The Absent Minded Professor Review

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ken_McAlinden, Sep 9, 2003.

  1. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Since DaViD did not receive a screener of this title, and some forum members were curious about it, I thought I would post a review to fill the gap and generate discussion

    The Absent Minded Professor

    Directed By: Robert Stevenson
    Starring: Fred MacMurray, Nancy Olson, Keenan Wynn, Elliot Reid, Tommy Kirk

    Details/Specs

    16:9 Enhanced Widescreen
    Black & White
    Languages: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English & Spanish
    Subtitles: English Captions (via player subtitles and/or CC)
    Running Time: 95 minutes
    Disc Type: Single Layer
    Release Date: September 2, 2003
    MSRP: US$19.95

    The Film

    A very amusing Disney entry from 1961. It features Fred MacMurray as a physical chemistry professor whose chief vice is described in the film's title. A laboratory accident causes him to miss his wedding date for the third time, but also results in his discovery of a remarkable new type of rubber that seems to violate the laws of energy conservation.

    During the course of the film, he manages to devise several novel applications for the flying rubber, which he dubs "flubber". His efforts to explain his new invention are complicated by his fiance (Nancy Olson), who is refusing to speak with him and starting to go out with an English professor (Elliott Reid) from a rival University, and a wealthy alumnus investor (Keenan Wynn), who wants to exploit flubber for his own personal financial gains. Tommy Kirk, of the Mickey Mouse Club, plays Wynn's teenage son who recently flunked one of the professor's courses.

    The plot is straightforward, almost to a fault, but there are some amusing contrivances and impressive special effects including a high-jumping basketball contest and a flubber-enhanced Model T.

    The film was a modest box-office success in 1961 and was followed by a sequel, "Son of Flubber" that reunited every major cast member. It was remade twice, once as a 1988 TV movie starring Harry Anderson, and then in 1997 as the Robin Williams vehicle "Flubber".

    The DVD

    Video: There is little to complain about with this presentation. Despite being a single layer disc, Disney has allocated the bits necessary to do a top-flight compression job on a very nice transfer. Disney has even eschewed the usual barrage of trailers. After the FBI warnings, the film menu comes up immediately. Because of the way opticals were handled in the late 50s/early 60s, there is a slight drop-off in picture quality for the scenes immediately preceding and following fades and dissolves, and some of the special effects scenes, but with that small caveat, this is a remarkably detailed black and white transfer with good shadow detail and little evidence of print damage. I saw no signs of edge enhancement, but I was watching on a 36" 4:3 direct view set with a 16:9 mode enabled, so it's possible that I missed some.

    Audio: The 2.0 mono soundtrack is also better than I expected. There is surprisingly good bass extension and good dynamic range. The high frequencies do not extend as far as modern releases, but I was very impressed with the sound quality. The Spanish dub I sampled sounded like it was recorded more recently and had a better high end on the dialog, but it also sounded kind of disembodied from the rest of the mix.

    Extras/Miscellaneous: There are no extras of any kind on this release. There are also some errors on the packaging. The back cover says that the film has been reformatted to fit your screen (it hasn't, although it may just fit your screen, anyway. [​IMG]). It also says that there is a stereo surround soundtrack (it's 2.0 mono as it should be)

    Danger! Danger!: Avoid the colorized pan & scan release/atrocity that is also on store shelves. The packages are easy to distinguish since the black & white one features a black and white picture on the front cover while the bowlderized version has a color photo on the front cover.

    In summary, this is not the most important film in the history of cinema, but it is an entertaining film with a talented cast that you can enjoy with your whole family. There are plenty of laughs for both kids and adults and some state of the art optical and practical effects that are pretty impressive by 1961 standards. The DVD, while as bare bones as bare bones can be, sports an impressive audio and video transfer that does justice to the film and serves as a fitting penance for Disney's earlier ill-advised treatment of this film on DVD.

    Regards,
     
    Robin9 likes this.
  2. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    For the record:
    Good: [​IMG] Evil: [​IMG]

    Regards,
     
  3. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review, Ken. Isn't it great that Disney is finally listening to consumers?
     
  4. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    Something worth mentioning here -- this movie's ratio is 1:66:1, which is always the odd ratio out. Meaning, a movie like Giant wasn't given an enhanced transfer, but this one was. Kudos to Disney for that.

    But the movie begs the question, why was it filmed in black and white? I can't think of any other Disney movies from the time period in black and white. Did they think it would have its biggest audience on television? (The Disney show was already in color by this time, 1961). Or perhaps, it as easier to camofluage the special effects (i.e., wires) in black and white.

    Anyway, it is a terrific comedy, and a terrific DVD.
     
  5. Rodney

    Rodney Supporting Actor
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    I have always heard that the reason it was done in B&W was because of the costs of the special effects.

    Kudos to Disney for correcting their earlier mistake, and allowing us to purchase this film in the proper OAR and the proper shades of grey!
     
  6. jonathan_little

    jonathan_little Stunt Coordinator

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    This film is a great memory from my childhood and I'm happy to see it given a proper treatment on DVD. [​IMG]
     
  7. Jeff Swearingen

    Jeff Swearingen Second Unit

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    Has anyone seen this in a B&M?
     
  8. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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  9. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    One bit of trivia I left out of my review is that this film features both Keenan Wynn as "Alonzo Hawk", and, in a cameo near the end of the film, his father Ed Wynn as the town fire chief. Keenan, of course, is everybody's favorite hater of things preverted (Colonel Bat Guano from "Dr. Strangelove..."). Ed Wynn was sort of Walt Disney's "good luck charm". He was the voice and caricature reference for The Mad Hatter in Disney's "Alice in Wonderland", and appeared in several live action Disney productions, usually in comic cameos, through the 60s.

    Regards,
     
  10. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I finally got a chance to watch this last night. What a wonderful presentation of a treasure from long ago.

     
  11. jonathan_little

    jonathan_little Stunt Coordinator

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    I finally picked this up a few weeks ago and it looks great. The only nitpick I could find about the video is that whatever digital magic they applied to the film seems to have messed with the fades. Instead of smooth fades to black, they're more of a flickery process as if a computer was attempting to normalize the brightness and contrast.
     
  12. Kyrsten Brad

    Kyrsten Brad Screenwriter

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    Brad here. Well did a search on this title and found this old thread (properly titled) so I thought I'd bring it back up as I just viewed my new DMC Blu-ray of The Absent-Minded Professor (1961). Since Ken already covered the movie quite well, I'll just chime in with my opinions & technical (or what passed from me for techincal) aspect of this Blu.

    In short, this Blu rendered fantastic PQ. Much better PQ that previous home-video presentations and the closest to what you'd get in a properly-done theatrical presentation. In films like this (B&W classics), I've notice a definite PQ difference in the film itself from the movie trailers (Interesting).
    One reviewer here noted that this film was done in B&W at a time when most film productions had moved to color filming (with a few noted exceptions, i.e. Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965). Why Disney went with B&W is a subject of speculation, one being that B&W supposedly hides the zero-G wires needed. But I seem to remember some of the Three Stooges B&W shorts required zero-G wires and those were plainly visible, even on VHS. Conversely one would really notice the marionette wires in the Gerry Anderson authored Thunderbirds shows (especially on the TV versions, not nearly as much on the Twilight Time movie release).

    As for the movie itself, this was my first ever viewing of this film straight thru and as usual left me saying, "why don't they make films like this anymore?". This was an outstanding Disney presentation which would leave most viewers smiling from ear to ear and a big addition to my Blu-ray library.
     
    Jack K, David Weicker and RMajidi like this.

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