UltimateDisney.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Classic Live Action (Pre-1980) Disney Films Page | Search This Site

Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar DVD Review

Charlie the Lonesome Cougar (1967) movie poster Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar

Theatrical Release: October 18, 1967 / Running Time: 75 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Winston Hibler / Writers: Jack Speirs (story & screenplay), Winston Hibler (story)

Cast: Ron Brown (Jess Bradley), Brian Russell (Potlatch), Linda Wallace (Jess' Fiancι), Jim Wilson (Farmer), Lewis Sample (Chief Engineer), Clifford Peterson (Mill Manager), Edward C. Moller (Mill Hand), Rex Allen (Narrator)

Buy from Amazon.com

Released to theaters the fall after Walt Disney's death, Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar was the Disney studio's first film without Walt's direct involvement.
Yet, the film remains true to Walt's spirit, since Charlie is so clearly in the vein of his "True Life Adventures" series of nature films.

At the same time, this makes the film markedly different from the types of live action films the studio was releasing at the time, as it lacks the humor and humans of the light family comedies. And though animals figured so heavily in a number of Disney films, here the focus is more about observing natural behavior and less about their playful cuteness.

Set in America's scenic Northwest, Charlie follows the development of a cougar, from his orphaned youth. The cougar is discovered by Jess Bradley (Ron Brown), a woodsman and bachelor who takes in the animal and names him "Good Time Charlie." From this young age, Charlie is domesticated, but the cougar still sets out on a number of adventures, which are documented here.

As a young orphaned cougar, Charlie is taken in and nursed. Jess Bradley, the man who takes in Charlie.

Out in the wild, Charlie shares a nap with a black bear and then, from the safety of a tree, he watches a bear-to-bear duel ensue. For his meals, though, Charlie relies on the kindness of Potlatch (Brian Russell), a cook whose dog Chainsaw tries and often succeeds at outwitting the cougar.

Another encounter has Charlie threatened on a log travelling downstream, with Jess trying to come to the rescue. Charlie's adventures require Jess to cook dinner for the foresting crew, a position that becomes his for the time being.

At all times, the focus remains on Charlie as the film features the cougar and other animals getting into mayhem, with barely-defined human characters as merely background elements. There are situations of mild peril, but none too exciting, with Charlie's growth being the thin thread which serves to tie it all together. Still, the episodic nature of the film is undeniable; the film is less a story about Charlie than a montage of some of his outdoor escapades.

There's some comic relief such as when Charlie competes in an improptu log-rolling contest with the logging boys. But for the most part, the film maintains an austere face, brightened only by Rex Allen's stately narration and an active score which alternates between playful and dramatic.

Charlie snuggles with a bear. Jess is now a cook, and Charlie's got him in a mess!

Seasons change and Charlie grows into a fierce creature. By the film's final scenes (which, with the short running time, is less than an hour in), we start the sharp transformation.
Having endured lessons from his new cougar playmate, Miss Patty Paws, and others he encounters, Charlie finally understands how to be a wildcat and hunt for himself.

The climactic adventure one night has Charlie getting locked into the storage closet at the very dining quarters where good ole' Potlatch used to feed the cougar. The logging crew that used to play around with Charlie is now trying to catch the animal, with some even reaching for guns. Only Jess can hope to reason with his pal, but after Charlie reaches safety, Jess decides that a wildlife refuge is the best place for the cougar.

Though Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar is released as such, it's tough to view it as a Disney feature film. It doesn't really work as a feature film, but as a hybrid of nature documentary and scripted drama, Charlie remains engaging and with a type of charm that made the basis of Walt's "True Life Adventures" series. With a supporting cast of flat human performances, the real star is the cougar and the nature of the Pacific Northwest, and those who are fascinated by either will find this a rewarding experience.

Buy Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.33:1 Fullscreen
Dolby Mono (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 6, 2004
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
White Keepcase
Get 4 Disney Movies for $1.99 Each, Free Shipping!


Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, and it might have been reformatted from a widescreen theatrical exhibition. Though it's possible that this was intended for television and thus filmed for the Academy Ratio, the opening credits suggest otherwise; they appear to be squeezed horizontally to fit the more narrow dimensions.

As wild animals are filmed quite differently from the careful framing of human actors, it's tough to say with any certainty that Charlie is in its original aspect ratio, or is a reformatted pan and scan or fullscreen presentation. A few shots seemed to be oddly framed, but for the most part, there weren't any issues.

Charlie enjoys a log-rolling with the boys. Charlie don't surf. He fly!

There were, however, a number of issues with the video quality. The picture is quite grainy, lacking the refinement of carefully-restored old Disney films. It is often plagued with dirt specks and other print flaws. Colors are consistently faded, but the vistas of the Northwest still maintain a bit of vibrancy, even if they seem subdued.

The Dolby Mono track is a fine audio presentation. The playful score which serves to make the action more interesting is nicely rendered. Rex Allen's narration sounds old-fashioned, but is crisp and clear. Most, if not all, of the dialogue appears to have been looped, so while it doesn't appear to be natural,
it is always easily discernible. Volume level is sufficient and consistent. For a seemingly low-budget picture, there's a surprising amount of life to the soundtrack. Overall, there's little fault to find in the Mono track for the film.


There are no bonus features for Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar included. The 16x9 menu screens contain some of the film's opening music and plain-looking stills.

The DVD opens with a new 70-second preview for live action Disney films on DVD, using the studio's new "Magic in the Memories" slogan. Featured are some of the more recently-released Disney DVDs like Follow Me, Boys! and the original Freaky Friday, in addition to oft-promoted fare like The Love Bug and the two Witch Mountain films.

Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar enjoys the views offered by the Pacific Northwest. RAW!!!!!


Fans of wildlife and especially Walt's "True Life Adventure" series will enjoy Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar. It is not a typical narrative film, and those expecting such may be disappointed. The episodic tale of a domesticated cougar learning to become a wild animal is interesting more as picturesque nature study than as feature film. While not offering much (if anything) over the discontinued Anchor Bay release, Disney's DVD puts their vintage film back in print.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Get 4 Disney Movies for $1.99 Each, Free Shipping!

Related Reviews:
The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964) • The Cat From Outer Space (1978) • The Ugly Dachshund (1966)
Never a Dull Moment (1968) • The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968) • Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978)

Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures: V3: Creatures of the Wild • V1: Wonders of the World • V2: Lands of Exploration • V4: Nature's Mysteries

Disney in the Late '60s and Early '70s:
Rascal (1969) • The Biscuit Eater (1972) • Follow Me, Boys! (1966) • The Jungle Book (1967)
The Gnome-Mobile (1967) • The Love Bug (1969) • The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

UltimateDisney.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Classic Live Action (Pre-1980) Disney Films Page | Search This Site

Search This Site:

UltimateDisney.com/DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed July 6, 2004.