Fearing that his recently-acquired step-mother, Ann Dennis, is competing with him for his father's affections, and saddened by the death of his dog, young Danny Mitchell, in the first film ... See full summary »
Fearing that his recently-acquired step-mother, Ann Dennis, is competing with him for his father's affections, and saddened by the death of his dog, young Danny Mitchell, in the first film of the long-running "Rusty" series, seeks consolation in the companionship of a ferocious, Nazi-trained police dog, Rusty, brought to the U.S. by a returning WWII-veteran. The step-mother, with tender understanding, eventually wins Danny over while Danny pacifies his new dog. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Good family film released immediately post WWII...
...but set during the War as the first frame of the film reads "Spring of 1944" just so viewers wouldn't get confused about all the talk of Nazis five months after Germany surrendered.
The story is simple but well told - Danny Mitchell has been accustomed to living the bachelor life with his widower father Hugh Mitchell (Conrad Nagel), but the story opens on his Dad's wedding day. His bride to be, Ann (Margaret Lindsay), is anxious to win Danny over. In fact, she's a little too anxious as her bending over backwards just seems to have Danny acting out more. You see, he feels displaced after his Dad's marriage. At the same time Danny makes friends with and eventually gets to adopt a German Shepherd who actually is from Germany - Rusty. It's rather cute how the film parallels an eager Ann trying to win over a distrustful Danny with an eager Danny trying to win over a distrustful Rusty. They both go to the same local psychiatrist for help - separately of course - and both get the same advice.
In parallel with this story consisting of a slice of mid 40's Americana we have a couple of Nazi spies thrown into the mix who are hiding in the nearby woods. These guys are not portrayed as very bright considering they have been selected as spies since they don't seem to even get that discretion is the better part of valor. Translated that means that shooting at children will only rile the locals and probably means you'll be spotted and captured rather quickly. Remember, this was right after the war and feelings were still running high on the home front, thus the portrayal of the spies as violent buffoons and Rusty's initial vicious behavior being attributed to strict punishment which is described as part of standard dog training in Nazi Germany.
This is the only appearance of Margaret Lindsay or Conrad Nagel in the series, and they had seen more prominent days in the 30's over at Warner Brothers and MGM, respectively. But that is what Columbia seemed to do quite well in the 40's - find quality stars that had been passed over by their original studios and give them leading roles in their short B films to draw in audiences and give the productions polish.
I'd recommend this as a good example of a heart-warming family film that seems to hit all the right notes and talks about old-fashioned teamwork, friendship, parenting, and even child psychology without getting hammy.
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