Son of Flubber DVD Review
|Son of Flubber
Theatrical Release: January 16, 1963 / Running Time: 103 Minutes / Rating: G
Director: Robert Stevenson
Cast: Fred MacMurray (Lemuel Siddons), Nancy Olson (Betsy Brainard), Keenan Wynn (Alonzo P. Hawk), Tommy Kirk (Biff Hawk), Ed Wynn (A.J. Allen), Charlie Ruggles (Judge Murdock), Leon Ames (President Rufus Daggett), Ken Murray (Mr. Hurley), William Demarest (Mr. Hummel)
Review by Aaron Wilcott
Son of Flubber, a direct follow-up to 1961's The Absent-Minded Professor, is the continuing story of Ned Brainard (Fred MacMurray) and his new wife Betsy (Nancy Olson). The government has taken control of all Flubber experiments and left the newlywed couple penniless. This causes domestic problems, which leads Betsy to ultimately move out and contemplate divorce. Shelby Ashton (Elliot Reed) is also back vying for Betsy's companionship creating another obstacle for the poor absent-minded professor.
Meanwhile, local tycoon Alonzo P. Hawk (played once again by the contemptible Keenan Wynn, son of Disney favorite Ed Wynn) is taking advantage of the monetary problems at Medfield College to threaten bulldozing the school if his loan isn't repaid soon.
Experimenting with left over Flubber gas, Professor Brainard creates a machine that controls the weather. Unfortunately as a side effect the machine also breaks all the glass within a certain distance. To add to that, Medfield College has an important football game coming up in which Flubber gas can be used to help the Medfield team win.
While this film is not a landmark in cinematic achievement or a milestone in the company's history, I found the film to be extremely entertaining. Yes the plotline is almost identical to the original and some special effects are dated, but the result is classic Disney nostalgia wrapped in a 1960's style comedy. I found myself laughing out loud at the screen and enjoying the broad MacMurray humor.
There are also a number of notable cameos including Wally Boag in a commercial, Ed Wynn as an agriculturalist, and Walt's own grandson, Walter Elias Disney Miller, as a baby in a television commercial. In fact, one of the films strong points is the amount of recognizable Disney favorites that appear throughout the film. Disney had a stock of character actors that he drew from repeatedly in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and I found so many characters that I remembered while watching the film. Viewing this film after so many years was definitely an enjoyable experience. But now on to the review of the DVD presentation of the film.
VIDEO and AUDIO
Once again, the public is left in the dark as to what the original aspect ratio is on a Disney film. All that we know is that we are given a fullscreen version. There are minor framing problems that can be seen when newspaper headlines are shown on screen and you can't read the whole headline. However, the title screen and credits have been slightly squeezed to fit on screen. This all suggests an aspect ratio similar to the original Absent-Minded Professor, 1.66:1 or the most common 1960s Disney framing, 1.75:1. For the most part, however, framing is not an issue.
Aside from the aspect ratio problem, there really are very few flaws with the film print. In fact, I would go as far as saying the only noticeable flaws that appear are those involved in effects shots such as when the professor's model T is seen flying around Washington, D.C. Overall, though, the video presentation is crisper than anything that is available on VHS or Laserdisc.
Disney once again delivers a fine audio presentation of an old film. We are given a 2.0 Dolby Surround track, which is more than fine for this film. All of the dialogue stays in the front speakers while background music and effects noise can be heard from time to time in the other speakers. I honestly found nothing to complain about with the audio presentation of this film.
One of Disney's greatest assets during the sixties was Fred MacMurray, whose fourth film for Disney seems to be overlooked again by the studio. The only special feature is a photo gallery of advertisements, behind the scenes, lobby cards, and pamphlets associated with the release and re-releases of the film. It really is a hodgepodge of photos that we are given, consisting of some German advertisement as well. There are a total of 39 photos.
The same preview advertising The Parent Trap, The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, Escape To Witch Mountain, Return From Witch Mountain, The Love Bug, and The Absent Minded Professor plays at the beginning but is not available to select as a menu option.
Unfortunately Disney has taken to the Paramount Pictures' way of representing "Special Features" because they are now listing the different audio tracks available as special features. Here Disney lists French and Spanish subtitles as "Special Features", rather than "Technical Specifications".
The menus are static and only the main menu is accompanied by part of the film's score.
Son of Flubber is definitely worth a rental if you've never seen it or even haven't seen it in a while. Fans of the film will enjoy a decent film transfer and more than adequate audio quality as well as a welcome (albeit undersatisfied) addition to the disc: The Advertising Gallery.
Once again the public is riddled with aspect ratio issues, frustrating even the most inept DVD purchaser into annoyance. However, despite my protest to fullscreen films I would recommend this DVD purchase to anyone's 'Ultimate Disney Classic Library', otherwise definitely rent this one! It is a joy to revisit these classic Disney favorites!
UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Old Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page | Fred MacMurray on Disney DVD
The Original: The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)
Also Starring Fred MacMurray:
The Shaggy Dog (1959) | Bon Voyage! (1962) | Follow Me, Boys! (1966)
Directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Tommy Kirk:
Old Yeller (1957) | The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964)
More Directed by Robert Stevenson:
The Gnome-Mobile (1967) | Blackbeard's Ghost (1968) | The Love Bug (1969)
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) | Herbie Rides Again (1974)
Starring Nancy Olson: Pollyanna (1960) | Snowball Express (1972)
Disney Sequels: The Parent Trap & The Parent Trap II: 2-Movie Collection | Savage Sam (1963)
Reviewed May 6, 2004.