UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page | May 4 Catalogue Releases
The Love Bug | Herbie Rides Again | Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo | Herbie Goes Bananas | Herbie: Fully Loaded
Herbie Rides Again DVD Review
|Herbie Rides Again
Theatrical Release: June 6, 1974 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: G
Director: Robert Stevenson
Cast: Helen Hayes (Mrs. Steinmetz), Ken Berry (Willoughby Whitfield), Stefanie Powers (Nicole), John McIntire (Mr. Judson), Keenan Wynn (Alonzo Hawk), Huntz Hall (Judge), Ivor Barry (Chauffeur), Dan Tobin (Lawyer), Vito Scotti (Taxi Driver), Chuck McCann (Loostgarten)
With The Love Bug, Disney scored the top-grossing film of 1969 and the studio's biggest success following the death of Walt Disney. So, it shouldn't be too surprising that the amiable volkswagen was brought back for a sequel. Herbie Rides Again was released to theaters in the summer of 1974.
At its very start, Herbie Rides Again introduces us to Alonzo A. Hawk (Keenan Wynn), a ruthless man who takes an unhealthy pleasure in his demolition and construction business. Hawk has plans to build a 130-story complex like no other in San Francisco. There's one hitch: an old woman won't agree to have her home destroyed to make way for the building to begin.
Hawk's nephew Willoughby Whitfield (Ken Berry), fresh out of law school, presents his powerful uncle a Humanitarian of the Year award and soon has a job working for the conniving mogul. His task is to persuade the woman to move out and allow Hawk's company to begin their work.
The old woman happens to be Mrs. Steinmetz, the aunt of Tennessee Steinmetz from The Love Bug, played by Buddy Hackett. Hackett does not return for this sequel, and the excuse given for his absence is that he rushed off to Tibet because his guru got sick. Mrs. Steinmetz enjoys her old firehouse, which she shares with Herbie, such other lively things as a jukebox and an old trolley car #22, plus her stewardess granddaughter Nicole (Stefanie Powers).
Willoughby is not only unsuccessful in his attempts to sway Mrs. Steinmetz, but he is soon convinced that his uncle is shrewd and joins Mrs. Steinmetz and her granddaughter in fighting Hawk off. Meanwhile, Herbie is reminiscing about his days as a successful race car, and sees the stand against the unrelenting tycoon as a return to excitement.
Hawk, furious that this stubborn old lady is holding up his project and costing him money each day without making progress, decides to get back at her by hotwiring her car. Boy, did he pick the wrong automobile to jack! When that doesn't work, Hawk tries crushing Steinmetz's spirit by taking all of her possessions. But with some help from Herbie and #22, Mrs. Steinmetz gets her things back.
Ken Berry does not have the pizzazz of Dean Jones, but he manages to pull of the male lead role with skill. Stefanie Powers does a fine job at filling in for Michelle Lee in a similar female lead. As the villain of the film, Keenan Wynn is amusingly over-the-top. Of course, for many viewers, the real star is Herbie, and he performs with his reliable comic charm.
Herbie Rides Again, with the absence of the three charming leads of The Love Bug, works surprisingly well as a sequel. The film manages to capture the free spirit and frolicsome energy that made the original so appealing, without feeling like a retread at all.
VIDEO and AUDIO
In a very pleasant surprise, Herbie Rides Again is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.75:1 and has been enhanced for widescreen televisions. The widescreen treatment is an anomaly among the Herbie sequels (parts three and four are both fullscreen on DVD) and as well as classic live action films outside of the Special Edition/Vault Disney line.
The opening credits footage is very grainy, but after that, the transfer is satisfying clean and sharp. While I don't suspect that Herbie Rides Again has been given the type of remastering work that Special Editions do. Nonetheless, the video transfer is solid and the preservation of the original aspect ratio is commendable.
It's not quite pristine, but for a thirty-year-old film, the transfer looks vibrant and fresh. The film's colors seem to leap off the screen, while never bleeding or losing their vitality. Some tiny imperfections crop up at odd parts of the film, but for the most part, it's smooth sailing. This is very strong video quality, especially for a film of its age.
Surprisingly, the film is also remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1. Though its original mix was something less state-of-the-art, the 5.1 surround track makes use of all the speakers for certain sound effects and score, including that catchy theme music that turns up from time to time. The dialogue from the center speaker is crisp and without distortion. It is a rather lively soundtrack, more active than many of the "5.1 remixes" Disney has issued for their classic live action films.
At the start of the disc, there is the 1 1/2 minute preview for classic live action Disney films on DVD, which highlights The Parent Trap, The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Absent Minded Professor, The Love Bug, and Escape to Witch Mountain, among others. Unfortunately, that's all there is. The menus are basic 16x9 stills. Those looking for bonus features should, if they haven't already, pick up last year's terrific two-disc Special Edition of The Love Bug, as the sequels are given a bit of coverage.
Most of the normal complaints about Disney's catalogue DVDs cannot be leveled against Herbie Rides Again. It is an entertaining film, presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio, and offers suprisingly commendable audio and video quality. The one disappointment, though not unexpected, is the lack of bonus features. Fans of the Disney comedies of yesteryear are bound to appreciate the film and this DVD is recommended. The devoted following of Herbie should be especially pleased.
UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page | The Love Bug | May 4 Catalogue Releases
Reviewed April 24, 2004.
The Love Bug (1969) | Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) | Herbie Goes Bananas (1980)
Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005)
The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) | Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) | Pete's Dragon (1977)
Snowball Express (1972) | Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972) | Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
Reviewed April 24, 2004.