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The Ugly Dachshund DVD Review

The Ugly Dachshund movie poster The Ugly Dachshund

Theatrical Release: February 16, 1966 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Norman Tokar / Writers: Albert Aley (screenplay), G.B. Stern (book)

Cast: Dean Jones (Mark Garrison), Suzanne Pleshette (Fran Garrison), Charles Ruggles (Dr. Pruitt), Kelly Thordsen (Officer Carmody), Parley Baer (Mel Chadwick), Robert Kino (Mr. Toyama), Mako (Kenji), Charles Lane (Judge), Gil Lamb (Milkman), Dick Wessel (Garbage Man)

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In the 1960s and '70s, the Walt Disney Studio had an incredible knack for taking a simple plot (even just a premise) and making a consistently entertaining feature film out of it.
One need look no further than The Ugly Dachshund for a perfect example of this practice.

Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette play Mark and Fran Garrison, a nice-looking young couple living in suburbia. At the film's start, there is a complex but obvious joke that has the Garrisons racing to the hospital for what appears to be the birth of a child. But, none too surprisingly, we learn that the family's dachshund is having puppies, three to be exact.

This opening sets the tone for the rest of the film. With a focus on the family's dogs, we're clearly in for a light comedy and not a serious exploration of married life. And while there aren't too many surprises along the way, the film is filled with fun, getting the most possible mileage out of a family comedy about dogs.

Suzanne Pleshette and Dean Jones are The Garrisons, your typical 1960s married couple. Fran (Suzanne Pleshette) delivers the expecting mother to Dr. Pruitt (Charles Ruggles), the family's vet.

When Mark goes to pick up the newborn pups, he sees a litter of Great Dane pups belonging Dr. Pruitt (Charles Ruggles) whose mother doesn't have enough milk to nurse them. Mark reluctantly agrees to take on one of Dr. Pruitt's danes, fulfilling the work-at-home artist's dream of having a male dog. At first, Fran is surprised to see a fourth pup, and a rather different looking one at that.

After she realizes that the male dog Mark has dubbed "Brutus" is not a dachshund, Fran wants to give the dane back to Dr. Pruitt. This creates the film's central conflict, which never gives in to excessive seriousness and so it never detracts from the film's good-humored spirit.

After giving the dog back to Dr. Pruitt, Mark is devastated and left with painting pictures of Great Danes. But Fran surprises her husband for his birthday, which restores the Garrisons as a family of seven: two people, four dachshunds, and one huge Great Dane. Still, Mark is faced again and again with the threat of having to get rid of Brutus, who he's come to really appreciate.

Mark shows off his artwork to his wife. Quite the birthday present!

The Garrisons' puppies do cause some havoc for them, and Fran is convinced that the fault lies with the Great Dane who thinks he's a dachshund.
But Mark insists on seeing the good in Brutus, as an unrelenting watchdog for the house and a guardian for the tiny dachshies.

While there are developments, and the film eventually leads to dog shows, there's basically a comfortable tone and pace which allows the couple and their dogs to revel in light comedy. Brutus and the dachshunds are given a good amount of screen time, but the film somehow manages to feel like more than "just another Disney animal film", grounded with its two strong leads and their situations.

To be sure, the film delivers on a comedy level. In this, just his second of many performances for Disney, Dean Jones establishes himself as an excellent comic leading man. Playing the type of ordinary guy role he never strayed too far from, Jones makes sure that even merely mildly amusing material comes across as funny. As his wife, Suzanne Pleshette feels comfortable in the role.

The Ugly Dachshund plays somewhat like a good situation comedy in which you may not notice great bounds occurring from beginning to end, but you always remain interested and entertained.

Buy The Ugly Dachshund on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.75:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Mono (English, French)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 6, 2004
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
(Reduced from $19.99)
White Keepcase

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VIDEO and AUDIO

As a film that just a year ago would surely have been released as a fullscreen-only DVD, it's pleasing that The Ugly Dachshund is presented in its original aspect ratio, approximately 1.75:1, and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Video quality is satisfying. The print possesses a clean look, and the picture remains sharp, with only the slightest bit of edge enhancement noticed.

