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No Deposit, No Return DVD Review

No Deposit No Return

Theatrical Release: February 5, 1976 / Running Time: 111 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Norman Tokar

Cast: David Niven (J.W. Osborne), Darren McGavin (Duke), Don Knotts (Bert), Herschel Bernardi (Sgt. Turner), Barbara Feldon (Carolyn), Kim Richards (Tracy), Brad Savage (Jay), John Williams (Jameson), Charles Martin Smith (Longnecker), Vic Tayback (Big Joe), Bob Hastings (Peter), Louis Guss (Freddie), Richard O'Brien (Capt. Boland), Barney Phillips (Sgt. Benson), Ruth Manning (Miss Murdock), Olive Dunbar (Mrs. Hadley), James Hong (Ming Lo)

When their private school lets out for Easter recess, Tracy and Jay Osborne (Kim Richards and Brad Savage) are looking forward to spending two weeks vacationing with their mother anywhere. But they soon learn that she is detained in Hong Kong for two weeks, which means they'll have to stay in Los Angeles with their grandfather, J.W. Osborne (David Niven). The kids are upset about this, and Grandpa Osborne isn't thrilled either. He's taking the necessary precautions to protect his fanciful home from his dreaded young guests.

While en route to Los Angeles, the kids decide they'd rather be in Hong Kong with their mom. With some help from Jay's trouble-making pet skunk Duster, they try to shake off their grandfather and his entourage at the airport and wind up in a cab with Duke (Darren McGavin) and Bert (Don Knotts), two bumbling crooks who have just botched a job and are also looking for a quick getaway.

After an uneasy taxi ride, when the car stops at Duke and Bert's hideout, the kids get out too. Tracy manages to cajole the two inept safe-crackers into letting she and her brother stay with them. When the group of four (two crooks, two kids) gets inside, they are met with the pencil-snapping Big Joe (Vic Tayback), an intimidating man with some important news. Big Joe and his computer are owed a sum of $9,000 (with interest raising like "clickity-click") by Duke and Bert and the deadline is in just 72 hours.

Don Knotts and Darren McGavin are Bert and Duke. Kim Richards and Brad Savage play the precocious Osborne children.

The ever-thinking Tracy comes up with an idea to save Duke and Bert and at the same time, get the kids airplane tickets to Hong Kong. The plan is to pretend that Tracy and Jay have been kidnapped. By the time Duke and Bert find out about it, Tracy has already sent a ransom note to her grandfather, asking for one hundred thousand dollars. With their deadline approaching and the amount they owe still rapidly rising, Duke and Bert have no choice but to pursue the mock kidnapping that their "hostages" have concocted.

At this point, the clever plot gets sidetracked by some tangents of slapstick which don't serve to further the film. The first of these is an overwrought and not very suspenseful sequence in which Bert hangs high above the city (through weak visual effects) in an attempt to rescue Jay's skunk.

After the kids make a frightened call, the authories begin to investigate the kidnap. Assigned to the case, Sgt. Turner (who's been long and unsuccessfully tracking Duke as a safecracker) and youngster Detective Longnecker (who firmly believes in his Academy training). The two are surprised to find Grandpa Osborne cool and unconcerned about his grandchildren. Osborne is quite relived when they instruct him to simply ignore the ransom and relax.

The gang is surprised to see Big Joe. Tracy cooks for her 'capturers' as plans are made.

The truth is Mr. Osborne has a man watching the kids from a distance and making sure they're okay. But the police do not know this, nor does the children's mother, who flies in as soon as she hears the news. Meanwhile, the kids are still trying to get their tickets and fly halfway across the world and Duke and Bert are still trying to save their own lives. Though the kidnappers keep lowering their demand, the charade goes on. The good-at-heart kidnappers and their precocious kidnappees develop a rapport with each other.

No Deposit, No Return could have been a very good film, had it not been bogged down by formulaic excesses. Though clever and entertaining at its core, the film would have been significantly improved with some tighter editing. Detours like an extended car chase where the police vehicle gradually falls apart simply slow things down, but No Deposit still manages to recover in time for a quite captivating conclusion.

When the film is not wasting time on uninspired visual comedy, the cast delivers satisfactorily. Though he has top billing and his character is a driving force in the film, David Niven's role doesn't require much screen time. Darren McGavin brings spirit and even a bit of warmth to his sympathy-earning safecracker. As his partner, Don Knotts is at his wiry, nervous best. Kids Kim Richards and Brad Savage may not be the best actors, but they are photogenic and their charisma carries the film well.

Buy Hot Lead & Cold Feet from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen
Dolby Mono (English, French)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 6, 2004
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
White Keepcase


No Deposit, No Return is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen. There didn't seem to be an excess of frame space and a live action Disney film heading to theaters in 1976 would have undoubtedly been exhibited in widescreen. This would mean that No Deposit is pan-and-scan on DVD, which is disappointing. There were a few instances when the picture appeared to be cropped on the sides.

Though the print is somewhat clean, the picture usually looks washed out and faded, more like an old movie airing on TV and less like a finely restored DVD. The inspired animated opening credits show a bunch of wear and tear. Colors never seem vibrant or particularly accurate, and there's a lack of contrast so that dark hues tend to just blend together. Even the basic motion element of the motion picture seems to create a challenge for the transfer. There are also minor flaws, such as lines of grain or parts that just go awry, but these are barely noticeable.

Signs of cropping inside the fateful cab. With medical tools and the concentration of a surgeon, Duke tries to crack a safe.

There are portions where the movie looks pretty okay. On the whole, though, compared to Disney's properly-remastered films like Apple Dumpling Gang and Escape to Witch Mountain or the other '70s films the studio has recently released to DVD, No Deposit looks considerably worse and far older than its age.

The Dolby Mono track seems to match the video with its dated quality. The audio seems flat and thin, with the undoubtedly '70s score feeling a bit distorted, probably due to age. There are also synching problems, where the spoken words don't match the mouth movements. The soundtrack is never as disappointing as the video presentation, but it too leaves considerable room for improvement.

The bumbling not-so-bad guys. Unphased grandfather plays darts.


The only extra included is the "Theatrical Trailer" which is actually a 30-second television ad for No Deposit, No Return, probably from the late '70s. Even if the longer theatrical preview would be preferred, this is a nice inclusion and it's good to see Disney providing trailers again.

The DVD's menus are 16x9 screens of different hues featuring the cast and joined by the film's traditional mystery cinema score. No Deposit, No Return opens with the grand ole' 1-minute preview for classic live action Disney films on video and DVD, highlighting films like Escape to Witch Mountain and sequel, The Apple Dumpling Gang and sequel, and the original Parent Trap.

Don Knotts has never made that expression before. High above L.A., an uninspired and unnecessary skunk rescue.


No Deposit, No Return is finally on DVD, but with all the time it took, you'd think Disney would have put more effort into their release of this clever caper. The DVD displays video and audio quality below what it should, which is unfortunate, since the movie, though overlong and hindered by slapstick, is more entertaining than not, and would otherwise merit a recommendation.

More on the DVD

Related Reviews

Also Starring Don Knotts and Darren McGavin:
Hot Lead & Cold Feet (1978)

Also Starring David Niven:
Candleshoe (1978)

Also Starring Kim Richards:
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) | Return from Witch Mountain (1978)

More Disney Films with Don Knotts:
The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) | The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)

Also Directed by Norman Tokar:
The Cat From Outer Space (1978) | Follow Me, Boys! (1966)
Snowball Express (1972) | The Happiest Millionaire (1967)

UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Classic Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page | July 2004 Catalogue Releases

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