17 March 2011

"Darby O'Gill and the Little People"

Darby O'Gill and the Little People
Starring: Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, Sean Connery, Jimmy O'Dea with Kieron Moore, Estelle Winwood, Walter Fitzgerald
Written by Lawrence Edward Watkin
Suggested by the "Darby O'Gill" stories by H.T. Kavanaugh
Directed by Robert Stevenson
DVD Release: 3 August 2004
List Price: $14.99
MPAA Rating: G
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I first saw Darby O'Gill and the Little People on TV as a youth, easily more than twenty years ago.  Tonight being St. Patrick's Day, it seemed like the right time to finally revisit the movie.  I remembered it being weird with a beard, as a friend of mine might say, and that there was an entire segment near the end that really freaked me out as a kid.

The premise of the film is that Darby O'Gill is an Irishman who had befriended King Brian of the Leprechauns.  They have an ongoing rivalry in which Darby captures Brian and extracts his three wishes, and the cunning Brian finds a way of invalidating the whole thing.  There's a romantic subplot involving Darby's daughter, Katie, and Sean Connery, but the majority of the film is spent showing off the sheer spectacle of the production.  Quite a lot of effort went into creating the illusion that regular sized actors were, in fact, Leprechauns.  There are only three bonus features on the DVD, and one of them is a splendid piece chronicling how the special effects of the film were crafted.  The narration is clearly meant for younger viewers, but I suspect most viewers who don't have much of a background in film-making will be as fascinated as I was.
Albert Sharpe as Darby O'Gill and Jimmy O'Dea as King Brian
One of the remaining two bonus features is a brief piece on Sean Connery, made more interesting by the fact that Disney managed to get him to record new on-camera remarks about the production of the film.  Mandatory?  No, but it's hard to imagine anyone interested in movies who wouldn't want to hear Sean Connery reminisce for a few minutes.

The third and final bonus feature is rather problematic.  It's an episode of Disneyland called, "I Captured the King of the Leprechauns."  The idea is that Walt Disney goes to Ireland in search of a real Leprechaun to use in his movie, and along the way encounters Albert Sharpe in character as Darby O'Gill, who leads him to Jimmy O'Dea in character as King Brian.  It was all meant to persuade TV audiences to rush out and go see the film, but Disney for some reason felt compelled to include all the key sequences of the film in this episode--including material from the very end!  Had I tuned into see this "preview" and then paid admission to see the feature on the big screen, I would have felt completely cheated as there was nothing of any interest left uncovered by the Disneyland episode.  Disney aficionados will be curious to see the episode, but I cannot stress enough that it should not be watched before seeing the feature.

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