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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Audio commentary
  • 5 Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • 2 Documentaries
  • Short film

The Parent Trap (1961)

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 124 mins . E . PAL

  Feature
Contract

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.

  Video
Contract

This is a meticulous transfer from a fine print.

Film detail is sharp and precise, and the bright sun-drenched colours are beautifully rendered. This was a top-quality production back in 1961, and the presentation quality on DVD has been fully preserved.

The Parent Trap didn't have to undergo the massive restoration effort needed to save the previous year's Pollyanna from cinematic destruction; this movie could have been shot yesterday.

  Audio
Contract

The basic stereo soundtrack has been dressed-up for this release as Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. The basic stereo elements have been preserved.

There's no evidence of audio trickery, just judicious use of the 5.1 system to give a degree of increased ambience and warmth. Sound is still well focused and clear.

  Extras
Contract

The main feature is the very warm and affectionate audio commentary, as Hayley Mills and director David Swift reminisce about the making of this movie. They clearly still carry a lot of affection towards each other, and remember this as an especially happy and fun time.

Then comes a 19-minute featurette, The Parent Trap - Caught in the Act, in which Maureen O'Hara, David Swift, Hayley Mills and others remember how the movie was made and cast, with special tribute made to Ub Iwerks, a pioneering Disney animator who created the special effects which made the movie possible.

We have a nine-minute featurette in Seeing Double, which repeats some of the material from the first documentary, but which also covers in a lot more depth the special effects needed to let Hayley meet Hayley.

There's a Disney Studio Album for 1961, a four-minute promotional movie for the studio presenting that year's movies, cartoons, and Disneyland special attractions.

Finally, we have a production stills feature which looks at production art (two presentations, 'Costumes' and 'Storyboards') and at advertising (three presentations, 'Lobby Cards', 'Posters' and 'Merchandise'.

Sadly, however, these are only part of the great special features which are present on the double-disc Region 1 The Parent Trap pack.

The main missing item is the most interesting of all - a 24-minute feature entitled Disney Legends: Hayley Mills, in which Hayley tells of her years with Disney, and her memories of her career there, and it's especially interesting to hear just how wonderful Walt Disney was to be with and work with. She did for a time resent being remembered always as Pollyanna. Now though, she looks back with great happiness. "It's great to be associated with happiness for people", she says.

The Region 4 edition also misses an 18-minute documentary Kimball and Swift: The Disney Years, in which veteran animator Ward Kimball and director David Swift reminisce about their early years with Disney. Swift's Disney career was interrupted by the Second World War. He joined a Bomber squadron and flew 35 missions over Germany in a B-17. When that tour finished, instead of coming home, Swift signed up as a fighter pilot for the rest of the war, flying Mustangs.

And on the Region 1 edition there's also a 17-minute Titlemaker program taken from the 'Disneyland' television series, with Walt acting as host and showing just how screen titles for films such as The Parent Trap are created.

The Region 1 special feature Who's the Twin? is a key feature. It's only six minutes long, but it gives Hayley's double. Susan Henning-Schuttle, a chance to reminisce about her part in the making of the movie.

There were many times when Hayley simply could not play both roles. And for scenes involving close contact between the girls, and for scenes when a back-view or quarter-shot of one of the girls was utilised, the unbilled Susan Henning was used. She does in fact appear in quite a deal of the movie, in one way or other.

She remembers how the entire cast, including Walt Disney, made her feel just as important a member of the cast as anyone else. And at a 'wrap' party at the end of filming, Walt staged a special presentation for her and her alone - awarding her Disney's own Oscar, the Duckster statuette, for 'Best Unseen Performance By an Actress'. And Susan, 40 years later, still calls Disney 'Uncle Walt'... this was in the years when the Disney studio really was a family studio, before it became a film-distribution arm of the Bush Administration.

The Region 1 disc also includes a 1946 Donald Duck cartoon with a doppelganger thematic connection, Double Trouble. And there are movie and TV trailers, and more. It all makes the Region 4 edition seem pretty thin.

  Overall  
Contract

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.


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      And I quote...
    "The Parent Trap is simply one of the great family movies. See it, and surrender to its happy charm."
    - Anthony Clarke
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    • DVD Player:
          Panasonic A330
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