Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Monday, January 19, 2015

101 Dalmatians

Year: 1961
Running time: 79 minutes
Certificate: U
Language: English
Screenplay: Bill Peet
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton S. Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
Starring (voices): Rod Taylor, Cate Bauer, Betty Lou Gerson, Ben Wright, Lisa Davis, J. Pat O'Malley, Martha Wentworth, Dave Frankham, Fred Worlock

Pongo, Perdita and the pups indulge in the age-old American
past-time of watching TV.
101 Dalmatians, like most classic Disney, is an wonderful example of remarkable artistry being used to entertain children in a way that, for a long time, possibly not until Studio Ghibli, and then Pixar, no other movie studio could hope to match. Having said that, following the commercial failure of the ambitious Sleeping Beauty, a cheaper animation technique was developed for 101 Dalmatians, and while it certainly looks rougher around the edges than some of its fellow classics (Walt Disney hated the look), it still retains a certain charm and in fact stands out somewhat because of it.

Bored dalmatian Pongo (Rod Taylor) decides that his bachelor owner Roger (Ben Wright) needs some companionship, so he engineers a meet-cute with Anita (Lisa Davis) and her dalmatian Perdita (Cate Bauer). Before long the four of them are living happily together and Pongo and Perdita have a litter of 15 puppies. Enter one of the most memorable and dastardly Disney villains Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson), who wants the pups for herself so she can turn them into a new coat. Bumbling henchmen Horace (Fred Worlock) and Jasper (J. Pat O'Malley) are tasked with keeping watch over the abducted pups while De Vil gathers enough for her new coat.

"Dah-ling!" The undisputed star of the movie makes her entrance.
There are some really lovely touches in the writing, such as the film starting with Pongo on voice-over duties referring to Roger as his pet, and the animal-emergency-broadcast system. Making use of this ingenious communication system, Pongo and Perdita, with the help of heroic cat Sgt. Tibs (Dave Frankham) manage to recover not only their own 15 puppies, but a total of 99, with Pongo and Perdy themselves making up the 101 of the title. The escape is followed by a mad race to safety with Horace, Jasper and the bananas De Vil in pursuit. This animated incarnation of De Vil is gloriously bonkers and is among the very best Disney villains - Glenn Close never had a chance in the inferior 1996 live action remake (is it a good thing or a bad thing that so many of the best Disney villains are female? – see also Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid).

Not among Disney's very best, but that is no easy task, and in Cruella De Vil it has a villain that makes it much more memorable that it might otherwise have been.

Score: 7/10

Classic Disney never really loses its charm, as evidenced by this review by Pete. While this review from Eric at Slant Magazine shows a fair bit of contempt for much of Disney's back catalog, Cruella De Vil makes the film for him as she does for me.