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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: "The Love Bug" Special Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)



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#1 of 32 Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 07 2003 - 08:41 AM

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The Love Bug
Special Edition







Studio: Walt Disney
Year: 1968
Rated: G
Film Length: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.75:1)
Subtitles: English



It's a Love-in for Herbie... the incredible
little car who shifts for himself!



I don't know why that it took me all these years
to finally watch Walt Disney's The Love Bug.
I would suppose that I had convinced myself that
this was a film I would never enjoy, and thus, I
totally removed myself from Herbie, the self-racing
Beetle and his career that spanned 5 films. Little
did I know that one day I would be faced doing a
review of the DVD.

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Racing driver Jim Douglas (Dean Jones)is a
derby car crash racer down on his luck, with
nobody willing to sponsor him. While visiting
the car showroom of Peter Thorndyke (David Tomlinson),
Jim discovers the car of his dreams that unfortunately
he cannot afford. Before leaving the showroom,
a Volkswagen suddenly appears, takes a liking to,
him and follows him home. To escape prosecution
by Thorndyke for grand theft auto, Jim is forced
to buy the Volkswagen and soon finds that the car
is acting with a mind of his own. His mechanic and
roommate Tennessee Steinmetz is the only person
that realizes that Herbie, the car, is alive.
Douglas enters the car in races and soon finds
that he and Herbie are becoming rising stars in
the circuit. Thorndyke becomes jealous of Herbie's
success and becomes determined to sabotage the
little car. Fortunately, Douglas has caught the
eye of Carol (Michele Lee), a sympathetic auto
salesperson who also happens to be an automobile
fanatic.

Posted Image

While doing a little background research on this
film, I was surprised to find the amazing history
of the film's director, Robert Stevenson. Here is
a man who has directed every major Disney live-action
film from 1957 on through 1976. His credits include
such films Old Yeller, The Absent Minded Professor,
Mary Poppins, The Shaggy D.A.
and Bedknobs
and Broomsticks
. Many of these films are personal
favorites of mine, and thus, I can see why I enjoyed
watching The Love Bug. Not only is this film
full of good ol' solid Disney magic -- but it also
provides a sort of window into the late sixties
period and its hippie peace-touting culture (most
evident in the film's first street race).

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Watching this movie, I couldn't help but identify
with the film's underlying message of a car searching
for acceptance and identity through its owner, only
to face initial rejection. In the end, the car and
its owner learn to depend upon each other, and thus,
a valuable lesson of life is learned. The moral?
Don't take people and things for granted.


How is the transfer?


In general The Love Bug is a very pleasing
transfer. The print is in good condition, though
there does seem to be a rather high blemish count.
I was very pleased with this Technicolor presentation.
Colors are faithfully reproduced and flesh tones look
quite natural. The majority of the film looks terrific
and mostly, the picture is crystal clear. There are
some problems here that I don't blame on the transfer,
but the ability of the DVD format to magnify defects
that were part of the print itself. For example,
there are several locational, effects and closeup
shots that look pretty bad. They come at many
intervals during the course of the film, and you
can't help but be disturbed by these shots that
look either abundantly grainy or slightly out of
focus. Fortunately, the rest of this transfer looks
so good, you can easily forgive these small problems.

Posted ImagePosted Image

The film has been remixed for a 5.1 Dolby Digital
presentation. The results are rather mixed. While
dialogue is very strong in the center channel, it
does manage to bleed through the fronts. Stereo
separation is very good -- especially with the
film's music soundtrack that seems to place itself
across the entire three front channels. The rears
don't seem to have much activity here, although
occasionally you'll hear an effect noise thrown
in or a bit of music wraparound. Despite the fact
the audio has some dynamic limitations, it sounds
rather good here.


Special Features


Disney has given The Love Bug their coveted
2-disc Special Edition treatment. There's a treasure
chest of material to be found here, so let me waste
no more of your time and get straight to it....

Posted ImagePosted Image

Disc One contains the entire feature
presented in a widescreen anamorphic ratio of
1.75:1.

The good news is that Disney has reunited the
film's major stars - Dean Jones, Buddy Hackett and
Michele Lee - for a full-length audio commentary.
The bad news is that Lee's commentary has been
recorded separately from that of the Hackett and Jones
teaming. This is a shame, because all of the
participants offer loads of personality to this
commentary, and having them all in one room together
would have made for some hilarious ad-libbing. Jones
and Hackett are quite enjoyable here, cleverly
playing off each other. They take us through many
of the film's locales, carefully pointing out what
is real and what is matte painted. They also talk
about the many versions of the Herbie car that were
used in the film (Jones still owns the original trick
car). At one point during this commentary, Jones
tells a story about meeting the late James Cagney
and that story rolls into many more where both
actors talk about some of the Hollywood legends
that they have worked with. Michele Lee shows a
lot of spunk in this track. She gives us the
lowdown on how Herbie was magically able to ride
without a driver. She also talks about her wardrobe
and the Disney rules of "kissing" and "fighting"
onscreen. From the moments of this commentary that
I sampled, I found it to be a highly energetic and
enjoyable listen.

Most welcomed here is the cartoon Susie -
The Little Blue Coupe
, an automotive riches
to rags story. The cartoon is presented full frame.


Let's move on to Disc Two....


In the same manner of 20,000 Leagues Under The
Sea
, the DVD begins with a wonderful animated
sequence that places you in an elevator taking you
to the lower depths of Disney's film vaults. Once
you pass the doors that guard The Love Bug
vault, you find yourself in a small screening room
that you can navigate through left and right, using
your remote.

Posted ImagePosted Image

That Lovable Bug is a wonderful little
featurette that reunites the cast for a trip down
memory lane. It begins with actor Dean Jones talking
about a car story script he personally handed
Walt Disney. Walt loved the script, but thought that
he could put a slightly different spin on it.
Unfortunately, it seems that Walt had died before
the film could be put into production, and it was
actually the team that came in during the studio's
transitional phase that went forward with the
script. If you can believe this, there was actually
a casting call to find the right car to represent
Herbie. With a dozen different cars to choose from,
it was the crew members on the Disney lot that chose
the Volkswagen. How did Herbie get its name? It
was actually derived from a joke that comedian
Buddy Hackett told. How about the number 53? Well,
it is thought it has to do something with the Pitcher
for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The rest of the
featurette gives us background on the film's
cast members and its timid director, Robert Stevenson.
You'll also be taken through the film's premier
and successful aftermath. In addition, there are
lots of zany stories from the cast and crew about
filming this movie. A real treat to watch!
(length: approx. 43 minutes)

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The many lives of Herbie is a fun little
featurette that gives us a history of the VW's
career through 5 films, including a look at the
various cast members and car stunts. Most
interesting here is the Herbie Day Parade that was
held at Disneyland in March 1969. Home Video
footage shows a swamp of VW entries that must be
seen to be believed!
(length: approx. 13 minutes)

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Herbie Mania puts us in touch with fans
who have purchased their own Volkswagens and touched
them up to resemble the original "53" mobile. You'll
have the opportunity to see these replications and
hear why they have brought so much happiness to
their owners.
(length: approx. 6 minutes)

Lost Treasures: Searching for Herbie takes
us through the many incarnations of The Lovebug.
Though the car was originally a 1963 ragtop sunroof
sedan Volkswagen, its style and colors changed
slightly over its film career.
(length: approx. 7 minutes)

Let's go to The Love Bug Production Archives...

Posted Image

Here you'll find still galleries filled with
Production Photos, conceptual art and
various storyboards. You can also browse
through pages of the original comic book.
Use your remote to leisurely browse through these
images.

Posted Image

More still galleries provide a look at posters,
merchandise, film premiere stills
and press
book clippings
.

There are extensive Biographies for actors
Dean Jones, Michele Lee, Buddy Hackett, David
Tomlinson and director Robert Stevenson. These
biographies don't just provide film credits --
they tell stories of that individual's career.

In addition to an original Radio spot, there
are two sound studios, Herbie on the Rocks
and Thorndyke and the Bear that allow you
to dissect various layers of audio that make up
the final composite of a scene.

A Production Gallery provides a montage of
storyboards, film and behind-the-scenes stills set
to the movie's whimsical soundtrack.
(length: approx. 2.5 minutes)

Posted Image

Imagine this! An original 1969 Behind-The-Scenes-
Promo
that shows how the film was promoted in
theaters. Reconstructed from surviving footage,
this is a rather interesting watch.
(length: approx. 4 minutes)

Posted Image

Love Bug Day at Disneyland takes us back to
March 1969 where hundreds of Volkswagen "bugs" from
all over the country came to the theme park to be
part of a grand parade. Come see all the entries!
(length: approx. 12 minutes)

Posted Image

The man who gave Herbie his voice takes
us through the creation of various sounds for the
Herbie films. You'll be amazed at the workings of
Disney's top sound designer, Jimmy McDonald, who
takes us through his warehouse of devices used to
create sounds. You'll also have the privilege of
seeing clips from classic cartoons that many of
McDonald's sound designs made famous. Cool!
(length: approx. 8 minutes)

Two deleted scenes are presented here.
Used Car Lot is an extension scene where
Jim visits a Used Car lot. Playground is
an addition to the film's ending where our
race-winning heroes discover Herbie playing
across the street with a bunch of kids. Since
footage of these scenes no longer exist, the
scenes are told through storyboards, surviving
stills, and text script.

Finally, the film's Theatrical Trailer
is included here.


Final Thoughts

Posted Image

It's sort of funny that The Love Bug went
from being a film I had avoided for many years to
a DVD I am placing on the Highly Recommended list.

This film is simple fun entertainment that will
satisfy the entire family. On the same token, with
all the never-before-seen extras, this DVD is a
dream-come-true for fans everywhere.

Another outstanding 2-disc release from Disney.


Release Date: May 20, 2003


All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 32 oscar_merkx

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Posted May 07 2003 - 08:48 AM

Thanks for the review Ron, I had forgotten about this release, so I will be getting this and 20000 Leagues at the same time

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#3 of 32 Jim-M

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Posted May 07 2003 - 09:11 AM

Thanks for the review Ron. I ordered this a few days ago and am looking forward to enjoying it with family. I'm hoping they enjoy it as much as I did when I saw it in the theater during its initial run.

#4 of 32 DaViD Boulet

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Posted May 07 2003 - 09:14 AM

Looks like loads of fun. Thanks for the Review Ron!

dave Posted Image
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#5 of 32 Randy Korstick

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Posted May 07 2003 - 09:23 AM

Good Review Ron. I'm glad you enjoyed the film. It looks like a great set with lots of extras. I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully the sequals will follow with decent transfers, although personally I would only buy the 1st two sequals: Herbie Rides Again and Herbie goes to Monte Carlo.
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#6 of 32 Chris Farmer

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Posted May 07 2003 - 10:38 AM

I remember being a little kid wasthing an old scratchy rented copy of the Love Bug, or our recorded copy of Herbie Goes Bananas (with notable skips where I paused for commercial breaks). Will be great to finally see this movie again now that I'm old enough to remember it, and in widescreen. This is the great thing about DVD, just like with my GBA, it's a chance to finally revisit my memories from my childhood. With my GBA it's all the old Nintendo and Super Nintendo games that I went to a neighbor's house to play and never actually beat, as my parents wouldn't elt me have one. With DVD it's watching all my favorite movies again when I'm old enough to understand them, and pick up on things I never did before (watching Roger Rabbit as an adult instead of a kid a couple months ago was shocking at all the dirty jokes I'd missed).

This one and 20k Leagues are mine on street date.

#7 of 32 TonyD

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Posted May 07 2003 - 10:43 AM

i cant wait one of my most lioved films when i was a kid, along with 20,000 leagues.

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#8 of 32 Gary->dee

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Posted May 07 2003 - 10:54 AM

I also grew up with the Herbie movies and in my case I saw them during their initial theatrical runs whilst growing up in Australia. Herbie The Love Bug is a good movie but I think Disney really went all out in terms of car stunts with Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes Bananas and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. It's a great series of movies to watch, especially for car lovers because the movies feature a lot of classic cars.

I wish I had the money to get a new off-white VW just so I can put a racing stripe down the middle and a 53 on the hood! Posted Image

#9 of 32 Adam_S

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Posted May 07 2003 - 11:39 AM

I can't wait to get this and 20,000 leagues. I bought all four of the two disc sets (Pollyanna, Swiss Family, Old Yeller, & Parent Trap) last May and my only regrets about this years crop is that there are only TWO! I was hoping that Treasure Island and Apple Dumpling Gang would have gotten similar treatments.

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#10 of 32 Tim Glover

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Posted May 07 2003 - 12:10 PM

I was such a young lad when this came out...but remember it fondly when it made it's run on The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday evenings. Great fun and I'm all over this one! Posted Image Nice review Ron.

#11 of 32 streeter

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Posted May 07 2003 - 12:53 PM

Thanks for reviewing this title, Ron. I'll be picking this and 20,000 leagues up on street date.
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#12 of 32 Tony Scello

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Posted May 07 2003 - 01:14 PM

Thanks for the great review Ron. This is by far my 5 year old son's favorite movie. He watches the rather crappy VHS version of this film almost every day. We recently saw one of the VW Beetles used in "Herbie Goes Bananas" in a Planet Hollywood and it was if he had died and gone to heaven. I'm looking foward to replacing that dreadful VHS tape with, what looks to be, another outstanding Disney DVD package.
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#13 of 32 Kenneth Cummings

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Posted May 07 2003 - 01:34 PM

Hmmm, you might have motivated me to watch this. I never cared for Herbie, just like did before me. But this might change things once I pick this dvd up. And great review Ron, it a pity you must end these soon. Posted Image
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#14 of 32 BarryR

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Posted May 07 2003 - 02:55 PM

I recall the laughter of thousands of people in Radio City Music Hall in NYC, where I saw THE LOVE BUG in 1969. A fond memory of this film.

Yes, I agree it's quite sad about Ron foregoing reviews--he should select one or two special titles per month.

#15 of 32 John Kilduff

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Posted May 07 2003 - 03:53 PM

I'm definitely getting this DVD...

I'm a life-long fan of Herbie. I first saw this film when I was about 5 or 6 years old, and I was hooked on everything from the demolition derby at the beginning to the final race hither, thither and yon.

I even have an autographed photo of Dean Jones in character (He wrote a nice greeting, mentioned my name, and [this was probably because my Mom sent it to his address, so she told him] it ended with him signing "Herbie says Hi, too")

Sincerely,

John Kilduff...

What was that musical Jones did..."Company"? I may have to look into that soundtrack.
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#16 of 32 Rob T

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Posted May 07 2003 - 04:36 PM

This will be mine. Posted Image

#17 of 32 Christian Preischl

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Posted May 07 2003 - 08:33 PM

John,

Quote:
I even have an autographed photo of Dean Jones in character (He wrote a nice greeting, mentioned my name, and [this was probably because my Mom sent it to his address, so she told him] it ended with him signing "Herbie says Hi, too")

Oh my God, that is so cool! Any chance you could scan that baby and share it with the community? Posted Image

It's great to see the film get the special edition it deserves. Disney already released this in Europe a few years ago, with no extras and FS. Obviously I didn't even consider buying it. I'm really looking forward to this set.

Chris

#18 of 32 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted May 08 2003 - 01:28 AM

This sounds great. My only worry is that after seeing it I might be jonesing for more Dean Jones Disney nostalgia and be tempted to pick-up the "foolscreen" DVD of "Snowball Express". I will try to resist. Posted Image

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#19 of 32 Greg_M

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Posted May 08 2003 - 03:49 AM

From the Believe it or Not, According to Variety (Jan 1970), "The Love Bug" was the top grossing film for 1969

#20 of 32 Greg Stanford

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Posted May 08 2003 - 05:20 AM

Thanks for the great review Ron!!!!

I can't wait to pick this one up. I saw this as a child at a drive-in out here in Southern California.


Looking forward to your next "Love Bug" review!!!!

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