Swiss Family Robinson (1960 USA)

sfrGorgeous production with Disney all-star-cast , funny sequences and spectacular adventures. The treatment of its subject (survival on a desert island) is overly wholesome and unrealistic of course. The family seems to be treating the whole situation like the perfect holiday. Even in the face of many hardships they all remain surprisingly cheerful. And the parents have an annoying habit of calling each other “Mother” and “Father”, even when they’re alone. But we must take it for what it is – good old fashioned, clean fun played out on a widescreen.

The plot is pleasingly simple. A Swiss family, formed by a father (John Mills), mother (Dorothy McGuire) and children (James McArthur, Kevin Corcoran, Tommy Kirk) must survive being shipwrecked on a deserted tropical island. As a family they seek to flee from Napoleon’s wars in Europe, set sail for New Guinea, but they become shipwrecks on an island. There they built an idyllic life, only to be confronted by a gang of pirates. Furthermore , they battle anaconda, a tiger, and finally dispatch a group of cutthroats. Meanwhile, they domesticate animals. Among the Robinson’s pets are: Duke and Turk the dogs, Rocky the elephant, Lightning the donkey, Clementine the ostrich, Duchess the Zebra and an anaconda who was actually pregnant during filming.

swiss-family-robinson-disneyscreencaps-com-1419The picture contains noisy adventures, emotion, stirring action and sensational outdoors. The film displays some scenes have you on the edge of your seat as the amusing images when the protagonists fight an anaconda and against a band of pirates. Excellent , powerful cast with sympathetic protagonists, many of them Disney ordinaries such as Janet Munro, James MacArthur. In fact, Dorothy McGuire, Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran had previously played a family in Disney’s Old Yeller. However, Tommy Kirk considered quitting at one point as he was so desperately homesick. Colourful cinematography reflects the marvelous landscapes by Harry Waxman. Filmed on location in the island of Tobago; although set in a tropical paradise, the filming was considerably hampered by almost constant rain.

Lively and evocative music by Willyam Alwyn. It has abundant special effects and some matte painting by Disney specialist Peter Ellenshaw. This was Walt Disney’s first film in Panavision. In fact this is one of Disney’s rare widescreen films, shot with Panavision lenses, previous widescreen efforts from Disney had usually been in CinemaScope. At the box office the film took roughly $40,000,000, around $367,000,000 in today’s money, making it one of the most successful family films ever made. It’s a must for the Disney fans but its hard to ignore some of the animal cruelty in some scenes that was typical of its time. But it’s mostly good entertainment, and with plenty of amusement. This was professionally directed by Ken Annakin, though the running time is overlong. It was stunningly realized in splendid style, all colour and action. It makes the prospect of being shipwrecked quite attractive.



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