however, that while “the domesticated Fields is suffocating, he isn’t entirely defeated by his constrained life”, given that he “still has his wonderful vices”, and “remains an iconoclast in a world of conformists”. Indeed, Peary argues that while Fields’s Harold Bissonnette apparently “endures indignities without self-pity or complaints” and “accepts the absurdity of his world”, we are nonetheless privy — at least in the final shot — to “how Harold feels about his life under his expressionless facade”.

I recall being truly enamored by It’s a Gift when I first saw it years ago, and was looking forward to a revisit — yet I must admit that I no longer find the film quite as “side-splitting” as Peary (and so many other diehard fans) consider it to be. While I continue to appreciate the craftsmanship of each “hilarious”, expertly orchestrated vignette (which Peary spends the remainder of his review summarizing), I apparently wasn’t in the right mood to enjoy watching Bissonnette passively accepting one indignity after the other: a little of Fields’s characteristic sarcasm and mean-spirited retorts were actually missed! With that said, first time viewers (at the very least) are sure to enjoy watching the classic grocery sequence (involving a reckless blind patron, an irate kumquat requester, and a molasses-spilling child):

… the attempted porch-sleeping sequence (interrupted by countless annoyances, both inanimate and human):

… and the truly jawdropping manor picnic sequence (in which Bissonnette and his family cluelessly trash the lawn of an estate they’ve mistaken for a park).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Numerous humorous vignettes

Must See?
Yes, as an acknowledged comedic classic. Peary nominates the film as one of the best pictures of the year — and Fields himself as one of the best actors of the year — in his Alternate Oscars book. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies.

Categories

  • Genuine Classic

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Black Cauldron, The (1985)

Black Cauldron, The (1985)

“Soon the Black Cauldron will be mine!”

Synopsis:
A young pigkeeper named Taran (Grant Bardsley) is sent on a mission to locate and destroy a magical black cauldron coveted by the evil Horned King (John Hurt).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Animated Features
  • Coming of Age
  • Fantasy
  • John Hurt Films
  • Search

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary begins his review of this “25th cartoon feature” by Disney — its “first 70 mm cartoon since Sleeping Beauty” — by noting that “critics overpraised” it “out of appreciation for the studio’s attempt to return to old-style, ambitious animation”. He argues that it “doesn’t have the subtlety of the Disney classics”, but notes that “while the backgrounds are lifeless”, obvious “care was taken in animating foreground action, as well as character movements and facial expressions”. He accurately points out that “the human characters are a bit innocuous” (indeed, they’re imminently forgettable), and that “the plot has few surprises and many weak points”. However, he argues that kids “won’t be bored”, that it’s a “pleasant diversion” for adults, and that it “makes the refreshing point that loyalty and friendship are more important than heroism”.

These days — especially knowing that a handful of neo-Disney masterpieces (i.e., The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast) were yet to come — The Black Cauldron definitely strikes one as more of an innocuous “miss” than anything worth celebrating as a come-back. Indeed, Time Out calls it a “major disappointment”, while many others note that it simply recycles a number of cliches from earlier Disney films while failing to bring any charm or originality to the proceedings. Meanwhile, Richard Scheib of Moria points out that the film’s timing was unfortunate as well, given that it was conceived right around the time when Star Wars (1977) was enjoying tremendous popularity, but not released until the mid-80s, when “the genre had moved on”. Ultimately, then, this one is only must-see for Disney completists.

Note: The “cowardly half-human-half-creature Gurgi” — erroneously labeled by Peary as “cute” and “cuddly” — has got to be one of Disney’s most annoying sidekicks EVER. (“Oh, poor miserable Gurgi deserves fierce smackings and whackings on his poor, tender head. Always left with no munchings and crunchings.” Arrgh!). He’s eerily reminiscent of Andy Serkis’s Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which in itself was a clearly an inspiration for Lloyd Alexander’s original children’s fantasy series, upon which this film was based).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some effectively creepy animation

Must See?
No, unless you’re a Disney completist.

Links: