Those Calloways DVD Review
Theatrical Release: January 28, 1965 / Running Time: 131 Minutes / Rating: PG
Director: Norman Tokar
Cast: Brian Keith (Cam Calloway), Vera Miles (Liddy Calloway), Brandon de Wilde (Bucky Calloway), Walter Brennan (Alf Simes), Ed Wynn (Ed Parker), Linda Evans (Bridie Mellott), Philip Abbott (Dell Fraser), John Larkin (Jim Mellott), Roy Roberts (E.J. Fletcher), Tom Skerritt (Whit Turner)
After Cam breaks his leg, it's up to his son Bucky (Brandon de Wilde) to get furs to sell and raise the money. This proves to be futile, as the Calloways wind up well short of their expectations, and after Cam places a down payment on the lake by mortgaging the family's house, their homeless and lakeless. A seemingly well-intentioned businessman offers to help them afford the lake, but his plan is not so benign.
The best word to describe Those Calloways is 'dull.' While many of the most beloved live action Disney films have been musicals and/or comedies, there have been plenty of successful dramas from the studio as well. One only need look to an Old Yeller for proof that Disney's films can be serious and dramatic, and still easily embraced.
The problem with Those Calloways is not merely that it lacks humor and music (there actually is a Sherman brothers song and dancing sequence, which almost lightens things up). The problem is that the film lacks a spirit or liveliness altogether. Nothing seems to add a spark - not the normally exuberant Ed Wynn, not the obligatory romance, and not the Calloways' black bear Keg, who turns up from time-to-time.
Brian Keith is flat as the paterfamilias. The score by Max Steiner matches the tone of the film: it's maudlin. Director Norman Tokar would go on to helm several other Disney films in his short directorial career, including The Apple Dumpling Gang and The Happiest Millionaire. Tokar would again direct Vera Miles as 'the wife' in the following year's Follow Me, Boys!, which is both more enjoyable and provides a more substantial role for Miles. Oh, and that's a young Tom Skerritt playing smart aleck Whit Turner, who gets into not one, but two fist fights with Bucky, with predictably different outcomes.
VIDEO and AUDIO
Those Calloways is surprisingly presented in its original 1.66:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The film is enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions, encoded within the anamorphic frame.
The sky shots of birds in flight are a bit riddled with artifacts. The rest of the movie is pretty clean and clear, though. It's not as sharp or pleasing as the Vault Disney remaster jobs, but the fact that it's in the original aspect ratio is certainly satisfying. The clear transfer is marred by the occassional reel change marks in the upper right corner. Overall, though, I was impressed by how good the film looked, especially considering that it's a straight no-frills catalogue release of a little-known forty-year-old movie.
The film is presented in Dolby Digital Mono, and I imagine this is an accurate and suitable reproduction of the original audio track.
At the start of the DVD, there is a 90-second trailer for classic live action films on Disney DVD and video, highlighting Apple Dumpling Gang, Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, The Love Bug, The Parent Trap, Escape to Witch Mountain, Return from Witch Mountain, and The Absent Minded Professor. There are no other extras.
Fans of Those Calloways should be pleased with this basic but adequate DVD treatment, especially with the fact that Disney presents this forty-year-old film in a nice-looking transfer that preserves the original widescreen aspect ratio. Beyond fans, short of acknowledged nostalgia or efforts for a complete Disney collection, this one's a rental at best.
UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Old Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page
Other Films Directed by Norman Tokar
Follow Me, Boys! (1966) | The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)
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