Brando’s pick of the month.
According to my little pal Brando, there’s no such a thing as this title would have us believing. Now that we’ve got that out of the way……
This flick harkens back to the days when Walt Disney had turned to the live action flick and leading man Dean Jones had joined stablemate Fred MacMurray as a main stay under Uncle Walt’s banner. My memories of these family affairs is by way of the two parter when we’d gather around on Sunday nights to watch the one hour Wide World of Disney presentations but honestly, I can’t recall having seen this one before. Now with our very own little one in the house, and him spotting it on the shelf, it was a no brainer.
Not surprisingly, it’s strictly a pedestrian affair when Dean and costar Suzanne Pleshette play cute while the doggies run about looking to steal most if not all the scenes. Norman Tokar directs and the opening is kind of fun as Dean is in a hurry to get his pregnant wife into the car and hurry off to the hospital like any normal first time father is expected to do. With some less than telling camera work, Tokar pulls it off only the surprise is meant to be on us though we’ve been in on the gag the entire time. It’s their pet Doxie that’s the pregnant one on they’re off to the local vet, Charles Ruggles, for the births of their 3 additions to the family.
Unbeknownst to Pleshette, Ruggles convinces Dean to take another pup home that needs wet nursing. It’s a tiny, hold him in the palm of your hand Great Dane. And so the adventure begins, Disney style. Suzanne knows somethings up and points out how the one male in the litter is an ugly pup. Within a few minutes of screen time, a gangly, gorgeous Dane is fumbling his way about the house that Dean has named Brutus. Time for Uncle Walt to cue the must have animal scenes where Pleshette’s angelic quartet of female Doxies cause all the destruction within their home and Dean’s art studio leaving poor Brutus holding the bag and the paint tubes.
Pleshette’s rather unlikable character wants Brutus returned to Ruggles while Dean rages, “I’ve had it with those walking wieners.” It was at this point that Brando winced on the couch beside me. Following the domestic dispute, Brutus is gonna have to prove his worth to Suzanne unless Dean mans up as he continually threatens to do and keep him regardless of his marital status. Speaking of marital status, please note Uncle Walt ensures good family values. Dean and Suzanne sleep in separate beds.
Dare I say that’s why we have puppies in the house and no kiddies?
Still to come? The destruction of a swank back yard party Suzanne puts on to impress Parley Baer who runs and plays judge to a local dog show. Yup, Brutus has a lot to do with terrorizing the hired help, Robert Kino and Mako. Also making an appearance near the end as Brutus closes in on a blue ribbon of his own is the permanently scowling character actor, Charles Lane as the ring master.
Yup, I’ve caught up with this one about 40 years too late but Brando seemed to enjoy it proving the targeted audience for Uncle Walt is once again the kiddies. I will point out that Jones was well suited to these films he did for Walt which include The Love Bug, That Darn Cat and Blackbeard’s Ghost among others. He’d even turn up in another dog flick that played continuously in our home raising two boys through their early years, Beethoven. That flick and it’s sequels were a big hit in our home having owned four consecutive Saint Bernards.
If there is a villain in this flick then it’s poor Suzanne Pleshette. I couldn’t believe how badly and selfishly her character was written and surely she knew this by the time the cameras were rolling. Thankfully she’d also appear opposite Steve McQueen this same year in the superior Nevada Smith that gave her a much better though ill fated roll. Ruggles would carry on acting for another five years passing at 84. He began his career in the silent era and director Tokar would continue working for Disney right up to 1978’s The Cat From Outer Space.
As for little Brando, he’d recommend this one to all those who love those retro 60’s Disney flicks and fun doggie fare. Especially the kiddies.