For several decades, The Disney Studio ruled without peer as cinema's family studio.
From its pioneering pre-war animation, it branched out in the 1950s and 1960s into live-action. And of all its live-action movies, perhaps none are so fondly remembered as its two Hayley Mills classics, Pollyanna and The Parent Trap.
The 1960 Academy-Award winner Pollyanna just might be the Disney Studio's single finest achievement in family movies. But perhaps no other Disney movie has the sheer unabashed exuberant fun and delight of Hayley's 1961 follow-up movie, The Parent Trap.
I watched this movie first time around about a score of years ago, in company with my two daughters. And we all loved it. I watched it again the other night, with Indigo, the younger of those daughters. And again, we both totally loved it.
It is, simply, a delicious movie, and the young Hayley, who was 12 going on 13 when she made this film, is astonishingly mature in her cinematic skills, without ever seeming precocious or studied. She is just an absolute, joyous, natural delight.
There is, as anyone who has seen The Parent Trap well knows, a plot absurdity which virtually rules this movie out of court before it begins.
The film depends on the premise that two parents of twin daughters have such a bitter separation that the mother settles in her family home in Boston, while the father moves across to the other side of the continent to California, to develop a ranch. They split the twins in half - one takes little Susan, the other takes Sharolyn. And the absurdity is that they each decide that neither twin should know that the other exists.
This is of course blatant cruelty, verging on the total sadistic. But this behaviour is glossed over. It has to be, and we have to ignore it, or the film simply will not work.
I'm sure virtually the entire Western World knows the basic plot, which begins when the girls get sent by chance to the same girls' holiday camp. They dislike each other intensely. They start fighting. And for punishment, are confined together to isolation quarters. And there, together, they discover the truth... they are sisters.
And so they decide to get to know what they've missed all their lives thus far - their missing parents. They swap places - one Hayley goes home to Maureen O'Hara (who looks amazingly beautiful in this movie, and just as beautiful 40 years later when she discusses the movie), the other to Brian Keith.
The girls like what they find. And they start plotting on just how to bring those parents back together again.
The whole thing is irrepressibly delightful - well, it is to anyone who either viewed it first as a child, or else, like me, viewed it as a parent with children. I can imagine it could seem pretty wet or downright stupid to anyone not viewing it from those vantage points.
The Parent Trap is simply one of the great family movies, and there's nothing wrong with that. See it, and surrender to its simple charm.
I haven't mentioned special effects once, even though that is, of course, a key feature of the movie, with its pioneering use of travelling mattes, blue screen and splitscreen which lets young Hayley play both roles in a bewildering array of double shots.
I haven't mentioned it, because I didn't think of it 'til now. The pioneering effects are done so well (without a single computer at hand) that you watch the movie virtually oblivious of them.
Of course on one level you're aware Hayley Mills plays both twins. On the other level, you surrender to the story. These really seem to be just two girls who look incredibly alike. And when you forget the special effects, that's when special effects have really succeeded.
This is a great film to have in your collection, if you have children, plan to have children, or just remember...
The audio commentary and the special feature Caught in the Act are worthwhile additions. But we're missing a whole raft of even more worthwhile special features included in the two-disc American Region 1 'Vault Disney' edition.
If you're not all that concerned about the missing features, I'd recommend buying the disc and just enjoying. Otherwise, just rent it, and hang out for a later special issue - or, if you have a multi-region machine, think about buying the really fabulous Region 1 pack.