We’re officially at the end of the 1980s! The Little Mermaid ushered in a string of hits, both commercially and critically, that would spark off the Disney Renaissance. From here on in, the studio was taken seriously, eventually working their way into the Academy Awards. The Little Mermaid is probably my favorite Disney movie. It’s the first one I saw, and the one I’m still able to quote incessantly, which is not to say that’s the story is perfect. The original story is downright depressing, and I won’t be inventing the wheel with my opinions against it, but seriously…the story is misogynist and a taste creepy. Regardless of all that, though, I adore this film. The perfect vocal cast, the introduction of catchy, Broadway-esque songs, and a love story supplemented by beautiful Disney animation. The Little Mermaid is a classic in my house, and always will be.
As a child, The Black Cauldron was the “red-headed stepchild” of the Disney canon. And not just the stepchild, we’re talking the stepchild you kept under the stairs! The movie was a commercial failure, and almost cemented the demise of Disney animation entirely. The problems with the film are myriad ranging from too many cooks in the kitchen, the jamming together of two epic novels into a 90 minute feature, and the overall fear of presenting a movie that was too dark/too intellectual for its target audience; I’m also tempted to say that Ralph Bakshi‘s 1977 animated adaptation of The Hobbit tread over much of the same material earlier. As a first-time viewer I knew this wasn’t for me. The 1980s were filled with fantasy sword and sandal epics which I’m not a fan of (see my review of The Sword in the Stone). As a whole, The Black Cauldron is ambitious and probably Disney’s sharpest divergence into darker waters, but the story is paper-thin with characters that are introduced, a flat-out MacGuffin and an ending that doesn’t belong with the movie. The movie is at the mercy of the those behind it, and I’ll detail the full-story below, but it’s a missed opportunity that feels unfinished.
We conclude our Topper trio with a look at the final, and weirdest installment in the series. Topper Returns is a Topper film in name only because our beloved wealthy leader is marginalized and reduced to befuddled detective in a movie that has nothing to do with any of the themes or characters set down in the first two movies. Topper Returns is a ghost story/murder mystery in the vein of The Woman in White. It’s a B-grade detective story and a C-grade Topper movie.
I’m in the midst of a Topper trio; reviewing all three films, in order. I re-posted my review of the first Topper film yesterday, and we continue with a look at the 1938 sequel, Topper Takes a Trip. This is the final film to have include the cast from the original – although Cary Grant only appears in footage from the earlier adventure – and is the one not available on DVD. I had to tape this during TCM’s Topper trio last month in order to get it. With that, Topper Takes a Trip starts the inevitable decline the series would take, before becoming a Topper story in name only with Topper Returns (but that’s a story for tomorrow). While Topper Takes a Trip continues to have the duo of Roland Young and Constance Bennett, the movie treads water and never coalesces into an actual story.
I’m running through all three Topper films, so today’s repost looks at my original review.
It’s easy to confuse today’s film with several others that deal with lovable spirits trying to make amends. When I sat down to watch Topper, and well into the film’s runtime, I compared it to the 1978 remake of Heaven Can Wait. Regardless of the comparisons I enjoyed Topper from beginning to end. Topper effortlessly mixes screwball comedy with a heartfelt message about living life to the fullest and boasts hilarious performances from Cary Grant, Constance Bennett, and Roland Young. So far, this is the ghost story I recommend seeking out and giving a shot. Continue Reading