Treasures from the Disney Vault returns to TCM on September 11th and repeats two themes used last September. Leonard Maltin has curated a night of programming that starts with some classic Disney pirates films, both starring the handsome James MacArthur. The evening then takes us into Halloween season with a pair of ghost adventures, one of which features a pirate ghost. And the evening ends with two classic Jodi Foster films from the 1970’s, both of which have a mysterious or “freaky” element to stay on theme. So get ready to set sail for a frightful adventure. An adventure that begins with… PIRATES!!! (Bonus points if you know what that’s from)
8:00 pm – Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Grab a pineapple Dole Whip or a Citrus Swirl and settle in for one of my favorite live action Disney films of all time, Swiss Family Robinson. Join Dorothy McGuire, John Mills (Hayley’s father), James MacArthur, Tommy Kirk, and Kevin Corocoran as they get shipwrecked on a jungle island full of danger and beauty. When the family takes in a refugee, the beautiful Janet Munro, they discover their island paradise is in danger when a crew of pirates come looking for her.
When it was filmed in 1960, Swiss Family Robinson was the most expensive live action film Disney had ever produced, but it also became one of the highest grossing films of the year, outperforming both Psycho and Sparticus at the box office! One of the reasons for the high cost was because the film was shot entirely on location on the island of Tobago. In addition to building a real working tree house and sunken ship sets, the crew also had to transport wild and exotic animals to the island, including an elephant, ostrich, tiger, monkey, giant turtle, and a pair of Great Danes. When the footage arrived back in Burbank, it was discovered that almost all of the audio was unusable. Nearly the entire film’s audio was recorded on a California soundstage, but you would never know from watching it.
Following the success of the film, a walk through attraction was added to Disneyland park in 1962. Both the film and attraction were so iconic worldwide that you can still experience the attraction at Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris. It’s also worth noting that Disneyland’s tree is still there, it’s just been rethemed to Tarzan and that version was reproduced in 2005 for Hong Kong Disneyland.
Recommendation: A must-see Disney film, truly one of the best!
10:30 pm – Kidnapped (1960)
Little known fact: In 1960 James MacArthur saved a girl from some sea scalawags in one film, but was taken prisoner by them in another. Kidnapped is based on a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and directed by Robert Stevenson (no relation). One became famous for writing Treasure Island, the other acclaimed for directing Mary Poppins. Sadly, Kidnapped is not an example of the best work of either Robert Stevenson.
When David Balfour (MacArthur) visits his uncle Ebenezer to claim the inheritance left to him by his deceased father, he is instead sold into slavery aboard a ship bound for America where he befriends a shipwrecked captive named Alan Breck Stewart (Peter Finch). But just when they think they’ve escaped, they get on the bad side of the Red Coats and have to hide in the highlands of Scotland.
There is evidence to suggest that Kidnapped was originally filmed as a two-part episode of The Wonderful World of Color but was instead released theatrically. It feels like it has two distinct and different acts pefectly split in the middle and the 90-minute runtime would have left room for Walt’s intros and a word from the sponsors. Ever the perfectionist, Walt had the film produced in England with a mostly British cast, just like he had done on Treasure Island a decade earlier. In fact, Uncle Ebenezer is played by John Laurie, who you may recognize as the blind man who visits Jim Hawkins’ inn at the beginning of the film. Was Kidnapped a failed attempt at recapturing the magic of Treasure Island? It certainly seems that way.
Recommendation: Kidnapped is surprisingly slow paced for an adventure film, but serves as an example of Walt Disney’s unflinching commitment to quality filmmaking. If you enjoyed Treasure Island, you should at least give it a chance.
12:15 am – Lonesomes Ghosts (1937)
For the second Treasures from the Disney Vault in a row, we get just one animated short instead of a collection of shorts to fill a half-hour. It’s a shame for fans of Disney animation, as many of the shorts have recently been restored and these restorations have yet to be seen by fans. Furthermore, Lonesome Ghosts is the first short or film to be repeated in this programming lineup, having made its Disney Vault premiere in October 2015.
Mickey, Donald and Goofy star as the original Ghostbusters in this classic short. When their ghost hunting agency finally gets a call, they spring to action to help rid a haunted house of its spirits. But the jokes on them when these practical joking poltergeists have a lifetime worth of fun in a single night, sending Mickey, Donald, and Goofy running for the hills.
Recommendation: A true Halloween classic, you can’t miss this animated portion of the night.
The night is still young! To learn about the fun the bewitching hours have in store, proceed to the next page.