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MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
Jim Douglas is a down-on-his-luck race car driver who reluctantly teams up with the little machine. Douglas thinks his sudden winning streak is due to his skill, not Herbie's. He finally realizes the car's worth when a sneaky rival plots to steal Herbie for himself. But it's Herbie who'll steal your heart in this wildy fun, roller-coaster ride of a movie you'll never forget.

Director:
Robert Stevenson
Cast:
Dean Jones, Michele Lee, David Tomlinson, Buddy Hackett, Joe Flynn, Benson Fong
Writing Credits:
Gordon Buford, Don DaGradi, Bill Walsh

Tagline:
It's a Love-in for Herbie... the incredible little car who shifts for himself!
MPAA:
Rated G.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.75:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 5/20/2003

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Audio Commentary from Actors Dean Jones, Michele Lee, and Buddy Hackett
• ”Susie, the Little Blue Coupe” Cartoon
• Sneak Peeks
• THX Optimizer

DVD Two:
• “The Loveable Bug” Documentary
• “The Many Lives of Herbie” Featurette
• “Herbie Mania” Featurette
• “Lost Treasures: Searching For Herbie”
• Behind-the-Scenes Promo
• “Love Bug Day at Disneyland”
• “The Man Who Gave Herbie His Voice” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer
• Radio Spots
• Sound Studio
• Disney Studio Album
• Production Gallery
• Production Stills
• Production Photos
• Concept Art
• Storyboards
• Comic Book
• Biographies
• Advertising
• Documents
• Screenplay Excerpt


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Love Bug (1968)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 22, 2003)

If nothing else, Disney always showed the remarkable ability to anthropomorphize inanimate objects. Usually that applies to cartoons, in which the devices can be given some form of human expression and emotion. Surprisingly, the studio worked their magic equally effectively in a live action flick with 1968’s The Love Bug. There Disney turned an actual VW Bug into the film’s most expressive and charming character.

At the start of Bug, we meet unsuccessful race driver Jim Douglas (Dean Jones). Down on his luck, his boss thinks he’s told old for the job and he should move on to other fields. As he passes a car dealership, he sees the shapely legs of Carole Bennett (Michele Lee) and enters the shop. Inside, he becomes entranced with the speedy autos on sale there, but owner Peter Thorndyke (David Tomlinson) gives him the boot when he finds out that Jim has no money.

Before this occurs, a little VW Beetle nudges Jim. Nothing more occurs until the next morning, when the police come to call on Jim and his wacky aspiring hippie roommate and sculptor Tennessee Steinmetz (Buddy Hackett). It turns out that the Bug followed Jim home, so the police think he stole it. He accuses Thorndyke of running a con but grudgingly agrees to buy the car to keep himself out of the pokey.

We soon see clearly that the Bug has a mind of its own when it drives back to the dealership and rams Thorndyke’s Rolls. We also see that the Beetle really cranks, which gives Jim the idea to race it. The Bug forces Jim and Carole to go on a date, even though they don’t seem to much like each other.

Jim attempts to find a rational explanation for the car’s behaviors, but the more spiritual Tennessee believes there’s a humanity within its nuts and bolts. Steinmetz names the car Herbie and Jim takes it to the races. He wins at these and soon beats Thorndyke at a race for Herbie’s pink slips.

Despite the success with Herbie and his burgeoning relationship with Carole, Jim seems bitter in some ways, especially after he loses a race after Thorndyke tampers with the car. Tennessee knows that Herbie’s behind the victories, and he convinces Carole as well. However, Jim thinks he’s responsible and he feels he’ll do even better with a seemingly superior car. He buys a Lamborghini and agrees to sell Herbie to Thorndyke, who knows there’s something special about that little Bug.

From there we see the struggles through which Jim goes before he learns the truth. The movie follows his follies and leads toward a climactic race against Thorndyke.

The Love Bug packs a surprising amount of emotion into that silly little car. Unquestionably Herbie offers the most charming and likable character in the flick, and director Robert Stevenson really allows the vehicle to become vivid and human. The film forces the car into some silly moments like when it emulates urination on Thorndyke, but for the most part Herbie presents a vibrant and endearing character who allows the story to work. When he gets depressed due to Jim’s negative attitude, the flick really turns dark; it’s hard to believe we care so much about a tiny auto.

