One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

“I live for furs; I worship furs!”

Synopsis:
A pair of dalmatians (Rod Taylor and Cate Bauer) rely on a network of animal friends to help rescue their brood of 15 puppies from the clutches of evil Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson).

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Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately labels this classic animated feature (based on the 1956 children’s novel by Dodie Smith) a “most enjoyable, consistently clever and amusing Disney cartoon” — thanks in no small part to the inclusion of “one of the greatest of Disney’s villainesses, eccentric and mad Cruella de Vil” (animated by Marc Davis as an “exaggerated, flamboyantly garbed and made-up” evil send-up of Tallulah Bankhead). From its charming opening sequences — in which our narrator, Pongo (Rod Taylor), laments the unmarried status of his “pet”/owner, Roger (Ben Wright), and helps him pursue the beautiful, dalmatian-owning Anita (Lisa Davis) — to the “exciting escape sequence, in which [a network of] dogs use various means to elude Cruella and her cronies”, it’s easy to get caught up in this rousing tale of kidnapping and rescue, in which “good” and “evil” are so clearly delineated (who but a truly twisted individual would even think of making a coat out of puppy fur??!). As Peary notes, “many of the supporting animals” are able to “display enormous personality in very brief screen time” — though it’s slightly disappointing that the puppies themselves don’t have “more distinct personalities”, and I’ll agree that it would be better if “Perdita and Anita were as quirky as their male counterparts”. Watch for a couple of clever scenes skewering the mind-numbing quality of “modern” television — most notably the “What’s My Crime?” parody.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The charming opening “matchmaking” sequence
  • Cruella De Vil — according to James Kendrick, she’s “a truly inspired character, the kind who, if she didn’t exist, would need to be invented”
  • Amusing satire of TV
  • Impressive animation


Must See?
Yes, as one of Disney’s (many) enjoyable mid-century-ish classics.

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One Response to “One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)”

  1. A must – for young ffs to enjoy with their ff elders (who will most likely enjoy it with them).

    First viewing since childhood.

    Well, who doesn’t love puppies? Especially when they’re depicted in such loving detail – that’s the film’s strongest point. Even if this isn’t among my personal Disney faves, it’s certainly served up well and it looks great. I find it a little slow-going at first but, once the all-dog alert is sounded (which is maybe my favorite part), the story kicks in full-swing and sails from that point out. Things get quite tense and exciting as the conclusion draws near.

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