Welcome to my weekly discussion of the 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.”
Title: The Ugly Dachshund
Source materials: based on a 1938 novel by Gladys Bronwyn Stern.
Box office: $6.2 million
Plot: Fran Garrison and her husband Mark are a young happily married couple and the proud owners of an award-winning Dachshund named Danke. The movie begins with them frantically getting into the car and heading to the hospital as “the pain has started and it’s about time”. In a hurry to the hospital, Officer Carmody tries to pull them over for going 50 mph in a 25 mph zone. After notifying that they are on the way to the hospital and indicating that Fran is the one in labor, Officer Carmody pulls in front of them and turns on the sirens to escort them to the county hospital. After he arrives and turns to find that Mr. and Mrs. Garrison have gone past him, he gets back on his motorcycle and follows them to the vet. It is then revealed that Danke is the one in labor. While Mark is outside waiting for Fran, Officer Carmody catches up to him and after Mark thanks him for helping them get to the vet on time, Officer Carmody reveals that he was under the impression that Mrs. Garrison was the one in labor and proceeds to write multiple traffic violation tickets totaling to $110.
On the day that Mr. Garrison arrives at the vet to pick up Danke and her three female puppies: Wilhelmina, Heidi, and Chloe, veterinarian Dr. Pruitt mentions that his female Great Dane, Duchess, has also given birth, but pushed away one of her male puppies because she didn’t have enough milk for him. Doc Pruitt convinces Mark to bring the Great Dane puppy home, because Danke had too much milk, and she could save his life. When he arrives home and Fran notices that there is another puppy, she is surprised but does not suspect that the puppy is from another litter and reminds Mark that he should thank Danke for giving him a boy like he always wanted. He eventually tells Fran the truth about the male puppy and named him Brutus.
As he grows up with Fran’s Dachshund puppies, he believes he is one of them and picks up mannerisms like hunching close to the ground to walk. The Dachshunds are mischievous creatures and lead poor unsuspecting Brutus through a series of comic misadventures with Officer Carmody (now Sergeant Carmody) being chased up a tree, Mark’s studio being splattered with paint, and a garden party being turned topsy-turvy. Fran wants Mark to remove Brutus from the house once-and-for-all but when Brutus saves her favorite puppy, Chloe, from the garbage truck, she changes her mind. Mark and Fran enter their dogs in a dog show with Brutus meeting others of his breed. He notices a female Harlequin Great Dane and stands at attention. He goes on to win two blue ribbons. Brutus finally finds out what it’s like to be a Great Dane, especially making the Dachshunds respect him.
Background: In the movie, Suzanne Pleshette is obsessed with dachshunds, but in real life, she shared her home with a Yorkshire terrier named Missy. Because her pooch could smell Pleshette’s “co-stars” on her when she got home at night – and didn’t like it – the actress had to shower and change her clothes before leaving the studio.
Cast: Dean Jones, Charles Lane, and Charlie Ruggles return.
Suzanne Pleshette as Fran Garrison. She played Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show from 1972 until 1978 Films include The Geisha Boy, Rome Adventure, Fate Is the Hunter, Youngblood Hawke, The Birds, Nevada Smith, If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, and Support Your Local Gunfighter. Mako (real name: Makoto Iwamatsu) as Kenji. His film roles include Po-Han in The Sand Pebbles, (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), The Island at the Top of the World, Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, and Kungo Tsarong in Seven Years in Tibet. He was part of the original cast of Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures, which earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. Later in his career, he became well known for his voice acting roles, including Aku in Samurai Jack, and Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
- Howard Thompson of The New York Times called it “a thin, contrived, one-joke comedy.”
- Variety stated that the film’s “sum total adds up to firstrate family entertainment, not to mention as having definite appeal for dog lovers and audiences generally.”
- Margaret Harford of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “The fun runs thin early in ‘The Ugly Dachshund,’ a new color film from our usually reliable friend, Walt Disney. Yet even with the old magic diluted, this latest picture from Buena Vista has some worthwhile moments for Disney fans and dog lovers.”
- The Monthly Film Bulletin commented, “The story is a featherweight affair in which the invention frequently runs thin and seeks sanctuary in slapstick … Apart from some uncommonly pretty colour photography, it is undoubtedly the dogs who take the honours.”
My take: The film has some quaint early sixties things such as the Brady Bunch astroturf in the backyard and the separate beds, but it also has the characters of Mr. Toyama and Kenji, who are blatant racial stereotypes. Example: when Kenji first meets Brutus, he calls him a lion. You can imagine how it is pronounced.
Available on Disney +?: Yes
Next Week: The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin