Saturday Afternoon Matinee ’72

I’ve written about the joys of Disney’s “Dexter Riley Trilogy” circa 1969-1975 at a time when the studio was in a major transitional period post-Walt’s passing, with popular live-action trifles like THE LOVE BUG, the biggest US box-office hit of 1969, and THE BOATNIKS (1970), which also made bank if not prestige, as standard fare along with lesser animated forays. Disney hit upon a popular series featuring Kurt Russell as science nerd, Dexter Riley, starting with the prescient THE COMPUTER WORE TENNIS SHOES (1969). I have a vivid memory of seeing the second, NOW YOU SEE HIM, NOW YOU DON’T, at a military base matinee and loving the killer synthesizer theme by Robert F. Brunner — whose catchy themes from this era are begging for an official release — and the nerdy, anarchistic, shenaniganistic vibe from Riley and his fellow classmates at Medfield College.

This was ANIMAL HOUSE Disney-style, with our young heroes wiretapping the Dean (pre-Watergate!) while perfecting an invisibility formula that unveils a nefarious plot by AJ Arno (Cesar Romero) to turn the campus into a casino. As I’ve pointed out, his best friend Schulyer gets the laughs while Riley gets the science (and the girls I’m presuming tho these films are understandably sexless). The scene where Riley discovers he’s “really done it” by slipping on his half-invisible glasses is all kinds of wonderful, fulfilling a youthful fantasy amid the joy of discovery. The special effects are simple but effective  — and Russell totally sells the moment along with Brunner’s wonderful theme. The film is loopy, devoid of style, but the cast, especially Michael McGreevy as Schulyer and the reliable Joe Flynn as Dean Higgins, infect the innocent happenings with fun and goodwill; this is what I hoped college might be like as tyke and it wasn’t until I got to Berkeley that I realized the Dexter Rileys were whipping up MDMA and defense chemicals…But on that Saturday afternoon, life was a wacky invisible car chase soundtracked by a moog through the halls of Burbank Academe…

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2 Responses to “Saturday Afternoon Matinee ’72”

  1. This is one of the few Kurt Russell film I haven’t seen — must fix that. Thanks, christian.

    • christian Says:

      This is a PERFECT afternoon to watch. It’s available for download on itunes and Amazon for about two bucks. Kiddie matinee prices!

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