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The Love Bug movie poster The Love Bug

Theatrical Release: March 13, 1969 / Running Time: 108 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Robert Stevenson / Writers: Bill Walsh, Don DaGradi (screenplay); Gordon Buford (story)

Cast: Dean Jones (Jim Douglas), Michele Lee (Carole Bennett), David Tomlinson (Peter Thorndyke), Buddy Hackett (Tennessee Steinmetz), Joe Flynn (Havershaw), Benson Fong (Mr. Wu)

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Movie: The Love Bug tells the story of a Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of his own, who attaches himself to burnt-out wannabe race car driver Jim Douglas (Disney regular Dean Jones). Jim and the car, affectionately dubbed "Herbie" by the quirky Tennssee Steinmetz (comedian Buddy Hackett) become a race car team like no other.

The film starts off strongly, and its energetic comic pace works very well for the first hour or so. Co-stars Michele Lee, David Tomlinson (Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins), and Hackett all bring charm and breathe personality into their roles. As straight man, Jones does fine in his lead role, a position he got right again and again for Disney.

Herbie the love bug (Number 53) trails Number 14.
Carole (Michele Lee), Tennessee (Buddy Hackett), and Jim (Dean Jones) look over Herbie's instructions. Unfortunately, The Love Bug begins to run out of steam about an hour in, and as did many live action Disney pictures of the era, it suffers from a prolonged ending which doesn't hold together. The final race lasts for around 40 minutes, and no amount of loony car antics can stay as entertaining as the high-energy first hour.

Nonetheless, The Love Bug proved to be hugely successful at the box office, becoming the top-grossing film of the year, even outperforming films like Butch Cassidy and Midnight Cowboy. In the thirty-four years since its release, three sequels, a TV series, and a Wonderful World of Disney telemovie remake have come, so a DVD has seemed long overdue.

Fortunately, the film's popularity has helped it eschew the no-frills, chopped-up, overpriced, barebones, low quality discs that so many of Disney's live action catalogue titles receive. The alternative treatment is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum - deluxe 2-disc treatment. Dean Jones circa 2003 reflects on one of his biggest Disney hits.

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The Love Bug: 2-Disc Special Edition DVD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.75:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English
Release Date: May 20, 2003
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 (Reduced from $29.99)
White double Alpha keepcase, no insert

 

Disc 1's main menu plays Herbie's infectious theme music.

VIDEOVideo quality is good, but not flawless. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.75:1, enhanced for 16:9 televisions. A number of the shots in the film are inherently grainy, and contrast to the simpler, clearer-looking shots. Of course, the grain is part of the original film, so trying to even out the contrasting shots wouldn't necessarily have a point. In addition, there are some artifcats and print imperfections that pop up from time to time. Overall, video quality isn't as breathtaking as last year's Vault Disney titles, and those were older films.

Nonetheless, this is undoubtedly the best The Love Bug has looked on home video, and it looks rather good for its age, certainly better than most of Disney's catalogue output.

 

AUDIO

As is the case with last year's Vault Disney titles, The Love Bug receives a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track, although it's doesn't provide a particularly dynamic aural experience. It does deliver a consistent, clear, and suitable soundtrack for the film, though, and the catchy theme tune comes through loud and clear.

Dean Jones enjoys a groovy stroll along a San Francisco sidewalk.

 

The home menu of Disc 2 lets you watch a montage or turn left or right for some bonus materials!

EXTRAS

Even though the set is labeled as a Special Edition, make no mistake about it. The Love Bug is a Vault Disney title, identical in design to May 2002's four releases. The same elaborate menu design still proclaims "Vault Disney."

Disc One contains an audio commentary with starts Dean Jones, Michele Lee, and Buddy Hackett, and the 8-minute short "Susie - The Little Blue Coupe" (which can also be found on the Ichabod and Mr. Toad DVD.) Plus one sneak peek for a random selection of live action catalogue titles which have mostly been butchered for DVD release like Natty Gann and Muppet Treasure Island.

 

Onto Disc 2. First up is "That Lovable Bug", an excellent 43-minute documentary which rivals the film itself in entertainment value. Stars Jones, Hackett, and Lee reminisce about the making of the film and its suprising phenomenal box office success. The tricks to achieving the automotive effects are covered, and a number of amusing anecdotes from involved parties shed light on the film and enhance one's appreciation for it. The three stars and crew members speak passionately about their experiences, and it's really a terrific feature.

Less spectacular is "The Many Lives of Herbie," a 13-minute featurette hosted by one of the weak speakers from the documentary - Hugh Chitwood, "Herbie fan" (who's on the Disney payroll as a film archivist, according to his documentary credit). This individual's enthusiasm for all things Love Bug is ridiculous, irritating, and depressing all at once. Hearing him passionately discuss the specifics of the sequels ("the first evil Herbie", for instance) and his own Herbie passion (his closing statement!) is amusing, certainly.

 

Herbie fan Hugh Chitwood shares his enthusiasm for Disney's love bug.

Also amusing for not necessarily the right reasons is the 6-minute "Herbie Mania" which showcases two more Herbie enthusiasts who detail their collections and affinity for the film's car and themes.

The Disney Studio Album recalls the year 1969, covering all of the studio's projects from that year, and running just under 4 minutes.

Mr. Chitwood again appears in the Lost Treasure: Searching for Herbie (7:38), this time discussing his knowledge of the actual cars used in the Herbie movies, going into far more detail than you'll probably care, but it's short.

 

Onto the final section, the extensive Production Archives which houses a wealth of supplemental material. Galleries contains an extensive collection of production photos, concept art, storyboards (of which director Stevenson is described as being a thorough fan), stills from the comic book, detailed biographies and filmographies for actors Jones, Lee, Hackett, Tomlinson, and director Stevenson, posters, merchandise, promotional photos (and shots from the premiere), and frames from the press book (though these seem out of focus). It's a lot of material to go through, and there's some great shots within. The bios/filmographies are another great touch; it's a shame these are the only discs on which Disney includes them.

The two final galleries are Production Documents (paperwork from the film's production) and a Screenplay Excerpt ("Herbie Goes Over the Edge") with accompanying film clip.

Dean Jones and Michele Lee give an interview in the 1960s.

 

Love Bug Day at Disneyland brings out the groovy beetle art.

Production Gallery (2:45) is a slideshow of self-explanatory stills. There is the Theatrical Trailer (3:15). The Behind-the-Scenes promo (4:45) is an amusing on-the-set piece, narrated by Dean Jones, which portrays Herbie as a prima donna who receives all the attention from the crew.

"Love Bug Day at Disneyland" is a 12-minute un-narrated featurette on March 23, 1969 when hundreds of Volkswagens from all over made their way to the park in decorated fashion. Some are really creatively-designed and it's quite fun seeing the people of the '60s really getting into the spirit of things ten days after the film's opening and a few months before the "Summer of Love" would bring Woodstock and the Amazin' Mets.

 

"The Man Who Gave Herbie His Voice" (8:35) focuses on Jimmy McDonald and the sound design of Disney films, and as with all sound design featurettes, it includes the creation of the "Casey Jr." Dumbo sequence from The Reluctant Dragon. Other works showcased include the "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" short, The Rescuers, Bambi, and of course, The Love Bug.

Two deleted "scenes" are included: "Used Car Lot" is a brief combination of a script excerpt and production still from an excised scene and "Playground" provides storyboards and script excerpt from a closing sequence which was never shot. Together, they run 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

The Love Bug gets its turn in the Vault Disney universe, although that brand was retired prior to this.

 

Explore the Audio Archives from Disc 2's expansive menu Finally, the Audio Archives provide 2 Sound Studios allowing you to play the scenes "Herbie on the Rocks" and "Thorndyke and the Bear" with just sound effects, just dialogue, or a composite, and 2 radio spots.

 

Closing Thoughts: While The Love Bug might not hold up as well as some of Disney's other live action films from the '60s, it remains undeniably fun and this loaded 2-disc set comes highly recommended. The film has been well-presented and remastered in its original aspect ratio.

The hours of supplemental content ranges in quality, and would benefit from more of the charismatic trio of stars, but there's lots of great stuff to check out, such as the fantastic documentary and the Production Archives, overflowing with goodies like "Love Bug Day at Disneyland."

Fans of this film should be very pleased with this 2-disc presentation and those who haven't seen it are encouraged to check it out. I can only hope that my favorite live action films of the '80s and '90s will one day receive glorious treatment like this, covering all aspects of production and presenting the films in first-rate quality and the right aspect ratio.

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Tennessee Steinmetz (Buddy Hackett) and Jim Douglas (Dean Jones) have a chat in the workshop.

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Herbie Rides Again Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo Herbie Goes Bananas Herbie Fully Loaded
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The Graduate (40th Anniversary Edition) 2001: A Space Odyssey (2-Disc Special Edition) Speed Racer (2008)



Related Page: The Love Bug in UD's Top Live Action Disney Film Countdown

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Reviewed June 8, 2003.