Recommended 4 Stars

While Hugh Lofting’s wonderful Dr. Dolittle books go back to the 1920s (with additional tomes in 1933 and 1948) and took place during the early Victorian era in Britain — actually Puddleby-on-the- Marsh, in the West Country — I didn’t discover them until I was about ten.

And then devoured the entire series. I loved these books.

When the film arrived in 1967, I recall a screening at Fox in NY, and it was 70mm.

And magnificent.

As to the film, itself, it may have been a difficult task to translate. And I’d not seen it again until Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray arrived.

The film today, probably has a specialized audience.

Pre-teens, possibly, who read, and may be familiar with the Lofting works.

The film is a sweet production, filled with the innocence of childhood, and with the music of Leslie Bricusse, who also wrote the screenplay.

Anthony Newley, who knows how to sing Bricusse, is a featured player, along with Samantha Eggar and Richard Attenborough.

Does the film stand the test of time?

I’m not certain.

But what I can report, as an absolute, is that Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray, which includes some worthy extras, is a magnificent affair.

Color, grain structure (virtually invisible, do to the transfer element presumably being a 65mm IP), shadow detail, and overall resolution, are beyond reproach.

I’d really love to know what ten year-olds think of it today. Please do report back.

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Recommended

RAH

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atcolomb

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I believe after the movie finished playing in theaters it lost around 10 million dollars because it's high budget of $17 million which was three times the original planned. Big fan of Rex Harrison and have seen most of this films except this one which was not shown on tv or cable that much.
 
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JohnMor

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I have to admit, I have completely changed my view of the film due to this magnificent release. Not being a fan of the film since I tried to watch it decades ago, I bought it solely to support the Twilight Time release and the work that Fox put into the transfer. But I absolutely found it delightful. Looong, but delightful and never for a second boring. Even the score was much better then I remembered. I had always remembered "At the Crossroads," which I loved and remains my favorite song in the piece. The performers are all in top form and I will go so far as to say that Harrison is every bit as good as he was in "My Fair Lady," even while the character is not as well defined or sharply written. Even Anthony Newley, who I frequently find can be over-the-top in his musical performances was nicely restrained.

I certainly hope Fox will give similar time and effort to Robert Wise's wonderful "Star!"
 

Robin9

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This is a film I've never had any interest in seeing but after reading RAH's review, I going to buy this disc.
 
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Robert Harris

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I'm buying due to it being a quality release of a large format film. The movie itself has a few bright spots and it will be interesting to see whether my 10 year old son enjoys it.
I’d be most interested in your son’s reactions.
 
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PMF

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One thing is for certain, a 10 year-old's reaction to this Twilight Time BD will be far more responsive than any 10 year-old who ever got subjected to all those prior editions, since the home video market began. Thanks TT.:thumbs-up-smiley:
 
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rsmithjr

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I bought it for completeness of 70mm movies on Blu-ray and also my own memories.

The only time I saw this was when it opened in 1967 in San Francisco at a theatre on Market Street. The presentation was a road show with hard tickets and 70mm.

Hmmm. Rather boring I thought. I loved the photography by Robert Surtees and a few of the songs were OK. Probably not the right time or place for the film (San Francisco at the end of the Summer of Love?), and as a graduate student at Stanford, I was not the right audience anymore (if I ever was).

My reaction today is not that much better. I think it was not suitable for roadshow presentation, and should have been a 100-minute film of the sort Disney was making aimed at the family trade.

One of my strongest memories of that night is of the large, custom-made display in the lobby for Star! that was scheduled to open the following spring. Somehow I missed the 70mm presentation of that film then and have not managed to see it in 70mm to this day. I love the LD that I have of it and have seen it many times.

I guess I think that Dr. Doolittle was a part of the unwinding of the 70mm roadshow business. I was not to see another 70mm-photographed movie in new release in 70mm until 2001 in 1968, Patton in 1970, and after that, not until Far and Away in 1992. [Ironically, here we are at the end of the "film era" and finally getting some more attention paid to the quality of 70mm photography and exhibition: still the best solution.]

I do have a nine-year old grandson to whom I may show Dr. Doolittle but I doubt that it will be his cup of tea either. He is waiting for the new Star Wars movie right now.
 
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bigshot

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I was brought up on the Dr Dolittle books and read every single one of them. I was totally hyped about the movie and was excited to see it. Even before the movie came out, the music was all over TV. I had the soundtrack album and the Chipmunks Sing Dr Dolittle and I played them all the time. But I only saw the movie once and didn't want to see it again. Rex Harrison was nothing like the character in the books, and in the movie the only animal that really spoke was Polynesia the Parrot. The rest were just animals. I remember being ready for the movie to be over even before they set sail to find the sea snail. The second half of the film was a tough slog, just like the second half of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and to a lesser extent Mary Poppins. The idea of making a three hour movie for kids is just plain wrong headed.
 

Mike Frezon

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Who is this Dr. Doolittle everyone is talking about? :D

I always thought the illustrious Doolittle graduated from the same school as the well-known Doctor Who--where they insist that the honorific be spelled out! ;)



With everyone raving about this release, I think I'll buy in to support Twilight Time's work on this title, too.

