Saturday, September 12, 2009

Flipper (1963)

Directed by James B. Clark. Damn, this is one slow movie. If you tried to show this to a room full of children these days, within the first half-hour they'd rebel and throw you in the ocean. Or their parents would sue you for exposing them to trauma, because in the first half-hour there is a hurricane and a fire and people die, which sounds kind of exciting, but somehow isn't.

Yet "Flipper" is not a boring movie. It's a very sweet, quiet film about a boy who learns unconditional love from a creature of the sea because his father is too big a grouch to to do it. His father also looks very peculiar with his shirt off yet refuses to put one on almost ever. The father is played by Chuck Connors (TV's "Rifleman") though his performance seems to have been coached extensively by Brian Keith who was apparently shut out from the role because at the time he probably looked even more peculiar without a shirt on.

But the real star of this movie is Flipper, right? Wrong. Well, sort of. First of all, I learned by carefully reading the gigantic credits at the end of this movie that Flipper is actually a chick dolphin named Mitzie. Second, Mitzie doesn't get nearly as much screen time as Luke Halpin, who plays Sandy Ricks, the boy who adopts Flipper.

Two things were conspicuously missing from the gigantic credits. One: a separate credit for Luke Halpin's amazing hair. Two: an assurance that no animals were harmed in the making of the film. This would likely not be possible, since it seems pretty plain that in order to make the film a dolphin got shot with a spear gun and some sharks got clubbed until they bled.


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