The Shaggy Dog (1959)


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On October 6, 2015, we lost another live-action Disney legend, Kevin Corcoran.

Gonna miss you, kid!
Gonna miss you, kid!

Known best for his childhood appearances in Disney films, the actor was 66 years old when he passed away. To pay tribute to him like I did for Dean Jones, I decided to review one of the films that he was in. I’ve already reviewed two of his films before (Pollyanna and Babes in Toyland), so today I’m doing a film that many find beloved: The Shaggy Dog. Do I find it beloved? Well, let’s find out!

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

As the film opens up, we’re introduced to the Daniels family. The patriarch of the household is a mailman by trade, Wilson Daniels, played by the always enjoyable Fred MacMurray. He’s a nice enough guy, but has a hatred for dogs.

Interestingly enough, I think this is the only live-action Disney film that is in black-and-white! Can anyone let me know if I'm wrong in the comments below, please?
Interestingly enough, I think this is the only live-action Disney film that is in black-and-white! Can anyone let me know if I’m wrong in the comments below, please?

His wife, Frida, is played by Singin’ in the Rain star, Jean Hagen.

"A role wherein I don't have to sing, pretend to sing, or actually sing while pretending to sing? Yes, please!"
“A role wherein I don’t have to sing, pretend to sing, or actually sing while pretending to sing? Yes, please!”

They have two children: a teenager, Wilby, played by Tommy Kirk, and a younger son, Moochie, played by the late Kevin Corcoran. Wilby has somewhat of a knack for conducting scientific experiments/tinkering with things.

"It's arrived: The Big One!"
“It’s arrived: The Big One!”

When his latest project, a missile interceptor, causes wreckage to their house, his father makes him put an end to all his experiments.

Folks reported a UFO sighting that day, most likely!
Folks reported a UFO sighting that day, most likely!

Because of this and other reasons, Wilby feels that his father just doesn’t understand him. But, Wilby has other problems too: namely problems regarding his social life. He has a best friend, Buzz, played by Tim Considine, who loves to use him and they both want to date the popular girl in the neighborhood, Allison, played by Annette Funicello. 

Well, that is, they want to date her until a new family moves in the neighborhood: a new family with a pretty, 17 y/o, French-speaking girl named Francesa, played by Roberta Shore. Francesca has moved into the neighborhood with her father, a Dr. Mikhail Valasky, played by Alexander Scourby. They also have a pet sheepdog much to the chagrin of Wilson Daniels!

As someone who's frightened of dogs, I share the same sentiments.
As someone who’s frightened of dogs, I share the same sentiments.

Anyway, Buzz and Wilby try to win Francesca’s affections by showing her around the town including visiting the local museum. While there, Wilby accidentally knocks over some exhibit pieces belonging to the famous Borgias of the Renaissance era. Wilby tries to set everything aright, but misses a ring that fell into the cuff of his pants..

Later that evening, he discovers the ring and notices that it has a Latin inscription on it. Once he recites the inscription, he notices a change in him: he actually starts turning into a dog, a sheepdog for that matter!

"Who is that dog I see, staring straight back at me? Why is my reflection someone I don't know?"
“Who is that dog I see, staring straight back at me? Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?”

You see, the Borgias were apparently known to have dabbled in black magic and partake in the act of shapeshifting. Shapeshifting involved “borrowing” the body of another being for a while. In this case, the Borgias apparently owned a sheepdog and were able to reside in the sheepdog when they wanted. Now Wilby has that power and is now residing in the body of Francesca’s sheepdog! To top it all off, the “curse” is somewhat sporadic. He randomly changes back and forth between a human and a dog which leads to many hilarious scenarios as you can possibly imagine.

The only one who discovers this secret is his brother, Moochie, who much prefers his brother as a dog than as a human. They decide that they can’t really tell anyone else as nobody would believe it, especially not their father who would probably want to shoot the dog no knowing it’s Wilby.

As Wilby tries to get used to this constant changing between human and dog, he realizes that it has its usefulness. When he’s Francesca’s dog, he actually overhears Dr. Mikhail talk with an accomplice about smuggling plans of a hydrogen missile out of the country. Realizing that he’s a spy, Wilby feels that it’s his duty to tell someone. Knowing that nobody would believe him, he and Moochie decide that they have to tell their father.

"My own son, a dog? Where did I go wrong?"
“My own son, a dog? Where did I go wrong?”

Yeah, Wilbur pretty much faints when he finds out this news that his son’s a dog, but when he realizes that it’s the truth and that there really are spies in the neighborhood, he heads to the authorities. But of course, they don’t take Wilson’s testimony all that seriously.

"Why won't you believe me?"
“Why won’t you believe me?”

Because of this, it’s up to Moochie and Wilby himself to get the authorities in on the news. The movie ends with a big chase sequence resulting in Dr. Mikhail and his “gang” being arrested.

Francesca was totally unaware of all of this, so she was spared, but moved out not long after. As a gift, she gave her sheepdog to Wilby. Wilson has gotten over his dislike of dogs (mainly because his picture featured prominently in the news afterwards) and it’s never really explained whether Wilby ever got cured of his dog transformation curse.

"I wonder if they're doing auditions for Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles?"
“I wonder if they’re doing auditions for Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles?”

And that was The Shaggy Dog! So, do I find it beloved? Well, let’s just say that there are a number of live-action Disney films that you only watch because of the cast and this is one of them!

The film isn’t really that great, the writing is nothing amazing and has plotholes, but the reason that one can enjoy this film is if one watches it for the stars. If you wanna see Fred MacMurray, you’ll be happy! If you wanna see Jean Hagen, you’ll be happy! If you wanna see any of these people, you’ll be happy!

Summing up, replace these stars with other people and I probably wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone. But, because of its cast, if you’re a fan of these guys, then I say, give it a watch! Just don’t expect much!

Before we go, although he wasn’t the main character of the film, let’s give one final thought towards that child actor whose appearance in this film would be remembered! Good-bye, Kevin Corcoran!

"So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, good-bye!"
“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good-bye!”

(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)


So, the final score for this film is 23/35 = 65.71% (D) !

The next review will be posted on November 30th.

12 thoughts on “The Shaggy Dog (1959)

  1. The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) is also in black-and-white. There are probably other ones I can’t think of.

      1. “Son of Flubber” is also in B&W. I remember seeing SoF as the 2nd part of a double-feature, preceded by “Superdad”, in Feb. 1974. I thought SoF was a much better movie.

  2. Wow, I need to watch this again…to refresh my memory! I’ve forgotten so much (I never realized as a kid that that was Jean Hagen!). Always loved this. You’re right; it is quite the cast.

    It’s funny, but I don’t think it registered in my mind whether a film was black and white or in color until I was in my teens. I didn’t realize The Shaggy Dog was in black and white, either.

  3. I kind of like the movie…not in a “oh, it’s on, I have to watch it” way, but it has its moments. I especially like the scene when Wilbur has his heart to heart talk with his father while being a dog (you know, the scene which predictably ends with his father turning around and getting the shock of his life).
    I actually had a comic book version of the movie from somewhere. I think it was kind of a collection of stories based on Disney shorts…I vaguely remember Lampert being one of them…mmm…
    Either way, I think another reason the movie is somewhat likable is that it is pretty much a product of its time. And that can be amusing to watch. But I certainly could have done without the various sequels and remakes. To do it once was kind of funny. Nobody asked for a reprise.

    1. Yeah, I agree with you with not having the “oh, it’s on, I have to watch it right away” attitude.

      I can’t remember what I thought of ‘The Shaggy D.A.’ which I’ll havta review for this blog sometime, but I do remember that the 2006 remake was so not worth it.

  4. I watched this film several years ago on DVD (which came with a full-color viewing option, by the way) after seeing brief shots of it in the “Disney and Animals” featurette on the 2003 LION KING Platinum Edition, and from what I remember, it was a likable film, although I personally liked the 2006 remake with Tim Allen better.

    1. Yeah, I think I’ve seen the DVD that had the color option before, but I chose to watch it in its original black-and-white.

      I haven’t seen the remake since it came out and barely remember anything about it.

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