Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Live-action Edition. No Deposit, No Return

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

We here at Building Entertainment would like to acknowledge the passing of Russi Taylor who voiced the role of Minnie Mouse since 1986.

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Title: No Deposit, No Return

Year: 1976

Plot: Siblings Tracy and Jay begin their Easter holidays with disappointment as they hear their mother, Carolyn, whom they had expected to pick them up from school, is instead in Hong Kong. Before she left, she made plans that the two children spend the vacation with their grandfather, Los Angeles billionaire J.W Osborne. Neither the children nor Osborne are enthused. Osborne, who has had bad experiences with the children, takes steps to ensure the same level of chaos is not repeated.

 

During the plane trip, Jay realizes he has mislaid his pet skunk, Duster. In the horror and panic ensuing from the loss, Osborne’s loyal butler, Mr. Jamieson, fails to meet them at the airport, and the children make their escape in a taxi. Meanwhile, at the same airport, safe-crackers and robbers Duke and Bert sneak their way into the airport offices to crack the airport safe. However, after opening it, Bert accidentally locks it. Out of time, they escape out of the airport, only to discover their escape vehicle has been towed. They scramble for a taxi, shared with Tracy and Jay.

At Duke and Bert’s apartment, Duke attempts to shake them off but, through Tracy’s excellent play acting, his better nature prevails and he invites the children to spend the night. Unawares to the children, Osborne caught sight of them as they left the taxi, and followed them all the way to Duke and Bert’s. Because the children appear to be in no immediate danger, Osborne leaves them where they are. The next day, Tracy devises a plan to follow Carolyn to Hong Kong in which they pay for their plane travel by mailing Osborne a fake ransom note, demanding $100,000 by 4:00pm that same day.

Meanwhile, Duke and Bert receive a visit from Big Joe, a local gangster to whom they owe money. The amount owed has shot up considerably since the three last spoke, and Joe reminds Duke he has 72 hours to pay it back. Desperate, they go along with Tracy’s plan but fail to get any money, as Osborne knows about the scam. Tracy does not give up and makes a bogus call to the police insinuating a kidnapping. This puts Sergeant Turner on the case, an officer hell-bent on catching Duke, who is known for the safe-cracking method and for having not stolen anything. It also brings Carolyn back to America, demanding an explanation as to how the children have gone missing.

Time is running out for Duke and Bert. After several negotiations, the ransom is considerably lower, and a meeting is arranged by the docks, exchanging money for the children. However, the police only have ideas of catching the kidnappers and are completely unaware Osborne knows the children’s location. Duke clocks on to their plan before they are caught, and a frantic car chase through the docks ensues. Carolyn leaps into the back of Duke and Bert’s car as they speed off and is then made aware that her children are in no immediate danger. The chase ends in Sgt Turner’s deputy, Detective Longnecker, writing off the police cruiser and driving it into the water.

Tracy and Jay make it back to Osborne’s, having averted Big Joe. They go into his safe and hide when they hear him coming but find themselves in big trouble when Jamieson shuts the safe and locks it. Duke, Bert, and Carolyn trace the children back to the house and find Jamieson, who claims the children are not in the house. Carolyn is not convinced, and a sighting of Duster proves her theory. None of them know the combination to the safe however, and have only a short amount of time before the air in the safe runs out.

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It’s then up to Duke to use his safe-cracking skills to open the safe. Sgt. Turner then arrives at the house and, upon witnessing Duke crack a safe to save the children, declines to arrest him. Osborne then pays off Duke and Bert’s debts and reconciles with his children. Duke also manages to set up his own garage; the film ends hinting romance between Duke and Carolyn.

Cast: Don Knotts and Kim Richards return. Brad Savage was previously seen in The Apple Dumpling Gang. James Hong appeared in Mulan.

David Niven as Osbourne. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Separate Tables. He appeared in A Matter of Life and Death, The Bishop’s Wife, Enchantment, The Elusive Pimpernel, The Toast of New Orleans, Happy Go Lovely, Happy Ever After, Carrington V.C., Around the World in 80 Days and as Sir Charles Lytton in Pink Panther. Darren McGavin as Duke. He starred in David Lean’s Summertime and The Man with the Golden Arm. He starred in the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He starred in A Christmas Story, portraying Mr. Parker, the father of Ralphie Parker. He had supporting roles in the horror film Happy Hell Night and the comedy Billy Madison.

Herschel Bernardi as Turner. He is best known for his roles in Peter Gunn and Arnie. He was nominated for two Tony Awards for his performances in the original production of Zorba and the 1981 revival of Fiddler on the Roof. Bernardi was in several notable films, including Murder by Contract, A Cold Wind in August, The George Raft Story, Irma La Douce, Love with the Proper Stranger, and The Front. He was the original voice of StarKist Tuna animated character “Charlie the Tuna” as well as the original voice of the Jolly Green Giant and also was the narrator of a long running Tootsie Pop commercial. Charles Martin Smith as Longnecker. He is known for his roles in American Graffiti, The Buddy Holly Story, Never Cry Wolf, Starman, The Untouchables, Deep Cover, And the Band Played On, Speechless, and Deep Impact. As a director, he directed the films The Snow Walker, Stone of Destiny, Dolphin Tale, Dolphin Tale 2, and A Dog’s Way Home.

Barbara Feldon as Carolyn. Her most prominent role was that of Agent 99 on Get Smart. She also made appearances on Twelve O’Clock High, Griff, Flipper and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Vic Tayback as Big Joe. He is best known for his role as diner owner Mel Sharples in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Alice, for which he won two consecutive Golden Globes. He had numerous series as a character actor such as in the “Et tu, Archie?” fourth-season episode of All in the Family as Archie’s old friend, Joe Tucker, and as the 1920s-style gangster-boss Jojo Krako in the Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action”.

My take: I remember seeing this as a kid, and my mother saying, “But now they will know he’s the safecracker!” As a kid I loved the masks they wore for the car chase. The sequence with the skunk on the construction site is the highlight of the film.

Next Week: Another Don Knotts film: Gus