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Now You See Him, Now You Don't DVD Review

Now You See Him, Now You Don't

Theatrical Release: July 1972 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Robert Butler

Cast: Kurt Russell (Dexter Riley), Cesar Romero (A.J. Arno), Joe Flynn (Dean Higgins), Jim Backus (Timothy Forsythe), William Windom (Lufkin), Michael McGreevey (Richard Schuyler), Richard Bakalyan (Cookie), Joyce Menges (Debbie Dawson), Alan Hewitt (Dean Collingsgood), Kelly Thordsen (Sgt. Cassidy), Edward Andrews (Mr. Sampson)


Most of the cast of Disney's 1969 college comedy The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is back for this sequel Now You See Him, Now You Don't, released 2 years later. The film opens just like its predecessor did, with Eugene Higgins (Joe Flynn), the dean of Medfield College, and his fellow administrators discussing the school's funding. Outside, a group of students listens in with a transistor radio. Whereas last time the issue was buying computers, the debate is now over funding for the science lab.

Naturally, Dexter Riley is among the students, and he is working on the theories of a Russian scientist who was eventually committed to an insane asylum. One day, Dexter and his cronies are surprised to see A.J. Arno (Cesar Romero), the slick, shady businessman who got mixed up with the students in the first film. It is noted, but not explained, that Arno is no longer in prison. Not only that, but he's now picked up Medfield's mortgage, relieving Dean Higgins of some of his financial worries.

Like last film, there is a storm and suddenly, some strange things are happening. Dexter goes into the lab the following morning and discovers that the solution in his workstation suddenly has the power to make invisible anything it comes into contact with. Remarkably, the only thing needed to reverse the invisibility is water. Again, Dexter has stumbled across some super powers that may come in handy.

Dexter discovers invisibility when half of his glasses disappear. His fingers! It's like they're there, but they're not there!

First, Dexter and his pal Schuyler (Michael McGreevey) break into Arno's offices and learn why Arno's financial support of their school is not a particularly magnanimous gesture. Arno has plans to convert the school into a gambling paradise known as Arno Town, in which the football field will become greyhound race tracks and the library converted to a major casino.

Once Dexter and Schuyler bring the news to his attention, Dean Higgins agrees that the only hope of saving the college from being subject to Arno's plans is for the school to win a grant from the Forsythe science competition. To get Medfield entered into the competition, Dean Higgins has to pretend that he knows golf, despite the fact that he's surprised that there are no castles on the course. Utilizing his new invisibility formula, Dexter somewhat inexplicably makes Dean Higgins look like an all-out pro. Then, Higgins enters a tournament without Dexter's assistance and disaster ensues. While amusing, too much time is spent on this golf subplot.

Things go further awry when A.J. Arno becomes keen to the strange happenings and then notices Dexter becoming visible again after showering with his clothes on. When Medfield's day in the big Forsythe competition arrives, the invisibility solution has been switched, and Dexter's presentation is a dud. Arno's gang has stolen the formula and have plans to make it really work for them.

Now You See Him, Now You Don't departs in a few ways from The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, but most importantly retains its best qualities as a tightly-plotted caper. The film has a fine sense of humor, and though played mostly straight-faced, it's loopy and consistently entertaining. The premise is close enough to the original's supernatural set-up to feel like a sequel, and yet it is distinct enough to not feel like a carbon-copy.

Cesar Romero returns as A.J. Arno, to the surprise of the students Dean Higgins is skeptical of Dexter's Russian inspiration.

Kurt Russell, whose character's spelling has inexplicably changed from "Reilly" to "Riley", is a few years older than last time but still manages to play his college protagonist with charm and charisma. The college students are invariably more interesting to watch than the administrators, so the increase in running time and story devoted to Dean Higgins and Timothy Forsythe is a bit disappointing.

Cesar Romero's shrewd antagonist remains magnetically amusing, and his gang's corrupt and covert plans make a fine foil for Dexter and Medfield. As comedy or adventure, Now You See Him, Now You Don't works as effectively as most Disney films and feels like a worthy follow-up to the fun of The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.

Though these types of films feel out of place in gritty '70s cinema, the escapist entertainment they offer is irresistible and comforting. When the studio departed from the type of high-spirited hijinks that headlined many of their successful '60s and '70s films in favor of somber realism and darker fantasy in the 1980s, they closed a chapter that many remember fondly.

Buy Now You See Him, Now You Don't from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Mono (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 4, 2004
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
White Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

In a pleasant surprise, Now You See Him, Now You Don't is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for widescreen TVs. This seems to be indicative of Disney's newfound appreciation for releasing catalogue titles in their original aspect ratio, judging from the specs issued for June's slate. Still, for the time being, Now You See Him stands out among a crowd of mistreated live action films as one that the studio has done right on DVD. In fact, both its predecessor (released January 2003) and its follow-up third installment The Strongest Man in the World have been released to DVD in reformatted fullscreen.

Now You See Him, Now You Don't looks quite good here. The transfer exhibits a sharpness and vividness that was missing (usually intentionally) from some of the grittier films of the '70s. Its appealing color palette is faithfully reproduced, without problem. Some shortcomings mar the print, and tiny imperfections do turn up. The film exhibits some grain, most noticeably and understandably in effects shots which are often none-too-convicing in this digital age.

Main Menu Schuyler caddies for the Dean, who's going to need more than a little help.

Overall, the transfer is satisfying and better than expected for a barebones "New to DVD" disc.

The film is presented in Dolby Digital Mono, recreating its original theatrical sound mix. As such, it is an appropriate blend of dialogue, sound effects, and an extremely '70s score. The audio from the center channel is never difficult to digest, even if some effects-heavy sequences noticeably raise the volume. The bouncy period music adds spark to the sound mix and stays true to the tone of the film. Dialogue feels a bit restrained and dated, but this is a shortcoming of sound technology from three decades ago and not the DVD production. Though the audio quality is not as surprising as the picture quality, there just is generally less to mess up with audio. This Mono track is entirely adequate.

EXTRAS

This DVD opens with a 1 1/2 minute trailer for classic live action Disney films like The Apple Dumpling Gang and its sequel, The Love Bug, The Parent Trap, Escape to Witch Mountain and sequel, and The Absent Minded Professor. Unfortunately, like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, this is the only 'extra'; a preview for other films. The menu screens are basic 16x9 screens with no animation or music.

Invisibility claims another head. Bet your college wasn't this cool in the '70s!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Now You See Him, Now You Don't makes the most out of its invisibility premise, and is a fleetingly fun follow-up to The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. Along with its predecessor, Now You See Him is one of Disney's finest supernatural comedies. What makes this DVD even easier to recommend is that it is the only film in the Dexter Riley trilogy which preserves the original widescreen aspect ratio. Solid picture and sound quality on an entertaining sequel, this disc is sure to please.

More on the DVD

UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page | Kurt Russell on Disney DVD

Related Reviews
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) | The Strongest Man in the World (1975)
Kurt Russell: Follow Me, Boys! (1966) | The Fox and the Hound (1981) | Miracle (2004) (coming soon)
Snowball Express (1972) | The Biscuit Eater (1972) | Herbie Rides Again (1974)
College: The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964) | Midnight Madness (1980)

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