Lil Abner on DVD
Okay, this isnt going to go down in history as the greatest
musical ever put onto the big screen. But it has its moments especially
when the gang starts kickin up its heels and dancin up a storm.
Lil Abner is based on the Broadway musical that was based on
the old Al Capp comic strip. Abner (Peter Palmer) is a big lunk, lots of brawn
and not too much brain (then again, there arent a lot of brains to go
around among these characters though some of them are in danger of
displaying some common sense). Hes a hunk, the apple of the
womenfolks eyes, especially Daisy Mae (Leslie Parrish).
Theys all fixin to get ready for the annual Sadie
Hawkins day, where the women get to chase the male of their choice, object
matrimony. And naturally, Daisy Mae is fixin to catch Abner and
Abners okay with that, except when push comes to shove his bachelor
survival instinct kicks in and he always manages to outrun her.
But maybe not this year. Hes now facing competition for
Daisy Maes hand (and the rest of her, too) from Earthquake McGoon, the
worlds champeen dirty rassler, kind of a hillbilly Judd Fry who loves
Daisy but to whom she would rather not give the time of day.
Then the feds come in and announce that Dogpatch, the ramshackle
town that houses this horde of hillbillies, is going to be evacuated so they
can use the area for nuclear testing. You see, Dogpatch was determined
(probably by focus testing) to be the most useless area in the United States,
so it wont be missed.
Except by the residents, of course, and they spend the rest of the
movie trying to find a reason to make Dogpatch useful if not
indispensable and therein lies the plot.
The storyline is convoluted and kind of dumb, and by the time the
movie is over you arent too sorry. And the Johnny Mercer/Gene de Paul
songs, with the possible exception of Jubilation T. Cornpone, are mostly
forgettable,which we found kind of surprsing. But what the heck; the dancing
alone makes this movie worth watching. The energetic choreography is really
something to see, and the movie features one of the best chorus sections
We were intrigued at the presence of a very young Stella Stevens
as Daisy Maes nemesis, and Julie Newmar as a sexpot something or other
(Is she a robot? A clone? Its never really made clear and it doesnt
really matter anyway) whos designed to bring the male half of the species
to a screeching halt before her. She works, too.
Parrish, who we best remember from an old Star Trek episode, is
virginally decorative and pretty good as Daisy Mae. Palmer and a bunch of other
studs are there mostly for their studliness, though to be fair he
does a pretty good job as an actor/singer/dancer.
And of course in the end Dogpatch is saved and all ends happily
for the good guys.
All the famous, and probably mostly forgotten by now, Al Capp
characters are here: Marryin Sam (Stubby Kaye, whos the glue that
holds the movie together), Mammy and Pappy Yokum, Lonesome Polecat, Moonbeam
McSwine, Available Jones, General Bullmoose, etc.
It kind of reminds one of Popeye, except wed have to say
that Lil Abner is the better of the two films.
The movie was adapted and directed by Melvin Frank and produced
by Norman Panama, who were the force behind the stage version. The costumes,
casting and makeup are actually very good considering the goal of bringing
Dogpatch to life and, of course, the choreography is superb.
Songs include the abovementioned Cornpone, as well as
"Don't That Take the Rag Offen the Bush," The Matrimonial Stomp," the
naïve (or is it satiric?) "The Country's in the Very Best of Hands,"
"Namely Me" and "Otherwise."
The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV
compatible, and the picture quality leaves a lot to be desired in many places.
This flick could really benefit from a good restoration. The image is generally
sharp and colorful, but there are many times when the color is more smeary or
runny than anything and the film is definitely showing its age.
Audio is Dolby Digital mono and is unremarkable
There are no extras. Wed have loved to see some background
info on the play, the movie, and the comic strip and how they all came
together, but alas it was not to be.
Still, this is an intriguing diversion at least once, especially
if you love exuberant dance numbers.
Lil Abner, from Paramount Home Entertainment
anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital mono
Starring Peter Palmer, Leslie Parrish, Stubby Kaye
Produced by Norman
Written by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, directed by Melvin
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