Just Left of Main Street: In Search of Castaways

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One of the topics I plan to cover periodically here in Just Left of Main Street is something I am going to call Obscure Disney Movies. In this topic, as the name would indicate, I’ll talk about Disney movies that you may have not seen in a while, seen at all or even ever heard of. Since most of the movies I’ll cover will have been released 30+ years ago, I won’t provide an in-depth review of the movie. Instead, I’ll provide some history and background information about the movie with some color commentary thrown in. The first movie I want to cover in called In Search of Castaways.

In Search of Castaways was released in 1962 and starred Hayley Mills, Maurice Chevalier, George Sanders and Wilfrid Hyde-White. It was based on a Jules Verne novel Captain Grant’s Children. The basic premise of the film is Hayley Mills’ character’s father, Captain Grant, is lost at sea and she, her brother an English Lord and his son go looking for him after they are given a message in the bottle from him. Joining them on their journey is Maurice Chevalier’s character, Jacques Paganel, who was the one who found the bottle. The movie is made up of series of adventures the group has attempting to find Captain Grant.

The movie was the third of six films for Hayley Mills with Disney following Pollyanna and The Parent Trap. Maurice Chevalier made another movie with Disney as Father Sylvain in Monkeys, Go Home!, which was released in 1967, and, seems like a good candidate for a future Obscure Disney Movie profile. In 1970, he also sang the title song to the animated film, The Aristocats, which ended up being his final contribution to any film as he passed away in 1972. Both Mills and Chevalier have been inducted as Disney Legends.

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Despite the fact that the film is not very well known today, it was a commercial success when it was released, grossing over $18 million dollars domestically – good enough to make it the third highest grossing film of 1962. The film also placed fourth in Top Action Drama category in the Golden Laurel awards, a, now defunct, film buyers voting award. In addition, Chevalier placed third in the Golden Laurel Top Male Musical Performance category.

No, that’s not a mistake; the category Chevalier placed third in was for musical performance. Despite the film being billed as an incredible action adventure with mystery and intrigue around every corner, it also, strangely, contained a series of musical numbers. As I saw one reviewer humorously comment: Castaways keeps you guessing throughout, never knowing if more natural disaster or another Maurice Chevalier song is next. In fact, the four songs that are sung in the movie, Castaway, Merci Beaucoup, Let’s Climb (Grimpons), and Enjoy It, were written by the legendary Sherman Brothers. Enjoy It, sung by Chevalier, is somewhat, well known and can, sometimes, be found on Disney music compilation albums.

These songs, while enjoyable, really did take me out of the movie, it’s difficult to get sucked into the suspense of a film when every 10 minutes or so, the characters are happily singing their way through the adventure. It’s very likely that these songs were included to highlight Chevalier’s singing talent as he had a very successful singing career over the years and an attempt to jump start a singing career for Mills.

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In addition to the songs being a distraction, another major distraction is the extremely pure special effects. While I am certainly no film historian, the effects used in this film appear very bad even by 1962 standards. There is a heavy reliance on the use of green screen and models in the film, generally with very poor application.

Despite these issues, the film is still a lot of fun and quite enjoyable. It’s actually pretty fast paced and while, very predictable, still rather suspenseful in some places. The completist in me drives me to watch as many Disney movies as possible, but, I do think there is reason beyond that to take the time to see this film. I would recommend getting the DVD or getting a download of the film and enjoying a little 1960’s Disney fun into your day.

Chris Nolin
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Posted on June 3, 2015, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I reviewed this not too long ago on my live-action Disney blog.

    The best part about this movie for me was finally seeing the voice of Shere Khan in person! It was my first time seeing actor George Sanders perform.

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