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Olly Olly Oxen Free (1978)

For the second year I am joining in on the Katharine Hepburn birthday celebrations kindly put on by Margaret Perry once again. Last year I tackled one of my favorite titles that she appeared in, The African Queen while this time I went for a title I wasn’t familiar with from her later years. It’s aimed at a younger audience and tries hard to play like many of the live action Disney features from the era.

olly olly

Also known as The Great Balloon Adventure this rather low budget affair tells the tale of two young boys looking to pay tribute to one of the boys late Grandfather. He was known as The Great Sandusky. A magician and an adventurer. They get it in their minds to raise the hot air balloon that he owned as a tribute to his memory on his birthday. They’ll need a few parts to get things rising.

great-balloon-adventure-movie-poster-1978-1020248646

Billed as Miss Katharine Hepburn, our leading lady is an elderly collector of odds and ends. Marked on the side of her car is the name of her business, Miss Pudd’s Junk. She refers to her home of artifacts as an “Outdoor, indoor museum.” If only the American Pickers show could come across her house full of treasures. With no intention of selling the boys any of her items, her heart is opened up when she learns of their plan and promptly joins  in on their adventure.

olly-olly-oxen-free

“Muck on the terminals. Scrape. Scrape.” Lines like these are so Hepburn(ish) as she prods the boys forward to doing the job at hand correctly. The trio along with the boys beautiful Old English Sheep Dog are mending the basket and canvas to hold the helium and hopefully begin their journey. Like all children’s adventures the boys will find themselves afloat quite by accident. Sailing off into the skies Hepburn is chasing them from the ground in her classic car. It won’t be long before our 71 year old leading lady finds herself riding the balloon’s anchor and joining the boys adventure in the clouds. It won’t be long before Kate gets to emote on her hidden secret for paying tribute to the late Great Sandusky herself.

OllyOllyOxenFree2

While this is a rather amateurish production from director Richard A. Colla it does have Edith Head credited as Miss Hepburn’s costume designer.  Though the budget must have been miniscule the film does offer some nice aerial footage over the Napa Valley where the film was in production. There are even a couple of foggy back screen production shots that had me thinking back to some of the memorable Jules Verne films shot in the sixties that I enjoyed repeatedly while growing up. Best clip in the film is Kate performing her own stunt riding the anchor that is hanging from the balloon’s basket.

ollyollyoxenfree3 borrowed from http://thefilmexperience.net/

I’ll freely admit that I didn’t take much away from this title but then I am not the target audience. Aside from Miss Hepburn this is all a rather forgettable affair from her later career that  had trouble locating a distributor and failed to find an audience. She hadn’t appeared on screen since her spirited role opposite John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn. Following this she would claim glory once again with Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond.

From my perspective this must be one of the more rare films from Katharine’s filmography. I am quite sure I knew it existed but until recently had never come across it. I located a copy on DVD while rummaging through a used merchandise store. It was released on DVD by HBO in 2006 if you are interested in adding it to your collection of Hepburn titles.

5 Comments »

  1. What surprises me more than anything, besides the fact I’d never heard of this film, was that clip of Katharine doing her own stunt work! Pretty amazing (and risky) when you consider just how high up she gets; I guess the filmmakers figured that if she fell, she’d fall in the lake and ‘probably’ survive. Do you think they made that shot the last one filmed, just in case?

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