Customer Review

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best doggone dog in the west, April 16, 2006
This review is from: Old Yeller 2-Movie Collection (Old Yeller/Savage Sam) (DVD)
A pair of delightful, classic (in the classic sense of the word) Disney animal stories, and nobody did animal stories betters than Disney. OLD YELLER and SAVAGE SAM are a couple of family safe gems.

OLD YELLER (1957) is the story of a big, barrel chested, half-lab half-mastiff and all big yellow haired mongrel who adopts himself into a farm family some time shortly after the American Civil War, somewhere deep in the heart of rural Texas. As the story opens Pa (Fess Parker) is leaving for the summer to drive and sell cattle for some much needed cash money, leaving Ma (Dorothy McGuire,) teenage son Travis (Tommy Kirk) and six-year-old son Arliss (Kevin Corcoran) to tend the farm in his absence. No sooner has Pa disappeared over the hill when a big yellow dog explodes on the scene, scaring the plowing mule and, a bit later, stealing a hank of middling meat. Travis wants to kill him, for young Arliss it's love at first sight. Old Yeller's status is a little shaky until Arliss, one of those kids whose pockets have to be emptied of garter snakes and horny toads before he's allowed into the cabin, starts playing with a young bear cub far enough away from the cabin to make human rescue impossible. The mama bear and Old Yeller gallop onto the scene at about the same time, and their confrontation is quite exciting. The rescue is enough for the family to accept Yeller into the fold, and in return Yeller will save everyone in the family's lives at least once. Anyone whose read Fred Gipson's novel of the same name will be prepared for the serious trouble when `the hydrophoby' hits the valley. To its credit Disney doesn't rewrite the tragic ending. Gipson, by the way, also is credited as the screenwriter.

SAVAGE SAM (1963), another Gipson dog story, revisits the Coates family five years on. Kirk and Corcoran, both five years older, are back as Travis and Arliss. This time Ma and Pa are off visiting Ma's sick mother, Uncle Beck (Brian Keith) drops in on the boys now and then, and the family dog is now Savage Sam, a hound dog (mainly hound, something else is mixed in his blood.) Sam can track just about anything, which comes in handy when he and Arliss go off chasing a egg-stealing bobcat and along with Travis and young Lisbeth Searcy (Marta Kristen,) are kidnapped by a horse-stealing band of Apaches. Sam is hit over the head and left for dead. Sam recovers, though, Uncle Beck organizes a chase party (including Royal Dano, Dewey Martin, and Slim Pickens) and sets out after the kidnapped children. Ultimately, a left-for-dead Travis and a groggy but enthusiastic Sam join the posse.

OLD YELLER is the big `un in this two-pack, but I enjoyed SAVAGE SAM nearly as much. It's an exciting chase movie, and it doesn't plumb the tragic depths its predecessor does.

The bonus disk contains a number of specials. A 35-minute special entitled "Old Yeller: Remembering a Classic," a 2002 talking head documentary featuring a number of the remaining stars (Kirk, Corcoran, Parker, etc.) recalling the making of the movie. Interesting if not deeply informative. A 15-minute "Conversation with Tommy Kirk" pretty much explains it all, with the nearing-60 Kirk recalling his work with Disney. "Ranch of the Golden Oaks" is a 7-minute short about the ranch on which OLD YELLER was filmed - had kind of an infomercial feel to it. There's a short feature with Gipson's son celebrating the unveiling of an Old Yellow (and Travis) statue in a small town in Texas. A rebroadcast of a television episode of The Wonderful World of Disney from 1957 entitled `The Best Doggoned Dog in the World" devoted to, you guessed it, dogs. I don't remember seeing the animated short `Bone Trouble,' but navigating Disney's special feature disks is tricky sometimes. The specials were enjoyable enough, gently selling Disney products, emphasizing Old Yeller and pretty much ignoring Savage Sam.

I'd recommend these without hesitation, but the presence of horse stealing, kidnapping indians in SAVAGE SAM is a little beyond the politically correct pale. Even though the kidnappers include a brave who steps in to protect the children a few times, the overall impression is that of scary, lawless savages. Those sensitive to such portrayals may want to watch SAVAGE SAM first before sitting down to it with the whole family.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 23, 2007 11:30:31 PM PDT
counterrev says:
Oh, I agree! The Apaches and Comanches were such sweet people before the white guys came over here and messed around with them! Imagine how amazing the Comanches' horse empire would be by now if the whites had never come to these shores...

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2008 6:26:05 PM PDT
May I note that while the horse "evolved" in the Americas, it followed the one way sign on the "ice bridge" to Asia (while the Native Americans were allegedly passing by in the opposite direction) and became extinct in the Americas. The Spanish brought horses with them during their conquests, thus returning horses to the Americas. BUT it was not until the Pueblo rebellion in about 1680 that Native Americans began to acquire horses. So, in response to the comments of counterrev I can emphatically state that if the whites had never come to these shores neither the Apaches or the Comanches would have had any horses--let alone some phantom empire!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 14, 2013 5:53:07 PM PDT
Alias says:
Comanches did some truly awful things to civilians of all races. They pretty much acted like "lawless savages." The American Indian experience in Texas was much grimmer and more violent than anywhere else in the history of the Americas
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