Those Calloways – 1:00 AM
From 1965 comes one of Disney’s little known gems, a family drama called Those Calloways. Set in Vermont in the fall, the sleepy town of Swiftwater is famous for being a migration stop for Canadian Geese. When a greedy businessman wants to turn the town into a hunting destination, Cam Calloway and his son Bucky work to provide a sanctuary for the migrating birds where they can be safe from flying bullets.
Brian Keith (The Parent Trap) was paired with Vera Miles (Psycho) for a second time in this film, having been previously coupled by Disney a year earlier in A Tiger Walks. Ed Wynn and Walter Brennan joined forces to play some of the town’s porch rocking elders, adding some light humor to an otherwise dramatic piece. While some establishing shots were filmed in Vermont, the majority of exterior filming took place on Disney’s Burbank backlot. The Calloway’s home was built there as well as a section of their pond. Due to the fall setting, studio artists painted real leaves orange to bring a season that doesn’t exist in Southern California to life.
Director Norman Tokar was still fairly new to Disney when this film was made, but went on to direct some of the more memorable films of the 1960’s and 70’s including The Happiest Millionaire and The Apple Dumpling Gang. Famous film composer Max Steiner wrote a beautiful score for this, his final film before retiring. His other famous scores include Gone With the Wind and Casablanca. The Sherman Brothers also wrote two songs for the film, “The Cabin-Raising Song” and “Rhyme-Around.”
Recommendation: Those Calloways takes on a slow pace and may put some viewers to sleep, but offers a beautiful film that is quite different from the typical Disney productions of the 1960's. And the score is so memorable that Intrada recently released the full soundtrack.
A Country Coyote Goes Hollywood – 3:30 AM
One of Disney’s live action short films, A Country Coyote Goes Hollywood feels like it was intended as an episode of The Wonderful World of Color. With its 37-minute run time, adding an introduction by Walt Disney and perhaps a quick promo for an upcoming film could have easily filled the full hour. But if you’re wondering how this film is connected to Those Calloways, the two share the same release date (January 28th, 1965) and were likely on the same bill at some movie theaters, although they were not paired by the studio as a double feature.
Chico is a young coyote who accidentally stumbles into the back of a moving van and finds himself lost in the heart of Hollywood. During his time in the city of angels, he learns how to steal food from a Beverly Hills dog, joins a local pack of coyotes and even falls in love. Narrated by Rex Allen and with a story by Winston Hibler, A Country Coyote Goes Hollywood falls into the tradition of Disney’s scripted animal dramas like The Incredible Journey. It’s narrated by Rex Allen, most infamous among Disney fans as the original voice of Father in “Carousel of Progress.”
Recommendation: If you love Disney's animal films, you're likely to enjoy this. Of that category, however, it's pretty forgettable. Not one of the highlights of the night.
Midnight Madness – 4:15 AM
Following the Hollywood theme of the last film comes the story of a wild night in L.A., Midnight Madness. This 1980 comedy feels like a college version of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Scavenger Hunt and Rat Race. And there are quite a few elements of the film that have to be seen to be believed.
A chase through the Pabst Blue Ribbon factory; Dinner at Johnny's Fat Boy that leads to a boob joke; Piglet (John Fiedler) in a live action Disney film; Paul Reubens just before Pee-Wee Herman took off big; fat girls who close a food stand; teens posing as Hare Krishnas; Michael J. Fox in his feature film debut. All this and more is yours to enjoy if you choose to stay up late enough to see Midnight Madness.
A college mastermind named Leon concocts an all night scavenger hunt through the streets of L.A., pitting his classmates against each other in five groups. The film received unanimously bad reviews and had a very short theatrical run, but became a minor cult classic due to repeated cable airings in the 80's. In hopes of appealing to teenagers, Disney kept their name off the film despite two Mickey Mouse references and Disney’s feature animation building serving as a college campus, as it had done many times before when it doubled as Medfield College.
Recommendation: Midnight Madness is the kind of film that's so bad, it's kind of good. Absurd plot, offensive jokes and decidedly un-Disney humor, you have to see it to believe it. It's a perfect example of how Disney lost their way in the early 80's and veered far off course.
Another amazing night of Treasures from the Disney Vault thanks to TCM and Leonard Maltin. If the series follows the current trend, the next installment should be in December. I can't wait to see what's in store for the next Treasures from the Disney Vault.