Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier...
How much of the Davy Crockett story is myth and how much is real? We'll never really know, nor do we care, since this American folk-hero is now embedded firmly in our psyche, as several generations of coonskin-hatted kids will testify.
He was born on a mountain-top in Tennessee. Killed a bar (bear to the uninitiated) when he was only three. Became a legendary scout and Injun fighter in the days when that was politically respectable, and finally died alongside another legend, Colonel Jim Bowie, at the besieged Fort Alamo.
Davy Crockett confirmed his place in the modern pantheon courtesy of Walt Disney, who retold the more colourful of the Crockett legends for television in the mid-1950s.
As Crockett, Disney chose the reasonably well-known American actor Buddy Ebsen, best known as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies and as the lead in the 1970s detective series Barnaby Jones. But he had a last-minute change of heart. In as lead came the then-virtually unknown Fess Parker, and Buddy Ebsen had to be content to play Crockett's best-buddy, Georgie Russell.
The choice was right. Fess Parker was ideal. Laconic, coolly humourous and handsome in a low-key frontier way, Fess Parker simply WAS Crockett. It was impossible to imagine anyone else playing that role. Hard to imagine Fess Parker playing any other role... and in the early 1970s he quit acting in favour of wine-making.
This 89-minute long movie is drawn from the first three of the five episodes of the Crockett saga which Disney produced in 1955 and 1956 - condensing Davy Crockett Indian Fighter, Davy Crockett Goes to Congress and Davy Crockett at the Alamo. They've been stitched together quite well and present a reasonably coherent narrative - and 89 minutes would be enough Crockett for most people, I'd think.
By contrast, in Davy Crockett's homeland, Region 1, the Davy Crockett adventures have been released by Disney in full, with all 270-minutes spread over two discs, and with the original Disneyland introductions to each episode.
It's jolly good fun, if rather bloodthirsty at times. So go to your wardrobe, dig out that old coonskin cap and settle down to relive those days when the American frontier was being conquered to provide future generations with rich mythologies and marketing opportunities.
This is a movie which was prepared in the mid-1950s for theatrical release from footage shot for television.
Given that genesis, it shapes up surprisingly well, with a soft, somewhat gentle colour palette and with very little in the way of artefacts or film flaws. It doesn't have the vibrancy or definition of the best of product from that period, but there's nothing to impede enjoyment of its frontier yarns.
Nostalgia wins in this celebration of mid-1950s Disneyland values. Whether you rent or buy depends on just how big a Davy Crockett fan you were (or are) and whether you want to inflict this American folk-legend on your own kids.
The only real complaint about this issue is that we haven't been offered a choice in our Region 4 marketplace between this 89-minute condensation of the Disney sagas and the complete 279-minute version offered up in Region 1. True Crockett addicts might want to wait for that version to become available here.