This attitude contrasts with the almost total lack of sympathy engendered by Jones as Jim. Granted, the character needs to come across as something of a jerk during the film’s first half; otherwise we wouldn’t get the opportunity for redemption that occurs later. However, Jones doesn’t really pull off this change of heart. He never seems to buy into Herbie’s charm, and it still comes across as though he just wants to use the little car for his own means. This coldness doesn’t actively harm the movie, but I’d have preferred a lead who demonstrates a little more warmth.

To my surprise, Hackett helps bring heart to the flick. He always annoyed me as a comedian, and he definitely offers a broad and hammy performance as the eccentric Tennessee. However, he presents the film’s most sympathetic human and he really offers an endearing element of humanity to the goofy sculptor. His belief in Herbie seems touchingly sweet and charming, and he helps make the movie more successful.

Lee doesn’t stand out greatly as Carole, but she shows more spark than the average dull Disney female. Tomlinson also seems eminently hissable as the flick’s villain. It’s hard to believe he’s the same guy who played the distracted but likable father in Mary Poppins, as he represents the perfect slimy opportunistic heel here; when we hear that he invented the concept of car contract fine print, it seems like the perfect touch.

Much of The Love Bug appears dated, especially in its goofy treatment of the San Francisco hippie scene, and too much of the comedy seems broad and silly. It also goes on too long; at 108 minutes, it could have worked better if it lost about 15 minutes. Nonetheless, the film gets by on sheer charm and warmth. I never thought I’d care so much about a crummy little car, but Herbie rules!


The DVD Grades: Picture C+ / Audio B- / Bonus A-

The Love Bug appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.75:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While parts of The Love Bug looked quite good, enough concerns occurred to knock down my grade to a “C+”.

Sharpness usually appeared solid. Some wide shots came across as moderately soft, and the glimpses of a parade in Chinatown seemed bizarrely blurry. Otherwise, much of the movie looked tight and distinct. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also detected no problems with edge enhancement.

Print flaws were a greater concern, and the styles of photography exacerbated these issues. Bug used a lot of process shots, and those consistently demonstrated examples of grit, specks, grain and other marks. The specks were the biggest problem, and those were the main ones that popped up outside of the process photography; the movie showed lots of spots no matter what form of shots we found. The movie didn’t look atrociously flawed, but the various defects created a moderate number of issues.

Bug showed reasonably accurate colors, though they tended to land on the drab side of things. The hues tended to appear somewhat flat and brownish, but they demonstrated decent accuracy most of the time. The colors never stood out, but they didn’t detract either. I did feel that skin tones tended to seem somewhat too pink at times, though. Black levels were nicely deep and distinctive, while shadows came across as appropriately dense but not overly opaque. The Love Bug seemed generally satisfying despite the mix of concerns.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Love Bug also seemed decent but unspectacular. For the most part, the soundfield remained oriented toward the front center speaker. It really came across like “broad mono” most of the time. Music showed some spread to the sides, but it remained indistinct and didn’t display concise stereo imaging. Effects also portrayed moderate breadth to the non-centered channels, but these didn’t demonstrate much definition. The racing scenes utilized the side and rears to a moderate level of effectiveness. Still most of the audio remained pretty well centered and didn’t manifest much life elsewhere.

Sound quality seemed fine for a film of this vintage. Speech showed the greatest level of problems. The lines seemed thin in general, and they also suffered from moderate edginess at times; the latter factor mostly occurred with louder dialogue. Effects presented fairly clean and accurate tones, with a modicum of bass impact as well. Music sounded somewhat flat and muffled but generally was acceptably distinct, and the score also demonstrated moderate low-end when appropriate. Overall, the audio of The Love Bug didn’t do anything special, but when I considered the age of the movie, it worked well enough to merit a “B-“.

This two-disc special edition of The Love Bug comes packed with extras. On DVD One, we start with an audio commentary with actors Dean Jones, Buddy Hackett, and Michele Lee. All three offered running, screen-specific tracks, but not all three sat together. Jones and Hackett were recorded in the same session, while Lee was taped alone and her remarks were edited into the rest.

Don’t expect to learn a ton about the making of the film from this track. Lee provides the most info about the movie, as she tosses out some reasonably interesting anecdotes. She tells us about looped scenes, the Disney way to kiss, and other neat notes from the production. Unfortunately, she devotes too much of the track to praise for her younger physical attributes. While I expect much of this comes tongue in cheek, Lee still pours it on too heavily, and he tendency to speak of herself in the third person doesn’t help.

Apparently old friends, Hackett and Jones interact nicely, and they provide a sense of lightness and fun. Too bad they don’t tell us much about the making of the movie. Hackett devotes most of the discussion to a recounting of his career. He goes over much of his work, and he and Jones compare show biz notes. This generally takes the following form: Hackett says something like “Back in 1956, I worked with Sam McMahon for seven nights at the Palace.” Jones: “Sam McMahon!” A few cool tidbits emerge – like the mention of Jones’ cameo in the flick – much of the time we just hear these reminiscences.

Although the track offers precious little information about The Love Bug, I have to admit it still seems fairly entertaining. There’s enough fun and mirth to be found that it passes quickly and works reasonably well. I can’t call it a great – or even very good – commentary, but it manages to provide some pleasure.

DVD One also includes a classic Disney short from 1951 called Susie the Little Blue Coupe. Narrated by Sterling Holloway, this eight-minute and 15-second cartoon tells the tale of its eponymous auto. Charming and even moving, “Susie” demonstrates the Disney gift for bringing life to inanimate objects.

As the DVD starts, we encounter an ad for Disney’s “Family Favorites” DVDs. In addition, you’ll see this clip in the DVD’s Sneak Peeks domain.

Lastly, DVD One features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.

Next we move to DVD Two, where we launch with a new documentary called That Loveable Bug. At 43 minutes and 16 seconds, “Loveable” features some clips from the movie along with lots of footage from the set and mostly contemporary interviews with various participants. In the latter category, we hear from actors Michele Lee, Dean Jones, Buddy Hackett, Walt Disney Company Vice Chairman of the Board Roy E. Disney, Walt Disney Imagineering Film Archivist Hugh Chitwood, assistant director Christopher Hibler, special effects Howard A. Jensen, Danny Lee and Bob Broughton, art director John Mansbridge, and manager of Walt Disney Pictures Sound Archive Department Ronald Moortgat.

A nice little overview, “Loveable” covers the expected topics. It begins with some notes on the film’s origins and then goes into the casting of the car, alternate titles, the invention of Herbie’s name, reflections on the director and his methods, Jones’ cameo, working with the actors, bringing character to Herbie, second unit photography, the use of multiple Herbies, various effects work, and stunts. In addition to some good “nuts and bolts” information, we find many fun anecdotes from the set. “Loveable” provides a nicely charming and enjoyable look at the film.

After this we find The Many Lives of Herbie, a 13-minute and 25-second program. We get some shots from various Bug movies and archival materials plus comments from Herbie fan Hugh Chitwood and actor Don Knotts. He chats about different promotional attempts for the flicks plus the Bug sequels. The tone seems less than critical, as Chitwood makes all the sequels and other Herbie endeavors sound like they were brilliant. Still, he covers some interesting little facts about the efforts. We get some of this information elsewhere, but this offers a good little compendium of material about Herbie’s post Bug afterlife.

Herbie Mania runs for five minutes, 55 seconds and includes comments from Herbie fans David Evans and Gail Love. A couple of real Herbie obsessives, they tell about the origins of their fascination with the car and they show us their homemade vehicles. Another rather puffy piece, this one seems fairly bland.

In the “Lost Treasures” area we get one clip: Searching for Herbie. In this seven-minute and 38-second piece, Walt Disney Imagineering Film Archivist Hugh Chitwood tells us about the physical look of the original car, all the variations seen in the sequels, and the location of a remaining Herbie from the first flick. Chitwood knows just a little too much about that car, but it’s a fun and informative segment nonetheless.

The Disney Studio Album gives us a montage. It runs for three minutes and 46 seconds and provides a snapshot of the studio circa 1969. We find out what they did during that year, and the information covers a wide range of topics; in addition to movies, we look at TV, the theme parks, and some projects then in developments. Unfortunately, 1969 was a rather uneventful year for the studio, so the “Album” really has to stretch at times.

