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Candleshoe - Disney DVD Review

Candleshoe

Theatrical Release: February 10, 1978 / Running Time: 101 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Norman Tokar

Cast: Helen Hayes (Lady St. Edmund), Jodie Foster (Casey Brown), Leo McKern (Harry Bundage), David Niven (Mr. Priory/Mr. Gipping/Colonel Dennis/John), Veronica Quilligan (Cluny), Ian Sharrock (Peter), Sarah Tamakuni (Anna), David Samuels (Bobby), John Alderson (Jenkins), Vivian Pickles (Clara Glimsworthy)


The opening credits of Candleshoe establish the central character Casey Brown (Jodie Foster). Casey is a street-wise teenage girl, who roams around Los Angeles with a group of youths, committing petty theft. Casey gets picked up, not by a police officer, but by a con man named Harry Bundage (Leo McKern).

Bundage has a plan to pass off Casey as the long-lost granddaughter of Lady Gwendolyn St. Edmund (Helen Hayes), an elderly widower who owns a picturesque estate in England. The estate is called Candleshoe and Bundage seeks to get his hands on a hidden treasure left behind by a pirate many years ago.

Bundage picked Casey for her physical resemblance to the missing girl, but more needs to be done to pull off the hustle. With some help from Bundage's cousin, a former maid at Candleshoe, Casey gets down pat the likes, dislikes, and childhood memories of the long-lost Lady Margaret. When they arrive in England, Lady St. Edmund is filled with joy and surprise at the similiarities she sees.

At Candleshoe, Casey finds herself among a group of children that the Lady Gwendolyn has taken in. These youths work hard to maintain the place, and view Casey with suspicion. They assume she is simply the latest in a long line of young women pretending to be the missing granddaughter.

Harry Brundage (Leo McKern) and Casey Brown (Jodie Foster) in the midst of a con act. Helen Hayes plays Lady St. Edmund in "Candleshoe", her third Disney film.

Casey has little interest in doing work or getting along with these orphans; her goal at first is strictly to find the treasure. When she arrived there, Casey had just one of a series of riddles leading to the gold. Slowly but surely, she begins to figure them out and discover subsequent clues.

Meanwhile, Candleshoe is in financial jeopardy. Because a staff of workers cannot be afforded, the butler Mr. Priory (David Niven) has, for some time, been engaging in a charade. Priory disguises himself as the gardener Mr. Gipping among others to divert knowledge and concern from Lady St. Edmund. To help out, Casey and the children put their best efforts to raise money at the market and save the estate. But while she's beginning to find a real home, Casey still has Harry Bundage egging her on to bring him the treasure.

This is Jodie Foster's fifth and final film for Disney, fulfilling her contract with the studio. Foster is as comfortable acting among old Oscar-winning veterans David Niven and Helen Hayes as she is among her fresh-faced young co-stars. Like Freaky Friday, her character here is tough and tomboyish, but to a far greater degree. It is a credit then that the transformation of her protagonist seems subtle and entirely convincing.

Casey explains the "start your day with your dukes up" way of life to Lady Gwendolyn. Casey with the children of Candleshoe.

It is the next to last film for director Norman Tokar, who was behind nearly 20 Disney movies for theaters and television. Tokar's filmography is a mix of some of Disney's trademark wacky comedies of the '60s and '70s as well as the more down-to-earth dramas that perhaps haven't got the attention they deserve over the years. To Candleshoe, which falls more comfortably into the latter category in spite of a hijink-filled climax, Tokar brings a keen eye for the humanity and inhumanity in his characters.

Candleshoe becomes a character in itself, one that it would greatly pain us for the sweet Lady St. Edmund to lose. There's some nice photography of the environment, which helps us to appreciate the place and raise the dramatic stakes. Though the film may lack the flair of Disney's most popular live action films, and the whole doesn't seem to be as good as the sum of the parts, Candleshoe has a strong heart and almost entirely avoids formulaic elements. In addition to the charismatic Foster, performances from Niven and Hayes distinguish this low-key mystery. It may be one of the lesser-known Disney dramas, but it is certainly an above-average film.

Buy Candleshoe from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Mono (English, French)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: June 1, 2004
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
White Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though the package states a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Candleshoe is actually presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. For the most part, the video quality is quite good. Some grain and a bit of tiny flaws turn up from time to time, but the print is mostly clean. Colors are a bit subdued, but I have no doubt that this faded look was intentional by the English filmmakers. While there isn't quite as much detail and sharpness as one might hope, the video is satisfactorily unsullied. It also undoubtedly offers significant improvement over the film's prior DVD release, a double-sided disc from Anchor Bay featuring both non-anamorphic and fullscreen transfers.

The film is presented in Dolby Mono. The soundtrack shows its age, but the film features a pretty energetic score which is nicely conveyed. Dialogue is for the most part comprehendible and free of distortion. As usual, Disney has presented this catalogue title with an entirely serviceable Mono track.

Main Menu David Niven plays the butler Priory...and more!

EXTRAS

There are no bonus features included. A 1-minute trailer at the start of the disc promotes classic live action Disney films (from the '60s and '70s) on DVD.

The menus are simple 16x9 still frames accompanied by a portion of score and sound effects from the movie.

Lady St. Edmund has a word with her gardener! It's a nice view for Casey and Lady St. Edmund.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Candleshoe may not be one of Disney's best movies, but it is a fine family drama. The remastered anamorphic transfer is the only reason for owners of the old out-of-print Anchor Bay disc to upgrade. Naturally, the lack of extras is a bit disappointing, if unsurprising. Those who don't already have this movie should be pleased with the audio and video quality. While this lesser-known '70s film might very well make a nice addition to your collection, you may want to watch it first and see if it's to your tastes.

More on the DVD

Related Reviews
Freaky Friday (1977) | Herbie Rides Again (1974)
The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) | The Watcher in the Woods (1981)
Return from Witch Mountain (1978) | The Moon-Spinners (1964)
The Journey of Natty Gann (1985) | Snowball Express (1972)

UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Classic Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page | June 2004 Catalogue Releases

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