It's been a while since I've seen this film...and I remember thinking (when I was much younger) that it wasn't all that great (even with "Talk to the Animals")...but, who knows, maybe it'll work better for me now.
 
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PMF

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I was brought up on the Dr Dolittle books and read every single one of them. I was totally hyped about the movie and was excited to see it. Even before the movie came out, the music was all over TV. I had the soundtrack album and the Chipmunks Sing Dr Dolittle and I played them all the time. But I only saw the movie once and didn't want to see it again. Rex Harrison was nothing like the character in the books, and in the movie the only animal that really spoke was Polynesia the Parrot. The rest were just animals. I remember being ready for the movie to be over even before they set sail to find the sea snail. The second half of the film was a tough slog, just like the second half of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and to a lesser extent Mary Poppins. The idea of making a three hour movie for kids is just plain wrong headed.
All movies that feature the movements of a snail are bound to require a longer running time.:)
 
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Bryan^H

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I don't want to sound too negative, but the average 10 year old of toady will get out their cell phone midway through the movie, and lose interest in it completely.
This comes from a lot of experience with young nieces, and nephews when their family attempts showing them a "classic" film.

I on the other hand will enjoy it I'm sure.
 

rsmithjr

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I don't want to sound too negative, but the average 10 year old of toady will get out their cell phone midway through the movie, and lose interest in it completely.
This comes from a lot of experience with young nieces, and nephews when their family attempts showing them a "classic" film.

I on the other hand will enjoy it I'm sure.
Probably right. My grandson carries around 3 devices at the same time.

The real test would be a 70mm print in a great theatre, but that is not an option, unfortunately.
 
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Bryan^H

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My brother says all the time that he feels bad because he can't force them to watch a classic movie, and a "family movie night" turns into a movie night for him and his wife, and gadget and device night for the kids. It is the world we created, I guess we have to deal with the consequences.
 
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MatthewA

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I couldn't be happier for this film's fans that they got the best possible Blu-ray and even an expanded soundtrack. I may even buy it just to see if my feelings about the film are the same as they were when I saw it in 70mm in 2005 at the Widescreen Weekend in Bradford, England. Now if only The Happiest Millionaire, also released the same year and my personal favorite out of the Hollywood musicals of 1967, could get that kind of treatment. Unfortunately, the studio that made it doesn't even believe its past live-action hits are worthy of anything but a new transfer.

I also keep forgetting Herbert Ross staged the numbers of this before doing the same for Funny Girl and becoming a director in his own right with Goodbye Mr. Chips.

All movies that feature the movements of a snail are bound to require a longer running time.:)
Before he became the voice of Garfield the Cat, Lorenzo Music floated the idea making a snail the subject of an animated movie to Disney legend Ward Kimball. Needless to say, he wasn't enthused.
 
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rsmithjr

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The sole and primary reason for having kids is to introduce them to classic films.:)
Tried that, it didn't work. Our older sun went to UCLA and then to Chapman ending with an MFA in film and video. This did not yield a career (anybody getting married?) so he went back to school for an MS in computer science is now very gainfully employed in Silicon Valley.

I spent a good deal of time taking him to kiddie movies of his choice, now he tries to take me. Classic films? No, not so much. He likes some of them but often misses the point IMHO.
 
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lionel59

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Does anyone knoe what will be on the extra disc TT are sending out later? Is it a cd with just audio outtakes or a dvd with edited footage? I believe the first tv showing included the prologue with Harrison riding a giraffe to extract an alligator's sore tooth. I would think that sequence must then still exist. As the poster art had him on the giraffe,a scene from this was inserted later in the film but there is a continuity error in Harrison's clothing which most don't notice.
Two excellent books dealing with the making of the film are PICTURES IN REVOLUTION by Mark Harris and ROADSHOW! by Matthew Kennedy. Richard Fleischer's autobiography is also informative.If I recall correctly, Samantha Eggar's character was originally only going to be romantically drawn to Newley's charactet, but Harrison insisted that she be also drawn to him and that he be given one of the love songs. I think this hurt the storyline somewhat and added a romantic confusion which was unnecessary and over the heads of the viewing kids. I was 8 when I first saw it and liked most of it but was somewhat disappointed. I am looking forward to the blu ray as I have the German one and it is lacklustre. Bravo to Fox for spending money to restore a movie which nearly sank them. I hope they do the same for STAR!, which has many virtues and is a better movie in my opinion.
Last point, ANY other song from the score was worthier of a Best Song nomination and it should have gone to the non-nominated To Sir With Love anyway.
 
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Thomas T

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I doubt there's a 10 year old today who wouldn't be bored to death by Doctor Dolittle. 10 year olds today are into the Marvel and DC universe. Maybe if it was animated, the 7 years old would go for it. 10 year olds today are bored with The Wizard Of Oz and The Sound Of Music, so poor Doctor Dolittle doesn't stand a chance. Although I'm closer to 110 than 10, I still love the film and appreciate TT's efforts in bringing the blu ray to fruition.