12:30 am - Blackbeard's Ghost (1968)
Robert Stevenson and the writing team behind Mary Poppins (Don DaGradi and Bill Walsh) are the masterminds behind Blackbeard's Ghost. This formulaic Disney comedy reunited Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette (from The Ugly Dachshund) and like many films from the early post-Walt years, this was an unrealized idea on the drawing board when Walt was alive. Filmed in Southern California and on the Disney Studio lot, be on the lookout for some staple Disney character actors, some impressive Peter Ellenshaw matte paintings, and the old animation building doubling as... wait for it... a college.
Godalphin's new track coach Steve (Jones) unintentionally releases the spirit of the dreaded pirate Blackbeard while trying to impress beautiful Suzanne Pleshette by bidding on an antique bed pan at a charity auction. Blackbeard's descendants, who run the historic Blackbeard Inn, are at risk of losing their land to a shark who needs their island to build a casino. Now Steve is caught between coaching a losing team and trying to save the Inn so this cantankerous spirit will leave him alone.
Blackbeard's Ghost is largely a rehash of some visual gags that were first used in The Absent-Minded Professor with a few genuine laughs. While Jones and Pleshette prove charming together a second time, the show is mostly stolen by Peter Ustinov as Blackbeard, his first of several Disney roles. His most iconic performance for the studio was as the voice of Prince John a few years later in the animal animated version of Robin Hood.
Recommendation: Fans of Disney's 1960's visual gag comedies won't want to miss Blackbeard's Ghost.
2:15 am - Freaky Friday (1973)
Far out! Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris pull a switcheroo in this uniquely 1970's body changing comedy. With a screenplay from the book's author, Mary Rodgers, the humor and plot twists made the film an instant classic. It's no wonder it was remade by Disney in 1995 and 2003. While the remakes added some depth and heart to the story, it's impossible to top these original performances. Plus, I defy you to get "I'd Like to Be You for a Day" out of your head. It's a catchy theme song that will never leave you.
On Friday the 13th, Annabel Andrews and her mother, Ellen, make a wish to trade places out of frustration and it actually comes true! Annabel discovers that her mom doesn't just have fun while she's at school and Ellen discovers that a lot has changed since she was a teenager. Learning to be someone you're not proves not only difficult, but also life saving when Annabel needs to save her mother from her obligation to perform fantastic aquatic stunts.
Freaky Friday really touched on something special and while many films have tried to reverse the scenario with a father/son switch, they've never been able to recapture the mother/daughter magic of this formula. The film serves as a sort of time capsule for 1970's L.A. and in the hilarious car chase sequence, be on the lookout for a residential roundabout, the former site of the Carthay Circle Theater where Snow White had its historic debut. In addition to remakes, the story was recently adapted for the stage by Disney Theatrical and that version is slated to be produced into a TV movie for ABC.
Recommendation: Freaky Friday is one of the few gems from Disney in the 1970's and is a must-see. I'm shocked it's not on earlier in the night when more people could enjoy this wonderful comedy.
4:00 am - Candleshoe (1977)
Jodie Foster returns a year later for her last Disney film in Candleshoe. With a more mysterious tone and filmed in England, it feels far removed from her other Disney work. I would describe it as Anastasia meets The Rescuers meets The Goonies.
Casey is a street urchin in L.A., constantly on the run from the law when she is approached by a business man with an unusual proposition. Being the right age and bearing a striking resemblance to a missing child from a wealthy family in England, she is sent abroad to pose as the granddaughter of Lady St. Edmund (Helen Hayes) in her manor called Candleshoe. But the real reason for the ruse is that a former housekeeper had uncovered the first in a series of clues that could lead to a hidden treasure worth millions. It's up to Casey to solve the mystery and make the swindlers very rich, but after being welcomed into the first family she's ever known, can she actually follow through with the plan?
Candleshoe has a slow pace to start, but is thoroughly engaging once you get into the grove. Helen Hayes gives a memorable performance and even played the Dowager Empress in Fox's 1956 version of Anastasia, which no doubt prepared her for this role. David Niven also has an unforgettable part as a butler who pretends to be other employees to protect Helen Hayes from realizing that her fortunes are dwindling. And in case you're wondering, yes, those are Winnie the Pooh and Piglet toys on Jodi Foster's bed.
Recommendation: Candleshoe is a little-known gem in the Disney vault and I highly recommend it.
It's hard to go wrong with an evening of all-Disney entertainment on TCM. While it's a shame that two fine Jodi Foster films were kicked to the least watched hours of the night, overall this was a solid lineup. Treasures from the Disney Vault should return in December. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this winter's lineup brings back some snowy fun, such as Snowball Express or Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates.