Walt Disney Productions (1956), Walt Disney Home Entertainment (December 19, 2006), 2 discs, 269 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, Rated G, Retail: $32.99
The famous boy detectives find themselves on the trail of pirate gold in their first adventure, which was originally serialized on The Mickey Mouse Club.
The Sweatbox Review:
The daily Mickey Mouse Club program was a large success after debuting in 1955. The show was more than just savvy marketing by Walt Disney— it was a wholesomely entertaining program that thrilled kids with its blend of music, fun, educational content, and cartoons. Another staple of the show was a series of live action serials. Spin And Marty got three serials, for example, beginning in the first season. In the second season, Walt Disney and his Mickey Mouse Club producer Bill Walsh decided to adapt an already-existing property, the Hardy Boys book series, which was written by a number of people under the name of Franklin W. Dixon for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The book series dated back to 1927 (predating Mickey Mouse by one year), so it was already well-established by the time that Disney started The Mickey Mouse Club. (Animation fans may note that the series was later adapted by Filmation into a Saturday morning cartoon in 1969.)
Careful negotiations were made, resulting in a list of instructions for the Disney people, concerning how the boys were to be portrayed. It is unlikely that the Disney people had too many objections, as they were just as interested in cultivating an all-American image. It was decided that the first serial would, appropriately enough, adapt the first book in the series, The Tower Treasure, although the name was changed to The Mystery Of The Applegate Treasure. There were also other modifications, as there always are. The Hardys’ friend Chet Morton was ditched in favor of spotlighting a roller-skating younger girl named Iola Morton. Mr. Appleby’s name was changed from Hurd to Silas, and the TV show lost his sister. The Hardy Boys’ mother was replaced by Aunt Gertrude (to make their “bad behaviour”— sneaking out at night and the like— somehow more acceptable). Perry Robinson was no longer a classmate of the Hardys, but instead a mysterious newcomer working at Mr. Applegate’s place, etc.
The Hardy Boys In The Mystery Of The Applegate Treasure was featured in the first month’s worth of episodes of The Mickey Mouse Club in the second season, beginning on October 1, 1956. The show was still running an hour that year, so the 12-minute chapters took up one-fifth of each episode. The first episode was actually an introduction hosted by the actors playing the Hardy Boys, where they previewed some scenes and warned kids of the danger present in the story; but they also told the young audience that they should not be afraid because it was only make-believe. Once the actual story got underway the next day, it was one thrilling chapter every afternoon. Just as the old movie serials had done, each episode finished on a cliffhanger, though in this case the end moment of any one episode was just as likely to present a mystery as a danger.
When selecting Play All from the DVD menu, the story launches with its first actual episode, from October 2, 1956. The first thing one notices is the distinctive richness of the singing voice for the opening sequence, performed by none other than Thurl Ravenscroft. The viewer learns we are visiting Bayport, essentially a quiet suburb where many people, such as private detective Fenton Hardy, commute to “The City” for work. Fenton’s two sons are anxious for their dad to return to Bayport, and it is obvious that they want and need Fenton’s company. They particularly want to help their father with a “mystery” over the summer break, but their father tries to discourage such talk. As he explains to them, 90% of his work is really quite boring. Besides, they are too young (about 12 and 14) to get mixed up in any serious business. The boys are crushed, especially Joe, who is both younger and more emotional than Frank.
Fenton returns to the city, just as things start to become exciting in Bayport. Iola Morton, a year or two Joe’s junior, is knocked down and robbed, leading the boys to the noise coming from Applegate Manor. There, they meet Mr. Jackley, a plumber, and Perry Robinson, another boy who seems to have a shady past— and who, like Jackley, is working at Applegate Manor during the summer. That night, the Hardys and Jackley search Perry’s room and find some stolen items. Soon, the discovery of an ancient Spanish coin comes to the boys’ attention, and from there they are on the trail of pirate gold!
All this excitement does not sit well with the Hardys’ Aunt Gertrude, who looks after them at her brother’s home. Both Gertrude and Fenton try to put a stop to the boys’ “junior detective nonsense,” but the mystery behind the gold gets deeper and deeper, and three suspects emerge. Old Silas Applegate, initially appearing mean and a little batty, eventually befriends the boys, as they are the only ones who still believe his story concerning his family inheritance of pirate gold. It looks like the summer won’t be so boring after all.
