The main pleasures to be lifted from F. Hugh Herbert’s Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! can certainly be found in its talented cast which includes two Oscar-winning character actors even when they are involved in a simple-minded script that concentrates on broad brushstrokes of plotting and characterization. Filmed in Technicolor (of which there are only faint resemblances in the compromised Eastmancolor elements Fox has left itself with) and with some arresting views of farms and streams which bring the rural story into clear focus, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! makes for passable entertainment.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 35 Min.
Package Includes: DVDAmaray case
Disc Type: DVD-R
Release Date: 04/15/2014
Farm boy Daniel 'Snug' Dominy (Lon McCallister) is pretty much run out of his own home when his henpecked father (Henry Hull) reenlists in the Navy and his malicious stepmother (Anne Revere) refuses to feed or provide for him. He gets work at the neighboring McGill farm and a place to stay with his father’s best friend Tony Maule (Walter Brennan). Mr. McGill (Tom Tully) buys two mules who refuse to be trained by him with his short temper and brutal tactics, but Snug makes a deal to buy the mules from him for $20 down and $5 a week from his pay for a year’s work. Snug and Tony have such a way with mules that they’re soon proving their worth and making McGill sorry he ever parted with them. Snug’s bullying stepbrother Stretch (Robert Karnes) in league with McGill has a plan to trick the mules out of Snug’s possession, but eavesdropping and help from McGill’s two daughters, older daughter Rad (June Haver) and younger daughter Bean (Natalie Wood), alert Snug to the plots against him, and he takes matters into his own hands.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
Writer-director F. Hugh Herbert adapted the story from George Agnew Chamberlain’s novel (the film’s title is an epithet called in mule training that seems to spur them on to great accomplishments), but the characters are all fairly one-dimensional creations easily delineated between good and evil, and the plotting is fairly mundane, too. There’s tiresome romantic nonsense as Rad flirts with the rugged, egotistical Stretch in order to tweak Snug’s jealousy and make him show more overt interest in her, and the character of Bean is one of those pre-schoolers who is far more intelligent and insightful than any of the adults she’s forced to be around. Hugh Herbert’s direction is straightforward and unfussy: the inevitable fight between the two stepbrothers isn’t choreographed all that well especially since Stretch would seem to be powerful enough to squash Snug with the toe of his boot but the combat can’t end that way in terms of the plot, and a montage where the mules are being worked well gets the job done but isn’t as exciting or as involving as it might have been.
Though she’s top billed (over the title), June Haver really spends a good chunk of the movie off screen as the love interest of one of the film’s real stars. The actual stars of the picture are Lon McCallister as the upbeat Snug and Walter Brennan as his surrogate father Tony. The two have an engaging relationship as Tony teaches Snug the ways of muling and then takes pride in his accomplishments. Their camaraderie is really the cornerstone of the movie. Natalie Wood gets another early showcase role as the precocious daughter (“Why aren’t you in school?” the father constantly barks at her little realizing she’s far wiser to the ways of the world than anyone else in the movie). Tom Tully’s Robert has a screen nickname “Roarer,” and it certainly fits as he spends easily his first ten or fifteen minutes on the screen bellowing at anyone and everyone who crosses his path in tedious fashion. Anne Revere is the detestable stepmother in a very stereotypical character performance, and equal to her evil is Robert Karnes as her shifty, scheming son. The film is also famous for offering Marilyn Monroe’s first screen appearance as a local farm girl, but you’ll have to look quick and fast to spot her as most of her work was left on the cutting room floor.
The film’s original 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced here. Fox has obviously spent time and money cleaning up this film because the resultant transfer here is spotless with no age-related dust or dirt and no reel change cues in evidence. Sharpness is outstanding, too, but the Eastmancolor elements they have to work with produce compromised, erratic color pigments. While outdoor scenes are bright and generally feature vivid reds, softly blue skies, and average greens in the grass and foliage, indoor scenes are far less appealing with unappealingly milky contrast, weak black levels, and chalky, unnatural color. Skin tones outside are generally pale but more than acceptable, but it’s certainly not the rich Technicolor look one would long for in a farm-set comedy-drama such as this one. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes so there are 10 chapters present.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The volume level of this, as with so many other Fox Cinema Archive releases, is set too high and requires adjustments to prevent distortion. Otherwise, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is clear from age-related problems with hiss and other noise, and dialogue is always easy to understand. Cyril Mockridge’s score and the sound effects mix harmoniously with the dialogue to present an enjoyable mono track typical of its era.
Audio Rating: 4/5
There is no bonus material on this made-on-demand disc.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! may not have the most felicitous name for a movie, but it’s a pleasant if unremarkable little comedy-drama with a surprisingly strong cast of talented and well-known actors. This Fox MOD release shows a surprising amount of care that went into its mastering for such a clean, artifact-free release. For that reason alone, this disc stands out from many entries in the Fox Cinema Archives program.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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