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Angela Lansbury stars in Robert Stevenson's movie about a novice witch who's been taking witch lessons in rural England that turn out to have simply been pages torn out of an old book a conman (David Tomlinson) found for sale in London. It is 1940 and Miss Price (Angela) has taken in three children from London (as in the opening scene in the Chronicles of Narnia). It turns out to have been a genuine magic book so she and Mr. Browne and a couple of kids go off on a flying bed to the magic kingdom of Naboombu under the ocean where fantasy animals rule (mixing live actors and animation as Disney did previously in 1964's Mary Poppins and later licensed some of their cartoon characters to the live action/animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit), looking for a magic amulet she needs to make a magic spell work. They are pulled out of the water by a cartoon bear (voice of Dal McKennon, similar to the bear in 1967's animated Jungle Book movie voiced by Phil Harris) onto an island where cartoon animals rule. The animals play soccer, then the animal king gives her the amulet he's wearing and they head back to WW2-era England, where Miss Price wants to use magic to stop a planned Nazi invasion by raising a ghost army using artifacts in a local castle. It turns out that Sam Jaffe in London has the other half of the magic book, which completes the story. During the night, a German raiding party invades Miss Price's house--she and the children are taken to the village armory/museum. There, she uses the spell to reanimate the ancient artifacts. So we have:® for Best Visual Effects and was nominated for Best Art/Set Decoration, Costume Design, Song & Song Score/Adaptation. Originally released at 117 minutes, it was later re-issued at 98 minutes (the version most ofter seen on broadcast tv), then in 1996 a director's cut at 141 minutes that Leonard Maltin says has “more (longer) songs, clearer plot, and more of a part for McDowall.” Roddy was a bit more cynical in Fright Night. In 2001, additional songs that had been cut before the film's release were reconstructed and added back in for the DVD release, as well as changing it back to stereo (it was released to theaters in mono to save money). Roddy and Angela were even hired to come back and replace some of the dialogue missing from the cut scenes that were missing a soundtrack. The DVD also includes the song "A Step in the Right Direction" which was cut before release so no footage existed for the director's cut. Joe Bob Briggs review of Fright Night and Fright Night 2
Nazi invasion (actually I only saw one rubber raft come ashore from the submarine but we'll take the movie's word for it)
Angela Lansbury riding a broom
Roddy McDowall looking surprised
Sam Jaffe with frizzy hair
And of course cartoon animals playing futball (referred to by the British actors in the film as soccer, since it was filmed here in America)
My favorite scene is when the Nazi machine-gunner is blasting away at the haunted suit of armor near the end and the haunted suit of armor walks up to him, takes off a leg, pours out the bullets, and whacks the Nazi machine-gunner on the head with it, killing him. Actually, he probably just knocks him out. No one dies in a Disney movie, not even a Nazi machine-gunner. In fact, the island was that of cannibals in the original book, not cute animated animals, but this is a Disney fantasy after all so the cannibal island of Ueepe became Naboombu. David Tomlinson is a happy-go-lucky guy in this film, but more people recognize him from Mary Poppins (in which he played the kids' humorless banker father) and The Love Bug (in which he played an outright villain, inspiring the villain-character in the recent animated movie Cars). The only spell Miss Price has mastered for most of the movie is turning people into rabbits, which she does to Mr. Browne when he gets annoying. Rated G in U.S./Canada, Australia & New Zealand. Rated U (whatever that means) in Great Britain. Filmed at Disney Studios in California, the castle scenes were filmed on location in Dorset, England.
Miss Hobday: Tessie O'Shea
Col. Heller: John Ericson
Rawlins children: Ian Weighill, Roy Snart and Cindy O'Callaghan
Directed by Robert Stevenson, animation by Ward Kimball (Disney's Jungle Book, Jumbo, numerous others). Both this film and Mary Poppins had the same Director, Art Director and Music Director.
A few too many songs (by the Sherman brothers Richard & Robert, who also did the songs for Mary Poppins including The Beautiful Briny Sea, originally written for Mary Poppins but not used in then), but it got the Academy Award