Inside the Love Bug Production Archives, we locate scads of materials. When we move to the Production Gallery, we get a two minute and 47 second running program that shows a mix of photos. This section is solely for the lazy, as the material it contains appears elsewhere in stillframe form. Watch this one only if you don’t like to bother with frame-by-frame access.

Next we get a four-minute and 43-second Behind the Scenes Promo that appeared concurrent with the film’s original theatrical run. Narrated by Dean Jones, it includes many movie clips and some shots from the set. The latter offer some fun, as we see Jones and Michele Lee complain that Herbie’s a prima donna, but otherwise, this is just a glorified trailer. It presents no information about the creation of the flick and it proves that crummy promotional featurettes aren’t a modern phenomenon.

We saw shots from it elsewhere on the DVD, but now we get greater coverage of Love Bug Day at Disneyland. Held on March 23, 1969, this 11-minute and 57-second program shows raw footage of all the decorated Beetles that showed up for that occasion. It comes with movie music but no narration or comments. It’s a nice look at all the creative redecorations made for this event.

For some information about audio, we go to The Man Who Gave Herbie His Voice. This eight-minute and 40-second featurette includes comments Disney Imagineering Principal Media Designer Joe Herrington, manager of Walt Disney Pictures Sound Archive Department Ronald Moortgat, and the late sound effects supervisor Jimmy McDonald, the subject of the piece. We learn a little about the history of sound design at Disney and then get lots of info about the work of McDonald, a legend in that field. The show goes through some of his efforts on different films. It presents a smidgen of information about Love Bug itself but should be seen more as a general history of McDonald’s career. It’s a nice little discussion that gives us some good facts about foley work.

After this we get two Deleted Scenes. “Used Car Lot” lasts 74 seconds, while “Playground” goes for 62 seconds. Anyone who expects entire unused scenes will feel disappointed by these. Apparently they shot “Lot” but we don’t see the actual footage for it. Instead, we watch some stills from the shoot and read the corresponding script segments. No footage exists for “Playground”, so it’s represented by storyboards and script. Both segments seem like very minor elements.

This area ends with a theatrical trailer that runs three minutes and 15 seconds. Next we locate scads of stillframe materials. In the Galleries area, we find three subdomains under “Production Stills”. “Production Photos” includes 145 shots from the set, while “Concept Art” provides 16 images. “Storyboard” ends this section with 134 frames. The latter seems unusually interesting, as it provides shooting notes and other tidbits that elaborate on the processes involved.

“Comic Book” uses 12 screens to show a retelling of the story. “Biographies” provides listings for actors Dean Jones, Michele Lee, Buddy Hackett, and David Tomlinson plus director Robert Stevenson. Basically, these offer annotated filmographies; they lack much depth.

Within the “Advertising” domain, we locate 26 shots of “Posters”, 32 pages from the “Press Book”, 36 stills of “Publicity”, and nine shots of Bug “Merchandise”. In “Production Documents”, we see 39 screens of shooting schedules. Lastly, the “Screenplay Excerpt” offers the “Herbie Goes Over the Edge” scene. The text runs 14 screens, and the scene itself can be viewed from here, which I thought was a nice touch.

Within the Audio Archives we get some additional material. First we find two “Radio Spots”; these last a total of two minutes and two seconds. We also get two “Sound Studio” demonstrations. These let us hear a couple of scenes from the film in different ways. You can watch “Herbie On the Rocks” and “Thorndyke and the Bear” in their final form or with just dialogue or effects. These add some fun to the package.

Menu oddity: though the studio doesn’t list Leagues as part of that collection, the menu on DVD Two clearly refers to the “Vault Disney” series. Note that DVD Two uses menus absolutely identical to those on the four “Vault Disney” packages from 2002; obviously they intended to continue the line but decided to drop the moniker at the last minute.

Despite some rather dated elements, The Love Bug mostly holds up well after almost 35 years. The movie seems fun and the charming creation of its vehicular star makes it more involving than I’d expected. The DVD presents generally solid picture and sound along with a pretty nice set of supplements. A light and likeable little flick well represented on DVD, I definitely recommend The Love Bug as fine family fare.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5238 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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