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on 24 March 2009
The argument goes that before Pixar came along, there were kiddy's films for kids and grown-up films for grown up. Then along came Shrek, et al, and suddenly we had proper family films that everyone would love. Well, the 1967 Dr Dolittle demonstrates that just isn't true. This is a smart, thought-provoking and fun musical adventure that everyone should see at least once. Having loved this as a child, I was quite shocked at what they did in the remake, but was solaced somewhat by the realization that they are very different films. So if your kids loved/hated the modern version, they can probably watch this as well without being bored or conflicted.

The first and probably most startling difference between the two films is in the character of John Dolittle. In this version, Rex Harrison doesn't suddenly wake up with an inexplicable ability to communicate with animals. Rather, his ability is earned through study and the guidance of his pet parrot, Polynesia. He was prompted to do this through his frustrations with the idiocies of many of his human patients. So here we have a man who can talk to animals, but not to his own sister. He embraces and revels in his ability, as in the infectious number, "Talk to the animals." His position is that of the misfit, an eccentric but brilliant man (and Harrison was clearly the man for THAT job) whose behavior is understood and tolerated by few. His journey through the film is also a journey towards reconciling himself to the people around him, which is ultimately a positive message.

The secondary characters usually stack up just as well. Samantha Eggar shines as the feisty Emma Fairfax, but adults might find the overtly stereotyped Matthew (an inebriated Irishman) a little trying. Thankfully he's only really prominent for the first half of the film. It seems fair to count the animals as characters too, and children will certainly remember the Great Pink Sea Snail (a wonderful bit of sixties psychedelia) and Sophie the seal as well as they remember the humans.

This is also notable for being a children's film that doesn't talk down to it's audience, and which espouses many of the more progressive ideals of the 1960's. It doesn't shy away from using big words, and adults will probably chuckle when, questioned as to why she speaks Unicorn, Polynesia replies that she had a "classical eduction." Unsurprisingly for a film that centers on the communication between animal and man, the question is raised as to how badly and with what right man mistreats the animal kingdom. The civilized natives of Sea-star Island, who have educated themselves in isolation using the flotsam and jetsam of the rest of the world, and who hold annual Shakespeare festivals, is another example. As a portrayal of non-white ethnicity it might be seen now as unintentionally patronizing, but it's miles better than the image of the savage islander so recently revamped in films like Pirates of the Caribbean.

The musical numbers are, in places, wonderful. The ebullient "I've never seen anything like it", sung by a hard-nosed Yorkshire man, is the stand out, and should bring a little wonder and joy into even the most cynical of hearts. "My friend the doctor" is annoyingly hummable, while a gentler, whimsical note is introduced through "Beautiful things." Others, such as "When I look in your eyes" will drag, especially if you are trying to entertain very young children, but it's swiftly followed by the rabble-rousing "Like animals."

There are, of course, many of the problems that you find with older films. Most adults will wonder at the hypocrisy of a film preaching animal rights whilst simultaneously exploiting them in ways now unacceptable in the circus scenes. The push-me-pull-you, though a wonderful idea in principal, will not stand up to the scrutiny of CGI-savvy children. Some children might also be frustrated by the overall lack of action scenes that seem to be compulsory in most newer family films.

My advice is that this would be best suited to children over the age of six, or those of a gentler or more thoughtful disposition, and of course all the animal lovers. It's also well suited to a mixed family setting- there are no cringing moments of overt, Steven Spielberg-style sentimentality to invite the scorn of older children, while adults will appreciate the more mature characterizations, and everyone can enjoy the songs.
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on 28 September 2009
This movie flopped badly when it was first released back in 1967. Perhaps the world - at that time embroiled in the Vietnam War and the hippy movement - had moved on from such overlong kiddie musicals.

Looking at it 42 years later, and its a glorious example of fantasy film making. I don't have any children to buy DVD's for, so I buy them for myself. I loved this as a child, I adored the old vinyl soundtrack my parents bought us after we'd seen it, and now I adore the DVD.

Forget what the real world was like in 1845, when this movie is set. Forget how the real world works, in animal biology and human relationships. Just watch this film with a clear mind, and love it for what it is; a film made up of 3 hours or so of pure joy. The songs are wonderful Leslie Bricusse 1960's tunes, that ooze melody. The acting, esp from Rex Harrison is top-notch, and the screenplay, also by Leslie Bricusse, is very clever, mature writing for fantasy-loving adults. Listen carefully to some of Rex Harrison's lines, and you'll see just how intelligent the writing is. (One great example is the word-duel between Dolittle and Emma, just before the song 'The Crossroads of Life'. Fantastic writing!)

So, if you're an adult who loves the Fantasy genre, this is something you will thoroughly enjoy. Forget the kids, let them play with their Playstations. They'll be bored out of their brains within 10 minutes of the opening credits finishing. Put this DVD on when they're in bed, sit down with a nice glass of red wine, and let it take you back to your childhood 40-odd years ago. When I watched it the day I bought this DVD, I watched the entire film through tear-filled eyes. I was a 7 year old boy again, back in 1968, completely entranced by this gorgeously produced epic. I'd forgotten how treasured this film is to me.

The world has finally caught up with this classic film, and perhaps we can now appreciate it for what it is - pure Fantasy for nostalgic adults.
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on 31 July 2010
Excellent entertainment for the whole family from an era, when you did not need explosions to entertain...
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on 24 January 2006
This is Dr Dolittle at its best- the all-singing all-dancing starry musical of the sixties, about exploration, discovery, empathy with animals (and people) and idealism. A man can talk to animals- and that's just the tip of the iceberg. He's trying to find the Giant Pink Sea Snail, you see, and it's not helping that he's been incarcerated for throwing a seal into the sea, or that he's got major women issues when he falls in love with the adorable Emma Fairfax. And what's a guy to do with a two headed llama? Nothing Emma would approve of, that's for sure! The best thing in the circumstances, he decides, is to buy a ship and leave the country, with a crew of three (and a parrot). Then he gets shipwrecked and things really get interesting. It's got some really catchy songs too... I've never seen anything like it!
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on 13 December 2000
full of ace songs and great fantasy this is fab for young and old having watched it every xmas since knee high to a grasshopper but they've stopped showing it on terrestrial a definite must buy!
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on 13 December 2000
a required watch by young and old. This tells the story of a Dr who can talk to animals and the trouble it gets him into. Excellent special effects too deffinately gets my vote!
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on 19 November 2009
The old original version with Rex Harrison is still the favorite in our house, he can't sing, but then it was never about that. As my daughter says about the Eddie Murphy version, "Animals can't speak English - that's why Dr Doolittle has to talk in their languages". It is completely ridiculous but brilliant for a wet Saturday afternoon. Brilliant price and very fast delivery as well.
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on 29 April 2010
I absolutely love this film and was thus pleased to find it at such a reasonable price. The delivery was very prompt but, although I purchased it new and it arrived within a sealed wrapper, the DVD did skip at one point. It soon returned to the correct order of the film, so this is my only complaint. Otherwise, I would be very happy to use this seller again.
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on 28 August 2012
I have not seen this film for over 20 years. It took me back! I was enthralled by it once again. The story is very fairy like, but you can just sit back and enjoy the songs, the characters and the colours. Great viewing
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on 14 June 2015
Had to buy this for the benefit of our Great Nieces for when they visit - borne to a degree from our son who loved to watch Cap DooDoo's which is how he demanded the video - Great timeless film - Funnily enough I have not bought the later version.
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