As with the rest of the film, the scenery is somewhat subdued. The transfers handles the limited color palette of the Garrison's house and suburban neighborhood just fine.
Overall, the film looked as if it had been given the type of effort previously reserved for Special Edition/Vault Disney releases.

The film is treated similarly in the sound department. Though the back cover claims this '60s comedy is in its original audio format, the Mono track has actually been upgraded to a perfectly acceptable Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Still, it is not the aural experience a modern day would present, as dialogue always comes from the center speaker (even when it would be more appropriate to arrive from a side channel), though it is all crisp and understandable. The surrounds provide subtle reinforcement, most noticeable in the nice treatment of the film's upbeat score. There was no distortion or noticeable problems with the audio presentation at all, but the disc definitely could use some minor improvements to make more of a 5.1 remix.

Mako looks back in "The Faces of Mako." Pongo is among those featured in "Disney's Dog Stars." Theatrical Trailer

BONUS FEATURES

"The Faces of Mako" (8:42) is a newly-produced featurette on the Japanese actor who plays the young Kenji in The Ugly Dachshund. Gray-haired and elderly today, Mako is interviewed, but the piece is so heavily edited that he never appears to say more than a few words in any given take. He explains how he got into filmmaking, at first shunning animated voice work because the roles offered were stereotypical.
Instead, he took on this prestigious part in this Disney comedy to make his film debut.

Mako goes on to talk about making The Ugly Dachshund with Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette, and the stuntwork the film entailed. Then he discusses the films he followed up with, including The Sand Pebbles directly after Dachshund, which brought him an Oscar nomination but no win, which he was very glad about. While it's a bit odd that Disney chose to catch up with Mako instead of Dean Jones or Suzanne Pleshette, it is an interesting inclusion that makes the DVD a bit sweeter.

"Disney's Dog Stars" is a brief montage which edits together fullscreen clips of famous canine characters from the studio's animated and live action films. Running 2 minutes and 15 seconds, the clips are set to music, and highlight such figures as Old Yeller, the Shaggy Dog, Pluto, and the cast of 101 Dalmatians. This essentially complements the "Disney's Purrfect Cat Stars" montage on The Three Lives of Thomasina, but lacks the Walt Disney intro.

Last is the film's original theatrical trailer, which runs nearly four minutes long. It shows an interesting approach to advertising a pretty standard comedy, although it definitely makes you want to see the film.

The menus are old-fashioned looking 16x9 stills accompanied by parts of the film's cheery score. The disc opens with the standard 90-second preview for classic live action Disney films on DVD and video.

Brutus makes trouble, scaring Mako into a tree. Look what Dean Jones found in the garbage truck!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Ugly Dachshund is quite a bit of fun, and the DVD offers exemplary picture and sound, plus the added bonus of a few little extras. While it's not the knockout special edition that fans of the film may have hoped for, it is an undeniably satisfactory release. It is tough to find fault with this long-awaited Region 1 DVD debut of this charming Disney comedy.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / The Book: The Ugly Dachshund by G.B. Stern

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Related Reviews

Also Starring Dean Jones:
That Darn Cat! (1965) Monkeys, Go Home! (1967) Blackbeard's Ghost (1968) The Love Bug (1969)
Million Dollar Duck (1971) Snowball Express (1972) The Shaggy D.A. (1976) Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) That Darn Cat (1997)

Also Directed by Norman Tokar:
Big Red (1962) The Cat From Outer Space (1978) Candleshoe (1978) Follow Me, Boys (1966)
The Happiest Millionaire (1967) Rascal (1969) Savage Sam (1963) Those Calloways (1965) The Boatniks (1970)

New to DVD - July 2004: Never a Dull Moment Greyfriars Bobby The Three Lives of Thomasina No Deposit, No Return
1960s Disney: The Parent Trap (1961) Savage Sam (1963) Mary Poppins (1964) The Gnome-Mobile (1967) My Dog, The Thief (1969)
Theatrical Accompaniment, 1966: "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree" (part of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh)
Disney Dogs: Lady and the Tramp (1955) Benji the Hunted (1987) Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008)

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Reviewed June 30, 2004.