The original 1959 version of The Shaggy Dog is notable for two reasons. First, it is the first live action film that Disney ever produced. They had created some animated features, of course, but this was the company’s first real foray into the live action market. Secondly, the film marks the screen debut of Annette Funicello, a name certain to be familiar to fans of later Disney films. Later known as “America’s Sweetheart”, Annette became a staple of the popular teenage beach movies of the 60’s.
This …VD release is notable for a couple of reasons as well, though they are not nearly as positive. The box states that this disc contains the original theatrical release, but it then goes on to say that the cut includes 10 additional minutes of footage. How can the same cut include both the original theatrical version and 10 minutes of additional footage? The disc also contains a second, colorized version of the film. Any true cinephile will tell you that colorization is a horrendous practice that completely changes the original vision of the filmmaker. So what consumers are left with is two versions of The Shaggy Dog, neither of which is the original. Clearly, this disc was released solely as an additional money making scheme to tie-in with the theatrical release of the remake, but at the very least I was expecting to find the film in its original format. That’s just common courtesy. This is just the kind of horrible decision making that has plagued Disney over the past several years. Walt Disney would never have let such poor decision making go unchecked.
At least the audio track is faithful to the original film. Both the semi-original black and white cut and the colorized version features the same mono soundtrack. As a result, the dialog doesn’t seem to synch-up as well as it should in some scenes. It’s close, but just a tad off here and there. There is certainly nothing outstanding about this track, and the dialog is a bit on the fuzzy side, but the fact that it is something from the original release is a welcome offering under the circumstances.
Now, I have already let some of my feelings be known about the colorized version, but there is actually more bad news to share. Not only is the colorized version present on this disc, but it is presented in fullscreen to boot! The only reason that I can think of that the colorized version would be presented in fullscreen while the original black and white version is in widescreen is that the studio is trying to deter viewers from watching the fullscreen version. In my opinion, the best way to encourage viewers to watch the original black and white version is to offer only the original black and white version on the disc.
Of course, that’s not to say that the black and white version is particularly impressive, either. The entirety of the film has a nagging problem with screen flicker. Dust and other blemishes show up as well on a fairly consistent basis. While the black and white version of this disc has quite a poor transfer, it is certainly the lesser of two evils.
There are three extras on this disc, and none of them are too impressive. First up is a commentary track by actors Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, Tim Considine and Roberta Shore. While these actors represent some of the main characters in the film, they don’t exactly have the name recognition that one would hope to find in a commentary for a classic film. Personally, I would have rather have heard a track by a film historian than by this group of little-known actors. At least a film historian could provide some additional insight into the film’s contribution to cinema history, instead of just laughing at and commenting on the acting prowess of Fred MacMurry (referred to as “the greatest actor in history”) for an hour-and-a-half.
There are also two featurettes on the disc. The Shaggy Dog Kids consists of newly-conducted interviews with the kids from the film, just as it sounds. While the subjects don’t contribute a lot of information, it is always fun to see what actors from classic films look like today. The second featurette, Fred MacMurray – With Fondness, is a wonderful little segment that discusses what MacMurray was like as a man and as an actor on the set. He was something like the Tom Hanks of his day, and it is really nice to see him getting some recognition for being the wonderful and kind actor that he was.
It is a real shame when you get to the end of a review, and the best thing that you can say about the disc is that it had a set of extras that were marginal at best. The inclusion of the colorized version of the film is just an insult to serious film buffs, and the fact that the original theatrical version of the film is advertised but not actually included on the disc makes this disc the ultimate ploy for a tie-in buck. A quick search of Amazon.com let me know that the only way that consumers can obtain the true original cut of the film is to purchase it on VHS. Hopefully, consumers will pass on this half-hearted release and force Disney to release the complete original version of the film on DVD.
Special Features List
- Commentary by actors Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, Tim Considine and Roberta Shore
- The Shaggy Dog Kids featurette
- Fred MacMurray – With Fondness featurette