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Lassie Come Home

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Lassie Come Home

Starring: Roddy McDowall, Elizabeth Taylor
Director: Fred M. Wilcox
Rated: G
RunTime: 88 Minutes
Release Date: October 1943
Genres: Classic, Family, Kids

*Also starring: Donald Crisp, Nigel Bruce, Elsa Lanchester, Edmund Gwenn, May Whitty, Lassie

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1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4

The latest STAR WARS craze clearly shows that certain categories of movies are very hard to review objectively. The reviewer is often tempted to judge movie not by its own merit, but by his or her own feelings of nostalgia towards past times. Many of those movies belong to the category of family entertainment, which is natural, because for many, those films invoke happy memories of childhood. For the author of this review, one of such films is LASSIE COME HOME, 1943 Hollywood film by Fred M. Wilcox, one of the classics of family entertainment. I first saw this movie at the very early age and it was one of the most memorable movie experiences in my life.

Based on the novel by English author Eric Knight, this film is set in Depression era Yorkshire, where Sam Carraclough (Donald Crisp) and his wife (Elsa Lanchester) and son Joe (Roddy McDowall) must endure the hard times caused by employment. For the little Joe the only comfort in those hard times comes in the shape of Lassie, collie which is his father's pride and joy. But one day money runs out and family is forced to sell the dog to rich Duke of Rudling (Nigel Bruce). The dog, however, is using every opportunity to run back to his old owner, which is causing great frustration to Duke's kennel keeper Hynes (Pat O'Malley). The escapes are to stop when Duke moves to Scotland. Duke's granddaughter Priscilla (Elizabeth Taylor) would allow dog to escape and begin long, hard and dangerous journey south.

At first glance, LASSIE COME HOME might look like nothing more than standard Old Hollywood tearjerker. But even those who don't like tearjerkers would, in most likelihood, agree that this film looks almost like a mythical masterpiece compared with some of the recent examples of the genre. The script by Hugo Butler is very tight and simple, but, in the same time, provides enough material not only to entertain the young audience, but even to make them think. The main element of the plot is based on real life - conflict between reason and emotion, this time accelerated by down-to-Earth economic hardships, something very palpable not only to the audience fifty years ago, but for people in many countries today. The sub-theme of poverty is very present in the film - on her journey Lassie encounter many characters who suffer because of it, and the only act of violence in the movie is economically motivated. But even those who don't appreciate this social aspect of the film would enjoy it, because it is well-told and interesting adventure story, full of not so spectacular, but really moving and memorable scenes. In hour and half we see some barely sketched characters, who are magically fleshed out by excellent actors, whether they are veterans like Donald Crisp or child newcomers like young Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor. Another thing that distinguishes this film from the rest is absence of true villains - compared with today's cinema, the characters seem surreally good. The music by Daniele Amfitheatrof sets the right, melancholic atmosphere, same as Oscar-nominated colour photography by Leonard Smith. The film was great success in its time and spawned many sequels, and, in later years, many remakes and imitations. But for the author of this review LASSIE COME HOME is one of those rare and precious films that are to be enjoyed by all generations - children and adult.

Copyright 1999 Dragan Antulov

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