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The Rescuers DVD Review
Theatrical Release: June 22, 1977 / Running Time: 77 Minutes / Rating: G
Directors: John Lounsberry, Wolfgang Reitherman, Art Stevens
Voice Cast: Bob Newhart (Bernard), Eva Gabor (Miss Bianca), Geraldine Page (Madame Medusa), Joe Flynn (Mr. Snoops), Jeanette Nolan (Ellie Mae), Pat Buttram (Luke), Jim Jordan (Orville), John McIntire (Rufus), Michelle Stacy (Penny), Larry Clemmons (Gramps), Bernard Fox (Mr. Chairman), James Macdonald (Evinrude)
Songs: "Someone's Waiting for You", "The Journey", "Rescue Aid Society", "Tomorrow is Another Day"
Review by Captain Hook
Our story begins in a dark swamp: a young girl creeps out of her room on a run-down boat and quietly walks to the edge, being under the observation all the while by two ferocious-looking alligators. Quietly, Penny (Michelle Stacy) drops a bottle in the water which is found by a group called the Rescue Aid Society, an assembly of mice.
After the meeting is called to order (which takes place in the U.N. building in New York), Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor) from Hungary and the janitor Bernard (Bob Newhart) are chosen to rescue Penny. The rest of the movie focuses on the two mice proceeding to Devil's Bayou where Penny is being held prisoner by Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page from The Happiest Millionaire) and her henchman Snoops (Joe Flynn). With the aid of some of the neighbors in the swamp, Bernard and Bianca are able to rescue Penny and see that she is adopted by a loving mother and father at the end of the film.
Perhaps the story doesn't look good on paper, but the fact is the story is full of touching scenes and beautiful (‘70s) music. Jim Jordan does an excellent job at playing Orville the albatross, and Eva Gabor is perfect as Miss Bianca. In fact, the entire voice cast is exactly as they should be.
On the other hand, Disney seems to have disregarded this film as anything but a classic (exactly what happened to The Great Mouse Detective, another excellent mouse movie). Compared to the perfection of the Platinum and Masterpiece DVDs, this one is absolutely terrible. The DVD cover is essentially the old VHS cover slightly modified, and this was also one of the DVDs which did not have an insert in the cover. The Extras have little to do with the movie, and while some are entertaining, some are downright awful. When I bought this DVD, I was stopped by the salesman and another customer, surprised that The Rescuers was on DVD and that they didn't know about it. It's a shame this DVD was so scanty and publicity equally as poor.
VIDEO and AUDIO
The film probably has never looked this good, comparing it to the Sing Along print with its washed out colors. However, there is still much that could have been done to improve the video quality of the DVD. One bothering note is that this was not THX certified. Flecks and grain are almost consistent throughout the entire film, especially the opening Walt Disney Pictures logo, and several scenes looked washed out. Thankfully, the disc is anamorphic and in its proper aspect ratio of 1.66:1.
Audio is not out of the ordinary, and easy to hear. I didn't have to move the volume controls at all during the entire film. As usual with Disney's ‘70s films, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track was almost primarily in the front speakers – in fact, I don't remember a time when I could actually hear the back speakers. Still, the sound is efficient throughout the entire film. French and Spanish language tracks are also available on this disc, as well as English subtitles.
The Rescuers is a catalogue release that does not contain many bonus features, including a much wanted (and needed) making of documentary. There are several enjoyable extras on the disc, though, even if they aren't exactly related to the film.
The first extra is "The Ultimate Case" Set-Top Detective Game, where you are a detective who must find about ten objects from four scenes of the movie to help Penny find her lost teddy bear. Though boring and incredibly easy, the cheap 3D ending where a fake Orville declares that you have saved Teddy and found the Devil's Eye was almost too much to bear. It might entertain kids.... might.
The next extra, "The Three Blind Mouseketeers" (8:42), was a real gem. This short Silly Symphony looked better in video quality than The Rescuers did, so it obviously has been restored. The story centers of three blind mouse who are also the three musketeers. They must outwit a cat, who looks remarkably like Pete of Mickey Mouse fame, who has plans to kill them all with nasty mousetraps. It was a pleasing, wonderfully animated short, though it was hard to find a connection with The Rescuers besides its dealing with mice.
The True Life Adventure, "Water Birds" (30:38), was much harder to watch. Disney obviously took no time to restore this feature. It was fascinating to actually see a True Life adventure, and I was thrilled, but the amount of grain and film deterioration made it difficult to sit through. Colors would change in the middle of scenes, from dark to washed out, and several scenes were out of focus. Audio was much better, being understandable in mono. Judging by the film and not the colors, I would love to see a True Life Adventure Treasure Set. Paul Smith's musical score was astounding, and the underwater shots amazing, knowing how hard it is to shoot under water. Again, it was hard to find a true connection with this and The Rescuers because the film had only two bird characters, Orville being the only water bird.
"Under the Hat Villains" (1:30) was a waste of disc space. Our host, Beau, gives us the run down on all the types of Disney villains, from the wicked witch from Snow White to Jafar in Aladdin. Andreas Deja (the lead animator for Jafar) and Randy Haycock (lead animator for Clayton in Tarzan) each gave a brief statement about why villains are important in movies, then we return to Beau, who gives a voice over while other animation is played (including Medusa from The Rescuers) and then Beau invites us to watch "Under the Hat" on Toon Disney. There is no relevance to the film at all.
The Rescuers Scrapbook, which looked very promising, was so-so. The back of the cover boasts, "Never-Before-Seen The Rescuers Animation Art, Music and Behind-The-Scenes Secrets". I was hoping for a bit more than just pictures, but alas, that was all that was there. About 50 pictures in the scrapbook (spread over 15 pages) cover topics from visual and character development, story boards, to the voice actors. It also has ‘77 premiere pictures and publicity posters for the first and subsequent releases.
The extras end with the Disney Songbook Sing-Along "Someone's Waiting For You" (2:10). The film looks grimy, but the song is very touching. At the end the Disney Songbook lets you know that the song is available on the Sing-Along "Under the Sea". You have to wonder why Disney would bother even putting this on the disc.
The Sneak Peeks that play at the beginning are The Lion King Special Edition, Air Bud Strikes Back, The Jungle Book 2, Piglet's Big Movie, Stitch! The Movie, and Sleeping Beauty Special Edition. All these can be skipped by pressing the menu button, and can be watched again, if so desired, in the Sneak Peek section on the main menu.
All in all, though the film is so excellent, I can't wholeheartedly recommend the DVD. I wish that Disney had been willing to at least make a documentary, an audio commentary, or anything that was more meaty than just the scrapbook. It's also a shame that the video quality is so lacking, since Disney is able to restore forty-year-old movies to perfection. I personally cannot see any Special Edition in the future for this movie, so I suppose that fans of The Rescuers must be content with this wanting DVD until such a time that Disney wants to re-release this masterpiece as such.
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