The Shaggy Dog (1959)
A tail-wagging tale.
I was in my pajamas in the back seat of my parents '57 Pontiac when I first saw The Shaggy Dog. Tucked into a sleeping bag, I can't tell you what the second feature was during that chilly evening at a drive-in theater in the suburbs of Vancouver, but I do remember thinking The Shaggy Dog was about as good as a movie could get.
The true source of my childhood amazement was watching Wilson Daniel's (Fred MacMurray) teenage son Wilby (Tommy Kirk) change from boy to dog after having cast a spell upon himself with a handy ring from the local museum. His hair-ied situation is made worse by the fact that he's competing with slick-kid Buzz (Tim Considine) for the admiration of the new French girl on the block, Franceska (Roberta Shore). Meanwhile Allison (Annette Funicello), the former female attraction, is left in the doghouse while the boys pursue the new French poodle.
Admittedly Disney's morphing magic has faded against present Hollywood's digital delights, and now looks more like tufts of hair glued on with adhesive tape. Nevertheless, it's still amusing to await his transformations, which will always occur at the worse possible times and adds fire to Wilson's blatant hate for canines of any sort, even those of his own fur and blood. Grabbing the loaded shotgun he keeps in the closet, he fires at the runaway dog (not knowing it's his son) in the midst of this middle-class suburbia neighborhood with nary a moment of hesitation.
Watching it again this week, I don't know that I'd still hold this dog tale as cinematic excellence, but Wilson's overly chauvinistic attitudes toward his wife Freeda (Jean Hagen), who happily spends her days in the kitchen heeding her husband's requests for newspapers, food, and whatever else he requires, is a well preserved time capsule of Hollywood's visualization of utopian life in the mid 20th century. Overall, this story of puppy love is still worth a scratch and a sniff.