In 1840s Boston when old man Flagg dies he leaves only debts behind. His grandson, Jack Flagg, dreamy and adventurous plans to run away from home and sneak aboard a sailing ship bound for gold-rich California. When his absence is discovered by his sister Arabella a frantic search ensues. Jack manages to board a California-bound ship where he meets crooked Judge Higgins and other characters. Fortunately for Jack his trusted and loyal butler, Bullwhip Griffin, has followed him on the ship. The two finally disembark in San Francisco and immerse themselves into the crazy world of California's gold rush. Jack Flagg's sister Arabella worries about her brother and decides to go to California herself to find Jack and their butler.Written by
The Adventures Of Bullwhip Griffin (James Neilson, 1967) ***
This is another fondly remembered Walt Disney live-action effort which I'd never watched: it's an episodic Western spoof set at the time of the California gold rush. The protagonists are an impoverished Bostonian family and their resourceful butler (an ideally-cast Roddy McDowall); the young son, obsessed with a legendary rugged cowboy figure called "Bullwhip", is prone to tall tales so that he makes up the mild-mannered Griffin to be as brave and experienced as his hero!
This eventually lands them in trouble with both con-man Karl Malden (who has a lot of fun with his role, which also allows him to don plenty of disguises) and saloon owner Harry Guardino or, more precisely, his imposing but dumb henchman (a typecast Mike Mazurki) whom McDowall fells with a lucky punch but which Guardino wants to turn to his advantage by organizing a boxing match between the two! The bout is delayed until the climax: in between, our heroes have several adventures as they make and lose a fortune in gold (following a map possessed by Richard Haydn who's constantly flaunting his theatrical background), with the wily Malden never too far off their trail. Suzanne Pleshette provides feminine interest and eye candy, though she doesn't quite cut it as a saloon chanteuse.
The film is a generous 110 minutes long (compounded by those relentless Sherman Brothers songs) but it's never less than enjoyable, with pleasant color photography and a barrage of technical gags (not just the animated titles but such oft-used devices as the subject of a portrait changing his expression, angels sounding their trumpets when someone is knocked-out, etc).
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