"THE SHAGGY DOG (1959)"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Fred MacMurray as WILSON DANIELS
    Jean Hagen as FREEDA DANIELS
    Tommy Kirk as WILBY DANIELS
    Annette Funicello as ALLISON D’ALLESSIO
    Tim Considine as BUZZ MILLER
    Kevin Corcoran as MOOCHIE DANIELS
    Roberta Shore as FRANCESKA ANDRASSY

    Rated G
    Studio: Disney

    Directed by: Charles Barton
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The original “The Shaggy Dog” was a milestone – not just for the Walt Disney studios, but also for Walt Disney the man. It was his first live-action movie he produced, and it eventually became one of the highest grossing films of the year.

Looking back on “The Shaggy Dog,” it’s a bit rough. It’s still hampered by the 1950s sensibilities of the industry, portraying the teenagers as the gee-whiz Jimmy Olsen types. However, there’s still a lovability about the piece.

Just in time for the release of the modern version with Tim Allen, Disney has re-released “The Shaggy Dog” on DVD. It’s “The Wild and Wooly Edition,” and the new subtitle basically justifies the new release. (I guess “The Cash In On the New Movie Edition” didn’t fly with the marketing folks.)

This was a movie not necessarily of a simpler time, but of a time that Hollywood presented as much more simple. The star and anchor of the film is Fred MacMurray, but the focus is actually Tommy Kirk as his son Wilby. It’s Tommy who is struggling to get the girl of his dreams and eventually transforms into a big shaggy dog.

The premise is pretty shaky, but what do you expect from a classic Disney film? Wilby visits a museum and accidentally takes home an ancient ring from Lucrecia Borgia. When the inscription on the ring is read, it transforms Wilby into the giant shaggy dog that lives next door.

The fluffy family movie takes a slightly darker turn as the dog version of Wilby overhears his neighbors plotting to steal a weapon from the U.S. military. Soon, the lighthearted teen comedy turns into a madcap chase.

Unlike “The Absent-Minded Professor” and “Son of Flubber,” this film sees MacMurray take a back seat to the action. He’s the one who doesn’t like dogs, but he’s not the one that is struck with the curse. Once he’s out of the picture, it turns into a comedy of kids, with Wilby trying to convince his brother Moochie (Kevin Corcoran) to help him out.

“The Shaggy Dog” is classic Disney. It’s a bit lost on the kids of today – especially the younger ones. But if you remember seeing the movie when you were young, it will be a nice bit of nostalgia.

Kirk and Corcoran have very nice chemistry together, which they discovered when they shot “Old Yeller” a couple years before. They ultimately went on to play on-screen brothers in a whole slate of Disney films. Corcoran is mercifully less annoying than he was in “Old Yeller,” but he still transfers that gee-whiz energy into a bit into a screeching voice. Actually, his funniest scenes are with MacMurray while they are at the Army headquarters trying to convince them that Wilby (as the dog) overheard spies.

The new DVD comes with two versions of the film – the original black-and-white release and the shorter, colorized version for television. I know that some audiences prefer color to the black-and-white, but the original release is far superior. The colorization process was pretty crude when it was run through, so the image isn’t nearly as crisp or as full as one might hope.

Featurettes include a tribute to Fred MacMurray as well as a spotlight on the kids from the film and how they grew up. Finally, an audio commentary is available for the theatrical release with Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, Tim Considine and Roberta Shore.



Specifications: Dolby Digital Mono Sound. Fullscreen (1.33:1). French language track. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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