Friday, 4 September 2015

Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

I remember seeing this movie as a child - probably when I was 9 or 10 - and loving it.  And why wouldn't I?  It had tigers and monkeys and shipwrecks and a climactic battle against pirates.

As an adult I find that there is still a lot to like about the film - the genuine sense of warmth between "Father" (John Mills) and "Mother" (Dorothy McGuire) for instance, or the fact that McGuire was actually age-appropriate to be the parent of her movie-sons.  It's far too common to cast a 30-year old woman as the mother of a 22 year old.

Also the pirate fight remains very cool.

On the other hand, this is a near 60-year old movie and it has some distinctly 60-year old attitudes.  For instance, there's a scene where the two eldest sons have just rescued a cabin boy from the pirates and they joke with one another "wow, I thought that guy back home we called 'sissy' was effeminate, but he has nothing on this guy".

Now it is true that the audience is obviously being tipped a wink here since well ...

... yeah

Obviously said "cabin boy" is obviously not a boy at all.  But this is still a conversation between two characters we're supposed to like about how weird and icky those gay people are.  That makes a frowny Adam.  I can overlook an alleged Pacific island with tigers and elephants and hyenas on it (yes, all of them), but homophobic "heroes" tick me off.

Fortunately, it is only two minutes out of a two hour film.  The brothers do conspire to be quite annoying later when they compete for the young woman's affections, but at least at the end of that they both accept her decision with good grace.

If you can overlook the retrograde social attitudes, this is otherwise a fun film - though certainly not a plausible or sensible one - with lots of cheerful adventure.

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