It's not a bad movie but not the classic it could have been either. I'm glad I got to see it. Maybe someday Universal will release a cleaned-up version. Better yet maybe they'll release Flesh and Fantasy with the Destiny scenes Duvivier directed edited back in. I'd love to see that.
This is pretty weak. Preston Foster carries the movie more than his leading lady or supporting cast. Ann Rutherford had a lot of charms but this movie never really taps into any of them. In her best scenes she's just kind of there, bland and interchangeable with any of a dozen other B movie actresses of the time. In her worst scenes she's annoying and shrill. By the way, this was her only film released in 1944. It's one of only two Foster did that year. I found that interesting. The best of the supporting players is Jason Robards Sr. Richard Lane basically just plays a cop not too far removed from his most famous role as Inspector Farraday in the Boston Blackie series.
I was surprised to see this was made by 20th Century Fox. It looks kind of cheap with shabby sets and clothes. It looks more like it was made at a Poverty Row studio. None of the comedy works and the mystery story has no edge to it. There's also no chemistry between the stars. Foster was old enough to be Rutherford's father and looks it.
Forget all the Duel comparisons. There's no tension or suspense here. You don't really care what happens to anyone, you just want to laugh at it all, particularly Harper's character. This is a great watch if you go into it with the right mindset. Take it seriously and you're in trouble. Finally, one of the highlights for me is this exchange between Harper's character and a man who is a word we aren't allowed to use anymore - Man: "You're a nice lady." Our Heroine: "Do you have any money?"
The plot to this one has a mustacheless Leon Ames playing a cop trying to nab some gangsters and prove tough guy Knuckles (Dave O'Brien) is innocent of murder. Knuckles' younger brother is one of the street yutes that makes up our title gang. They help Ames prove Knuckles is innocent by nabbing the real killer, gangster Mileaway Harris (great name), played by Dennis Moore. Cheap-looking B movie that is surprisingly better than some of the later East Side Kids pictures, although that's nothing to brag about. Worth a look as a time-killer I suppose.
For the most part, I enjoyed this. It's not perfect, of course, and it doesn't compare to the animated Disney classic. It's not even the best of the Cannon Movie Tales series. But thankfully it's also not the worst. As with the others, the biggest issue (besides the low budget that means we have cheap sets and costumes and special effects) is that they take a short story and stretch it to the breaking point. The best part of the movie are the really cheesy songs, many of which are (unintentionally?) funny. The song about ripped pants (I kid you not) had me rolling. The cast does a fine job. Most of them are playing it up like they are in a kids movie. It's not very good but it's worth a look for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are the corny songs.
Of the stories, the best are Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria, The Pastoral Symphony, Rite of Spring, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Dance of the Hours. The other segments are all slight but enjoyable. There isn't a bad segment in this, unless we count the forgettable intermission.
This is not for all tastes, obviously. It's longer than need be and perhaps a bit boring for younger children. Still, there's no harm in trying to make them watch it. Maybe they'll love it. Even if they don't, I'm sure most adults with taste will. It's a beautiful work of art, regardless of the minor nitpicks I talked about earlier. The animation and combination of music and poetic imagery is just gorgeous. Given when this came out it's all the more impressive. Definitely worth a look, for Disney buffs and really for everyone.