"We have seen the awesome power of your magic candle!"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 04/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Based off the Mark Twain novel `A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court', Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979) aka The Spaceman and King Arthur, may not have been one of the more popular live action Disney films of the past, but I liked it for a number of reason which I'll talk about later...the film, written by Don Tait (Hell's Angels '69, The Apple Dumpling Gang), was directed by Russ Mayberry, who primarily worked in the medium of television directing on shows like "Bewitched", "I Dream of Jeannie", "That Girl", "The Brady Bunch", "The Partridge Family", "The Rockford Files", along with many others, but did find time to do a few films, including this one. Starring in the film is Dennis Dugan (The Howling, Problem Child, Happy Gilmore), Sheila White (Confessions from a Holiday Camp), Ron Moody, whom many will recognize as the dastardly character Fagin in the 1968 film Oliver!, and Jim Dale, a fixture in the British `Carry On...' film series. Also appearing is Kenneth More (Sink the Bismarck!), John Le Mesurier (I'm All Right Jack, Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?), Rodney Bewes (Jabberwocky), and Pat Roach, whom you may have never heard of, but surely have seen in any one of his villain roles like in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - he played two roles in that film, one being the big Sherpa in the bar and another as the mechanic/brawler, the character of Lippe (he fought Bond in the health spa) in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983), the chief guard in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), and skeleton masked General Kael in Willow (1988), to name a few.
The story begins as we see a group at NASA discussing a new project featuring a shuttle called Stardust that has the ability to travel faster than any previous ship. There's a bunch of scientific mumbo jumbo presented, but the gooberment officials are reluctant to approve sending humans up in an untested craft (it's an election year), so scientific brain boy Tom Trimble (Dugan) is tasked to build a humanoid robot to pilot the ship, which he does (in his own image), but the robot, named Hermes, was apparently made too human, and is afraid to make the 30 year trip. Trimble, in an effort to convince Hermes that everything will be all right, gets caught in the shuttle during an accidental launch, and both end up in orbit. The ship does what it was designed to do (traveling faster than the speed of light), subsequently travels back in time, and, on returning to Earth, Trimble discovers he's in 6th century England, specifically King Arthur's court at Camelot! Trimble meets a local girl named Alisande (White), and she believes him to be some sort of monster (in his spacesuit), despite his protests. Soon Trimble is captured by the rotter Sir Mordred (Gale), taken to Camelot and sentenced to death. It's around this time Trimble learns of Mordred's treacherous plans to overthrow King Arthur (More), and now must use his intelligence and wits to not only keep himself alive, but also prevent the despicable Mordred and his cronies from their foul machinations through.
First off I just want to say it felt good to watch a family friendly film that doesn't insinuate toilet humor into the story to get laughs...not that I mind that kind of thing, but it seems so much more prevalent nowadays for these types of films, geared towards general audiences, to rely on techniques of the lowest common denominator to try and entertain. As far as the story goes, it was very straightforward, and moved along well. Dugan seemed a decent choice for the role of Trimble (I guess Dean Jones and Kurt Russell, both frequent stars in Disney's mid 60's/early 70's live action pics, were busy on other projects), and he does well presenting pre-MacGyver like character who uses his intelligence to get out of sticky situations. As far as the others, my favorite was Dale as Sir Mordred. He did a wonderful job bringing his character to life, and could have easily been transposed to more serious films with respect to Arthurian legend despite being a bit over the top at times (what good villain isn't?) As far as the character of Merlin, played by Moody...I thought he also did very well, but the way the character was written seemed to go against most of what I think I know in the respect the Merlin here was not a very nice guy...and what was up with his hair? It looked like they shaved the top of Moody's head, giving him a horseshoe hair pattern, leaving a handle-like tuft at the very top....very weird...another character I enjoyed was that of Sir Gawain, played by Le Mesurier. The role wasn't very big, but incorporated a sort of subtle humor (a slight touch of that droll, British humor) that complemented the sequences he appeared in very well. The odd man out was that of King Arthur, played by More. He did all right, but he lacked the majestic qualities I normally associate with the character. It's not like he ruined the movie or anything, but he just seemed a little out of place. The sets and costumes were very good, relaying better than average production values, along with most of the special effects, although there is a sequence with Trimble in a flying rocket chair where the wires are plainly visible, but again, this wasn't something that ruined the film for me. My favorite sequence was the magnetized sword bit and I also liked how, through a good part of the film, Trimble was perceived by the 6th century inhabitants as not so much a dangerous threat, but sort of a pitiful oddity, one that might be better put out of his misery. I'm unsure how kids today, what with their Harry Potters and such, would receive a film like this, but for those of us who grew up in the 70's and 80's, this is a welcome trip back to simpler times.
The widescreen (1.85:1) picture, enhanced for 16 X 9 TVs, looks sharp, but there are some very minor signs of age deterioration in the film (nothing to get too hung up on). The Dolby Digital mono audio comes through clearly, and there are English subtitles available. There are no other special features.
A wonderful discovery of vintage Disney at its BEST
Randy Richards | Kauai, Hawaii | 10/20/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a joy to find old disney movies released on DVD and in widescreen:) I just discvered THE BLACK HOLE as well also a disney CLASSIC of long ago, when special efects were invented 1st by Disney at every turn. Plus I love Dennis Dugan, you can just take so much of the same disney dudes over and over in the same roles. He is a refreshing change. And the Disney animtronics, that they were so famous for, like Abe Lincoln and the Teeky Teeky Room. BUY THIS One for your Disney collection. I am on a quest for all Disney Vintage movies for my DVD collection, and all the old classics, from Aladdin to Winnie the Pooh. Check out my More about Me page in the near future and you can help me come up with more titles that I have missed and I can help you out with your thirst for "The Happiest Place on Earth" :) When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. When you wish upon a star your dreams come true :)"
A Spaceman in King Arthur's Court & Behind the Scenes trivia
microjoe | 11/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"STORY: Unidentified Flying Oddball is short for U.F.O. of course. This live action film from the Walt Disney studio is the story of Tom Trimble the NASA astronaut (Dennis Dugan) and his robot Hermes. They have a newly designed faster than the speed of light spaceship called the "Stardust", that is hit by a lightening bolt in and knocks Tom back in time to the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Thinking he has traveled to another world, Tom leaves the craft in his spacesuit. Seeing him in this spacesuit the citizens think he is a monster or dragon and attack him, sending him to prison. After being imprisoned, Tom learns of a threat against the king from the nefarious Sir Mordred (Jim Dale) who wants to take the King's throne at Camelot for himself. Merlin (Ron Moody) is aiding Mordred in the scheme and is envious of Tom's modern scientific talents, since his own power is based on illusion. After Tom is released he begins to use technology to improve the kingdom, and along the way he develops a love interest with Alisande (Sheila White). Merlin and Sir Mordred join forces to attack the king, and Tom must help the Knights defend the King. There is some light romance, some action, and plenty of comedy. Note: For those people that are used to the kind and powerful Merlin character, be forewarned, this is an evil Merlin. All in all, good clean family fun.
BEHIND THE SCENES: Don Tate wrote the screenplay as a loose re-interpretation of the Mark Twain story, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. If the acting and productions seems at times like a 1970's TV sitcom, that may be the result of director Russ Mayberry, who worked on shows such as "I Dream of Jeannie", and "Bewitched". Shooting occurred on location in the United Kingdom with a production team formed to film exteriors at the real 11th century castle "Alnwick", and interiors at Pinewood Studios in England. At the castle's village, the producers hired 1,000 extras to be used in the film. The special effects crew was responsible for major challenges including the creation of the stardust spaceship with a working ramp, a moon buggy that expands to double its size, and a robot arm. Additionally they had to come up with a flying jetpack, a robot, spacesuits, a magnetized sword, and space guns. The promotional movie poster that Walt Disney studios used in the U.S. at the time had the tagline, "Chaos in the Cosmos". Running time is not long at 93 minutes.
The movie went through some inexplicable name changes during production and subsequent release. The working title during production was "A Spaceman in King Arthur's Court". By the time it was released in the United Kingdom it was retitled "The Spaceman and King Arthur" on July 10, 1979. Just weeks later it opened in U.S. theaters on July 26, 1979 under a third title, "Unidentified Flying Oddball". Promotional material and ads used a subtitle of "The Spaceman and King Arthur". When it aired on television's "The Wonderful World of Disney", on February 27 and March 6 1982 as two episodes, it was re-named to it's first working title as "A Spaceman in King Arthur's Court". When it was released on video for the first time in 1986, it was changed back again to "Unidentified Flying Oddball" in the US and the UK.
DVD version: The picture is in widescreen. It looks like they cleaned up the picture and color compared to my VHS version. The sound is still in Mono, but the film was made that way. Unfortunately there are no extras on the disc. It would have been nice to see a Disney cartoon, behind the scenes feature, the trailer, and maybe one of the old space based episodes from the Wonderful World of Disney television show, such as "Man in Space". Still with the cleaner picture, widescreen, and longer life of a disc, I recommend this as an upgrade to your VHS copy.