Shelly Duvall’s Faerie
Tale Theatre (1982)
The Absent-Minded Professor / Son of Flubber (1961/1963)
This summer’s The Incredible Hulk was a popular success, but the new Hulk DVD hitting shelves this week isn’t that movie — it’s the less popular 2003 Ang Lee film, hoping you won’t notice the difference. (Hint: Smooth green skin = old Hulk; veiny, textured skin = new Hulk. New Hulk is coming Oct. 21.)
Although the newer film is the more crowd-pleasing entertainment, I appreciate and recommend the Lee film, despite its flaws. The psychological drama of the first half is better than the action of the second half, and Lee’s split-screen storytelling fittingly evokes comic book panelology.
The cast, including Eric Bana’s Bruce Banner, Jennifer Connelly’s Betsy and Sam Elliott’s Thunderbolt Ross, is better than that of the remake.
Also new on DVD, Shelly Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre is fondly remembered by many who grew up in (or had children growing up in) the 1980s and saw episodes from this Showtime series, which ran from 1982 to 1987.
Featuring the likes of Vanessa Redgrave (Snow White’s evil stepmother), Vincent Price (the magic mirror), Christopher Reeve (Sleeping Beauty’s Prince), and Susan Sarandon and Klaus Kinski (Beauty and the Beast), the 26 episodes vary in quality, with some magical entries and a few that are frankly hard to sit through. Having recently read Arabian Nights together, my kids and I got a special kick out of “Aladdin,” directed by Tim Burton and featuring James Earl Jones as the genie and Valerie Bertinelli as the princess.
Among several other worthwhile episodes are “Puss in Boots” (with an all-black cast), “Beauty and the Beast” (Sarandon and Kinski) and “Rip Van Winkle” (directed by Francis Ford Coppola). But we turned off “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Jack and the Beanstalk” before the halfway mark.
At its best, Faerie Tale Theatre offers faithful takes on the original fairy tales with modern tongue-in-cheek humor but no Disney revisionism. (Parents, if you don’t know how Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid really ends, find out before letting your Ariel fans watch this version!)
Another new release this week is a twofer edition of Disney’s original The Absent-Minded Professor and its illogically titled sequel, Son of Flubber.
Directed by Robert Stevenson, both films star affable Fred MacMurray as eccentric egghead Ned Brainard, a college professor of chemistry who synthesizes a physics-defying substance he dubs “flying rubber” or “flubber,” but regularly forgets little things like marrying his fiancée.
Best remembered for its high-flying flubberized basketball team bouncing over the illicitly recruited competition and for Brainard’s flubberized flying Model T, The Absent-Minded Professor is live-action 1960s Disney at its best. Son of Flubber, with flubber-gas football and other complications, doesn’t quite live up to the original, but it’s still good, goofy fun.
Content advisory:Hulk: Macabre images and themes; recurring menace. Might be too scary for younger kids. Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre: Occasional mild risqué humor. Fine family viewing. The Absent-Minded Professor / Son of Flubber: Nothing objectionable. Fine family viewing.