My reaction to watching this piece of Americana? I was absolutely enchanted and delighted. The boys, played by Tim Considine and Tommy Kirk, were both splendid young actors and went on to have solid careers at the Disney studio (Considine had also appeared previously on Spin and Marty). I was surprised at just how exciting the show was— still G-rated, of course, but still with enough tension to keep me hooked for a few hours. Despite being a serial, things move right along with almost no recaps from the previous episode (although we do get the opening every time), so even now the episodes are very viewable. I can easily understand why kids in the Fifties flocked home after school to catch the latest episode. Right until the end, I was captivated by the mystery and the characters. The relationships between the characters was also heart-warming, as we get to see the boys earn the respect of their father and establish a closer bond with him during the course of the story. Though I had little familiarity with the show prior to getting this DVD set, I found the whole enterprise gave me a warm nostalgic feeling that reminded me of how I felt as a child watching The Wonderful World Of Disney. This is Disney television magic at its best.
Is This Thing Loaded?
As usual, film and Disney buff Leonard Maltin hosts the two-disc Treasures set. Each disc opens with an Introduction With Leonard Maltin. On the first disc, he discusses the cast changes in the second season of The Mickey Mouse Club and the use of serials on the show in general before going on to describe the Hardy Boys shows. His intro for the second disc sees him discussing the actors from the serial in more detail. On both discs, his intro also describes the applicable bonus features available.
An indispensable feature is the Complete Mickey Mouse Club Second Season Premiere (45:18). This was the show that included the introduction to the Hardy Boys serial. Tom Considine and Tommy Kirk appear as themselves on the Hardy Boys set and discuss the show. The show also has the standard Mickey Mouse Club features, such as a newsreel (including a tour of an atomic submarine whose insignia was “drawn by Walt Disney”), a “Fun With Music” segment, and a Mickey Mouse cartoon, Mickey’s Rival. Though I may be a wee bit beyond the age group targeted by this program, I experienced bliss while watching it. The energy and talent on display in the show truly allows its appeal to be timeless.
From Dixon To Disney (13:29), again hosted by Maltin, examines the origins of the book series and how the property ended up on The Mickey Mouse Club. A satisfying view, I found it answered any questions I had.
On Disc 2, we find The Hardy Boys Unmasked (18:49), a substantial interview with the very grown-up Tim Considine and Tom Kirk, held on the same Stage 2 at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank where the serial was originally filmed. They are both very enthusiastic about their role in The Hardy Boys, though Kirk clearly has the best memory. Both men are still quite vibrant, though, being in just their sixties. Lastly, Galleries presents still images of “Behind The Scenes” material (46 images) and comic book and magazine pages under the heading “Paging The Hardy Boys” (15 images).
This release follows the last wave or two of Disney Treasures, continuing the use of a tin with a pasted-on back cover (easily removed) that has signatures of both Leonard Maltin and Roy Disney. No cardboard band, such as what was found in the first couple of waves, is included— making it impossible to distinguish which set this is when looking at the spine on your shelf. Inside is a double-thick case with a tray to hold one of the discs. Three inserts are present, including a certificate of authenticity with numbering of your copy out of a printing of 65,000, a reproduction of the front cover of the comic book tie-in, and an 8-page booklet.
Ink And Paint:
The visual presentation is generally very good. Nice contrast, impeccable compression work, and popping images are seen. Occasionally, some signs of wear do appear, but these random marks and scratches are remarkably scarce. Thank goodness that Disney has always done such a nice job storing their company’s legacy.
The two-channel mono sound in the main feature sounds just great considering that it is 50 years old. Perhaps it is just a wee bit flat, but no more than what one could reasonably expect. I noticed no pops or hissing, so color me happy.
This set was a pleasant surprise for me. I had not planned to pick this one up, but the generosity of the Disney marketing people saw this one fall into my lap, and I am so glad it did. If you are only interested in Disney animation, there are other DVD sets to interest you to be sure, but for those wanting to sample some of what else made Disney great back in the day, this is a very fine example of just how great television could be back in the Fifties. The serial is dated but in a charming way, highly watchable and exciting. The full episode of The Mickey Mouse Club is even more appealing, and the other bonus features top off the set nicely. Highly recommended.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?