Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, June 18, 2007

Candleshoe and other childhood movie memories

While reading over some of the reviews for the new Nancy Drew movie(which only went to number seven on the past weekend's box office list),one of the naysaying critics wondered if there were any young Jodie Foster types out there in the current casting pool.

While I think most of the critics were being way too harsh(I didn't see the movie but it looks cute to me),it did inspire to recall one of my favorite Jodie Foster flicks and happily find out that it was on DVD. Candleshoe came out in 1977 and I remember seeing it on TV as one of the Wonderful World of Disney features.

Jodie played Casey Brown,a streetwise American orphan recruited by Brit con man Harry Bundage(Leo McKern) to convince Lady St. Edmund(Helen Hayes) that she is her long lost grand daughter in order to have access to the estate of Candleshoe. A pirate's treasure is hidden there and Casey is given the first clue to start with the hunt-"for the sunrise student,there is treasure amongst books."

The search for the treasure is not without some obstacles;Lady St. Edmund has several local orphans staying with her,who along with faithful butler Priory(David Niven) do their best to keep Candleshoe going by selling fruits and vegatables on market day to pay the taxes and having Her Ladyship think she still has a full staff on hand(Niven gets to pull off several disguises here)in order to maintain the illusion that the estate is not on the brink of bankruptcy.

Casey respects the good natured con enough to go along with it but has no real interest in helping anyone out at first. After all,she got into this for ten percent of the action,plus a red Ferrari. Little by little,however,Casey starts to care about the folks at Candleshoe and everyone teams up to find the pirate gold to save the old homestead. Watching the movie again after so many years,I was pleased to see how well it still holds up today. While it's not a classic family film,it is a smart and lively one with plenty of good humor and no maudlin movie scenes. Foster gamely holds her own with the experienced British cast and they seem to be enjoying themselves here,too but not at the expense of the story.

Seeing Candleshoe also made me think of those 1970's live action Disney movies that may have been hokey at times but were solid entertainments nonetheless. Movies like Escape to Witch Mountain(and the kickass sequel,Return to Witch Mountain with Bette Davis and Christopher Lee as the villians),The North Avenue Irregulars and The Cat From Outer Space.

Most people are familar with the likes of Freaky Friday but how many have seen The Strongest Man in the World? Disney and others like them use to make some good kid flicks back in the day that didn't have Happy Meal tie-ins and overblown f/x. Don't get me wrong,there are excellant movies for kids out there that are more than overlong toy commericals(Bridge to Terebintha,for example) but there was an earnestness and non ironic flair to the characters and plots that you don't see today. Check out some of these clips and I think you'll see what I mean:




Another Jodie Foster kid flick I adored was Bugsy Malone,with Scott Baio as the lead gangster who fought turf wars with cream pies. Jodie was the perfect moll:


So,perhaps some of the folks developing children's movies today could take a page or two from some of the films of the not so distant past. There's a reason that stories from childhood have such staying power;the potent memories of adults who refuse to let them go without a fight.


Pop Culture Diva said...

I was going to mention the Escape from Witch Mountain movies. I loved those.

Bugsy Malone may be one of the most original movies ever. The child cast was perfect especially a pre-Chachi Scott Baio.

lady t said...

Yeah,the songs in Bugsy were great as well-my favorite was "We're the very best at being bad!".

I know they did a remake of Witch Mountain a few years ago but I still like the original version the best.