12 Timeless Classics [3 Discs] [DVD]
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Fans of the 1970s cartoon series The Littles may enjoy its live-action spiritual ancestor The Borrowers. Dennis Larson plays an eight-year-old boy living in Victorian England. While exploring his aunt's (Dame Judith Anderson) mansion, Larson peeks under the floorboards...and what should he see but a family of inches-high humans (Eddie Albert, Tammy Grimes, Karen Pearson), who survive by "borrowing" bits and pieces from the Big People. Discovered, the Borrowers scramble to avoid being captured and displayed as curiosities. First telecast December 14, 1973, The Borrowers was based on the novel by Mary Norton (of Bedknobs and Broomsticks fame). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
A star-studded cast highlights this musical adaptation of the classic fantasy tales of Lewis Carroll. One day young Alice (Fiona Fullerton) takes a nasty spill down the rabbit-hole and finds herself in the bizarre kingdom of Wonderland, where she encounters a number of strange and enchanted characters, including the playful White Rabbit (Michael Crawford), the manic March Hare (Peter Sellers), the mysterious Caterpillar (Ralph Richardson), the Doormouse (Dudley Moore), the imperious Queen of Hearts (Flora Robson), and the quizzical Mad Hatter (Robert Helpmann). The cast also includes Spike Milligan, Peter Bull, Roy Kinnear, and Michael Jayston as Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland won two prizes at the 1973 British Academy of Film and Theatre Awards -- for Georfrey Unsworth's photography and Anthony Mendelson's costume design. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
A Dog of Flanders
Based on a novel written in 1872, this charming tale of a young boy and his dog is leisurely and heart-warming. Nello (David Ladd) and his grandfather Daas (Donald Crisp) manage to make ends meet by delivering milk from the nearby farms to the city of Antwerp. Nello's most deeply felt ambition is to follow in the footsteps of the greatest Flemish artists but his grandfather has little faith in Nello's ability to make a living with brush and canvas. Inevitably, Daas passes away and Nello ekes out a living as they always did, accompanied by his cart dog. One day Nello and his canine friend meet Piet (Theodore Bikel), a reclusive artist whose muse has not been constant of late. The combination of young boy, talented artist, and loyal canine then begins to exert its own chemistry, to everyone's benefit. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi
Journalist William Allen White, the Pulitzer Prize-winning sage of Emporia, Kansas, lost his beloved 16-year-old daughter Mary when she was killed in a horseback-riding accident in 1921. The grieving White then wrote a newspaper editorial celebrating his daughter's life, which he printed in his own Emporia Gazette and which has since attained classic status. The made-for-TV Mary White uses the editorial as a reference point for a series of flashbacks, recalling Mary's last year on earth. The events are put in context with the social temper of the times, as both father and daughter fight against such exigencies as segregation and in favor of Women's Suffrage. Ed Flanders plays White, while Kathleen Beller is seen as Mary, and Fionnuala Flannagan portrays Mrs. White. Refreshingly free of phony sentimentality, the moving, inspirational Mary White premiered on November 18, 1977 ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Alice of Wonderland in Paris
Francois, the magical mouse of France, entertains Alice on an adventure to meet the country's storybook characters as The Frowning Prince, Anatole and Madeline. ~ Eric Wampler, Rovi
A septet of settler's children find themselves orphaned and alone following a disaster on the Oregon trail. This fact-based, family-oriented adventure chronicles their cross-country odyssey as they make their way westward. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi
Marguerite Henry's beloved novel Misty of Chincoteague is given a charmingly old fashioned cinemadaptation in this 1961 second feature. David Ladd (son of Alan) plays a pre-teen boy who with his sister Pam Smith live with their grandparents on a Virginia coastal island. Each year, the local citizens celebrate Pony-Penning day, when they round up the wild ponies on the neighboring islands to sell them at auction. Ladd and Smith capture a mare known as "Phantom" because it has never previously been corralled by the locals. The kids hope to buy Phantom's colt Misty, but are disheartened when a stranger purchases both colt and mare. With the help of the sympathetic townspeople, a happy ending is secured. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The Over-the-Hill Gang
One of the better and more diverting of ABC's first full season of made-for-television movies, The Over-the-Hill Gang was a low-budget Western with a gimmick: Get a bunch of elderly actors, known either for their leading roles in the 1930s, or for playing comic sidekicks (and Walter Brennan was a lot of both categories) through the 1950s, and put them together in a plot. The result was this enjoyable oater about a quartet of retired Texas Rangers (Pat O'Brien, Walter Brennan, Chill Wills, Edgar Buchanan) who take on the corrupt mayor (Edward Andrews) of a small Nevada town where O'Brien's daughter (Kris Nelson) and newspaper editor son-in-law (Rick Nelson) live. Jack Elam represents the bad guys' muscle with his usual threatening aplomb, and Andy Devine gets a lot of mileage out of his role as a corrupt, inept judge. The other surprise in the cast is Gypsy Rose Lee, looking radiant as ever, portraying an admirer of the former rangers, in what was her final screen appearance, and such familiar old faces as Myron Healey, William Benedict, and Elmira Sessions in supporting roles. When O'Brien and company realize that they're no longer fast enough to do the job with guns, they decide to use their wits instead, outsmarting and outflanking the villains. The pacing by director Jean Yarbrough (whose own career went back to the 1920s, and whose last film this was) is a little leisurely, but the script is fairly clever and it's a lot of fun watching the veteran actors chewing up the scenery, with Devine having the most fun of all in an unusual role as a villain. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
Martin Ritt's big-screen adaptation of William H. Armstrong's Newberry Award winning novel, Sounder stars Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, and Kevin Hooks as a black family struggling through life in depression-era Louisiana. The Morgan family is poor, but close. Young son David (Hooks) enjoys hunting with his father Nathan (Paul Winfield) and his trusted dog Sounder. Eventually, they fall on such rough times that Nathan steals a loaf of bread to feed his family, but he is arrested and sentenced to a work camp. Mother Rebecca (Tyson) realizes that David is now responsible for taking care of the family. He sets out to locate where his father is being held, and becomes involved in a school for black children where he learns facts that give him a new level of self-esteem. Sounder was nominated for a variety of Academy Awards, including Best Picture. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi
The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again
The Over the Hill Gang Rides Again is a TV-movie sequel to 1969's ratings-grabbing The Over the Hill Gang, which told of a group of retired Texas Rangers rallying to save their small town from criminals. In the sequel, the gang --Walter Brennan, Edgar Buchanan, Andy Devine, and Chill Wills (Pat O'Brien, seen in the first film, is absent this time around) -- team up to rehabilitate Fred Astaire, cast against type as The Baltimore Kid, a one-time ranger who has become a town drunk. Astaire is restored to the job of marshal of Waco, while the other old-timers end up as his deputies. Harmless fun for an undiscerning audience, Over the Hill Gang Rides Again lacks the easygoing charm of the original film. Both Over the Hill Gang entries, by the way, were designed as pilots for an unsold weekly series. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Toby McTeague (Yannick Bisson) is a teen-aged boy, living in a flyspeck town in Northern Canada with his father and younger brother. Toby's thriving livelihood, raising and training sled dogs, is threatened by a dip in the local economy. His problems are intensified by the ongoing hostilities between Toby and his dad (Winston Reckert). Running away from home, Toby makes the acquaintance of elderly Indian chief George Wild Dog (George Clutesi), who years earlier had been "shaman," or spiritual advisor, to Toby's father. It is Chief Wild Dog who mystically brings father and son together at the film's climax, in addition to rescuing Toby's sled-dog business in a near-miraculous fashion. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The New Adventures of Heidi
The New Adventures of Heidi may be set in contemporary times, but it's still the same old yodel-ay-ee-hoo. Johann Spyri's disgustingly spunky moppet Heidi (Katy Kurtzman) is separated from her beloved grandfather (Burl Ives). She is sent to live with hateful relatives in New York City. Before winning over everyone except the audience, Heidi and her cohorts get to warble 10 original songs by Buz Kohan. Made for TV, The New Adventures of Heidi might have been more tolerable had it been interrupted by a pro football game. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi