- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
Perhaps the finest family adventure film ever turned out by Walt Disney, Swiss Family Robinson takes only a few of the basics from the original novel by Johann Wyss and instead constructs its own devilishly entertaining tale of survival populating it with a raft of interesting people, animals, and conflicts of every description. Though over two hours, the film doesn’t drag and is so packed with content that repeated viewings yield even greater pleasures.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 2 Hr. 6 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 06/01/2015
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Leaving behind their Swiss home with Napoleonic wars raging all around for a new start in New Guinea, the Robinson family is left stranded in a sinking vessel during a tropical storm which forces the crew to abandon it after the ship they were traveling on was being chased by pirates. Left are the father (John Mills) and mother (Dorothy McGuire) along with their three sons: man-of-action Fritz (James MacArthur), man of intellect Ernst (Tommy Kirk) and mischievous younger brother Francis (Kevin Corcoran). Encountering all kinds of wild animals from tigers to elephants to zebras and many different kinds of terrain, the family carves out a pleasant life for themselves but is always fearful of the return of the pirates led by the bloodthirsty Kuala (Sessue Hayakawa). When Fritz and Ernst take off in a makeshift skiff to circumnavigate the island, they run into the pirates who have Captain Moreland (Cecil Parker) and his disguised-as-a-boy daughter Roberta (Janet Munro) tied up. The boys are able to rescue her and bring her back home but not without a serious sibling rivalry springing up between the brothers for the lady’s hand.
Lowell S. Hawley’s screenplay is filled with incident and with the tropical island of Tobago offering real-life locations of majestic beauty and tantalizing mystery, it was a wise idea for Disney to abandon the original book and concoct its own plot (the book covers a period of over ten years; the movie covers maybe a year), and though the string of adventures eventually comes to a final showdown with the pirates that’s been building from very early in the movie, most of the movie concerns the work and the play that the survivors make for themselves on the island. The astounding treehouse that they construct is such a fascinating construct (reminiscent of the treehouse Tarzan eventually builds for Jane in MGM’s film series), and the games they play together as a family, whether they be swinging on vines across a deep pool, skidding down waterfalls, or a climactic race with all of the island’s wild animals (Ernst on an ostrich, Francis on his baby elephant, Fritz on a burro, Roberta on a zebra) are completely entertaining. The dangers with tigers, a particularly nasty anaconda, and some malicious hyenas also keep pulses racing and the entertainment quotient high. And nothing beats the series of safeguards and booby traps the family builds to protect themselves during the final onslaught by the pirates. If perhaps the sibling rivalry for the affections of Roberta goes on a bit long, especially when it’s very obvious early-on which one she prefers, it’s the movie’s only slight stumble. Director Ken Annakin captures the beauties and the dangers of this paradise in glorious widescreen splendor and uses every inch of the frame to make sure all of the physical effort of survival isn’t seen as just a lark. It’s obviously hard work, and it looks it.
John Mills anchors the picture as the elder Robinson, feet planted firmly on the soil and determined to survive no matter what. Dorothy McGuire adds another deeply caring mother portrait to her portfolio, and both James MacArthur and Tommy Kirk excel as the two older brothers. Janet Munro makes just about the least convincing boy imaginable during her early scenes in disguise but blossoms later in the movie when she can be herself. Kevin Corcoran is the all-boy, all-the-time character that he played in many Disney projects in this period. Sessue Hayakawa makes a most threatening and treacherous-looking Asian pirate with Milton Reid and Larry Taylor as other notable brigands. Cecil Parker has a couple of noteworthy scenes as the wealthy English captain whom the pirates could use for ransom.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The film’s original Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is outstanding for most of the film, and color and brightness are much superior to the Vault Disney special edition release on DVD. Flesh tones are true, and color is almost always under control with only one brief moment of color pulsing witnessed. Contrast is much more consistent in this transfer than on the DVD. The movie has been divided into 18 chapters.
Audio Rating: 4/5
There is no lossless sound mix offered here. Instead, the Blu-ray features a midrange bitrate Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix which Dolby Prologic decodes into the center channel. The dialogue (almost all of which had to be post synched after the film’s completion) sounds amazingly natural and does not fight for recognition with the background score of William Alwyn or the atmospheric effects of the island location with the sea, the wind, and the many animal sounds which predominate. No age-related artifacts like hiss or crackle are present to mar the listening experience.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
There are no bonus features offered on this specialty Blu-ray disc.
Overall Rating: 4/5
A terrifically entertaining adventure tale for the whole family, Swiss Family Robinson makes a beautiful high definition disc. The audio commentary and other bonus features on the Vault Disney DVD release are much missed, but if the movie is all you’re interested in, it receives a very good rendering here. This movie is offered as part of the Disney Movie Club (www.DisneyMovieClub.com) though you can certainly find it offered for sale with varying premium prices at Amazon (see below) and through other marketplace sellers. Recommended!
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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